Monday, December 31, 2007



RESULTS! RESULTS! RESULTS! Everyone seems to be demanding results. Whether it be your boss, your board of directors, your constituency, or your spouse, results are the focus. I also hold a list of expected results in my head that I feel bent on making happen. It's these results that have pushed up my blood pressure to its higher levels. Results have become the primary stressors of my life! In 2008 I'm going to change my thinking about results.

One of the most familiar quotes about results is credited to Albert Einstein. It is "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Results are rarely neutral. Either you have great expectations for certain positive results or you have great dread about the possibility of certain negative results.

Results seem to come in three versions-good, bad or none at all. Sometimes it's the "none at all" that can be most difficult. I really like the t-shirt that says: "For every door that closes there is another one that always opens, but the hallways can be hell."

Results are everywhere. They cannot be avoided. Results are the consequences of life, whether we cause them or they just happen to us. Results do happen!

Not only do we all have life results that we feel we must negotiate, the bible is filled with the good, the bad and the non-results in the lives of the many characters. Ananias and Sapphira had some very good results. They sold a piece of property and made a lot of money. However, these good results were made into bad results when they acted as if they were giving the entire amount they gained into the local treasure, yet were holding out on God. They lied in an attempt to gain some praise and affirmation. Daniel was being faithful to God by praying daily and through the conniving of some jealous men in the kingdom ended up in the lions' den. Bad results for sure, yet God was at work in the midst of these bad results and saved Daniel's life.

Then in Hebrews 11 there is an interesting paragraph regarding great men of faith who experienced a lifetime of non-results: 13 All these people (Enoch, Noah, Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

There are two basic problems with results. The first problem is that there is a tendency to wallow in the bad results which ends in depression. The second is to rely on the good results, relishing in them as if they were produced by us, resulting in pride. So, we end up trusting and hoping in our results, gambling on them to be the answer to our problems.

If you focus on your results, you will never be free from the stresses of it all. Here are some thoughts on how to handle your results: FIRST-Do the best you can do. This is your primary responsibility and nothing more.

SECOND-Leave the results entirely in the hands of God. You can't control your results anyway. In fact, results are none of your business. I am convinced God is personally at work in the midst of your results.

With Jesus it's always personal. This is why He continually makes it clear to those who are listening who He is. His many I AM statements and claims about Himself place Him into the middle of your life results.

Jesus uses results in your life to do the following: 1. To teach you something through it. 2. To work together with something else for God's glory and your good. 3. To get you through the worst of it all. He delights in getting you through it.

So, there are three cautions: 1. Don't allow yourself to be slammed by the bad results. 2. Don't allow yourself to take credit for the good results. 3. Don't allow yourself to be discouraged by the lack of results.

In 2008, the only result worth your time and energy is your personal relationship with Jesus, so do whatever you can do to FOLLOW HIM.

Sunday, December 30, 2007



As we come to the final day of 2007 I feel the need to share with you three promises that can get you through your day-every day! I not only frequently use these for myself, but I also share these with people everywhere with great success! Let's walk through each one briefly.

FIRST-THE PROMISE OF GOOD ENDINGS-This is found in Romans 8:28-"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." This promise is all about PROCESS which takes time to unfold. God will take all of our failures, crises and circumstances and work them together with something else for our good. "Together" is the operative word. The loss of a loved one is not good in itself, but God will cause this loss to work together with something else to bring about good. Divorce is not good, an addiction is not good, a disease is not good, BUT GOD intervenes and uses it to bring about good in your life IF you love Him (your heart is bent toward Him) and you are called according to His purpose (you are plugged into His will and His purpose or, that you are walking with Him).

SECOND-THE PROMISE OF GREAT ESCAPES-This promise is found in I Corinthians 10:13-"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." This promise is all about PERSEVERANCE which is the most important ingredient when going through difficult times. When your life situation seems insurmountable like you are facing a high mountain range that blocks you from getting through it, God offers you a mountain pass. Note this is not a bailout, but it is the escape provided so that you will be able to get through it (endure it). You see, contrary to public opinion, THE BEST WAY OUT IS THROUGH!

