Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Acts 2


The disciples of Jesus waited in Jerusalem as they were directed to do. They were waiting for the Spirit to come upon them to give them power for bearing witness of Jesus throughout the world. Well, the Spirit showed up alright with an undeniable presence! He showed up with a loud, rushing wind and tongues of fire appeared to them and the disciples began speaking in other languages. It caused such a stir that a great crowd gathered to see what was going on. Then, they not only saw, but they heard the disciples speaking in the many languages of the people gathered there. You see, this was the first world-wide witnessing event, all set up by God to bear witness to the business "executives" of the world. From that event the message of Jesus spread naturally through these business leaders of the world.

When the disciples were accused of being drunk so early in the morning, Peter stood up and articulately presented the message of Jesus to the crowd. He said, 22"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know" Peter points out the miracles Jesus performed that authenticated Him as from God and notes that his audience were eye- witnesses of these works.
23"this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24"But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power." He tells them, "You effectively put Jesus to death, BUT GOD RAISED HIM UP AGAIN, putting an end to the stress of death."

Peter then sums up his message with: 36"Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified." 37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Their response was amazing. They were persuaded by Peter's explanation of the day's event and asked, "What shall we do?"

Now NOTE the results of this powerful event and Peter's message: 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

NOTE the 12 evidences of their faith in Jesus: 42They were continually devoting themselves to the (1) apostles' teaching and to (2) fellowship, to the (3) breaking of bread and to (4) prayer. 43Everyone kept (5) feeling a sense of awe (feeling the presence of God among them); and (6) many wonders and signs (there was evidence of things that only God could do among them and they noticed the "God-things" among them) were taking place through the apostles. 44And (7) all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (they were sensitive to the needs of one another and operated as a family, taking care of each other). 46 (8) Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple (they were doing life together, day-in and day-out), and (9)breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart (they enjoyed themselves thoroughly as they learned to hang out together for dinners and parties in their homes), 47 (10) praising God (they were careful to give God the credit for what was going on and were grateful to Him) and (11) having favor with all the people (this was a remarkable effect where the masses of people were attracted to the light and the love of the fellowship they observed) (12) and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Now, NOTE that the Lord added others to their fellowship daily. But that's not the insight here. Here's the key. How were these people added to the fellowship daily?

FIRST-There was no evangelistic program within the fellowship with training sessions and a variety of witnessing tools.

SECOND-The only thing that was done by the believers was to practice being together, learning to love one another.

THIRD-It was the Lord Who added others to the fellowship and only the Lord is able to do so. Any other "addition" is filled with hype and is, at best, man-made.

Again, we are faced with the most basic truth of all. ONLY GOD CHANGES LIVES AND BRINGS PEOPLE INTO HIS FELLOWSHIP. This is why we must continue to hang out with Jesus and His people!



For the next 28 days (7 days a week) I want to move back through the book of Acts. I suggest that you read the full chapter from whatever version each day and I will comment on a paragraph that seems to stand out to me out of that chapter. PASS IT ON TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
Don't be distracted away from this dynamic book of Acts. In a very real sense it's the 5th Gospel, specifically a continuation of the Gospel of Luke. I've always heard of Acts being a transitional book, but I see it differently in this season of my life. You've probably heard Acts called the "Acts of the Apostles", but I find it helpful to refer to Acts as the "Acts of Jesus." You see, although Jesus ascended into heaven, He is still quite active in our lives individually and as we gather in fellowship with one another. We grossly miss the point of the experience of walking with Jesus, if we don't see it this way.

Today in ACTS 1 check out verses 6-8: 6So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8but 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."

First NOTE their question. It's a little like "Jesus, are you going to unfold life and the world the way we've been taught and believed?" I've spent entirely too much time trying to figure out how God is going to unfold the world and bring it to some glorious conclusion. I've used the "signs of the times" to stir up people's interests and have been quite successful doing it. However, Jesus seems to relieve us of that knowledge or responsibility to know these things and points us to something far more important and strategic.

And He uses a big "BUT" to refocus our attention toward the most important things-the power of the Holy Spirit is to come upon Jesus' disciples and the disciples are to be Jesus' witnesses. FIRST, the power of the Spirit is to come upon Jesus' disciples. The way Jesus will remain active and powerful among His disciples is for the Spirit to do His work in us and among us. And, because the Spirit takes up permanent residence in those who believe, Jesus will have the opportunity to touch so many more lives than He could have. They were looking for political or organizational power. What Jesus wanted them to possess was a new kind of power-the transformational power of His Spirit for the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. Jesus said that we would do greater works than He did and this is how it's done-with Spirit power!

SECOND, the disciples are to be witnesses of Jesus. We are not to be witnesses of a denomination or a cultural bent of Christianity. We are not told here to be witnesses of Bible doctrine or creeds or of the many teaching gurus. Literally Jesus says He wants His disciples to be "witnesses of Me" or My witnesses. The purpose for the power is to bear witness of Jesus, not Jesus plus anything, but Jesus plus nothing.

A question arises here. Why is it that we disciples are to bear witness of Jesus? It's because Jesus is all that is needed and nothing more. Jesus is the Good News in a bad news world. Jesus is the Gospel! The meaning of Jesus' name says it all. "God Saves!" Is there anything you can add to your witness to improve upon Him? No, there is nothing more to be said. It's all about Jesus!

Now NOTE the strategy for bearing witness of Jesus. We are to bear witness of Jesus to the remotest part of the earth. Also, NOTE that this witnessing has an order to it. You begin right where you live-IN JERUSALEM. Then be sure to witness of Jesus in your surrounding area. Now watch this--and in Samaria. Samaria is the place where you might not be invited, because they are not "your kind". in fact, the Jews believed the Samaritans were half-breeds and they didn't get along at all. Yet Jesus made it clear that this was a strategic part of the plan for bearing witness, even to the Samaritans. Then, Jesus' disciples are to bear witness of Him to the remotest part of the world. This begs the question, "Who or what is the object of your witness?" Is it Jesus or is it Jesus plus something else?

