Thursday, January 31, 2013



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?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013



In reflecting further on the death of Jesus on the cross I feel compelled to share one more thought with you.
NOTE when the love of God is mentioned in the New Testament it is usually found in the context of Jesus' death on the cross. In John 3:16 Jesus says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." Then in Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And then again in I John 4:10: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." John goes further and says that GOD IS LOVE.

Emil Brunner called this "The most daring statement that has ever been made in human language." But that statement alone tells us nothing. It is the cross that unpacks its meaning. As Eugenia Price says in Share My Pleasant Stones, "God's mercy was not increased when Jesus came to earth, it was illustrated! Illustrated in a way we can understand."

The love that Jesus illustrated was self-giving for the benefit of others. We tend to think of love in emotional terms, but the New Testament concept of love is more focused on active self-giving. And the greater the cost of that self-giving, the greater the love, therefore Jesus commands those who follow Him to "love your enemies" as well as friends. The very night before Jesus was crucified, He said to His disciples: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

On the day Jesus died all of the guilt of the world was paid for by the sacrifice of the lamb of God. And, on that day all of the love of God rushed in to touch and transform all those who will see and hear the self-giving love of Jesus. You are a delight to God. He desires to have fellowship with you. He continues to court you with His self-giving love to woo you into a relationship with Him, no matter what you've done or haven't done. Now that's AMAZING GRACE.

ONE MORE THING: As followers of Jesus you are to practice this self- giving love with all those He brings to you. This self-giving love is best illustrated by loving and touching those who are in need and who are identified as your enemies.

So, it's SELF-GIVING LOVE or SELF-CENTERED LOVE? The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the Creator-God is love. And, God wants you and me to continually get back on track with the ultimate purpose of life. Do you know what that is? It's LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It's all about self-giving love.

Every time you exert any energy toward "It's all about me!" or "What's in it for me?", you are spending yourself toward self-centered love which goes nowhere healthy. I find the greatest deception among followers of Jesus is that they can say, "I love God with all my heart as long as I can do life my way and I love my neighbor as myself as long as I can choose my neighbor." So, which is it for you? Self-giving love that spreads the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom to all the world around you or self-centered love that can only spread as far as your mirror and your decreasing band of friends? THINK IT OVER.



Listen to Luke's account of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"  
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

So, we've heard the story of Jesus' crucifixion and His resulting death so many times. But I think these events require a simple explanation in order to understand why Jesus had to die in the first place.

You see, it's like this. Every one of us has something innate, built-in to our psyche. We just know deep down, inside that we must pay for whatever we do wrong or don't do right. There must be a payment. So, I feel guilty whenever I do anything wrong. That sense of guilt can only be satisfied when I pay for it, like when I do some compensation or penance that makes up for this wrong.

This payment concept is inherent in the sacrificial system that God established with Moses. A most vivid illustration of this is the Passover. Each family was required to kill a lamb, putting the blood of the lamb over the door of their home. When the death angel saw the blood of the lamb, it passed over that home. The lamb was sacrificed as a payment. The lamb died, so that the families might live. The lamb paid the price of death so that the family didn't have to die.

This same concept is what the entire sacrificial system is all about. A lamb or some other kind of animal was sacrificed to pay for certain sins. This occurred frequently for the Jewish family-daily, weekly monthly and annually. In the minds of the Jewish people the sacrifice of an animal substituted as a payment for the one who offered the sacrifice. The greatest payment ever received through the sacrificial system was a year's payment for their sins. Once the sacrifice has been made successfully by the high priest, then the people were absolved of their sins for one more year. This annual sacrifice is called Yom Kippur.

Then the Lord through His prophets made it clear that He was going to send His lamb some day to be the ultimate payment for any and all things that anyone has done wrong. This lamb was God's Messiah who was to die for the sins of the whole world. This is why John the Baptist, when recognizing Jesus, said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." He knew Jesus was God's lamb.

You see, Jesus died as your lamb-the lamb of God, so that you don't have to pay for anything any longer. You don't have to feel guilty, because your account is all paid up.

There is only one catch to it all. You must personally identify with the lamb by placing your hands on the lamb sacrifice. This was the way to put personal trust in the payment. Well, today you must place your personal trust in God's lamb sacrifice for your sins-for all you ever did wrong or for whatever you will do wrong. Jesus has truly paid it all!

And, just as the Passover feast is a celebration of freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, you can be eternally free. There are two verses in Acts that say it all: "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).

Do you get it? Through Jesus' death you have FORGIVENESS of sins (all you do wrong), so that you don't have to pay any longer. In fact, you can't make any payment that satisfies. And, through Jesus' death you have FREEDOM from it all, IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD. Forgiveness and freedom form the bottom line of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. So, Jesus' death is not some religious or theological belief; it's the spiritual and psychological dynamic that every human being needs to find true satisfaction. Do you know what that means for you personally?

Sunday, January 27, 2013



Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." 
But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.
A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean."
Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Jesus has just been arrested by temple troops in the Garden of Gethsemane and his disciples have fled for their lives. Peter has just had a traumatic experience attempting to chop a man's head off, missed and sliced off his ear, only to have Jesus heal the ear completely. It is a real night of terror for Jesus and His disciples in Jerusalem.