THIRD-THE PROMISE OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS-This promise is found in Paul's letter to the gathering of believers in Philippi (Philippians 1:6)-"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." This promise is all about PERMANENCE which is a welcome sight for those of us who live within a temporal world system. Paul expresses his confidence to the believers in Philippi that what God began in their experience (in their hearts) He will complete. And He will complete it in this life up until Jesus returns. This is an amazing earthly promise, not in the sweet by-and-by, but in the nasty now-and-now. What God began in the hearts of your family, He will complete in your friends, in your fellowship. The vital issue here is "WHAT GOD BEGAN", not what you began. It is speaking about the work of God in your heart. Maybe the greatest problem in recognizing God's work in your life is that you are.

Out of touch with Him and insensitive to His promptings.

Out of touch with His fellowship and indifferent to the touch of His people.

Out of control in your life and find yourself wandering aimlessly.

NOTE that the promises are only as good as the Promiser! It's too easy to be caught up with the promise without being captivated with the One Who promises. The same is true of blessing. We embrace the blessings in our lives without being totally grateful to the One Who blesses! It is our nature to go for the prize without the process, without the perseverance and therefore we don't sense His permanence and presence in our lives.

No matter what you've gone through this year, it is only by the grace of God that you survived. He is the answer, the solution, to all of your needs. He is the only One Who satisfies the longings of your heart. So, hang on to Him by hanging on to these three promises. They become like safety nets for you as you walk the tightropes of your life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Matthew 5:7


The first 4 beatitudes were about your relationship before God. The second 4 are internal qualities about our relationship with others. Each one extends out of another. Here is a visual of how this relationship works.


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. The discipline here is #5 REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION-To reach out with compassion is to treat everyone with grace and mercy! This means to identify with other's needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you. Remember, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment! It's an interesting principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away!

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

There is no way you will be able to REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION without the dimension of REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY.

For each of the attitudes or disciplines in the second list (INNER SELF TOWARD OTHERS) there is a corresponding attitude in the first list (INNER SELF). The INNER SELF attitudes are actually pre-requisites for the INNER SELF TOWARD OTHERS attitudes.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to reach out with compassion you will do well to reaffirm your poverty. In other words, if you want to check out how you can reach out with compassion more effectively, start with reaffirming your poverty. This makes so much sense when you think about it! It's very difficult to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. On the other hand, when you are a person who has a right evaluation of your self, God and others, you are freed up to be able to show genuine compassion to others! When you have received grace from God, it's much easier to give out mercy!

Is it difficult for you to show mercy to other people? Then check out being "poor in spirit." If you have an understanding of your wickedness and wonder-your poverty before God-that it is a right evaluation of yourself before God, then you are able to offer mercy to another. If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won't find it easy to extend mercy to another person at all. BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL FOR THEY WILL RECEIVE MERCY.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Matthew 5:6


We are making our way through the book of Matthew and more specifically we are going through the beatitudes. Each of these beatitudes is really a discipline. Here's how it works:

#1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-To have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

#2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES-To reframe your wickedness means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

#3-RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE-To renew your confidence means is to develop a quiet, controlled strength. 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

#4-REFOCUS YOUR HEART 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

To refocus your heart is to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul! Everybody is passionately seeking inner satisfaction. Note the progression of the first four attitudes. The first three speak primarily of that which is lacking within you and how you need to handle it. This fourth attitude or discipline is a kind of hungering and thirsting for what you want in your innermost being. This is that total satisfaction I was referencing before.

"Righteousness" is right living. It's walking consistently with God's standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God's standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God's standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION-religious systems of do's and don'ts to avoid going to hell. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or even Christian. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One-Jesus, Himself. This sort of relationship is not a plan for avoiding hell, but it says "I've been to hell and don't want to return." It's a relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus every day-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

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

I'll expand on it later, but here is an illustration of how your discontent works in your favor, if you allow it. The power of discontent provides the opportunity to refocus your heart! I see this power released as you take three positive steps:

First, picture yourself as created by the Creator! Although I've mentioned this earlier and probably will reference it again, you must not ignore this as one of the most powerful ingredients for your success. When you recognize your Creator, you avoid the temptation to play like you're God. This tends to keep you on track with who you really are and who you aren't. (This is the core of reaffirm your poverty.)

