Tuesday, February 27, 2007



"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and people are forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

In these three short verses Jesus is putting the Mosaic Law in to perspective. This is an example of Jesus’ teaching on how the Law ought to be understood or interpreted. There seem to be four themes here:

FIRST—Jesus sees the good news of the kingdom as a shift into a new era. The era of the Law and the Prophets was up until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed. Jesus, being introduced by John continues the message of the good news of the kingdom as coming here right now. The Messiah’s kingdom is ushered in at this time. It was the good news because through the Law and the Prophets you could only get a glimpse of God’s Messiah and His kingdom.
Now it is finally here in Jesus.

Jeremiah referred to the fulfillment of this great shift that Jesus began in 31:31-34: "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. 
"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

SECOND—Jesus notes that the kingdom requires “forcing their way into it.” This is a curious statement. Too often we want the blessings of the Kingdom, but are not willing to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. We are half-baked believers in Jesus. But Jesus makes it clear that He wants everything we have and we are.

So, Jesus is saying that everyone who becomes part of the kingdom is “forcing his way” into it. In other words, those who enter the kingdom must make some effort to do so. The effort? I like to think it is being interested with some effort to it. This is why Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you.” You must seek it out for yourself. You can’t enter the kingdom by going along with the crowd or by some sort of spiritual osmosis. You must be enthusiastic enough to “force your way in.”

THIRD—Jesus affirms the permanence of the Law. Just because there has been a shift from the Law into this new kingdom era, doesn’t mean that the Law has been done away with. It is still truer than ever.

We must reject the Pharisees' picky, legalistic approach to the Law, but must understand and affirm its purpose, spirit and intent. Primarily the Law must be undergirded by the spirit of the law versus the letter of the Law—the internal over the external. So, the Law is still powerful and true, but we must be careful to read the Law with its original intent.

FOURTH—Jesus insists that the Law must be interpreted properly, searching for the original intent. Then Jesus gives an example of the enduring nature of the Law’s intent when it comes to marriage.

In Jesus’ day some of the Pharisees had become extremely permissive, allowing men to divorce their wives on the most trivial grounds. If a wife spoiled her husband’s dinner, she could be divorced. Another reason for divorce was when a man finds another woman prettier than his present wife. In other words, as long as you get your paperwork done, you can divorce your wife.

Jesus reaffirms the bond of marriage in no uncertain terms when He said, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Here’s His point: Marriage must be taken seriously and not lightly. Divorce is a serious matter and you must realize God hates divorce. It is not some loophole in the Law. The word construction of what Jesus says makes even more sense, when you translate this verse: “Anyone who divorces his wife IN ORDER TO marry another woman commits adultery.” That’s looking at marriage too loosely.

Also, it’s important to NOTE: Jesus is the one who pursues lost sheep. He is the one who is looking for sinners (sick people), not the righteous (healthy people). So, Jesus holds sternly to the sanctity of marriage, but continues to reach out to those who have sinned in this area. The Law holds up the standard, yet those who fall short may come to Jesus for salvation and restoration.

There is nothing you can pull off that Jesus can’t forgive and heal. The Law is the standard. You actually don’t break the Law or the standard when you divorce. The Law or standard breaks you. Yet Jesus, who relentlessly pursues broken people, picks you up and stands you back on your feet again. He is the genuine balance between grace and truth. He loves you and forgives you and calls you to follow him in spite of your past sin, present situation and falling short of the standard. This is the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM!

Monday, February 26, 2007



Today we come to Luke 16 where Jesus presents another parable. This is a unique one, to be sure, and has stirred up a lot of trouble as people try to understand it. Because of this, this parable has often been ignored. So let’s consider the story and try to determine the key teaching of Jesus. Remember, each parable seems to have one primary point that it is making about the kingdom of God.

Let’s work our way through it.

Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.'

The owner of a business has discovered that his manager has not been doing a good job running the business. So, he informs the manager that he will be out of a job shortly and wants an accounting of what has been going on.

"The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg—I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' "'Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.' "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?'
"'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

NOTE these businessmen he was dealing with were not paupers, but quite wealthy. They were working with large sums of money between them. The manager must have been thinking that if he were to befriend these wealthy businessmen, then when he is out of work he will still have a warm relationship with them for some future dealings. Now, check out the owner’s response to what the manager had done.

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.

He affirmed the manager for his shrewdness. “That was some good thinking.” He wasn’t praised for being dishonest, but for his shrewdness. His owner knew exactly what he had done. Jesus then applies this story:

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Jesus says that followers of the kingdom ought to learn to be as shrewd as those who are in the world. This seems a little strange coming from Jesus. What does He mean to urge His disciples to use worldly wealth to gain friends? He goes on to say, “so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Let’s read on:

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

We know that there are two kinds of wealth—being rich toward God and being rich in yourself. When you use your worldly riches toward kingdom use, you will store up for yourself treasures in heaven—where you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings as Jesus says. So, be shrewd about how you handle your money, your wealth—your stuff. You are the manager and He is the owner.

Now, NOTE the response from the Pharisees: The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight.

The Pharisees have chosen the wrong way to handle their wealth. And NOTE what their problem was. They loved money and used it to justify themselves in the eyes of others. They used their wealth and positioning to look good in order to impress others. Now, it’s important to understand that there is nothing wrong with money. Money is not the problem. It’s how it is valued and how it is used. Money can be used in a compassionate way which is the way of the kingdom of God.

However, when you value money so much to be used for showing off and impressing others, you are misusing the wealth your “owner”, the Creator, has allowed you to manage.
Then Jesus makes a very powerful statement: “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” God knows your heart and what you really value most.