The temple troops took Jesus over to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The high priest was usually selected from among the Sadducees, however the selection process may have been actually performed by Herod at this time. So, he was Herod's appointment.

Peter went along with the soldiers and tried to blend in with the little crowd of curious people. This in itself is quite courageous. He had followed Jesus for over 3 years and he was sticking with him, even at a distance. He's got to be scared personally for what might happen to him, too.

Fear overcame him as he was discovered by the servant girl and he quickly denied being one of Jesus' band of men. Later he was recognized by another person and Peter again blurts out that he is not one of Jesus' people. Finally, about an hour or so later as it was turning closer to morning Peter was recognized as a Galilean which he quickly turned into the third denial. And, just as he denies Jesus for the third time, the rooster crows and Jesus is able to see Peter, looking straight at him.

Talk about "I told you so!"; this had to be most debilitating to Peter. This is the Peter who claimed he was willing to go to prison or death for Jesus. This is why Peter quietly leaves the compound weeping bitterly. He is overwhelmed with guilt and shame.

Have you ever caught yourself in this kind of situation? Have you ever denied that you are a follower of Jesus either by your words or your actions? The lessons here are many and here are a few:

FIRST-Don't ever think you are above being a coward when it comes to identifying yourself with Jesus. This is why we must humbly follow after Him and humbly deal with one another.

SECOND-Prayer does matter in preparing our hearts for difficult times. Peter had just left a night of a little praying and a lot of nodding off.

THIRD-Fear and faith can't coexist easily. It's too easy to give into our fears. I like the saying, "When fear knocks, I must send faith over to answer the door."

FOURTH-Jesus is always looking. This use to scare me to death, when I was sure that Jesus was mad at me. Now, I understand that His look, though sometimes disappointed in me, is still filled with unconditional love, concern and forgiveness for me. More than anything else Jesus wants me to "get it" and "get through it."

ABOVE ALL I think this scene in Peter's life is indicative of our own lives as we move in and out of highly stressful and fearful moments. The most devastating thing of all is the look on Jesus' face when I screw up. When my parents gave me that disappointed look, that was worse than any spanking or grounding ever. I never wanted to disappoint them. And when I did, that's what hurt me the most. It's the same way with our relationship with Jesus. We don't want to disappoint Him, but we do. But OH THAT LOOK ON HIS FACE.

I am comforted by a passage in II Timothy that says, "And when we are faithless and deny Him, He remains faithful." Now that's why Jesus is worthy of our faith and trust and worship. HE REMAINS FAITHFUL!



Right away after the field trip on prayer, Jesus is encountered in the garden, betrayed by Judas and arrested.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour-when darkness reigns."

Well, Judas leads the way, signaling the officials of Jesus' identity and sealing it with a kiss. NOTE who didn't make the prayer meeting with Jesus and the other disciples there on the Mount of Olives.

When the disciples saw the impending conflict, they asked Jesus if this was the time to use their swords. And, while they were asking this of Jesus, one of them pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Can you guess who the impetuous disciple was? If you guessed Peter, you are right. John is the only gospel that identifies him. This is characteristic of Peter's personality of shooting first and asking questions later.

NOTE Jesus stops the violence and supernaturally puts the ear back on the victim's head. He healed him right there in front of all to see. I love it that right in the midst of being arrested Jesus pulls off an incredible, almost matter of fact, miracle.

ONE MORE THING: Jesus said to these official leaders, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?" You see, in the same way that the disciples saw Jesus as a political revolutionary these officials viewed Jesus as a powerful, political threat as well.

They were all missing the point. In fact, I believe most miss the point today. Jesus is not a powerful, political revolutionary out to overthrow any community, society or government. He is a revolutionary alright, but that revolution is transformational in nature-turning a person's heart inside out and turning his world upside down. This revolution has nothing to do with conservative versus liberal or democrat versus republican or Christian versus non-Christian. It has everything to do with supernaturally changing the hearts of men and women-anywhere the message of Jesus and the Kingdom are exposed.

This revolution is experiencing incredible growth world-wide. Nothing can stop it. Once that seed of the good news of the Kingdom has been sown, you never know where it will take root and grow into a fully fruitful plant. The revolution doesn't need flashing billboards. It doesn't need a Madison Avenue kind of marketing strategy. In fact, the revolution doesn't need any massive promotional strategy at all. The revolution that Jesus is talking about spreads one by one and two by two. The revolution doesn't require any money or fund-raising programs; it's a free, word of mouth campaign that cannot be stopped. The revolution of Jesus and His Kingdom cannot be easily defined or put into a nice little box for convenience. It's gloriously out of control in every culture on planet earth. The most exciting thing I can share with you today is: THE REVOLUTION IS STILL ON! Just watch what Jesus is doing around you and join the movement. You'll never regret it!