Second, process the pain with the hope of something better to come! The underlying attitude here is: All of the pain and disappointment will pass and are worth it, if I can get more inner satisfaction and growth for having experienced them. (This is the core of reframe your weaknesses.)

Third, practice the presence of your Creator in your life! This means to enjoy every day of your life from a different perspective-on a higher plane. It's living with your Creator as your partner in everything you do. There is a sense of accountability here that can't be achieved any other way. I have often taught with positive affirmation in the corporate marketplace that if you attempt to live your life without your Creator, you don't have prayer!

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

Refocus your heart! On every flight you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping those children alongside you. Part of the refocusing of your heart is just that-putting on your oxygen mask every day-talking to Jesus, listening to Him and seeking to please Him with your life throughout the day. Maybe you need to ask the simple question: "Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Matthew 5:5


We are making our way through the Gospel of Matthew and specifically we are into the 3rd beatitude. The first two beatitudes we turned into disciplines.

#1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY--To have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

#2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES--To reframe your wickedness means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

#3-RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

To renew your confidence means to develop a quiet, controlled strength. This discipline or attitude continues the progression. First, reaffirm your poverty (a right evaluation of your self, God, and others), then reframe your weaknesses (a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing what you were created to be and to do), and now comes the renewing of your confidence-the renewal of your inner strength. In other words, once you see clearly who you really are, you are ready for growth. Then, if you are able to mourn over that which can keep you from growing, you actually graduate through this pile of problems. Now, you can't remain under the pile of mourning; you must gain inner strength as you emerge from the pile.

If you just learn how to mourn and remain there, you will be content to wallow in your weaknesses. Many people seem to enjoy suffering like this. They find a new friend in depression or loss or a sickness. They find that people seem to care more for them when they're wallowing in a problem, so they take that problem on as their identity-sort of a badge of courage. Don't wallow in your sorrows! Mourn them! Recognize them! See them for what they are! And grow through it!

Another way to look at the progression is: First, suffer the loss or problem with great sorrow! Second, see the passing nature of the situation! Third, stand on the promise of something better to come through it all!

To renew your confidence is to focus on the product of what you can learn in the midst of your struggles. "Gentle" is the word for meekness. Meekness is not weakness! It's developing a quiet, controlled inner strength or confidence that can only come from God's inside operation on your life. This is why we continue to speak of transformation or regeneration! It's an inside job by Jesus, Himself in a person's life. You recognize your desperate need, you mourn over it, inviting the Lord to do His work in your life. He does His work in your heart and creates a wonderful inner confidence-an inner strength that empowers you to start over!

It's learning to grow for it-no matter how rough or how tough life can be! Again, I say, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you that matters most. Renew your confidence and live your life-inside out!

The struggle here in renewing your confidence is to be diligent to find your inner strength in His work and not your own. Are you sensitive to God's transformation in your heart? Are you aware of His continued work every day in and through you? This is the basis of meekness!

Monday, December 24, 2007



I was thinking this Christmas holiday about what we really communicate to the watching world about the meaning of Christmas. We so easily spew out our criticisms toward the commercial marketplace with all of its politically correct "holiday" decorations. There are lots of lights, a herd of reindeer and an older, slightly overweight man with a long beard dressed in a bright red suit, but you would be hard-pressed to figure out what Christmas is really all about by observing the marketplace.

Think of it this way. What if an alien suddenly showed up during the Christmas holiday? What would he or she or it understand by what is seen?

I agree that the marketplace is filled with misleading hints of what the holiday season is all about. However, I feel the religious marketplace may be communicating poorly as well. They are much closer to the truth than the commercial marketplace, but still I wonder if in our churches we are holding on to several caricatures of our own.

If you were to try to communicate Christianity to an alien with only symbols, what would you use? Most of the symbols during this time of year seem to be a baby in a manger, a cross to identify something as Christian and possibly clouds that signify Christmas has something to do with the heavenlies. Just tonight at a local Christmas Eve service, they used two prominent images-the cross and the manger-as their theme.