Monday, July 30, 2012



Today I want to show you why being a believer is not enough. On the road to becoming a disciple and then making disciples, there is another level of growth and maturity. Let's rehearse the levels up to this point:
1. People who are not followers of Jesus-family, friends, acquaintances. 2. People who are interested-the seekers after more about Jesus. 3. People who are interested enough to become a believer.

Now, today we come to the final level of progression in order to be ready and able to respond to Jesus' command to "make disciples of all nations." 4. People who believe enough to follow Jesus.

Most of my life I have bought into the importance of being a believer or more specifically, a believer in Jesus. In the past few years as I have been focused on the teachings and principles of Jesus, I have come to realize that being a "believer" is probably not the best way to identify yourself with Jesus. If you perform a quick overview of the five Gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts), you will discover that with few exceptions John is the only one who uses the term "believe" extensively.

Demons are said to be believers. The false teachers Jesus mentions are believers. Jesus refers to people who act like believers, but that's not good enough. Look at what Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Here was a group of people who spoke in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus and performed many miracles in His name, yet Jesus didn't know them. He had no personal relationship with them.

In addition to demons and false teachers, many of you who are reading or listening to this daily see yourselves as believers, too. So, what's the difference? There must be more to it than just being a believer!

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

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

Believe enough to follow Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus is the best identification. This ID is straight from Jesus and the writers of the Gospels. All of them use this term. It's possible to be a believer without being a follower of Jesus.

So, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? There are many ways to describe this. Here are three habits that we have found most helpful to teach how to follow Jesus. FIRST-WALKING WITH JESUS. Walking with Jesus means you are devoted to Jesus in four ways:
1. Devoted to copy Jesus-to walk, talk, love and think like Jesus. The question to check this is "What Did Jesus Do?" (WDJD?). Follow Him.

2. Devoted to consult with Jesus regarding your personal, family and professional decisions. The question to check this is "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD?). Follow what Jesus would do in this situation.

3. Devoted to converse with Jesus throughout your day. Prayer is simply a conversation within your relationship with Jesus. The question to check this is "What Is Jesus Saying?" (WIJS?).

4. Devoted to community like Jesus-disciplining yourself to do life with a few others. The question to check this is "What Is Jesus Doing?" (WIJD?).

SECOND-WALKING WITH OTHERS WHO WALK WITH JESUS. The early disciples modeled this by spending time together, studying the teachings of Jesus, eating, praying and fellowshipping with one another. Walking with others is a commitment to be in community with a few, in conversation with Jesus with that few and in copy-mode to stimulate one another to be like Jesus.

THIRD-WAITING ON JESUS TO LEAD OUT WITH OPPORTUNITIES AND ORDERS. This may be the toughest, but is made much easier by walking together with a few others.

Sunday, July 29, 2012



On the road to becoming a disciple and then making disciples there seem to be four levels of progression. Yesterday we saw the first level-the entire world around you who is not presently following Jesus. Our goal is that by showing Jesus off we might find people who are interested. 

I want to clarify a little more who these interested people are. They are not interested in joining something. They are not interested in becoming religious. They are not interested in learning a new language. Nor are they interested in leaving their culture or religious identification to become like you in your culture. BUT we are looking for those who are interested in how Jesus might fit into their culture and how their culture fits with Jesus and His teachings.

People who are interested in this way are open to knowing and discovering more about this Jesus. I call this kind of stance 'leaning in' for more. It reminds me of becoming like a little child-open, trusting and in more of a learning mode. When a person 'leans in' in this way, he will inevitably come to the point of personal faith-to be a believer in Jesus.

Being interested enough to believe is what we want. The progression goes like this: First-a person sees Jesus displayed through the lives of those who are following Jesus. Second-once a person sees Jesus displayed, there is a good chance he will become interested in knowing more. Third-when a person follows his interest in Jesus and is leaning in, he will likely become a believer.

For most of my spiritual journey I have found calling myself a believer most comfortable. It's a clean term and has little religious baggage to it. Three observations come to mind here.

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

To accommodate this thinking and to motivate people into becoming a believer, many have created tangible ways to confirm this threshold act of belief. Some urge people to respond during what is called an altar call, such as what is done at the end of a Billy Graham service. Others have what is called an "I believe" service, where a person stands to his feet and says "I believe." Still others rely on urging a person to pray a prayer of belief. Each of these sort of memorializes the time a person becomes a believer.

SECOND-Being a believer has become a time to reference as the time your relationship with God began. Remembering the day you became a believer-your threshold experience of salvation-becomes a sure sign that your faith is genuine and not being able to nail down that date means that maybe you never actually have come into a salvation experience at all.

Recently, a pastor told one of his elders that if you can't identify that specific time of salvation faith in your life, then you are probably not a genuine believer. That night the elder interrogated his wife and she could not give him a specific day, but she felt she had come into a personal faith gradually. When the elder shared this experience with a group I was leading, he was really saddened by his discovery and it showed in his countenance. Then I asked him, "When was Peter's specific day?" The elder sat there for quite some time and said, "I don't know." I said, "Troubling, isn't it?" "What about the other disciples? What was their specific day?" The elder saw what I was showing him and said, "So, my pastor was wrong."

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

So, we want people to become interested-interested enough to believe. But there is a catch here. Becoming a believer is more than a threshold experience. It's not just a moment in time where a person has expressed his belief or faith in Jesus. The act of believing is progressive and continual. It's a journey of faith. It's important to encourage those who are interested to be interested enough to believe. Just make sure that when a person believes, this believer learns to keep on believing-living this faith out in his life.

As important as it is to be interested enough to believe I want to show you tomorrow why believing is not enough to get you into a relationship with God. On the road to becoming a disciple and then making disciples, there is one more level that must be reached.