Thursday, January 24, 2013



According to my records this is lesson 100 in the gospel of Luke. Luke is a great author and has given us more than anyone else about Jesus. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am. I am learning so much as we go through this.
NOW we come to another intentional act of preparation. This time it's not physical and financial preparation, but personal and inner preparation before facing the onslaught of things to come. Jesus leads them on a field trip, maybe the most significant trip ever. Let's see what happened.  
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

This field trip is very instructive to us on the practice of prayer. It's not exhaustive, but very insightful. Let's list out step by step what Jesus is teaching about prayer

FIRST-Pray that you will not fall into temptation. Jesus has warned them over and over that life is going to change and it will not necessarily change for the better, but for the worse. Here He urges them to pray in order that they will not fall into the trap of the evil one in the days ahead. This is true for us today, too.

SECOND-"As usual" indicates that this was a common practice-a habit. Do you have a habit of praying-talking and listening to the Lord? If Jesus felt the need to do so, what does that mean about you?

FOURTH-Jesus knelt down. There is no formula per se on how to pray, but it is interesting to note what Jesus did. I think there's something very special and meaningful about kneeling down to pray. Try it some time!

FIFTH-Jesus expressed His deepest desires-His wants. "Father, if you are willing to take this cup from me" indicates that Jesus would rather not go through with this. There is nothing wrong with expressing your deepest desires. Tell God what you really want to happen. Open up your heart to Him fully.

SIXTH-Jesus moves from "wants" to "not my will, but your will be done." Once you have expressed your deepest desires, moving to submit your will to God's will is the only way to go. This is the ultimate act of dependence upon the God of gods-for Him to have His way in your life right now.

SEVENTH-Jesus was strengthened by an angel. You may not see an angel in the process, but you will discover a new strength given to you as you practice praying in this way.

NOTE what happens next. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. "Why are you sleeping?" he asked them. "Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

Can you see yourself in the disciples? I can see you there-and me. Here they are facing the greatest temptation or trial they will ever face, yet that isn't bothering them nearly as much as their tiredness.

It's the ever-present battle between the temporal and the eternal. The temporal doesn't matter that much. The eternal is the most important of all. That age-old verse comes to mind:




This is a short passage here in Luke 22:35-38, but it is filled with a practical insight for us today. Earlier in the writings of Luke Jesus tells the disciples not to take along a purse, a bag or sandals. In other words, "Don't worry about taking these provisions along with you while on your mission."
I can't tell you how many times I've heard on "Christian" radio a variety of preachers say that you don't need to worry about your wallet or coat or sandals and that is what God requires to be working most effectively for Him. There are even preachers that say to their audiences to not even pay their bills, but to give that money to God and God will pay those bills.

The problem with this approach is the same problem that many have in teaching a balance in the Scriptures. People tend to not read far enough. When you read further in the text, you will always find the balance and the truth of it all. When you stop too soon, you will always have an imbalanced perspective on whatever the subject may be,

This is exactly what we have in this paragraph. We have the rest of the story. Jesus did say earlier to His disciples to not worry about taking along their normal provisions. That was because Jesus was walking along with them-eating with them, sleeping with them and ministering alongside them. NOW in this paragraph Jesus is saying that they are about to embark on a new game-plan.

Jesus is going to be leaving them and NOW they will need to make provisions for themselves. Just as it was the right thing to not be concerned with those everyday provisions when Jesus was with them; it is NOW the right thing to make sure you take along your provisions. He even suggests that the disciples protect themselves by carrying a sword. Let's check it out:
Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

So, what's this saying to us today? I think the basic thing that is needed for disciples today is a good dose of common sense. While Jesus was traveling with the disciples there was no need to be concerned about the basic needs of life.

But the times were about to change dramatically. For us there may be times when needs are met without much concern at all and there are times that you must work very hard to make things work. In either case, your preparation is necessary. Here's the principle: The Lord gave you five senses plus "horse" and "common", therefore use them all in living your life for Jesus. It's a real partnership. You do the possible by faith that God will do the impossible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013



I can't help but wonder who it was who was arguing over who the greatest might be among the disciples. If Peter was involved, then this next scene may be a most appropriate one to get him back on track.

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

 NOTE Jesus uses the plural here at first when describing the sifting process. He is saying, "Simon, Satan has asked to sift y'all like wheat. The sifting is about to happen to all of the disciples. Sifting was a familiar process of separating the wheat kernel from its shell, using a sieve. No doubt Jesus is strongly implying a painful process of being shaken spiritually that these disciples will face.

I think the next statement is so interesting. Jesus says, "But I have prayed for you." You can almost hear Peter's thoughts saying, "Pray for me? Can't you protect me from this sifting?" This, in itself, is an interesting principle. I summarized it for years by saying THE BEST WAY OUT IS THROUGH. The Lord normally doesn't protect us by baling us out of some trouble, but enables us to get through it-and come out the other end of this tunnel of trials better for it.

NOTE what Jesus prayed: That your faith may not fail. This literally means "that your faith may not totally eclipse" as you go through this upcoming sifting-that you will not be destroyed through it all.

When Peter was told that he was going to deny Jesus, he immediately rejected this prediction. He said, "Jesus, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." But Jesus specifies more clearly that Peter would actually deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows today.

Remember, Peter has been at the top and at the bottom so many times. Now, after he and the disciples were blessed by Jesus as He conferred the Kingdom on them, it is time for maybe the toughest of all times. Jesus predicted Peter's denial and it actually happened in the way He said it would. This was unthinkable to Peter!