So, pay attention to your heart. You cannot serve two masters, so choose, choose again and re-choose some more. There is one fascinating thing Jesus says here, tying money and God together. He says, “"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Do you want to be entrusted with the true spiritual riches of the universe? Then, handle your money wisely, shrewdly and compassionately and then it’s all yours to enjoy!

Sunday, February 25, 2007



We come to the third parable of the lost. Jesus has shared the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and now the lost son. This is by far the most popular of the three. In this story Jesus takes it to a human level—the dynamics between a father and his two sons.
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father. 

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

This is so familiar that I’ll let the story speak for itself. What I want to do is to deal with the three characters—the lost son, the son who stayed at home and the father.

FIRST—The younger son took his inheritance and squandered it all. He ended up working for someone else and found himself wallowing along with the pigs. He woke up and made the decision to go home and see if he could possibly work for his dad as servant, because he knew that being a servant for his dad was so much better than hanging out with his pig friends.
When he came home, his father greeted him enthusiastically. He interrupts his son’s rehearsed speech and ordered the servants to prepare for a celebration. He ordered them to bring four things—the best robe to honor him, a ring to signify his rich love for his son, sandals as a sign of a freeman as opposed to a slave and a fatted calf that had been specially fed in order to be ready for a special occasion.

SECOND—The older son who never left and squandered his wealth, but continued to stay at home and do what he was supposed to do. However, what we have here is not just one son who was in the wrong, but two.

There are two types of sinners mentioned in this story. There was the younger son who really blew it and squandered his father’s wealth. And there was the older son who was more of a hypocritical son in the family. The younger son sinned against his father and admitted his wrongs. The older brother had anchored himself in Pharisaical self-righteousness. The younger obviously disregarded his father’s love and yet the older also disregarded the love of his father. He didn’t appreciate what he had. The younger was honest and the older is extremely hypocritical.

THIRD—The father was father not only to the prodigal son, but to the Pharisaical son. He had to face two kinds of failures in his family and did so very well.

There are, at least, 4 basic lessons in this story:

1. When there is true repentance, God exuberantly extends His love.
2. God's great love is for all sinners—no matter their stance before Him.
3. God desires sons more than servants.
4. God’s love is unconditional. You can’t do anything to turn His love away.

This third parable paints a good picture of God’s attitude toward those who are lost. The father in this story is the God-like figure for us. All three parables on those who are lost—the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son—should set in concrete two revolutionary thoughts about God and His attitude toward you.

FIRST—God is relentlessly pursuing you with His love. He will do anything He has to do to connect with you.

SECOND—God loves you no matter what! This is nailed down by Paul’s words in the letter he wrote to the followers of Jesus who live in Rome. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007



We have covered the first parable of seeking for those who are lost—the parable of the lost sheep. Today I want to work through the second of the three parables Jesus shares in response to the criticism. The second parable is the lost coin. He says:

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
This is a story about a woman who has 10 silver coins and misplaces one of them. This is most likely a Greek silver coin and most agree that its value is equal to a day’s wages.

Who knows what a plight the loss of this coin might have caused, but it was a great loss, for sure. The search for this coin would have been a big deal. To search around the house with little light and in a room with a dirt floor was especially difficult. But when she found it, she was elated and threw a party among her friends.

These parables raise the question, “What is the focus of Jesus and therefore what is the focus of the church of Jesus to be?” It seems that there are two extremes. FIRST—focus entirely on reaching the world and ignoring those who have already been reached. And SECOND—focus on those who have already been found and ignore the lost.

Jesus seems to tweak our thinking a bit with these parables. Within the last few years I have come full circle. I have spent most of my life focusing on those who have lost their way, yet recently I have been drawn into focusing on the few who are following Jesus. In the process of being more inward in my focus rather than outward, I realize I have been missing the heart of Jesus and why He came.

The balance of these two potential extremes can be quite tricky. You can discern this balance by the comments that you hear. For instance, since we are such a consumer-oriented society, there can be a great tendency toward focusing on what meets your needs. So, if you find yourself making the following statement, “That group or fellowship just doesn’t meet my needs.” or, “I am just not getting the feeding the way I like it.”, then you have been overtaken by the consumerism of the culture. The church or fellowship does not exist to meet your needs. Yet the churches that become mega-churches spend most of their money to do just that. But where do you see this in the teaching of Jesus?

The other extreme is to focus totally on reaching the lost. I grew up in this kind of atmosphere. It was quite an experience. In our churches the pastors spent most of their time in the work of evangelism. It was so extreme that the pastors would do everything they could do to evangelize the faithful. So, there were many mid-week services where only the leadership was in attendance and the pastor still tried to evangelize them. You see, if this is your only focus then you just keep hammering away with the same message no matter the audience. It’s like the saying, “If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” The constant comment around this sort of focus is, “Are you ready?”

Each of these extreme focuses have arisen not due to the teachings of Jesus. They emerge through what I refer to as “Christian rumors” that have a life all their own. We must discipline ourselves to really FOLLOW JESUS.

Jesus’ clear teaching is to focus in three ways. 1. Your relationship with Him, characterized by abiding in Him as a branch abides in a vine. 2. Your relationship with fellow believers, characterized by loving one another. 3. Your relationship with outsiders, characterized by bearing witness about the person of Jesus and His kingdom. And these three relationships are to be practiced in balance. In fact, Jesus is clear that you must practice the first two so that you will be able to bear witness of Him most effectively.