Thursday, July 26, 2012



On the road to becoming a disciple and then making disciples there seem to be four levels of progression. The first is found all around you-your family, friends and acquaintances. Or, to put it more specifically, the entire world that is not now presently following Jesus.
Over the years I've come to realize that God is into what I call "divine appointments." A divine appointment comes up in, at least, three ways. First is a scheduled appointment. You know you are going to see a certain person today, but you may not know what may come up there that is all about the move of God. Second is a spontaneous appointment. You know the person, but had no idea you would run into him today. Third is the surprise appointment.

You don't know the person you are encountering and it is a surprise to everyone, but God that you are thrown together into this appointment. In every case God is busily setting up divine appointments for each of us all day long. All He wants from us is to show up! In other words, God has something special for you to do as you touch this person. This is why I pray: "Lord Jesus, what is it that you have for me today?" I want to anticipate these divine appointments and look for them throughout the day.

When it comes to being obedient to making disciples of Jesus of all the nations, I think it's best to start right here where God is setting up the appointments for you. It's at this level that we are thinking in terms of exposing as many people to Jesus as possible.

So, how is this done most effectively? I mean, a street preacher on the corner or a spiritual march with signs and bullhorns may have some effect, but I know these approaches are not the most effective. As I have examined the ways we might show Jesus off, I have discovered only five in the New Testament.

FIRST-By lifestyle. Jesus says: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Your lifestyle-how you live your life-will speak so loudly to those who are watching. How you handle your problems and stresses, how you love your spouse and how you treat your family and friends are all on display. People can see Jesus in this way!

SECOND-By loving one another. Jesus says: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) People can also see Jesus by our love for one another. This is so attractive and contagious.

THIRD-By giving a blessing when you are insulted. Peter says: To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. And later, Peter says: "Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you." (I Peter 3:8-12, 15) People who give a blessing when insulted are acting in a counter-cultural sort of way. It's moving to the beat of a different drummer by the name of Jesus.

FOURTH-By sharing your own Jesus story. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without someone to proclaim? (Romans 10:14) This is the only one of the ways we show Jesus off by our words. But NOTE that this is not you preaching to or arguing with anyone. The best thing to share is your own personal story. No one can argue with your own experience, strength and hope you have found through Jesus.

FIFTH-By ministering to Jesus through the needs of people. Jesus says something very unique: '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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:35-40) Once a month a group of us feed and minister to the needs of the homeless in Orange County. I always encourage each of the volunteers that by loving and ministering to these dear people they are actually ministering to Jesus Himself.

Now, each of these actions show Jesus off to the world-living a lifestyle like Jesus, loving one another, blessing when insulted, sharing your own story and helping those in need. In fact, when you do these things, you are living a lifestyle on a different level altogether and people notice. The people who notice are all of the people who are watching you day after day. We pray that through our interactions with our family, friends and acquaintances that they will become interested.

We're looking for those who are interested. This is really the only requirement that is necessary-to be interested. By the way, if you are interested and have a passion for Jesus and how His teachings and principles work in your life, you will find all kinds of people interested in the same thing. You will find interested people in Churches, Mosques, Temples, Synagogues, civic groups, schools, gyms, in the corporate setting, and in your community. Do you want to make disciples of Jesus, orbit around your world, looking for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. You're not looking to close any spiritual deals or people to preach to; you're looking for the interested! They are all around you. God is setting up divine appointments all day long just for you. All He wants from you is to show up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



Here again are Jesus' words, giving a very direct command to those who want to continue following Him: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Remember, there is only one command here from Jesus and that is to make disciples-to make followers of Jesus of all nations. Also, keep in mind this is making followers of Jesus, not making followers of your religious persuasion. It's not making followers of your traditions and culture. This is all about making followers of Jesus, who supersedes all religious beliefs and systems and founders. This is Jesus without religious baggage of any kind.

Most people make the mistake of thinking the command here is to go, because of the English wording here. There is no commandment to go, to baptize or to teach. These are participles giving us guidelines on how to make followers of Jesus.

The first participle is BY GOING. This has to do with initiating the follow-through on the command to make disciples. I think this action is best described for us today as introducing everyone everywhere we can to Jesus. We are not to be taking mission trips for the purpose of conversion, but to advance the conversation of Jesus in whatever culture we enter. Jesus fits and is attractive to every culture; your religious system is not. When you go to convert people to your way of thinking, persecution is inevitable.

The second participle is BY BAPTIZING. To baptize means to immerse a person into something-literally to dip into. If you take a white cloth and dip it into a bucket of red dye, your cloth will have a new identification-red. This is the essence of baptism. It is the action of identifying a person with something. John was known as the baptizer. He baptized or identified people with repentance-changing their minds about their stance before God. Jesus identified Himself with John's baptism of repentance. Then Jesus baptized or identified or immersed people with His Spirit.

Listen to how John compared his baptism with that of Jesus: And he was preaching, and saying, "After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Mark 1:7-8)

The Gospel of John puts it this way: Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" John answered them saying, "I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.' I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water." John testified saying, "I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.' I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God." (John 1:24-34)

Jesus extends this identification with His Spirit when He has His disciples wait for the Spirit to come upon them with power: "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 1:8)

NOTE the spread of the message of Jesus to make followers throughout the world is natural, when His Spirit comes upon you.

The third participle is BY TEACHING. This action of incarnating Jesus within the discipleship process is to teach all who will listen to observe and obey all that Jesus taught and commanded. It's learning to flesh out Jesus making Jesus your life's reference point and focal point. It's embracing Jesus as a lifestyle. This is not indoctrination, but incarnation of Jesus in every way possible.

Now, here is the key to the "how" of making disciples. There are two lines that cannot be overlooked. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

FIRST-"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Authority is the rights and power to do whatever He wants. How much is "all"? All means everything; no other authority that matters exists.