However meaningful these symbols may be, there are a few possible problems. First, these symbols-manger, cross and clouds-tend to localize Jesus for us. If we focus our worship and adoration on the manger, we tend to leave Jesus right there. But Jesus grew up, because he was on a mission.

Second, these symbols tend to limit Jesus. If we are able to keep Him in the manger or on a cross or even in the clouds, we leave Him there as a precious baby, a dying savior on a cross or a mystical expression that is difficult to identify with. Therefore we limit Jesus to one of these images and roles.

Third, to focus on these symbols leaves you alone to your own thinking. The clarity of the awesomeness of Jesus is lost or left behind. Don't leave Jesus behind in the manger. Don't leave Jesus behind on the cross. And, don't leave Jesus behind in the clouds.

A man in the state of Washington became so frustrated with it all that he hung Santa on a cross. Now, that's really mixing your metaphors!

To leave Jesus behind in these or other images is to worship an impersonal God. And if He is impersonal, then we are left to worship Jesus through our religious traditions and commandments of men, through the lens of religiosity and churchianity. We miss the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus, personally.

This Christmas make it your purpose to focus on Jesus, the person of Jesus. He wants to be your friend. He wants to live among us as we gather together. He wants to walk with you. He loves you and accepts you and all He is asking is that you follow Him. What makes this most amazing is that God was pleased that the entire fullness of God was made to dwell in Him. In Jesus was the full presence of God-Immanuel, which means God with us! He came that we might find that fullness of life in Him.

There are 3 most vital things about Jesus that you can hang on to as you end this year and begin the next: I. The Character of Jesus is impeccable. No one disagrees with this. He lived His life walking the walk and walking the talk.

II. Following the teachings and principles of Jesus will bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. There is no self-help seminar, no motivational book or life-coaching workshop that is produced without His teachings.

III. Following Jesus will lead you to a personal relationship with God. If God were ever to take on human flesh and walk this earth, He would be like Jesus.

To sum it all up: Do everything you can do to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus, because all the fullness of God dwells in Him.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Matthew 5:4


When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 ``Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ``Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 ``Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 ``Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Remember, we started with "poor in spirit"-to REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY. to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). Now, we come to the second beatitude-"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

#2 REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES To reframe your weaknesses means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. This discipline or attitude builds right on top of the first-reaffirm your poverty. Once you have a right evaluation of your self, God, and others, you must be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what's right.

I see this as a mourning process. Learn to mourn over your weaknesses. I view weaknesses in two ways. First, your inner vulnerabilities that make you prone to fall apart or to do foolish things. Second, the trials you face when you suffer loss or when you are in the midst of your various problems.

You reframe your weaknesses by mourning-genuine mourning. By the way, when you mourn, you must feel the pain. Moan and groan over it! Feel it! Don't deny your feelings about it! The pain is for real, so really feel it! If you mourn properly, you'll discover something of a surprise on the other end. You will find a sense of comfort and inner joy.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don't need to look for problems and troubles-either generated by you or delivered to you. They have already been scheduled for your endurance! One of the primary growth factors in life is developing your muscle of endurance. When you reframe your weaknesses, you set yourself up for greater growth! So, don't waste your sorrows, reframe them!

What is it that keeps you from walking with Jesus? What keeps you drifting away from what you know you really want with respect to your faithfulness to Him? List it out and actually MOURN. There's something about identifying it and saying it that helps to push it out of your way!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Matthew 5:1-6


Now we come to the most amazing seminar/workshop Jesus ever taught. In a book, A Few Buttons Missing, Gerald Fisher, an eminent psychiatrist, views this speech as the summation of the most complete statement of psychological health ever given in one speech or one writing (article, chapter, or book). In fact, he states that there is no better articulation of the essential principles of mental health than is summarized in these basic attitudes!

Jesus has already begun to do wonderful things in healing and touching the lives of so many in His new ministry among them as the new Rabbi in town. He has already chosen a few men to follow in His dust-to be taught in His way. So now the question automatically arises: "Jesus, how does your teaching differ from all of the other Rabbis' teaching that we have grown up with? How does your teaching compare with what we've been taught?" Jesus sets out to answer this underlying question among the people and it is recorded in Matthew 5-7. These are the most dynamic chapters in the New Testament and the most revolutionary!