Jesus sheds a lot of light on what the faith-walk ought to look like. So, hang out with Him and be careful to do exactly what He says to do.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007



We come now to Luke chapter 15 where Jesus is criticized again for hanging out with the wrong people.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
There were two types of people at the party where Jesus was attending—tax collectors and sinners. These tax collectors were Jews who were considered traitors for working for the Roman government. They had a reputation for being unfair. He collected the Roman tax and added an additional fee for himself.

The sinners were basically the non-religious. They weren’t synagogue-goers for the most part and therefore considered unclean ceremonially. They were viewed as the “outsiders” or the “others”. Jesus not only welcomed them; He eats with them. He went out of His way to make them feel welcome. Even more of an offense was that Jesus was content to eat with them. Fellowship around the table in Jesus’ time was more than just a meal. To eat with someone was a full acceptance of them and Jesus did exactly that.

His response to this criticism was in the form of three parables—all about those who were lost. The first parable is about sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

NOTE Jesus’ high value for the lost sheep. Remember, Jesus is the physician who is looking for those who are sick. The 99 sheep have apparently already repented or changed their direction in life toward God. Therefore, they are not in any need of being found. They are safe and secure. The sheep that is lost must be sought out by the shepherd and this sheep becomes the most valuable of all.

Here’s the bottom-line on this parable. Jesus is the shepherd whose mission is to find the lost sheep of our world and bring them back into relationship with himself and with the other sheep. That’s salvation. This is an illustration of the fact that Jesus’ search is relentless for those who are lost. He will do anything He has to do to find those who are lost.

Then there is a curious statement at the end of the parable. Jesus says that “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine.” So, “Come and rejoice with me.” It’s time for a party!

The lost sheep is a sinner and/or a tax collector, and the ninety-nine represent the righteous. This is the answer to the Pharisees who were grumbling about Jesus' welcoming tax collectors and sinners. You are happy for all your sheep. It is when one is threatened and may be injured or killed that causes you to worry and be concerned. So, you search and search until you find it. Then you are so thrilled that you naturally want to throw a little celebration.

What was Jesus doing hanging out and eating with the tax collectors and sinners? He was searching for lost sheep. This is what the kingdom of God is all about—looking for those who are lost and bringing them home. It was Jesus’ primary mission and it’s still His mission today. And, since seeking those who are lost is at the heart of Jesus, it ought to be on your heart, too.

So, who are you hanging out with? Now, it’s vital that you hang out with a few in the name of Jesus. However, living in the kingdom also requires that you hang out with the lost. So, who ARE you hanging out with? To be like Jesus, think about hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners in your world—those who are the lost, the non-religious. I’ve found this to be some of the most rewarding encounters of my life. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007



Here we come to a most foundational segment of the teachings of Jesus in Luke 14:25-35. His popularity was growing immensely and yet Jesus knew that many are only spectators. So, Jesus turns to the large crowds and sets forth three requirements for being a disciple.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple.

The first is the requirement of PRIORITY. Jesus uses hyperbole a lot and it communicated with great impact. Here Jesus, known for His great love, isn’t saying that you are to literally hate anyone. He is using an idiom of comparison. By comparison your devotion to Jesus ought to be so stark that it makes all other relationships look like hate. Jesus must be your number one priority over all relationships, including your own life.

The second is a difficult one. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. The second is the requirement of PERSEVERANCE. This is spoken a few other times in the teachings of Jesus. Another time Luke records Jesus saying that this action must be daily. This requirement is a bottom-line self-denial. “Discipleship means deliberately choosing to follow another person's way rather than making our own way.” And, following Jesus may take some interesting twists and turns along the path. I think what this is saying is “Follow Me NO MATTER WHAT” may come—disappointment, discouragement, disease, disaster—NO MATTER WHAT I will follow Jesus. That’s a tough one!

Jesus offers two parables to illustrate what this second requirement means. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. You must count the cost of following Jesus before jumping into this journey.

The third requirement is all-inclusive—POSSESSIONS. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Jesus is not saying to “give over” to someone or something else, but this is renouncing ownership of your possessions. It’s giving up everything. I recently read a teacher on this: “The distinctive property of disciples is the abandonment with which they put aside all competing securities in order that they might refashion their lives and identity to the norms of the kingdom of God.”

The word “possessions” is so appropriate here. It’s our possessions that too easily become a security blanket for us. However your possessions cannot provide the security you need to live most fully and can compete with your decision to follow Jesus and be His disciple. Possessions means all that you have and all that you are—your very existence. Jesus wants it all—no competing forces within your heart. He wants you fully to be a channel or a vessel of blessing and healing to the world. This cannot be accomplished by writing a check from time to time. It can only be accomplished as you are totally and completely given over to Him. This doesn’t mean that you are to take a vow of poverty. This is about ownership and consultation. Jesus already owns all that you are and possess. And, Jesus is the only consultant you will ever need to run your life and your business.

Jesus now turns to a discussion of salt: "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

Salt was considered an essential of life. It was used both for flavoring and preservation. It is impossible for salt to lose its saltness, but it is possible for what appears to be salt to have all its true salt washed out of it. Then, even though the appearance remains, the essence is lost.
So, what’s to be made of these words of Jesus? It seems that a disciple of Jesus can have miraculous impact upon his world, if he makes Jesus his number one priority, no matter what and renounces ownership of all he is and all he has. If you are able to follow these three requirements, then you will enjoy the dynamic of being salt in the world—a salt that is for preservation and flavoring. If you don’t follow these requirements, then you will lose your saltiness and lose the possibility of being effective in your world.