SECOND-"I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Get this! The same Jesus who has all authority, rights and power in the universe is the one who is with you always-even to the end of the world.

If you are going to be effective in making disciples or followers of Jesus, you must be a follower of the one who has all authority, rights and power and who is always present with you. If this Jesus is present with you, then those you touch will not only see it; they will sense Jesus in you!

Monday, July 23, 2012



I want to revisit what it means to follow through with what Jesus commanded us to do. It has been called the "great commission." Don't get sidetracked from the primary command here. The only command is to "make disciples of all the nations." He offers three participles on how we are to make disciples-(1) by going, (2) by baptizing and (3) by teaching. Today I want to only deal with the command and tomorrow with the three participles.  
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Who is the target on which we are to focus for making disciples? Who are we to disciple? Note that Jesus makes it clear that we are to disciple "all of the nations." Nations would be better to translate as "cultures." We are to make disciples of people from all of the cultures of the world who are not now disciples. Disciples of what? A certain religion? A specific theological system? No, we are to make disciples of Jesus-followers of Jesus. Our audience is made up of all people everywhere who are not now followers of Jesus.

The initial exposure to the nations of the world happened on one day at the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 2:4-6: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. So, instantly the seed of the message of Jesus was planted in the hearts of men and women from the nations of the world.

Peter, trying to stick to his cultural traditions and religious Law was confounded by God to realize that God was willing and able to work with every nation or culture of the world. Check this out: Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus the Christ (He is Lord of all)-you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:34-43)

NOTE Peter realized quickly that "in every nation or culture the man who fears God and does what is right is welcome to Him." By the way, that means from every religion as well. God is already at work in people's hearts all over the world in every culture, not to join our culture and religious expression, but they are welcome to God for themselves!

Paul and Barnabas entered the city of Lystra, healed a man and the people believed they were gods-Zeus and Hermes, who had come to the city. Then after hearing them speak and reject their worshipping of them, the Jews attacked them. The crowds were stirred up to attack Paul and they actually stoned him, leaving him for dead. With the disciples there in Lystra, he amazingly had the strength to get up, went back into the city with the disciples and moved on with Barnabas the next day to another city, Derbe. NOTE that their end game was to make disciples of Jesus there: After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith. (Acts 14:21-22)

When Paul spoke to the people in the marketplace of Athens, he said, "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this." So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

NOTE God gave all people life and breath, making every nation or culture of the world. He determined each culture's boundaries and activities in order that they might seek God-by groping and finding Him, since God is not far from anyone. Then Paul says, since all created people are the children of God, we ought to be able to discover and connect with God through His further revelation. This revelation is not through some image or idol, but is in fact a man who was raised from the dead. His name? Jesus.

On several occasions in the book of Revelation the message of Jesus is said to have gone out to "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues." This can only happen if we are focused on making disciples of Jesus everywhere, not converting people to become a member of one of our religious systems. Jesus is above all of man's religious systems. Jesus, the incomparable and irresistible Jesus!



There's lots of movement in our world today, mostly filled with the spirit of tension and rebellion. Beginning with one businessman setting himself on fire in Tunisia, the match was lit that spread a fire of revolution throughout the Arab world. It's called the Arab Spring! Many saw it as a great move toward democracy around the world. However, whenever a vacuum is created in the power structure of a nation, other powers will inevitably move into that vacuum and the results may not be as desirable as originally anticipated.
Then there are the global economic crises occurring all over the world. European nations are in a lot of trouble and seem to be just a bit ahead of the United States. It's as if all is horribly out of control around the world and right here at home in the US.

As we listen to the discord and the seeming willingness to say most anything within the political arena, distrust reigns. There seems to be a major deficiency in credible leadership in our country and in our world. This creates a massive spirit of insecurity in the society's of our world. There is no one to lead us out of this quagmire. No one who has any answers that resonate with our hearts and no one seems to know the way.

Add to this the gnawing and relentless claims that we are approaching the end of the world as we know it. Even though we have a feeling that the Mayans weren't right about the end of the world, there is still an unsettled feeling about the date this year of December 21, 2012 as the end of the world. Add to this the many other prophecies and opinions that the world is reaching a climactic end. The primary rationale here is that we are all so frustrated with the way things are and don't see any way through it all to make it any better.

I want to add my own prophetic utterance to the many global rumors out there. As I write, travel and interact with people from the many cultures and levels of society around the globe, it is clear to me that we are definitely approaching some highly significant, climactic realization. I'm sensing it and seeing it in every culture. The climactic realization is what I call "the Jesus movement."

The Jesus movement is being stirred up by God calling people out of every culture of the world to Himself. This Jesus movement is greater than all of us, more massive than any movement ever! The Jesus movement is Jesus without religious baggage. The movement consists of people from every culture of the world and most of them won't look like you do.

The Jesus movement is growing fast and is irreversible! The Jesus movement is the Kingdom of God on earth and without any boundaries whatsoever. The genesis of the idea of a movement around Jesus is Jesus' revolutionary call to anyone who will see and listen: FOLLOW ME! All those who follow Jesus are moving to the beat of a different drummer. This drummer is Jesus!

In this New Year of 2012 look for the Jesus movement in your area. Jesus is moving out in your neighborhood. Jesus not only has the character we are all looking for, the security we all long for; he also is the only one who can lead out in such a way so as to bring peace to our world, beginning with peace in your heart.

I'm seeing it everywhere! Pastors and religious leaders are beginning to talk about Jesus plus nothing else added to him. Community, political and corporate leaders are now talking about Jesus in a new way. It's happening all around us!
Look for him there and see what he is up to. The Jesus movement can be discovered as you focus on Jesus outside the box-without religious baggage. It's Jesus plus nothing!