Jesus is about to redefine the Law of Moses, to redefine what it means to be "righteous" before God and to work over every person who dares to listen from the inside out!

Jesus begins by painting a portrait of what a happy believer ought to look like--how a person who is walking with Jesus ought to be. He uses 8 colors as He paints this picture. They have been called the Beatitudes. They are so outside the box that many theologians and ministers have relegated them to a later time in the kingdom, refusing to apply them to our lives today. But this is precisely the point of what Jesus is saying. He wants those who are willing to follow Him to walk to the beat of a different drummer. It is truly at the root of what I've been referring to lately as living your life in a CSI manner:

C-covert, underground, not showy, but invisible. S-subversive, revolutionary, seeking to see people transformed from the inside out. I-indelible, permanent, eternal marking of a man or woman so that they own it for themselves from here to eternity.

Jesus carefully describes each of these 8 dimensions with a very few words. Each one begins with "happy" or "blessed" are you when you are this way or that. "You'll do well to be this way" is his point in every one. However, He will turn your world and thinking upside down as you contemplate each one. The first 4 are all about our personal relationship with God on the inside. The second 4 extend the first 4 out into our relationships with others. It is truly a great pattern for first walking with Jesus and then walking with others. Over the next 4 days of this week I want to take the first 4 "beatitudes"-1 each day-and see if we can't "catch" the essence of what Jesus is saying and own it for ourselves in a new way.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 ``Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 ``Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 ``Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 ``Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

It all begins right here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit". You are blessed if you have this quality of being poor in spirit. The term "poor in spirit" is a word that means that you must beg in order to eat. You are that desperate! It's having a right evaluation of yourself before God. He's God and self-sufficient and I am not! In order to embrace each of these beatitudes it seems best to me to rearticulate each into a discipline or an action step. With "poor in spirit" I see the discipline as.

#1 REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY--Jesus is speaking to a massive group of people who have been taught by some of the most haughty men who have spent their lives outlining what it means to be right or righteous before God and that system is really a performance system of attempting some level of perfection. Jesus begins at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Righteousness begins when you understand your total need for God-your spiritual poverty!

To reaffirm your poverty means to have a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others. All of life begins right at this point. Possessing a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others is true humility-the exact opposite of the blindness of pride. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; it's universal among humans and it's devastating! Pride always seeks to be exalted, to be first and to be praised. (Don't misunderstand! There is a good sense that some people identify as pride as in self-confidence or self-satisfaction, but I believe it's helpful to call it just that-self-confidence or self-satisfaction.) Pride blinds you to the point that you don't see your self for who you are becoming, you position others in a crippled, weakened condition, and you begin to think that you may be God-the center of the universe!

Pride is not always blatant. It's an insidious cancer that skews your thinking, distances you from enjoying your relationships, and sets you up for a fall in whatever you do. [Some people get credit for being cheerful, when they are really just proud of their teeth!]

Reaffirming your poverty is the recognition of your spiritual bankruptcy. It's coming to grips with your humanity! I have brought upon myself the most devastation when I have violated this attitude. I used to believe I could jump over buildings (or anything in my way) in a single bound. I knew I could break through brick walls, no matter how thick. There was nothing much that I could not do or overcome!

But I want to confess to you that with this prideful attitude. I have enjoyed many successes, but I have endured many failures. A better way to say it is that on many occasions in my life I have failed miserably! Just to be able to recognize those failures is a freeing experience. The tendency is to reframe every one of those horrible experiences, blame someone or something else for what went wrong, and rid myself from those marks against me.

What I've learned is that it is through the pain of the miserable failures that I've grown the most. In the midst of that pain I have learned vital truths about me, God, and the others in my life.

To reaffirm your poverty is to stand at the threshold of the best of your life. This is precisely where those who must overcome their addictions have to begin. Without a doubt the most effective movement over the last several decades has been AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. This originated as a recovery movement for those who were struggling with the abuse of alcohol and its devastation upon their lives. It has grown to include those who are struggling with nearly every kind of problem imaginable-drugging, gambling, eating, sex, shopping, relationships, etc. The real beauty of this movement is that in order to find healing-to find life-you must recognize your own inadequacies. You must come to grips with your humanity. You must enjoy true humility-a right evaluation of your self, God, and others. You must reaffirm your poverty!