There is one more vital thing here. Jesus allows for no wiggle room. He doesn’t say, “If you don’t follow these requirements, YOU CANNOT BE MY GOOD DISCIPLE.” ”But you cannot be my disciple at all. It’s pretty simple. You either are or you aren’t a disciple of Jesus. The deciding factor remains with you. What are you going to do?

Monday, February 19, 2007



After Jesus urged His Pharisee host to invite people to his table who cannot repay him, one of the guests replied to Jesus: When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed are those who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."

Jesus answers this statement by sharing another parable. Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

NOTE that many were invited to the banquet. This is not to be a small group experience. Of those who were invited to the great banquet Jesus notes 3 excuses. The first one was in the real estate business. The second was in the cattle business. And the third was recently married. He lists only 3 of the excuses, but apparently there were many who rejected the invitation. It says, “But they all alike began to make excuses.”

"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'

Not to come to a banquet where one had previously indicated acceptance was a serious breach of social etiquette. It was an insult to the host. To make an excuse after having initially accepted was an insult. The story Jesus tells seems to indicate that several made excuses for not coming. Some believe that in this situation there was a major conspiracy to shame the host. As “they all began to make excuses” it seems to be a unanimous rejection.

Each of the excuse makers offered lame excuses. The man who was in real estate bought land without even seeing it. The cattle rancher bought oxen without ever testing them out. And, the third was just married.

The host of the banquet was very angry about this rejection and ordered that the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame be invited to come to the banquet. NOTE that these are the same people Jesus listed in the paragraph before this. They were truly those who couldn’t repay the host.

NOTE what the servant’s response was: "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"

The original guest list was made up of the prominent people of the town. The second was to comb the entire town and pull everyone in to come to dinner. The third invitation was to invite those out in the rural areas, even the vagabonds and the strangers.

These people would have to be compelled to come, because it will push them outside their comfort levels. They were poor and they were being invited to come and join the rich man for dinner. The host did everything he could do to fill up his house for dinner.

The primary meaning and application of this parable is that the host is God the Father, inviting the people of Israel to the banquet of the kingdom of God. Those who rejected the invitation were the Pharisees and other religious leaders. Those who were ultimately invited were the “unclean” and the non-religious.

There are five observations that readily appear in this story to me:
1. God offers the great feast of the kingdom to everyone.
2. The great feast is free to all who accept the invitation.
3. When the pompous, super-religious turn Him down, the banquet dinner is not cancelled, but advanced. The host (God the Father) will do everything possible to fill up His house.
4. The only thing that prevents anyone from eating this grand feast in the kingdom of God is the excuse they make.
5. Every excuse is a shell of a truth, stuffed with a lie.

Each one was telling a truth, but each one was also a lie. The lie in this case is filled with the spirit of rejection. And this spirit of rejection was basically the act of living one’s life separated from the gracious host who was offering this grand feast.

So, what are your excuses? What is it in your lifestyle that carries a spirit of rejection of what God may want from you? What is it in your life that keeps separating you from God? Whatever He is offering, you can count on it to be free and abundant.

Sunday, February 18, 2007



Jesus always brought excitement to a dinner party! He was always an interesting guest, because He was very proactive in reaching out to the untouchables of society. He seems to wait for just the right situation, like healing someone on the Sabbath or interacting with a woman who was a sinner.

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. NOTE Jesus was being watched very carefully. He was always under scrutiny. The wording here could be taken to mean they were lying in wait to trip Him up or to catch Him in some inaccuracy. Instead of putting Jesus on the examination table, the tables were turned on the Pharisees. They were the ones being examined.

There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
One of those attending the meal in the Pharisee’s home is a man who is suffering from an abnormal accumulation of fluid in his body and therefore was swelling up. This was symptomatic of something more serious than a mere swelling problem. The Mosaic Law itself doesn't prohibit healing on the Sabbath, but the rabbinical traditions do.

It’s interesting to note the wording here. Once Jesus had taken hold of the man, He healed him and “sent him on his way.” This is the same wording as when Jesus healed the woman who was crippled…also on the Sabbath. It says there that He released her. That, I believe, is what is happening here. Jesus wasn’t sending this man away, but providing for him a powerful release from his bondage.

Again, Jesus uses common sense to respond to their shock of His Sabbath healing: Then he asked them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" And they had nothing to say.

Then Jesus offers another parable. This time it has to do with how the Pharisaic community was striving for seats of honor. NOTE what Jesus says: When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this person your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.

Jesus summarizes what He is saying here: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Jesus now turns the attention toward another social issue that is affected by kingdom principles: Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Here’s what He is saying. If you do something for a person, expecting something good in return, then you will not be blessed. However, if you invite people to a dinner where no one invited could possibly return this good gesture back to you, for that invitation you will be blessed. Jesus says that we ought to extend ourselves toward those who cannot possibly repay. This is the way of the kingdom. And, you will be blessed. Your repayment will come through at a future date, when Jesus comes back to resurrect us all.

The bottom-line? Jesus moves to the beat of a different drummer and expects those who follow Him to do the same. I recently was given a hint on how to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus. Here it is: Once you’ve decided to do something in a certain way, do the opposite from what you would naturally do and you’ll most likely be walking with Jesus. Jesus is walking to a different drummer than the world. It’s the beat of the kingdom. And He wants you and me to walk alongside Him, moving to that same beat.