Sunday, July 22, 2012



I receive an email or two per day relating stories of ugly persecution around the world. Usually the persecution is against a group of Christians who are being threatened, burned out of their Church buildings, tortured, abused or even killed. The stories are amazing and very sad.
Before I finished writing JESUS PLUS NOTHING, we advised a persecuted missionary in India to shift his approach from trying to "convert" the Hindus out of their culture into a Western Christian mold. It's no wonder they were being persecuted. Families were angered and village leadership fought against him with all their power and passion over this haughty conversion tactic being used.

Conversion in the sense of yanking a person from his culture and making him join a new culture isn't even mentioned one time in the Bible. Even though this is a fact, many blindly and stubbornly move ahead to put all of their monies and energies into converting people out of their cultures into the Western Christian culture. In a few translations the term "convert" or "converted" is used, but it means to turn to God, not change or deny a person's culture.

As we have discussed in the last couple of days, followers of Jesus are never commanded to convert the world, but to make disciples of Jesus from all of the nations. In fact, no person, clergy or missionary can convert or change a person's heart at all. Only God can perform this kind of inner transformation.

This was the essence of what came out of the conversation with Jesus and his disciples, when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

By the way, when the persecuted missionary changed his approach from trying to convert Hindus to become Christians into simply introducing Hindus to Jesus, the persecution finally ceased.

JESUS PLUS NOTHING illustrates two of the most common types of persecution taught by Jesus. The first is that Jesus made it clear that the world will hate his followers in the same way they hate Jesus. Then, Jesus explains what the "world" will do to his followers. He says, "They will throw you out of their synagogues." In other words, the "world" Jesus is referring to is the religious world. I've certainly experienced this. Most of the so-called persecution I've ever received has come from the religious, not the secular world.

The second kind of persecution that emerges out of Jesus' teachings is the refusal of the Jewish leadership to go along with God's original program of reaching out to the nations of the world. Through God's agreement He made with Abraham, the Jews were to be especially blessed by God and to be a blessing to the nations of the world.

The greatest persecution in the New Testament writings happened when Jesus referred to extending salvation to the nations or Gentiles. When Jesus brought this up in his first talk at the synagogue in Nazareth, the people were so incensed that they took him out to push him off a cliff.

When Stephen referred to being a blessing to the nations of the world, he was stoned to death. And when Paul mentioned it, he was stoned and left for dead.
In my opinion, today most persecution comes out of a religious context and also occurs when well-meaning people try to do the work of wrenching people out of their cultures and changing them into becoming whatever flavor of religious persuasion one happens to be.

Remember what Jesus said to Peter? "My Father revealed these incredible transforming ideas to you. No flesh and blood can teach this, so that you are transformed."

God is calling people to Himself within the many cultures of our world. Instead of you trying to call people out or supporting those who do, just go along with what God is up to. He's got the best idea of all and He's the only one who can truly change a person's heart. Now that's a Jesus plus nothing principle, for sure!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012



Every generation of young people seem to go through the stage of pulling away from their faith and religious affiliation. This stirs up a continual fear among parents and religious leaders everywhere. It's natural and has always been a rite of passage for young people, but this time around there seems to be a difference. This time the youth aren't returning back to their religious upbringing and this time many of these youth are expressing an unusual hunger for spirituality, while rejecting the homegrown answers of their childhood.
A few years ago a successful children's filmmaker approached me. He was interested in making a children's video on the Bible and he was told that I would make it all about Jesus. It was a fascinating encounter, forcing me to find out what is happening in religious instruction for children. From my somewhat limited vantage point, all I could see was that we have spent so much time rehearsing the biographical stories out of the Bible, but only inserted Jesus at the "You-all-want-to-go-to-heaven-don't-you time!" So I moved into research mode.

My first sampling was to ask two of my most "churched" grandchildren what their favorite stories of Jesus were. They were 7 and 9 at the time. Much to my surprise, they were stumped for an answer. Then Luke said, "Jesus was born!" "Yes!" I said. Then Luke added, "And we get presents!" Well, he had the right answer, but maybe his application was a little weak. After that outburst, there was nothing more to be added by my two samples.

I moved into gear and told them about Jesus losing his best friend, Lazarus, and then after Lazarus was really dead, Jesus brought him back to life. "And Jesus had his best friend again!" they said. I then made my way into the wedding feast where Jesus turned the water into juice. "Apple juice?" "No, it was actually grape juice." I showed them how much water was used by outlining a room in their house and they were amazed.

After taking this sampling of what is taught to our children, I met with the Children's Pastors of three local mega-Churches. When I asked how much they actually teach the children about Jesus, they all answered, "Every week!" Then as I pressed in on the studies, they all realized as I had that they do not teach much about Jesus at all. It was a shocking moment for us all!

It's no wonder our youth are leaving the Church and not coming back. What are they going to come back for? The re-telling of the old stories? The old stories just aren't enough to hold a person's commitment and devotion. There must be something more.

You see, I think what we've been doing for so long is to teach children about our religious systems, doctrines and traditions, but have left Jesus out of the equation. Oh, we all know Jesus is around. He actually hasn't left the building yet, but there is little to introduce a kid to this amazing and irresistible Jesus. And if a child doesn't get to know Jesus, other than praying the sinner's prayer, that child will not learn to follow Jesus with his life. Why introduce kids to Church or your religious persuasion without Jesus? There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

As I have been writing this book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, two observations quickly come to mind. First, our children need to get to know Jesus. They are the most receptive to this most authentic person. Jesus even repeatedly teaches that unless one becomes like a little child, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The answer is not to teach our children better or more, so they can defend and propagate their faith. The answer for our children is to be introduced to Jesus.

Second, our children are most indelibly marked by their parents and other significant adults in their lives-not by going to a religious instruction class.

