Tuesday, March 05, 2013



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!



The fourth 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 ENCOURAGE THE YOUTH OF OUR WORLD. As usual Jesus not only teaches transformational principles, but He practices what He teaches. Jesus is the teaching! Jesus was around 30 years old, when he launched the movement and he launched it with a group of teenagers. His early followers were just teens with one exception, Peter, who was probably in his early twenties.
Jesus placed a high value on youth-children-and if we're going to do our best to follow Him, then we must also value children in the same way. There are, at least, four dimensions to the way Jesus values children.

FIRST-Jesus made it clear that no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven unless he becomes like a little child. Matthew reports that Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) Mark also reports that Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15) Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Note that each of the Gospels were in agreement on this and verifies Jesus' thinking about children.

SECOND-Jesus even told an older, Jewish scholar by the name of Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. He says in John 3:5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." He goes on to say: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." I believe Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that as a highly educated adult he was unable to enter the Kingdom, unless he became like a little child all over again-to be born again. Nicodemus knew too much that had become like blinders so he was unable to see clearly and freshly as a little child.

THIRD-Jesus valued children so much that he used them as an illustration for those who are the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Matthew records an interesting scene around the question, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place-becoming like this child-is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:1-4)

FOURTH-Jesus identifies Himself personally with the children. Matthew continues with: "And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me-to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:5-6) Note that if you receive a child in the name of Jesus, it's the same as welcoming Jesus Himself. And, then notice the warning to those who dare to cause a little child to stumble or go away from the things of Jesus. It's a serious thing to hurt a child in any way.

So, what is it about a child that is so important? Why is there such an emphasis in Jesus' teachings on valuing children? There are a lot of reasons that come to mind for me.

As a child, you know you don't know everything. You're open to learning; you're like wet cement. It's important to watch Jesus carefully and mimic what you see and hear.

As a child you want to learn all you can about this new life of following Jesus. Children just naturally imitate those who are important to them.

To be a child you may have to unlearn a lot of things so that you can relearn what Jesus wants you to know. You must be open and honest; there's a certain degree of innocence about being child-like. There's also a natural desire to depend upon and trust Jesus.

To be a child you will have to relearn the ABC's all over again. This time the ABC's are the building blocks of following Jesus.

To be a child you will have to relearn the simplicity of following Jesus. A child sees things simply and purely. This is the concern that Paul expressed for the followers of Jesus who were gathering in Corinth. He said: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (II Corinthians 11:3)

So, always be careful to encourage the youth-the children-in our world and begin with the little child in you.



Over the years I have not been very successful in picking leaders. It seems most of the leaders I have chosen on my own have had a built-in fizzle to them. The third 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 BELIEVE THAT GOD RAISES UP LEADERS. God has a habit of preparing and raising up the best kinds of leaders for special tasks.
When God needed a leader to show the way for the people of Israel to break free from the bondage of Egypt, he chose a goat and sheep herder out on the back side of the desert. Moses had a unique resume that included a forty-year stint in the palace of the Pharaoh, killing an Egyptian in a fight, and then another forty years working in the fields for his father-in-law. And, he didn't want to be the leader of anything and was filled with excuses.

Joseph, the next to youngest son of Jacob, was nearly murdered by his jealous brothers who then sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt. After having his reputation destroyed by another's lie and being wrongly imprisoned for years, Joseph proved himself invaluable to Pharaoh. He became the number two man in Egypt's government. God used Joseph to save thousands of people during a great famine. That number included his own family, the budding Israelite nation. He was the reason his father's family moved to Egypt, setting the stage for the great Exodus centuries later.

When the people of Israel were being oppressed by the Midianites, God chose a young, insignificant man by the name of Gideon. Listen in on how he was chosen: The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak tree, where Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:11-15) God delights in taking the weakest and making him mighty!

God chose a prostitute by the name of Rahab to play a significant role in hiding the spies. After the destruction of Jericho, she ended up in the godly lineage of Jesus, the Messiah.

God is very capable of choosing just the right person for the right task, no matter their background or giftedness or knowledge. This is why Jesus teaches the disciples this primary principle: Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:35-38)

God chose the most aggressive enemy of the Jesus movement, Saul, to be used as a powerful leader of the movement: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:1-19)

God also chose the uneducated and ordinary to be the most powerful leaders of the Jesus movement. Check it out: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. (Acts 4:13-14)

God continually prepares and chooses the most unlikely people to raise up to become leaders in His movement. He takes unlikely people and gives them unusual power to perform unbelievable things in the name of Jesus. Only God can do this, therefore we must ask God to raise up the leaders He believes necessary for His movement. And, do you know what this means? God may even be preparing and choosing you to do something significant for Him. So, pray for God to raise up the leaders we need in the Jesus movement and don't be surprised if you find that you have been praying for yourself.