Thursday, February 15, 2007



Jesus is still making His way toward Jerusalem. Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

Instead of a direct answer to the question, Jesus challenges them to do whatever they have to do to get through that narrow door: He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'

"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

Whatever else is going on here I think Jesus is making a major point. Those who should more naturally expect to be at the kingdom feast will not be there. However, the “outsiders”, the gentiles will be in attendance. The prophets warned the Jewish people to remain faithful or they would lose the blessed relationship they have enjoyed. Also, the prophets make it clear that the Messiah will offer the kingdom to those who are outside the Jewish people and they will accept. In fact, Jesus tells them that people will come from the east and west and north and south—from all over the world—into His kingdom feast. Jesus and His kingdom are not just for Christians or Jews, but for everyone!

Now NOTE what happens: At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."

Did you hear that? This is a group of the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod’s intention to kill Him. You know that all Pharisees are not against Jesus and many secretly were hoping that He was God’s promised Messiah.

He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Then Jesus shows His compassion for the Jewish people: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Jesus expresses His deep sadness here. He is sad that those who have the most light are rejecting Him and His message. He is sad that they will not come to Him. He is lamenting over a city—the Holy City of Jerusalem—that has a history of poor treatment of God’s prophets, yet God loves Jerusalem deeply. He says, “How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were not willing.

This brings us back to the narrow door. The door was open to them, but they were not willing to go in. They were just not interested. Here’s the saddest thing of all. God has visited man through the God-Man, Jesus, and those who taught and thought of Him most didn’t recognize Him.

Jesus warns them that they will not see Him again until they say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is attributed to the Messiah when prophesied centuries earlier. I think this is referring to what is known as the 2nd Coming of the Messiah.

One of the keys to understanding this section of Luke is the phrase, “Make every effort” to enter through the narrow door. Literally this means to strive after entering that door. It’s like Jesus is saying to them: “Stop and do whatever you have to do to enter through that narrow door that leads to the kingdom of God while you can. You see, there will come a time when it may be too late to respond.

Here’s the deal: There is a door of opportunity right now that is open to you. You have been introduced to Jesus and His kingdom and He is inviting all those who are interested to enter into that narrow door. Every time a person is introduced to Jesus that narrow door is open. Why is it so narrow? I think it’s because it requires a decision on your part. You can’t just play spectator and slide into the kingdom. You must choose! There is an old saying that seems to fit here. It was a sign at the beginning of a very muddy, dirt road: “Choose your rut well. You may be in it for a very long time.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007



Here in Luke 13:18 Jesus turns their attention back to His most favorite subject—the kingdom. NOTE the two illustrations Jesus uses to describe the kingdom.

Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."

The mustard seed is the smallest seed to be sown in the garden, yet when it grows it grows to the size of a tree. The tree is big enough and strong enough that birds are able to perch in its branches. So, the kingdom is like a mustard seed and once it is planted in the hearts of people, it has incredible growth. Incredible!

Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

The second image Jesus uses is the yeast or leaven that is kneaded into the dough. When yeast is introduced into the dough, it permeates the entire lump of dough. You cannot extract the yeast back out again. In other words, this process is irreversible. And so, the kingdom of God, once introduced will continue to spread in such a way that it can’t be stopped. It’s irreversible!
This has a lot of implication to what we are doing. We are doing all we can do to walk with Jesus—to be stubborn followers of Jesus and His kingdom. Now, as we introduce people along our spiritual journey to Jesus and His kingdom principles, we participate in the planting and watering of the seed into the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

These two illustrations of the kingdom—the mustard seed and the yeast—give me great encouragement as we walk along in two ways:

FIRST—No matter how small the message of Jesus and His kingdom seem to be as we measure it through the responses from those who are listening, it will grow incredibly. So, be encouraged.

SECOND—No matter how little the beginning response is, the kingdom will spread in an irreversible way. So, you can count on it.

You know what both of these images say to me? The growth of the kingdom is inevitable, but it will take more time that I would like. It’s just like fruitfulness. There is no such thing as instant fruit. In God’s time the kingdom will blossom in such a way so that it cannot be stopped!

Not only does it take time, but this timing process serves another purpose. This timing gives me the time to focus on my own growth process. Over the years I’ve spent too much of my time and energy focusing on reaching out to others. What I’m realizing is that I must focus on reaching myself. Unless the Lord has my heart, I have nothing significant or life-giving to offer others.

Learn from my experience. Before heading out into your OUTREACH programs and strategies with your family and friends, make sure you are fully into INREACH—allowing Jesus to do His work in your life in His time.

Monday, February 12, 2007



At this point we come to a very common scene—Jesus attending and speaking at a local synagogue. He was viewed as a visiting rabbi and therefore invited to speak. After awhile, people began to anticipate that He would be teaching.

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

While speaking, Jesus noticed a woman who was badly crippled sitting in the congregation. “When He saw her” gives a hint that He saw her with His heart of compassion. And when He saw her, He called her forward in order to “set her free” from her infirmity. He touched her and “immediately” she was healed and was thankful to God for her healing.

Now the synagogue leader seems to be embarrassed, because Jesus healed this woman on the Sabbath. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

His response made it clear that the keeping of the law of the Sabbath was more important than a woman being healed. Think of it. This poor lady had been crippled for 18 years, bound in her knotted body. Can you imagine, not being able to straighten up for 18 years? And then, all at once she finds a miraculous relief of her personal pain. She was free! It didn’t matter to her how this happened, who caused it to happen or that it happened on the Sabbath. She was free!
The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

Jesus’ response is to appeal to them that the law of the Sabbath doesn’t bind you from doing something compassionate for your animals. It’s the natural thing to do. How much more ought we to show compassion on a woman who has been bound for 18 years.