Parents can be so critical of the religious institution, yet it is in the home where the most significant lessons of life and of Jesus are taught or not taught. Kids desperately need to see and hear Jesus from their parents and significant adults in their lives. More than anything else, kids need to get the sense that their models are sincerely following Jesus with their lives. It's more than teaching. Jesus is both taught and caught!

If your children aren't sufficiently turned off in the elementary years, there is a significant opportunity for them to be rescued from their wandering from God and satisfying their deepest spiritual longings through an active youth group. It's within this context that there is a greater opportunity to be influenced by others who have come to know Jesus in a personal way and are not boxed into a system of do's and don'ts and religious verbiage that serve to turn the youth away.

If you as a parent, a youth worker, a teacher, a coach, a mentor or a neighbor, join the Jesus movement and embrace "Jesus plus nothing" for yourself, you will be the best answer for the young seekers around you. In fact, when you touch a child with the powerful message of Jesus, you are planting a seed that has the potential to transform a generation. Note that I'm not speaking religiously, but personally. "Jesus plus nothing" is a personal matter. The person is Jesus!



After growing up in a Western Christian culture with lots of love and good Church and family experiences, I met Jesus. He was different than I expected. He was different from the faculty that educated me, different from the religious crowds that flocked around me at speaking events and conferences, different from the many spiritual friends that deserted me during my down times.
Jesus was the one who stayed. He was the one who didn't shake his head in disappointment, didn't turn away in disgust. He is the one who knelt down, picked me up, dusted me off. He is the one who embraced me. It was then I realized that the Jesus I had first embraced was different from the one who was embracing me now.

And I realized something else. That Jesus I could follow. That Jesus I wanted to follow, needed to follow, couldn't help but to follow.

Not the Jesus who is wrapped up in a religious system of do's and don'ts. Not the Jesus who is used to raise money to build more and more buildings or fill the religious treasuries. Not the Jesus who was highjacked for the violent Crusades-persecuting, killing, and even mass murdering Jews, Muslims, all non-Christians, and even other Christians who disagreed with them. Not the Jesus who is embraced by a political candidate or party to impress the people. Not the Jesus who wants you to join his club. Not the Jesus who puts a heavy guilt trip on you for not performing. Not the hell-fire-and-damnation Jesus. Nor the meek-and-mild Jesus.

This Jesus is the one I never really knew. The one without Christian verbiage. The one without religious baggage. The one without self-righteous garbage. This is Jesus plus nothing.

This Jesus is the Jesus that the early followers, called disciples, got to know. For three-and-a-half years they were in an apprentice relationship with Jesus. In their system of education they never made the grade of being chosen by a rabbi to follow in his steps, so they had returned home to work the family business.

But this rabbi, this Jesus, this new guy in town, he chooses them to follow him. He picked uneducated, untrained, ordinary men to come along with him and learn from him. In a sense, Jesus chose those who hadn't made the cut, walk-ons, as the team he wanted on the field in the most important game in the history of the world.

From those early beginnings, the Jesus movement continues to be the largest in the world today. This all-encompassing movement consists of people from every culture and religion on the earth-Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Pantheists, Agnostics. When Jesus is not boxed into any religious system or wrapped up in a package marked "exclusive," he has proven to be universally attractive throughout the world. People from every culture embrace Jesus, simply Jesus, whether religious or not.

Take Gandhi, for example. He was so captivated with the life and teachings of Jesus that he became one of the greatest followers of Jesus ever. One of the most common descriptions of Gandhi was that he was so "Christ-like." Gandhi discovered that his cultural background as a Hindu was enhanced by Jesus. "I shall say to Hindus," he once said, "that your life will be incomplete unless you reverentially study the teachings of Jesus. Make this world the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added unto you." Gandhi, whose goal in life was to live the Sermon on the Mount, said, "It was that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me." And, about Jesus' death on the cross, he said: "A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act." And finally the quote that was probably his most famous: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

The current Dalai Lama is another example. He has expressed his love and respect for Jesus in many ways and on many occasions. Many of his teachings reflect those of Jesus. As the example and leader of the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama is called His Holiness, yet he says he is not worthy to even untie the shoes of Jesus. In an OP-ED article for The New York Times, the Dalai Lama wrote: "In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus' acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering."

Both Gandhi and the Dalai Lama revere Jesus as the greatest teacher and example who ever lived.

Looking at the long history of Jewish thought, some of the most prominent rabbis have come to revere Jesus as possibly the most influential Jew who ever lived. Dr. David Flusser, in his book, The Sage From Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius, broke down many barriers that have kept Jews from studying Jesus. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists in the world said this about Jesus: "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word."

Agnostics are another group of people who have many in their ranks who follow Jesus. In my experience they are perhaps the most open to Jesus when presented without all the religious baggage. Agnostics have a vacuum in their hearts. In my experience, this seems to be a God-shaped vacuum. I continually enjoy conversing with agnostics, once I am able to convince them that I don't want to discuss religion. It seems that this group is better able to view Jesus separated from the religious wrappings. They've already rejected the religious trappings and were left empty. But, when introduced to Jesus without religious baggage, so often they respond by saying: "I can follow this Jesus!"

The "self-help movement" is another group of people who revere Jesus, some going as far as to follow him. Even in our highly educated, secularized society, the principles of Jesus are the basis for most of the self-help and motivational principles. Though they may not use his name, they do use his teaching and his example.

In many ways this is nothing new. Jesus has always worked with people from every culture and found them to be attracted to him. The problem in the First Century was the religious jealousy of the "gate-keepers" of Judaism. When Jesus presented his message of love and compassion to the non-religious and to all other non-Jewish nations of the world, he was resisted, ridiculed, and ultimately rejected.