Even though Jesus predicts Peter's denial of Him, He doesn't leave him at the bottom. He has a confidence that Peter will come back and get his life back together. Jesus says, "When you have turned back, then you will be able to strengthen your brothers." Jesus is not speaking to all of the disciples with a ya'll here, but is now talking to Peter only.

ONE MORE THING: Whatever else is meant and understood by Satan demanding to sift the disciples like wheat, there is a definite warning for us today. The devil's desire is to shake you up and take you through so much pain and trouble that your faith will totally eclipse or fade out. But Jesus' intent is two-fold when this happens: FIRST-That you might turn to God through this difficult time. SECOND-That through this experience you will learn to strengthen your brothers.

"Demon-possession" in the Scriptures is an unfortunate translation. It is better rendered demonized. To demonize a person is when the devil directly affects your life. There seem to be three progressive levels of demonization. FIRST-HARASSMENT. This usually happens through shooting lies or destructive thoughts into your mind. Have you ever had a thought pop into your mind that is so evil, so destructive, so way out that you have never thought before? I think this is a good illustration of harassment from evil.

SECOND-INFLUENCE. When you buy into the negative and destructive thoughts that are fired into you mind, you are then ready to be influenced by this evil. This is what I believe Jesus is describing with "sifting like wheat."

THIRD-CONTROL. If you buy into the harassment, allow yourself to be influenced in your thinking and behavior, then you tend to be controlled by this evil.

The most insidious thing about this process of demonization of believers and non-believers is how the devil attempts to deceive us. He plants these horrible, destructive thoughts in your mind, tries to move you along in their grip, even to the point of control, and then accuses you for having these thoughts and behaviors. So many of these lies and thoughts are set in a counterfeit motif. For instance, the devil rarely appears in a red suit with horns, long tale and a spear. However, the devil shows up as something or someone good.

So, how can you resist the process of demonization in your own life? The only thing I've been able come to is summarized in this statement and is worthy for your consideration: THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST THE COUNTERFEIT IS TO KNOW THE GENUINE VERY WELL. And, I would say that all that you need to know about the genuine is found in Jesus, personally. Hang on to Jesus and hang out with those who are following Him. There's no better defense, anywhere!

Sunday, January 20, 2013



Remember earlier in the gospel of Luke after the disciples had been on a field trip where they participated in healings, saw a leper healed, distributed the food the day Jesus fed 5000 and some of them saw Jesus in all of His glory at the transfiguration, and THEN they began to grumble among themselves on who was the greatest? Well, in this passage during Jesus' last week of ministry on earth, they are up to it again.

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials.

Now think about this. This time the disciples are in a most grave dinner scene where Jesus has just revealed to them at the Passover meal that one of them is about to betray Him. And in the midst of this tension and seriousness, a conflict breaks out again about who of the disciples is the greatest.

The human disease continues to run rampant today. It's the disease of self-centeredness and selfishness. It's all about positioning and competition around the wrong thing for the wrong reason.
And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus then says that He is giving these disciples the responsibility of living and carrying out the Kingdom lifestyle to the world. You see, the Kingdom lifestyle is inside out and upside down. Instead of finding greatness by pushing and positioning yourself as a leader, try being a servant. Leadership and greatness emerge out of serving others. We call it servant leadership. That's the Kingdom way!

NOTE one more thing here that's most encouraging. Here are these disciples participating in all of these embarrassing conflicts with one another to become greater than the other in the Kingdom, yet it's this very week that Jesus promotes them in an interesting way. In Jesus' prayer to the Father, the real Lord's prayer in John 17, Jesus pronounces these stumble bums as passing the test of faith. He says that they have come to believe, have accepted and have learned to obey the message the Father sent through Jesus. This is what Jesus reported to the Father in this prayer. These who, when they have time on their hands, in the most inopportune time still let their self-centeredness and immaturity show. Do you know what this means? It means that there is a lot of hope for you-and for me. Jesus sees through our weaknesses and idiosyncrasies and sees our potential of being faithful, obedient followers of Him. When I look in the mirror and see myself, I tend to become a little depressed. But when Jesus looks at me, He sees me in the most positive light ever. I think I'll go with His viewpoint. That feels so much better. How about you?



We finally come to the Passover meal Jesus is going to eat with His disciples.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover." "Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked. He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there."  
They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

NOTE what Jesus says about the Kingdom. Remember, according to Jesus the Kingdom is already present. However, this presence of the Kingdom now is gradually coming upon the earth. Now, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom fulfillment in the future. Clearly, the Kingdom is gradual and later when Jesus returns, the Kingdom will be in its fullest form.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!" They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

The Passover dinner that Jesus is eating with His disciples has special significance. Since the miraculous event in Egypt when the death angel "passed over" the Jewish homes that were covered by the blood of a lamb, the Jews faithfully observed this Passover feast.

This is possibly the most prominent of the Jewish feasts that has kept the Jewish people going throughout the centuries. It's a dinner of instruction for the children to be told of the freedom God brought upon the Jewish people and removed them from their oppressive captivity.

This dinner is actually a telling of the story of that freedom with a future look toward ultimate freedom through the Messiah someday. In the 31st chapter of Jeremiah God promised that He would someday make a new covenant with His people with a Law that is written, not on stones, but on their hearts. And God was to do this by providing His special lamb for the world.