NOTE what happens: When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

All of those who were threatened by Jesus’ non-traditional ways were deeply humiliated by what He just did. Jesus acted out boldly on the Sabbath with a constant question in His heart, “What can I do to help?” He was leading out in the ways the synagogue leaders wish they could be able to do. Then, note that the people were delighted with the wonderful things He was doing.

This response is typical for today as well. It’s not the people who are threatened; it’s the leadership. Jesus’ work doesn’t embarrass the common, ordinary people. He doesn’t embarrass the humble. Jesus doesn’t even embarrass the various sinners. Jesus gets under the skin of the leadership who by their very positions and attitudes over promising and under delivering. They promise freedom and deliver bondage—binding people up into a “club membership” that must keep feeding the massive, religious machine.

This religious machine tends to become everything Jesus is not—impersonal, distant, judgmental and condemning, exclusive. And in the process of making the machine larger, more and more people are repulsed by it and turned off from the only one who can bring them hope and peace—JESUS.

The religious machine has been highly successful in turning Jesus into “another” Jesus—a Jesus who is not irresistible, but easy to resist. So, most people have not rejected Jesus, but a poor caricature of Him.

Rather than end on a downer, I want to share with you a quote from a past president of Harvard University in the ‘70’s. He said: “The mark of an educated person is that he has the ability to discuss Jesus of Nazareth without adolescent embarrassment.” When the true Jesus is lifted up, all men and women are drawn to Him from every nation and tribe. That’s the Jesus I am doing my best to follow. There is no religious machine ever built that can produce this Jesus.

Check Him out! He can be found in the pages of your local Bible—in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. He is there day and night, waiting to meet you.

Saturday, February 10, 2007



As we come to chapter 13 of the gospel of Luke Jesus is speaking to the issue of repent or change your mind about yourself in relationship to God or you will most surely perish.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Jesus refers to two contemporary events in Palestine in order to deal with the question, “Who is it that needs mercy?” And, “Who is it that needs to repent?”

FIRST—Pilate killed some worshippers from Galilee who, presumably, have come to the temple to worship. SECOND—A tower, probably near the pool of Siloam, has collapsed and the falling stones have instantly killed eighteen people.

The normal Jewish reaction was to assume that those who experience tragedies must have sinned greatly to deserve such terrible deaths. But Jesus speaks to this and says, “I tell you, no.” His point is that everyone will suffer terrible judgment unless they repent—change their minds about the Lord.

Jesus chooses to share a parable about a fruitless tree that will shed light on this issue of mercy and repentance.
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”

This parable speaks to all who are not in a fruit-bearing position at the moment. The goal of followers is to bear fruit. The tree deserves to be cut down due to its lack of fruitfulness, but the gardener still has hope for it. He wants to give it one more chance.

This is exactly how God works with us. When we are unfruitful, we are useless. But the gardener responded to the owner who was demanding the removal of the fruitless tree. He offered a three-fold plan. And, this plan consists of three growth principles for us:
1. “Leave it alone for one year.” Give the tree some time. That’s exactly what we need in order to recover and grow—time.
2. ‘Dig around it.” In order for a tree to become fruitful, it must have a freshening of the dirt around it. In life, this digging around may be quite painful and a little frightening.
3. ‘Fertilize it.” Finally, the tree needs some food in order to grow. We, too need to be fed some good nutrients in order to grow.

So, what is Jesus saying here? Everyone is in need of repentance toward God—no matter their life situation, whether good or bad. Everyone is in need of the mercy and grace of God. If we were given what we deserve, we’d be cut down like the fruitless tree. BUT GOD, gives us more time, freshens up the soil around us and feeds us the nutrients we need. I believe God will do most anything to get you and I back into being fruitful. That’s His mercy and it’s for anyone. You know what that’s called? AMAZING GRACE. It’s all yours. Repent or change your mind about where you are and turn around toward God. The only thing that is required of you is that you be interested enough to change the direction of your life. Now, that is amazing grace.

Thursday, February 08, 2007



Before moving on to chapter 13 of Luke I want to pause this morning and further clarify how division is triggered by the Prince of Peace. This is a hard statement Jesus has just made, “I came to bring division.”

I want to share with you the way I see it and maybe it will be helpful to you in your faith journey. "Peace at any price" is not the purpose of His coming. Jesus came to clarify to everyone who will listen the "way, the truth and the life" where the highest character will be developed, the greatest meaning and fulfillment can be experienced and where one can know God personally. Let’s dig in a bit and put this in a wider context.

FIRST—He continues to say "to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see." This indicates that there are those who will refuse to hear and see, therefore they will oppose the teachings and principles of Jesus. That human response will bring division.

SECOND—Jesus teaches His disciples to pray "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is because the kingdom is not practiced fully on earth right now and someday it will be. Until that complete fulfillment of the kingdom on earth, the ugly conflict between good and evil will continue. That will bring division.

THIRD—The peace that Jesus promises is not the peace of this world. There is a parallel passage in John's Gospel. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. Jesus gives total liberation to man through spiritual and inner peace. Luke presents Jesus in this manner as a king of peace at His birth and before His suffering and crucifixion. The Jews expected a wordly happiness and satisfaction with the coming of Jesus—sort of a political bliss that would come over people as if they had been exposed to some chemical that would put everyone on a high. But Jesus makes it clear that it is not so. The reality is that His coming will not bring about some political nirvana, but will make people think and choose. This very fact will bring division through a variety of responses.