Yes, Jesus plus nothing-Jesus without religious baggage or boxes-is attractive and can be satisfying for everyone everywhere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



From the very beginning of writing the book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, I have had so many people challenge the assertion: "Jesus plus nothing." Although I can't go into my answers to these challenges exhaustively in a daily podcast as I did in the book itself, here are a few thoughts for your consideration.
The challenges were basic to the discussion: What about prayer? Don't you need to pray? Yes, but who are you conversing with when you pray? Jesus!
What about the Scriptures? Don't you need Jesus and the Scriptures? Well, Jesus made it pretty clear, when criticizing the religious leaders that they were studying and memorizing the Scriptures and missing him in the process. The written Word speaks of Jesus, but only Jesus, the living Word, can give eternal life (John 5).

What about Church membership? Well, besides the fact that there is nothing in the Scriptures requiring Church membership, the church or gathering of Jesus happens when two or three come together in his name. So, Jesus is all you need-the one, the only one to gather around, whether you are gathering in a living room or assembling in a massive Church service. That's again Jesus plus nothing!

What about Jesus plus the Holy Spirit? What a person is really saying here is, "Aren't you forgetting the Holy Spirit by asserting Jesus plus nothing?"

Check out what Jesus says of the Spirit and the Father in the 15th and 16th chapters of John: "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me, because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."

Do you see the pre-eminence of Jesus acted out in the play? When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the marquee character. And the spotlight is always on him! So, again, "Jesus plus nothing" works!

This Vine and branches visual is powerful. When Jesus taught about the dynamic relationship he wanted with his disciples, he used the illustration of the vine and the branches. He clearly taught in this section that the relationship he wants and the only one that matters is for the disciples (the branches) to cling to and stay connected to Jesus (the vine). He even went further to say, "Without me you can do nothing." Nothing. What don't we understand about nothing? How much clearer could Jesus have said it?

Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15)."

This all happens in the name of Jesus with nothing added. Not Miracle Grow on the leaves. Not mulch on the roots. Just Jesus. Note that it's not that you can do nothing without the Spirit, but it's without Jesus you can do nothing. You just can't short-change this. It is clearly Jesus plus nothing!

Two other thoughts come to mind here. First-every person he encountered, touched, healed or raised from the dead are convinced that Jesus alone is enough.

Second-After Paul listed out his major religious accomplishments when writing to the Philippians, he made it crystal clear that Jesus plus nothing else is all you will ever need. Check out what Paul said: "If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."


Monday, July 16, 2012



For nearly the entire year of 2011 we have been embroiled in the process of writing a book we call JESUS PLUS NOTHING. It's not only a book; there will be several study guides for individuals and small groups to focus on the teachings and principles of Jesus. I read every book that is published on Jesus and have found them all to be filled with Christianese and, at best, Jesus light.
We have come to see and understand that Jesus can and must stand on His own. Jesus alone is enough and needs nothing else to make a significant difference in a person's life. Jesus alone is enough. As Jesus puts it: "Without me you can do nothing." Now, Jesus either meant that or He didn't. "Without me you can do nothing." This understanding and appreciation of Jesus doesn't occur just by hearing someone teach on it or even by reading a book on it. It takes lots of time to get to know Jesus and then to trust Him to be all He is and can be in your life.

The beginning of the book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, is of necessity my personal story. It's my story of being addicted to religion, particularly Christianity. My addiction was bolstered by my strict, Christian upbringing, my Christian College and four-year graduate seminary experiences, the founding of one of the early mega-Churches, publishing ten best-sellers, knowing the lingo of Christianese and a full store-house of Biblical knowledge from the Greek and Hebrew. THEN, Jesus apprehended my heart in a dramatic way and for the first time I became serious about answering his revolutionary call: "FOLLOW ME!" For the first time in my life I got to know this Jesus personally-the Jesus I only talked a lot about.

JESUS PLUS NOTHING is not only my personal story; it is also a story of reconciliation. With the gap widening between Christianity and the other religious cultures of the world-Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, atheists and agnostics-JESUS PLUS NOTHING offers the only solution to this increasing alienation and illustrates how reconciliation has worked and is working in the world today. This is not about inter-faith or multi-faith solutions. It's not another peace plan for reconciliation! This is about Jesus!

As I continued to write and interact with many around this country and in nations around the world, I was repeatedly introduced to men and women who are focused on being "Church planters" in the many cultures of the world. What I realized early was that JESUS PLUS NOTHING can be extremely helpful to those who are committed to planting or starting up new Churches around the world. What I realized was that no one in the early movement of Jesus "planted Churches." There's a better and more effective strategy for making disciples of Jesus in all nations.

I recently spoke to a group of Church planters and called my talk: "Stop Planting Churches And Join The Jesus Movement!" It was surprisingly well received. Only one man had a problem with the approach I presented and he wasn't actually a Church planter. One of my dear friends in Africa, a man I've never met personally, was asked to speak to a group of Church planters from several African nations. He followed the same approach and was enthusiastically received. Jesus has a better idea than planting another Church. It's what I call the Jesus movement.

As I shared yesterday, JESUS PLUS NOTHING is also a story for the persecuted Church around the world. Why is it necessary to continually read the sickening headlines of Christians and the Christian Church being persecuted-churches burned out, leaders threatened and tortured, and angry mobs within their communities filled with hate? Most of the persecution of the Christian Church around the world can be avoided today without diluting the message of Jesus! Jesus plus nothing else is so attractive and irresistible to people everywhere!

Finally, JESUS PLUS NOTHING is a story for the turned off! Why are so many youth moving away from the tenets of Christianity and not returning? Why are so many Church members finding it more comfortable to be spectators and not participators? Why are more than 75 Churches closing each week in the US? People are either turned off or not turned on to what's going on. We're finding a wide assortment of people who are highly attracted to Jesus, simply Jesus. To add anything else to Jesus is to dilute who Jesus is and what He can do.

JESUS PLUS NOTHING is all about getting to know Jesus and learning to follow Jesus with your entire being. It's a call to personal and global transformation.