I am convinced that those who are struggling along in their recovery groups may be the most blessed people of all, because they have been forced by the gravity of their problem to face themselves, God and others more honestly. I am also convinced that everyone struggles with a problem that he or she must face head on in order to find true sanity and freedom in life. The only place to start is through this vital discipline of reaffirming your poverty. The Twelve Steps begin right here:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our problem-that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of God as we understood Him. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in need, and to practice principles in all our affairs.

Only when you come to the end of yourself does your life begin!

Are you willing to embrace your spiritual poverty-your personal bankruptcy? You don't have to be an addict to be spiritually bankrupt. Or I should say, you don't have to be addicted to chemicals to be spiritually bankrupt. This is a life problem. We are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness, the big "I" for everything to revolve around.

Start today to reaffirm your poverty. You are pretty bad off on the insides in need of supernatural empowerment, yet you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created by the God of gods and He doesn't make junk. So, there is a wickedness (the downside) and a wonder (the upside) about you. This is a right evaluation of yourself before God. Those who reaffirm their poverty before God are operating within the very presence of God and therefore they are practicing God's kingdom on earth and have the assurance that they are in possession of the kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Matthew 4:18-25


12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 15 ``THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES- 16 ``THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.'' 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.''

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said* to them, ``Follow, Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'' 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Jesus approached two sets of brothers-fishermen-and summoned them to follow Him. What is most important here is to understand what is really going on here. This isn't one person walking up to another person and calling them to drop their nets and follow. The Jewish culture was a religious one and revolved around the teaching and leadership of the Rabbi's. Young boys were initially educated by the local Rabbi. As each student grew up he was always being evaluated by the Rabbi to determine how far along the student would go. Is this a good enough student to follow in the dust of the Rabbi or would this student be rejected from advancing into a higher education? When a Rabbi accepted a student, his parents were so proud. If rejected, then the student would be sent home to take on the profession of his father. This student's parents still accepted their young student, but this rejection meant a little lower level of society for their child.

These two sets of brothers had obviously been rejected by their Rabbi's and were therefore working in the trade of their fathers. When the new Rabbi, Jesus, came along and picked out these brothers to follow in His dust, this was an amazingly attractive opportunity. Note that James and John's father, Zebedee, doesn't seem to resist their decision to leave the family business. He was thrilled that a Rabbi had picked his kids!

23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

NOTE that Jesus went all over, teaching in the local synagogues, proclaiming the "good news" of the kingdom. His primary activity to demonstrate this "good news kingdom" was to be all about the question, "What can I do to help?"

NOTE that Jesus' primary mission for these new followers of His teachings was to "make them fishers of men." CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING ABOUT FISHERMEN.

ARE WE FISHERMEN? Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And L0, there were many fish in the waters all around. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year. Those who called themselves fishermen met to talk about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing.

Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. They sponsored costly nation-wide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing, promote fishing, and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, the fish calls, and any new bait.

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what was needed was a board which could challenge fishermen to be faithful to fishing.

Large training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years, courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. And those who were sent out did exactly as those who sent them. They formed groups and held special meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to declare how important fishing was. They talked about the great need for fishing. They prayed much that many fish might be caught. They analyzed the fish and discussed what is necessary in order to catch fish. But one thing they did not do, they did not fish.

Now it's time that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen, yet never fished.

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don't catch fish are not really fishermen. Is a person a fisherman if he never catches a fish?

Jesus calls us to follow Him to become fishers of men.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Matthew 4:1-11


Check out I John 2:15-17--15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, ``If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'' 4 But He answered and said, ``It is written, `MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.' '' LUST OF THE FLESH-Dependence-The Devil always wants to get your dependence upon anything other than God.

5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said* to Him, ``If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, `HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and `ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.' '' 7 Jesus said to him, ``On the other hand, it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.' '' PRIDE OF LIFE-Dominance-The Devil always wants you to put God to the test, pushing you to the edge.