FOURTH—When you choose to follow "the suffering Jesus", you separate yourself from following some pompous and powerful leader created by Madison Avenue marketing departments. Jesus was the ultimate "self-giving" example for us. Those who have difficulty being self-giving, but are self-centered will choose to walk another way. Jesus will get in the way of their self-centered quest. This, too, will bring division.

FIFTH—There is also the reality of people taking the words of Jesus and using them to build their own "human-centered" organization for human gain. This new organization is like a monster in that it wants to get as many members as possible and control them and their pocketbooks. Those who are in leadership are not bad people, but misguided because this is the only way they know to follow God and do ministry. Those who follow it are not bad, but misinformed thinking that this is the "right" way to do things. Therefore, the organization gets into "brand-loyalty" and competes with all other brands, thinking they and they only have the "right" way of thinking or believing or behaving while everyone else outside this brand-loyalty is "wrong". This is the way of much of Christianity and other forms of religious brand-loyalty. There is this need to be right. Jesus is the way, truth and the life...and He is the unifying factor, however man's self-centered need to be right and to die for their brand-loyalty divides and is so hurtful. When a person in that ugly, divisive position of faith in their particular brand sees that it is all about Jesus Plus Nothing and not their brand of it—that Jesus is supreme over all of the brands, then peace is brought to a person's heart and to his family and friends.

SIXTH—This same kind of brand-loyalty then can be extended to the variety of religious systems in the world and how they view Jesus. The fundamentalist whatever who believes he is right and all others are wrong and must be conquered or destroyed will continue to advance the conflict of good and evil and will bring unending division. However, as we witnessed at the Prayer Breakfast, once a person from whatever background discovers the Jesus Plus Nothing truth, then peace is experienced—first inner peace and then that peace overflows into family and friends and enemies.

SEVENTH—So, as Jesus enters any life-situation, the various responses to the Way, the Truth and the Life” will be different and those responses are at the source of divisiveness—not Jesus. Jesus is not the cause of divisiveness, but by His very presence there is a very real reality that some will reject Him or twist Him or use Him and stir up the spirit of divisiveness.
"I came to bring division" is saying that His very coming will trigger a variety of responses to Him and will bring division among friends and family. He will not force anyone to follow Him or love Him, therefore there will be division. He is warning the disciples of this reality.
In our faith journey we are to introduce people who are interested to the irresistible Jesus and His kingdom. In a sense, we are always looking for ways to “advance the conversation” about Jesus. We must not be afraid of the truth that comes out of that conversation, because Jesus is the truth. I like to say, ALL TRUTH IS GOD’S TRUTH. All truth culminates in the person of Jesus.

This brings us back to what I’ve been saying over and over lately. We are not talking about a set of beliefs to believe, but rather a person to follow. Jesus is the great I AM. HE IS THE WAY—without Him there is no place worth going. HE IS THE TRUTH—without Him there is nothing worth knowing. HE IS THE LIFE—without Him there is nothing worth living for.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007



Jesus was not the prophet of the status quo. He offended the religious establishment. He turned upside down the normal religious symbols of His day. Jesus spoke words of hope and glory, but demanded change. Either change or judgment. And it grieved Him that for many of His people their end would be judgment—by their own choice.

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Jesus’ mission not only includes an offer of love, grace and forgiveness, but it is also a mission of judgment. John the Baptist referred to this dimension of the Messiah’s mission when he said, "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

One of Jesus’ roles was to be the Prophet to the people of Israel. He warned them and called them into an accountability to their God-given mission. In so doing Jesus was continually calling them into repentance—to change their mind and ways and turn back to God and His mission for them.

I just read about this passage: “Curiously enough, the "fire" of judgment has much to do with Jesus' "baptism" on the cross. Sin is judged and punished upon Jesus as He hangs on the cross, "He bears our sins and carries our iniquity." But those who will not put their faith in Jesus the Crucified One, will face a severe sentence at the hands of Jesus the Judge. The Judge would willingly take the place of the judged, but many will not, can not believe Him.”

This mission of judgment-fire will necessarily divide some households. You are blessed when your whole household become followers of Jesus. This is a hard statement from Jesus. But I have come to the understanding that all who want to be with God in heaven may do so. And, conversely, those who don’t want God won’t have to go there and be with Him.

Jesus turns to a parable of the weather: He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?
The weather in Israel is pretty predictable and we’ve noticed that all of the guides and residents of the Middle East have a clear sense and sensitivity to the weather. What Jesus is saying is that they are so smart about the changes in the weather, but are really dumb when it comes to understanding the changes in spiritual things.

Then Jesus shares the parable of the defendant who is responsible for a great debt: "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

It is far better to judge what is right yourselves rather than be dragged off to the judge. Because if you are taken to a judge, you will surely be put in debtor’s prison and you will not come out until your family and friends pay off the last penny. If you negotiate what you owe with your adversary, then you are much better off. In other words, the smart thing to do is to appeal to your adversary for mercy.

Jesus’ point seems to be: “If you know the judgment will surely go against you, you're a fool not to try to settle the case out of court. In other words, if you know that you are subject to God's judgment, then you need to plead for mercy now while there is still time to receive mercy. Jesus is God's offer of mercy. We're fools if we don't reach out to Him (Jesus) and receive mercy and forgiveness through Him.

So far in this section there seem to be four principal lessons emerging:
FIRST—Judgment is delayed, but is most certainly coming.
SECOND—Prior to the coming judgment disciples of Jesus will face division within their own homes.
THIRD—We must stay alert to the signs of the times and be ready for the coming judgment.
FOURTH—All of us must have a sense and sensitivity of the coming judgment and therefore must plead for mercy before it is too late. And before our personal case is dragged into court.