There seem to be three stages of following Jesus. FIRST-Jesus is followed because He is so flawless and attractive-unimpeachable. He is the one person who has truly walked the walk and the talk perfectly. No one argues with this. And the disciples believed in Him enough to follow Him. There is nothing wrong with this type of following Jesus at all. Anyone anywhere can begin to follow Jesus, no matter their belief systems.

SECOND-Then as you follow this attractive Jesus, you will begin to embrace His lifestyle, teachings and principles and find them to be very practical and meaningful for your life. Following this Jesus just makes sense.

THIRD-Finally, as you continue to follow this Jesus and find His teachings meaningful, you will at some point discover your Creator-God. You will experience transformation of your heart and your mind and see Jesus for who He is.

So, wherever you are in this continuum of the stages in following Jesus, ultimately you are seeking and hoping to receive this gift of transformation from God Himself. When you understand this, you then can embrace the fact of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims and even Christians who are followers of Jesus.

This is why I am dedicating my life to doing two things. FIRST-I am doing one of the toughest things I've ever set out to do in my life; I'm trying to follow Jesus and embrace His teachings as my lifestyle.

SECOND-I want to do whatever I can do to introduce Jesus and His teachings to as many individuals as I possibly can. This approach to life is summed up in an old phrase: TO KNOW JESUS AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN. I encourage you to think about doing the same. This sums up what we mean by "Jesus Plus Nothing."

Help us advance the conversation of Jesus plus nothing!

Sunday, July 15, 2012



If Jesus presented himself as enough, and those he touched believed he was enough, why do we miss this point, which is the very essence of the Good News of Jesus? Jesus plus nothing else added on is all we need, yet we seem to miss it.
We are able to develop entire belief systems around Jesus, enlist the masses to join our organizations around Jesus, judge those who do not quite see eye-to-eye with us about Jesus, and propagate these belief systems, organizations and dogma as the only way to life, yet all without getting to know this Jesus personally.

Today there is a Jesus movement that is popping up all over in the many cultures of the world. This Jesus movement is just that-a movement that is all about Jesus who is not packaged within any institutional, religious structure. The Jesus movement is attracted to and revolves around simply Jesus without being wrapped up in religious traditions or trappings.

Participants in the Jesus movement have been confused and even turned off by these wrappings. In order to fuel the Jesus movement in such a way, so as to keep the primary focus on Jesus without religious baggage, we have been creating materials, embracing the theme of JESUS PLUS NOTHING. It's a movement that is moving to a different beat than most religious groups; it's a Jesus beat!

Today, we are introducing many to Jesus, yet these new "followers of Jesus" quickly become distracted away from the simplicity and purity of walking with Jesus and walking with others. They can easily become distracted by the religious terminology that just doesn't matter in comparison to knowing and following Jesus. Instead of embracing Jesus and growing in Him, they tend to grow into better Bapterians, Presbytists and Episcolics. Simply Jesus or Jesus plus nothing is what these new followers of Jesus need and are looking for.

A lady said to me last week that when she attends one of our studies about Jesus plus nothing, she feels like she has just come back home. Jesus resonates with her; religiosity does not. It distracts her and confuses her and leaves her with her feet firmly planted in mid-air spiritually.

This is exactly what happened to me several years ago. Whenever I spent time with others who were highly focused on Jesus, I felt so at home with this Jesus who was being discussed. It was the most attractive and satisfying experience ever. They spoke about Jesus as if they had just had breakfast with him that morning.

Why had I been missing out on knowing this Jesus for so many years? There are three subtle ways in which this occurs, in my opinion.

First, there is a tendency to add something unnecessary to Jesus. This "something" takes the form of man-made commandments and long-standing traditions; in other words, Jesus with additives.

Second, there is a tendency to hold something sacred that has become a substitute for Jesus. These substitutes can be your sacred scriptures, your revered saints, your religious services, your particular organization or denomination, your cultural identification or religious icons.

Third, there is a tendency to leave Jesus behind. Whether it is in newsletters, religious services, sermons, articles, prayers, or worship experiences. Jesus is embarrassingly left behind! Even where two are three are gathered together in his name, he is so often left out of our conversations.

These tendencies take away from the message of Jesus. They diminish Jesus by adding something unnecessary to him, by replacing him with something, and by leaving him and his message behind. These tendencies amount to a deadly triad that keeps us from seeing Jesus clearly.

If we can't see him, how will we ever be able to know him? And if we can't know him, how will we ever be able to know if this Jesus plus nothing is enough?
This was Paul's primary concern, when he said: "I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus." When we move away from the purity and simplicity of Jesus, the natural results are the many Jesus additives. Whatever you are reading, studying and discussing, be sure to make it all about Jesus.

Thursday, July 12, 2012



Once you have committed to the first five agreements, you are ready to step into action-authentic action. There is a fundamental principle that is completed in the sixth agreement. The sixth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to SERVE EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.
There are three occasions when Jesus talks about the most important commandment ever given to man. What's interesting is Jesus is unable to give just one commandment, but consistently shares two as equally important. Let's examine each instance. Matthew records the first: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012



The fifth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to RESTORE THOSE GOD BRINGS YOUR WAY. Four scenes in the life of Jesus come to mind as I've been considering this agreement we can make together.
The first is in Luke. This is at the core of Jesus' mission to the world. As soon as Jesus returns from the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil, He announces what His mission really is: Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:14-22)

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

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

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

In the third scene Jesus expands this primary invitation to everyone, when He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

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

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

Jesus has already made it clear in this prayer that He finished the work the Father sent Him to accomplish. That work was to take those the Father sent Him-about 12 men-and teach them to know God and to know eternal life.
Jesus sanctified (set Himself apart) by the truth, so that His disciples would also be set apart in this Kingdom truth-the only truth that can set someone free!
His work was to connect these men into a unified relationship of oneness that they would have the same connection Jesus and the Father had. In fact, He says: "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." In that same prayer Jesus says, "I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

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