The entire dinner speaks of the history of the Jewish people and looks forward to the Messiah's coming, the Holy One. At one point in the dinner the youngest is sent to the door to see if Elijah has come to sit at his place of honor at the table. You see, when Elijah shows, he will be introducing the coming of the Messiah.

The Passover celebration is a picture of the Messiah. Now, Jesus presents Himself as the One they have been celebrating all along through the Passover feast.

What's interesting is that the Christians have taken the Passover celebration and changed its name and purpose. They use terms such as the "last supper" or "communion"-neither designation is Biblical. A better term might be the "covenant" supper or simply call it the Passover. It is filled with great meaning and is indeed a beautiful picture of freedom from all slavery and ultimate freedom through God's Messiah.

Jesus so desired to eat this Passover with His disciples so that He, the Passover Lamb, might make a covenant with them. That covenant was to bind Him to them and they to Him until He was to return. And today, the covenant supper binds us to one another and to Him until He returns. This is why we are told, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, we are to do it in remembrance of Him, UNTIL HE RETURNS." This is our covenant. This is our hope.

NOTE one more thing here. This covenant was made with the disciples just before the saddest days of their lives. This is precisely why they needed this special covenant with their Lord. And, you know what, this is why we desperately need to be in covenant with Jesus and with one another today. This covenant is the only protection we have and the only protection you'll ever need as you face the difficult days ahead. I like the way Paul expressed this to the Corinthians: "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." I urge you to take the time to celebrate this feast of freedom. It will mark you. God will mark your hearts with His covenant until He returns.



Judas has to be one of the most enigmatic characters you'll ever observe. He chose to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus chose him to be a follower. He was involved in, at least, two missions of healing and performing miracles. He was on the inside of the inner 12 and had been chosen to be the group's treasurer. Then at the Passover season, when the opportunity presented itself for him to deliver Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leadership, he seized upon the moment with the promise of being handsomely paid for it. Let's look at it:

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

No doubt Judas was following Jesus as were the others with a political motive, but he seems to embrace that image more than the others. He was watching the money bag and he knew all of the inner workings of the group. He probably had many thoughts as to how this movement was going to go and grow. 

However, when he saw that the movement was not gaining the proper endorsements from the Jewish leadership and the tide of opinion of those who could make the decisions for the nation was all going against Jesus, Judas was wide open to a better deal.

It was a little thing at first. But then when we come to the story of John 12 where Mary was "wasting" the expensive perfume on Jesus, that seems to be the straw that changed everything. Think of it this way:

Sow a thought and reap a deed; Sow a deed and reap a character; Sow a character and reap a destiny.

It was a little seed that was sown in Judas, but it grew. Judas became a traitor the same way any of us may become a traitor to Jesus-by compromising secretly in the mind just that one time too many. It's also difficult to know how his background played into this. Judas was the only one of the Twelve who was not from Galilee. He was from the south near Jerusalem.

NOTE that in John 13 Jesus washed the feet of Judas as He did the others. He didn't discriminate against him. In fact, theoretically, Judas might have changed his mind after this dramatic act of love and servitude Jesus displayed.

NOTE a few observations: FIRST-You can take comfort in the fact that when you choose someone to come alongside, you may lose this person as did Jesus.

SECOND-Theoretically, anyone of the disciples might have played the role of Judas. But for the grace of God, right? I am convinced that any one of us is capable of doing almost anything at any time. No one is exempt.

THIRD-There are always two ways to go-your way and Jesus' way. When Judas no longer trusted in Jesus' way, he was vulnerable to whatever opportunity presented itself.

You see, Jesus was on a mission no matter how impractical that mission seemed to be. Jesus' ways are not our ways. And no matter how much evidence seems to stack up against what Jesus says to be and to do, His way is the best. Or, to put it more succinctly, HE IS THE WAY. It's not what you believe or what you think is best; it's all about the person of Jesus, the great I AM.

Judas ended his life in a pile of depression. He made the fatal mistake of trying to make something of his life without Jesus, therefore he lost his way and his self-esteem was obliterated. When he stopped following Jesus, he lost his way and his identity. This reminds me of a most profound saying, "You cannot know who you are, until you know whose you are."

Monday, January 14, 2013



NOW, Jesus seems to move toward the subject of the end of the world. NOTE the cataclysmic nature of the signs:

"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree. He is saying that just as leaves on a fig tree signify that summer is near, so, too, when you see these signs happening, you can know that the Kingdom of God in all its fullness is near.

As we have been discussing, most everything Jesus teaches and is concerned about is about the Kingdom. We have come to believe that Jesus introduced the Kingdom when He came saying, "The Kingdom is here, near and among you." He instructed His disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come." However, even though the Kingdom is present through Jesus, the King of kings, we are seeing the Kingdom and its effects emerging gradually. And, someday we will experience the Kingdom in its fullness. This is what Jesus is referring to here.
"Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

What does Jesus mean "this generation" will not pass away until all of these signs have happened? Well, "generation" could mean several things. It could mean simply descendants, a group of people born at the same time, or a period of time. So, "this generation" could mean the people living in Jesus' day and they will see the fulfillment of the tragic fall of Jerusalem. Another popular view is that "this generation" means the Jewish people will not be destroyed and will exist right to the end.