Now, don’t get all twitter-pated about this judgment. There is no way you can handle it or prepare for it. The only way through it is to negotiate a settlement with Jesus, pleading mercy from Him. Here’s how it works. Jesus pays everything. You pay nothing. He gets you in the deal. You get Him. There is no better deal on earth.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007



OK, now you know not to worry about things that don’t matter, you know that God is capable of providing for your needs, you know that you are most valuable to God, you know that the only way to satisfy your heart is to seek His Kingdom and become a channel for God’s blessings to flow to the poor. But knowing it isn’t doing it. Now, Jesus is saying that what is most necessary is to BE READY.

"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Jesus concludes with a call to focus on what is really important. It is so very important that you be vigilant with respect to your relationship with your Master, Jesus, the King. If indeed this is a love relationship, then it’s vital to act like it by being ready for Jesus to show up, even unexpectedly.

When the master arrives, the servants are to be ready. His coming or showing up is their most important priority. You are to be looking forward with great anticipation for Jesus and to stay awake or be watchful. You may be servants, but when the Master shows up He will serve you. This is how Jesus turns the world upside down. He upends the world system by making the poor rich and the rich poor.

Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

"The servant who knows the master's will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. 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.

So the conclusion is be dressed and ready for service. Keep your lamps burning. Be watching for him.
 Even if he is delayed, don't fall asleep. Be a faithful and wise manager.
 Feed the servants under your care.
 God has given you much.
 Be worthy of that sacred trust He has in you. Two words: BE READY.



If you’re going to be “rich toward God”, then you must learn to trust God for your material needs: Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Don’t worry about your life, because there is more to life than food and clothes. First, Jesus says, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Then Jesus moves from birds to flowers: "Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!”

Don’t you see, it’s so empty and foolish to be concerned or worried about these things, because you are so much more valuable than birds and wild flowers. “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.”

Jesus here gives us an insight as to how worrying is set in motion. It is when you set your heart on something that you want or think you need.

There are two reasons Jesus gives for such worry. First—“For the pagan world runs after all such things.” Worry and seeking stuff is what the pagans do. Why? Because they are not walking under the King and His kingdom. Second—“and your Father knows that you need them.” God already is aware of what you need. He is the most faithful one you can count on in your relationship. He knows what you need and is not shocked with the situation you find yourself in, so trust Him with it.

Probably one of the most common hazards you and I face is greed. The only way to escape the peril of greed is to pursue God’s Kingdom. NOTE how Jesus puts it: “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” All of the “stuff” we need will be taken care of, if we seek His kingdom and learn to trust Him with every part of our existence.

Jesus gives another insight into eliminating your worry and seeking His kingdom. He says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Jesus is saying the same thing He mentioned in the previous paragraph. He wants us to serve as channels of blessings for others. And as long as we operate in His kingdom, He will bless us as the channels of His blessings.

Then Jesus says something that is curious: “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

If you’re neglecting to give to the poor and needy, then you will have an earthly purse that will wear out. However if you are a giver, you will have a heavenly purse that will never wear out.

So, if you worry about things that you cannot control and don’t practice trusting God, then you will not be rich toward God and you will not be thriving—only surviving at best. Jesus gives the formula for practicing being rich toward God.
1. Don’t worry about things that don’t matter.
2. God is more than capable of providing for your needs and continually demonstrates it through how He feeds the birds and clothes the wild flowers.
3. You are the most valuable of God’s creation.
4. Seek after His Kingdom.
5. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Then Jesus ends this section with the following: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If your focus is on the kingdom, your heart will be the heart of God and you will know the fullness of a satisfied heart. If your focus is smothered with worries about how you’re going to eat and clothe yourself, your heart will be worn out by struggling to hang on to a lesser treasure. You choose. Keep on seeking His Kingdom or drown yourself in your worries. It is ultimately your choice.

Sunday, February 04, 2007



In Luke 12:13-21 we come to the story of the rich fool.
Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?"

Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;” NOW THAT’S RELEVANT FOR TODAY.

JESUS GOES ON TO SAY: “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."
The word for “life” Jesus uses is the word that speaks of quality of life. So, He is saying that your quality of life doesn’t consist in all of your stuff.

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
NOTE in those days everyone was in relationship to one another—family lived together and villages worked together in times of abundance and in times of loss. Yet this man “thinks to himself”. You see, he consulted no one on his decision—no one, not even God.

"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
Instead of sharing it with those in his family and village who are in need, he makes the decision to “store” his surplus in bigger barns.

And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
The purpose for his decision is so that he can take life easy, eat, drink and be merry. This is called retirement in most cases. However, Jesus has us all on a mission. It’s our real purpose for being here. We are only satisfied if we fulfill our God-given purpose and that purpose is not hoarding stuff for ourselves, but to be self-giving. This has nothing to do with making money and increasing your possessions. There is nothing wrong with that. It has everything to do with how you use what you have. Since all you have belongs to God Who enabled and empowered you to gather it, He wants you to use it compassionately.

NOTE what happens to this man: "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
That very night of his boasting and his self-centered decision God “demanded” not only his stuff, but his life! The word used here means to “take it back” or “repossess” all you have and all that you are—your very life.

Jesus ends His story with a strong summary application:
"This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God."

RICH TOWARD GOD. It seems by Jesus’ words that a person who is rich toward God does not live for himself—gathering and holding on to more and more stuff for himself. Rather one who is rich toward God takes thought of how to share his stuff and use it for the kingdom. Well, where are you in this story?

Think it over.