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, ``All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'' 10 Then Jesus said* to him, ``Go, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' '' 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. LUST OF THE EYES-Desires-The Devil always wants to give you more at a very high cost-to do it his way, to bow down and worship him instead of God!

NOTE: As soon as Jesus was announced and affirmed by His Father and His Spirit He was led by the Spirit into an encounter with the Devil. 1-You will find this same thing happening in your life. Immediately after one of your highest points, expect the real attacks and testings from the Evil One.

2-The same 3 temptations Jesus faced were the same as Eve and Adam encountered in the garden and the same we encounter today.

3-In every encounter with the Evil One Jesus came back at him by quoting the truth from Scripture right at him. The same is true for you today.

4-To counteract the counterfeit temptations from the Evil One you must know the genuine truth of God very well.

5-Your greatest temptations will come, when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired-H.A.L.T.

6-Check out James 4:6-7: ``GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.'' 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Matthew 3


1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, primarily along the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea saying, 2 ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew uses "kingdom of heaven" in place of "kingdom of God" 32 out of 36 times. This kingdom is not a place, but a rule-a presence of God on earth.

'' 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ``THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!' John's ministry was announcing the end of the old and introducing the new that is to come through the coming of the Messiah. '' 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

Who were going out to be baptized? Those who went out from Jerusalem must have heard of John's preaching and were interested enough to check him out. They must have had some discontentment with what they were experiencing. When they heard John's preaching to "repent", they submitted themselves to be baptized in this new way, confessing their sins of rejecting the way of the Messiah.

NOTE "repent" means to change your mind about what you believe or are doing and turn around in your thinking or behavior. The Jews had more reason to REPENT-to turn around and back to a personal relationship with their God.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ``You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 ``Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 ``The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John wasn't easy on the religious who came out to the wilderness to be baptized. He pointed out that they were so close to the axe and/or fire of judgment before making this decision to repent.

11 ``As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 ``His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.''

John came to open the door of change-to repent-to make way for God's Messiah. John baptized with water to move people into repentance. Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus' baptism will be an inside job by His Spirit and will be a purifying work of fire.

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ``I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'' 15 But Jesus answering said to him, ``Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'' Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ``This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.''

John didn't want to baptize Jesus, the One he spoke about earlier as mightier than he. However Jesus was determined that John would baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. Why is it that Jesus was determined to submit Himself to this baptism?

1. Example to follow-Jesus set the way for all those who will live out the Kingdom lifestyle. 2. Identification with sinners-Jesus wanted to identify Himself with sinners. This is very interesting. He identified Himself with sinners, so that we sinners would trust in Him and identify ourselves with Him. 3. Affirmation of John's ministry/teaching-Jesus wanted to give affirmation to the teachings of John to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven.

BAPTISM-The meaning of baptism is identification. The root meaning of "baptize" is to immerse or dip something into something else. For example, if you take a cloth that is identified by "white" and dip it (baptize) into a bucket of "red" dye, the white cloth will have a new identification-RED. When a person is baptized into Jesus, he is identified as a follower of Jesus-in one with Him.

I see water baptism as the "kingdom ID card" for all of those who want to walk with Jesus in His kingdom. New Testament baptism seems to be believer's baptism and not infant baptism. There are all kinds of good reasons given for baptizing babies, but this "kingdom ID card" is for those who have made a willing decision to be identified with Jesus in His kingdom.

So, have you picked up your "kingdom ID card" yet?

Matthew 2


1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 ``Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

NOTE they referred to "His star" as being identifiable. I believe the heavens declare the story of God-the message of creation, the Fall and the story of salvation through God's Messiah. Psalm 19:1-2 says: The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge. Those astronomers who have studied the stars can learn God's plan from beginning to end. This is not the modern day astrologer or the fortune-telling astrology in the newspapers or from a "spiritually gifted" person reading your lifeline. The astrology of today has picked up on a real truth about the stars, but it is a counterfeit to what God is really saying through the heavens. One of the best known sources of the genuine message of God's plan revealed through the stars is E.W. Bullinger's Witness of the Stars.