The answer to "this generation" is certainly not clear. I tend to think Jesus is saying that the generation that sees these cataclysmic signs will also see the end of the world. And, He goes on to point out that the heavens and the earth will pass away but His word would endure forever.
"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Jesus ends His remarks about the signs of the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end of the world. He warns BE CAREFUL. It's so easy to slip into the world system and have no thought that this will all come to an end. And, if you do, you will not be ready for the coming of the King and His Kingdom in all of its fullness. All of a sudden these events could come upon us and we get caught by surprise. I'm reminded about 9/11 and how quickly all commerce and virtually all of life in the USA came to a screeching halt.

The application here for us is that no one knows when the end of the world will come. It will come like a thief in the night and many will be shocked and surprised. So, He says, be prayerful that you will be able to escape all of these disasters and you will be able to stand before the Son of Man when He comes.

It seems to me to be watchful and prayerful means to be aware of what God is doing among us in this world. Through this awareness we will be ready for whatever may come at the end of the world. This is why it's so critical for us to continue walking with Jesus and with one another as we learn what it means to love one another and to walk the Kingdom lifestyle. So, how about you? How's it going? Would you say that you are ready-watching and praying?



In chapter 22 of Luke we come to a controversial passage regarding things prophetic:  
Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down."
"Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"
He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."

The question, "When will these things happen?" and, "What will be the sign that they are about to take place?" both speak of the end of the world. The Temple was magnificent, so anything that would be coming into Jerusalem to destroy it would be massive. And, the destruction of Jerusalem is like the end of the world.
Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me."

First, Jesus makes it clear that the initial concern ought to be how to handle the religious system of the day that will be threatened and will treat you badly. Then, there will be several cataclysmic events that will indicate the end is near and the Temple will be destroyed. There will be a world war where nations will rise up against nations throughout the world. There will be earthquakes, famines and pestilences along with other fearful events.
"But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life."

Jesus wants His followers to know that worrying about the end times will not be helpful. However, He will give the words and wisdom necessary to withstand whatever comes at you. His protection will be extensive, so stand firm and you will win life.

Now, after dealing with the signs of the end of the world, He finally gives an answer to when this will happen and what to look for as a sign of the destruction of the Temple:
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

This is exactly how the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple occurred. The Roman army, headed up by Titus, set siege to the city and surrounded it. That was the sign. Then Jesus says something curious. He says to get out of the city once you have seen this sign. Well, now how can you get out of the city, if the city is surrounded by the Roman troops? Titus underestimated what it would take to overtake Jerusalem, so the Roman army went into a mini-retreat in order to re-supply. During this break in the action of setting siege to Jerusalem, it is reported that the followers of Jesus did heed Jesus' words and were able to get out of the city safely.

Jesus goes on to say that the city of Jerusalem would be trampled under foot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There are lots of ways to understand His words here. I think this refers to the city of Jerusalem and even the nation of Israel being under the domination of the Gentiles for some pre-determined time. The Jews and their city of Jerusalem at this time had been run by Gentiles until Israeli independence in May of 1948.

So, what Jesus said would happen did happen, just as He said it would. There is a powerful lesson here. We've talked about this repeatedly. "Whatever Jesus says to do, do it." His accuracy, even in prophetic things is incredible.

I'm slowly getting it! Jesus is looking for someone, anyone, who will stubbornly follow Him and ruthlessly trust Him. I like what He says earlier, "For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." His strength and power-His words and wisdom are all I need.

We who are following Jesus are in a boat. There are two ways to handle our boat. We can row like crazy to get where we want to go. Or, we can put up our sail and He will send the right wind at the right time to send us in the right direction. I'm tired of rowing. How about you?



We come now to chapter 21 of Luke to a most familiar scene in the life of Jesus-the widow's mite. I've collected ancient Greek and Hebrew coins over the years. All of the coins are filled with meaning, but few more than the widow's mite. It is the least value of all of the coins of that time. Let's take a look:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Remember the Pharisee and the publican whose prayers became the subject of one of Jesus' parables? Well, here is another comparison with the same ingredients-those who seemingly have it together and those who don't.

This time it is the comparison of the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury and the poor widow. There is known to be 13 trumpet-like receptacles in the Temple where people gave their gifts. If you were to give lots of coins, the clanging sound of the coins in that receptacle would be loud. There was no maximum cap placed on how much you could give, but there was a minimum and that was precisely what she gave. It amounted to less than our pennies today.

Jesus' comments regarding her gift are revealing in many ways. First, Jesus says that with her gift of two coins she gave more than all of the others. Second, Jesus says the others gave out of their wealth; she gave out of her poverty and gave all she had to live on.

Three observations come to mind for me here: FIRST-The gift of the widow must have been from her heart. She is a faith-giver. She doesn't have any guarantee where her next meal or next day's wages will come from. She must believe that God will be faithful to take care of her. It seems we have lost this sense of giving to God and His Kingdom, and it's because we have lost that sense of ruthless trust.

It's also true that the widow's actions speak of what is called sacrificial giving. She gave to the point of giving up a meal or something else. She gave sacrificially. Jesus is impressed with what she did and how she did it.

SECOND-The proportion of her giving impressed Jesus. According to Jesus the widow gave more than all the rest. The widow was a proportional giver.

Remember what Jesus taught earlier in Luke 12? "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." We are also told to give as we are prospered. I believe God holds us accountable for the proportion we give. And, you can be encouraged that giving a very little still matters to God as long as it's proportional.

THIRD-When you give out of your wealth, it's easy to view your giving as another bill to be paid without it ever passing through your heart.

The challenge here is to re-evaluate your own giving. Certainly it's not to be a show for anyone. Three questions are obvious here: 1. Are you giving by faith? 2. Are you giving sacrificially? 3. Are you giving out of your wealth, paying another bill, or are you giving from your heart response to God?

ONE MORE THING: Your regular giving or "tithing" has little to do with some project or a special pledge. Your giving is to be regular, giving as you are prospered, giving to the needs of believers and giving into the treasury of the local fellowship where you are being taught or spiritually nurtured.

When you give in this way, God will bless your heart and bless your life in a special way. Give like the others in the story and you may end up resenting that you gave anything at all.

For years I have loved the saying, "God loves a cheerful giver and He also accepteth from a grouch." Whether you are cheerful or a little grouchy about it, make it a discipline to be a giver. You will receive the most out of it, for sure.



Jesus' primary enemies were not the non-religious, but the religious. In the last three verses of Luke 20 Jesus warns His disciples about these religious scholars.

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."

I can't help but think of the most complete expression of Jesus regarding these teachers of the Law. It is found in Matthew 23 and is just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of trying to explain what these teachers are all about, I want to read you Jesus' fullest criticism of these teachers of the Law in Matthew 23. And, I want to read you the version of this incident found in The Message:
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned."
"You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment-the absolute basics!-you carelessly take it or leave it. 

"Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?"
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds."
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You're cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count."
"Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It's on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation-and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse."
"You can't squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah's son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I'm telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation."

Jesus is livid about how these teachers of the Law behave, yet Jesus still had a heart of compassion for these people. His heart was broken over their attitudes and behaviors. NOTE how Jesus expresses His heart over the brokenness He sees in Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"

So, Jesus' warning to His disciples is, "Don't be like these teachers of the Law." You must be different. You must be salt and light in the world. The best way to do that is to "Follow Me!" and not the well-known, well-established teachers of the Law.

Does this have any application for us today? I think so. Don't try to pattern yourself after the "teachers of the Law" today, even if they are good and seemingly successful. The closer you get to some ministries, you uncover the underbelly of what's really going on in the name of the Lord. And, too many times, it's disgusting and disheartening. Jesus' solution is clear. You must be diligent to pattern your life after Jesus and Jesus only. He is the one who calls you to Himself and then He will give you orders and opportunities that are directly from Him. Jesus isn't kidding when He says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life". What He is looking for is someone to FOLLOW His way, His truth and His life. Will you be that SOMEONE?

Sunday, January 13, 2013



Jesus was continually being bombarded with questions, mostly to trip Him up. But in this paragraph Jesus poses a question of His own. And it's a whopper!

Then Jesus said to them, "Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: "'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

Do you get the question? Jesus is asking, "How can the Messiah be the Son of David and yet David's Lord, too?" "Why do people say that the Christ (the Messiah) is the Son of David? In the book of Psalms (Psalm 110), David himself says: 'The Lord (that is, God) said to my (David's) Lord (Christ or Messiah): Sit by me at my right side, and I will make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' David calls the Messiah 'Lord.' But the Messiah is also the son of David. David is clearly referring to the Messiah as his superior, as his Lord. Here the Messiah is worthy of the allegiance of his own ancestor, David. Jesus asks the scribes, "How can both these things be true?" All the people listened intently to Jesus.
What's interesting is that the term, "the Son of David", was a direct reference to the Messiah. David was viewed as Israel's greatest king and the Messiah was to restore David's kingdom to its original glory.

I think Jesus has raised this question, because He knows the Jewish leaders don't understand the nature of who the Messiah is and what He must do. They don't get it that the Messiah was before and above their beloved David. David knew it and said it in Psalm 110, but this was not the prevalent understanding of the day.

I am reminded of the first chapter of John where he says, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." This is the confounding thought for many today. People have the hardest time getting it. Jesus was not born into the world and became deified over a process of time. He was in the beginning. He was with God in the beginning. And, He was God.

Jesus did not experience the process of deification. Jesus experienced the process of incarnation. Jesus is the God-Man. He is God who took on flesh that He might reveal God to us in a way that we could understand and relate to Him. There is a statement I heard recently that seems to say the essence of what's being said here, "JESUS IS GOD HERE; GOD IS JESUS EVERYWHERE."

Tuesday, January 08, 2013



(Luke 20:27-40) Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
The Sadducees were setting Jesus up to trick Him by asking this question about marriage. You see, the Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection at all. The reason for the question is to show the difficulties in believing in the resurrection and an afterlife.

They couched their question around a Jewish tradition called the "levirate marriage." It is found in Deuteronomy 25:5: "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her"

This was a way for the deceased husband to "live on" through a child with his wife and brother. Then his name could be carried on with the son that might be born. In Jewish history, Ruth was one of those widows and Boaz became what was known as her kinsman-redeemer.