'' 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, ``In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 `AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.' ''

NOTE there are location prophecies regarding the Messiah given here in this section. First, the God's Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The reason this is important to note is that there are all sorts of attacks on the story of Jesus' birth and place of origin, but these 4 location prophecies clear it up.

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared

Apparently the star had been noted by the magi quite some time ago, probably over a year earlier. They analyzed the meaning of the star and made their way to Jerusalem by camel, not by plane.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem Just as God had the king of Nineveh gather the people to hear Jonah's message from God, so does the Lord use another non-believer king to point the way to Bethlehem for the magi. and said, ``Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him Yeah, rightW'' 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star which they had seen in the east went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was

NOTE the star they first saw sent them to Jerusalem and not Bethlehem. Now, having learned where to go from Jerusalem, the star reappears and directs them right to where Jesus was living. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy Their journey had been made complete as this star that they had followed rested over the place of the Messiah. Their faith was rewarded coming all this way and now what they believed was true was true. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother

NOTE that the Messiah was no longer in a stable, but in a house. He is well over a year old at this time. and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him

NOTE that the magi knew that they were dealing with God's Messiah, worthy of worship, because this is the promised gift to the world, testified in the stars. Also, note that this would have been a great time to worship Mary, if that would be appropriate. But they didn't. Their entire focus of worship was upon Jesus.

Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh How many "wise men" were? This is where we get that there were 3, because of the 3 types of gifts, but we don't really know. It's just another Christian rumor.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way God first guided them to Jesus through Herod and now is directing them to avoid Herod.

Now, given Herod's great desire to come and "worship" the new King who was born and that Herod knew where He was, it was time to "get out of Dodge" to protect God's Messiah.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared* to Joseph in a dream and said, ``Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'' 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ``OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'' Here's the 2nd location prophecy. The Messiah will live in Egypt for a time.

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 ``A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNIN, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED, TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.'' Here is the 3rd location prophecy associated with the Messiah's birth and early days. Apparently, in Herod's rage and determination to destroy this new King of the Jews he ordered that all babies under the age of two (just to be safe) be killed. Rama was within a circle of about 10 miles that included Bethlehem and its vicinity. Jeremiah, the prophet, noted that this mass killing of children by the jealous, evil Herod would be felt all the way to Rama. What a horrible tragedy!

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 ``Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.'' 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there Archelaus had been mentored by his father and was just as bad. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ``He shall be called a Nazarene.'' Here is location prophecy number 5. Jesus will live and grow up in Nazareth. Some today who are prone to attack the validity of the bible point to Jesus' being from Nazareth as the place He most likely was born and not Bethlehem. They make this assumption, because people were not prone to move about that much. However, Jesus and His family were moved about by God for His protection.]

NOTE: Who were these Magi? They came from Babylon or Persia. They weren't sorcerers or magicians, but astrologers/astronomers. They knew what they were looking for as they had searched the stars. They seemed to know something about the Messiah who was to come. Some believe that these men were of the religious persuasion of the Zoroastrians, who believed that God would someday send His Messiah to redeem the earth and its inhabitants. Note that they were non-Jews from a foreign country. How could they know such things to look for? The answer is that someone told them. It was Daniel. Daniel had been in Babylon and was made the head of the "magicians" (Magi). He no doubt taught them God's ways and Daniel is the prophet whom God used to pinpoint the exact timing of the birth, presentation of Him as King and the death of the Messiah. What Daniel had taught had been passed down from generation to generation.

What does this say to us? 1. The supernatural birth of God's Messiah, Jesus, was a most monumental event in history worthy of divine direction even to non-Jews. 2. God will guide those who are interested in searching out the Messiah. I especially have seen this of the Jewish people. God seems to give them more clues and indicators than He does the rest of us. All God requires of any of us is that we be interested, then He directs the path to truth. 3. If we are willing to search out God's Messiah, then the greatest joy imaginable will be the result. He is the way, the truth and the life! This is not a search in order to defend Christianity, but to search for the Christ-God's Messiah. Searching to know a religious system is worthless, unless you want to win debates. Searching for a relationship with God's Messiah will bring you joy, peace and the fullness of life that only God can give.