Jesus' response is interesting and not especially popular today, when understood.
Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Jesus is saying that marriage is outmoded in heaven. On this side of the resurrection, the opposite sex is natural and normal, but not in the heavenly state. In the age to come people will no longer marry, because marriage will be outmoded. We will have another higher focus altogether. Marriage will probably be remembered, but it will be unimportant in the age to come. And Jesus goes on to say that in that state we will be like the angels-children of the resurrection.

So, to preserve one's name and family beyond the grave is not important in heaven. Marriage and reproduction are vital to maintaining human life down here, but in an age where people live forever it isn't necessary.

Jesus then uses the illustration of Moses, calling on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His point here is since Moses viewed them as being alive or for sure will be resurrected so that they can receive the promises God revealed to them. When Jesus taught on the reality and reasonableness of the resurrection, then the Pharisees quickly agreed.

What can we take away from this scene between Jesus and the Sadducees? Here it is: Most everything we believe to be so important in our earthly lives today will be unimportant in the next life after the resurrection. All of this will pass away. Therefore, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where nothing can destroy rather than investing your life in the earthly treasures down here where all will be destroyed. To put it briefly, after the resurrection, the entire paradigm of your life will change.

NOTE that the only marriage mentioned in this new age of heaven will be our marriage to Jesus. Jesus is the groom and those who trust in Him are His bride. This brings me to an important insight into what Jesus is doing with us today, everyday. He is wooing us with His unconditional love. He relentlessly pursues us, no matter what. As any lover, Jesus is looking for only one thing from us. He's listening for our response back to Him of, "I love you, too, Jesus."



(Luke 20:20-26) Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"  
He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

Remember the immediate context here. Jesus has just ticked off nearly everyone within the priesthood by kicking the money-changers out of the Temple. And, we found that the chief priest's family receives a little royalty from the commercial activity within the Temple, so there is a lot of anger in the air. And now, in the midst of this tension a few "spies" are sent to speak with Jesus with more of a slippery tongue than should ever be believed.

They are looking to catch Jesus in saying anything that they might be able to use against Him to arrest Him. They needed a reason. But NOTE they are not looking to trick with respect to the Jewish law, but the Roman law. They would love to get something on Him that would trigger the Romans to arrest Him.

So, they throw out a loaded question to Him: "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" In addition to property taxes, the Romans also put on the people an annual tax of one denarius. A denarius amounted to a day's wages. This was assessed on every adult male. It was Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrrin, that was responsible for collecting this tax.

This was not a popular tax at all. So, if they could get Jesus to agree that Roman taxation is right, then maybe the masses of the people would turn on Jesus and view Him as no greater than the hated tax collectors. On the other hand, if they could get Jesus to agree that this tax is wrong and unjust, then this would put Jesus on the same level of the revolutionary zealots, who were anti-Roman in every way. Then, maybe this would turn the Romans against Jesus as a political revolutionary.

Naturally, Jesus answers their trick question brilliantly and this has been quoted by people throughout the ages. What Jesus says is that as disciples of Jesus we are to give honest honor to government's authorities. And, "to give to God what is God's" is how Jesus finishes His answer. Here's what is going on. Caesar's image is on the coin, so pay your taxes. However, God's image is on your soul, so give yourself to God fully.

I think this is another division that Jesus paints clearly between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. The image of Caesar is on the coin. That coin is the material stuff of this world-the wealth of man or what Matthew quotes Jesus as saying Mammon. In that instance, Jesus makes it clear you can't serve God and Mammon at the same time. So, with respect to the kingdom of man, you are to respect it, but not worship it and give your all to it.

On the other hand, the image of God is on your soul. You may owe Caesar a few coins, but you owe your Creator who marked His image on your soul your very life. In order for the Kingdom of God to spread in this world, be careful to respect governmental authority.

To me there is a sobering note here. Jesus is not into building up religious power-blocks to control Caesar or to take him over. This will not result in spreading the Kingdom of God and it will most surely hinder its spread. We live in a country where it is fashionable and counted as noble for godly men, even high profile men, to spend their energies bringing all of their power and influence to bear on changing the laws of the land. It's all under the banner of building a Christian nation.

You see, there is something drastically missing from this approach. JESUS. Jesus didn't propose overthrowing any government or even spending one ounce of your energy trying to change it. No amount of voting or political power will be able to change this nation or any other. Change only occurs when a person encounters Jesus personally, then there is transformation. It baffles me why great men of God have chosen to enter the political arena and leave their obvious calling behind. Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. There is nothing wrong for godly men to enter into politics to make a difference. But, if that politician for one moment believes that political reform will bring spiritual revolution to our nation, he is greatly mistaken.

You want to change a nation, begin by changing the citizens one by one. If you want to change Congress, then you must find a way to change Congressmen. If you want to change prisons, then you must change the prisoners. And how does this change take place? Only through JESUS PLUS NOTHING. To believe that anything short of Jesus has a chance to change any institution or any person is ridiculous.

So, as Jesus says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God's." You know what it all comes back to? The two most revolutionary words in all of history spoken by Jesus: FOLLOW ME!