Thursday, March 29, 2007



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND—The proportion of her giving impressed Jesus. According to Jesus the widow gave more than all the rest. The widow was a proportional giver. Remember what Jesus taught earlier in Luke 12? “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” We are also told to give as we are prospered. I believe God holds us accountable for the proportion we give. And, you can be encouraged that giving a very little still matters to God as long as it’s proportional.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007



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

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

I can’t help but think of the most complete expression of Jesus regarding these teachers of the Law. It is found in Matthew 23 and is just the opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of trying to explain what these teachers are all about, I want to read you Jesus’ fullest criticism of these teachers of the Law in Matthew 23. And, I want to read you the version of this incident found in The Message:

"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.

"You're hopeless! What arrogant stupidity! You say, 'If someone makes a promise with his fingers crossed, that's nothing; but if he swears with his hand on the Bible, that's serious.' What ignorance! Does the leather on the Bible carry more weight than the skin on your hands? And what about this piece of trivia: 'If you shake hands on a promise, that's nothing; but if you raise your hand that God is your witness, that's serious'? What ridiculous hairsplitting! What difference does it make whether you shake hands or raise hands? A promise is a promise. What difference does it make if you make your promise inside or outside a house of worship? A promise is a promise. God is present, watching and holding you to account regardless.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.

"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You build granite tombs for your prophets and marble monuments for your saints. And you say that if you had lived in the days of your ancestors, no blood would have been on your hands. You protest too much! You're cut from the same cloth as those murderers, and daily add to the death count.

"Snakes! Reptilian sneaks! Do you think you can worm your way out of this? Never have to pay the piper? It's on account of people like you that I send prophets and wise guides and scholars generation after generation—and generation after generation you treat them like dirt, greeting them with lynch mobs, hounding them with abuse.

"You can't squirm out of this: Every drop of righteous blood ever spilled on this earth, beginning with the blood of that good man Abel right down to the blood of Zechariah, Barachiah's son, whom you murdered at his prayers, is on your head. All this, I'm telling you, is coming down on you, on your generation.

Jesus is livid about how these teachers of the Law behave, yet Jesus still had a heart of compassion for these people. His heart was broken over their attitudes and behaviors. NOTE how Jesus expresses His heart over the brokenness He sees in Jerusalem:

"Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God's news! How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me. And now you're so desolate, nothing but a ghost town. What is there left to say? Only this: I'm out of here soon. The next time you see me you'll say, 'Oh, God has blessed him! He's come, bringing God's rule!'"

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

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2007



Jesus was continually being bombarded with questions, mostly to trip Him up. But in this paragraph Jesus poses a question of His own. And it’s a whopper!
Then Jesus said to them, "Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: "'The Lord said to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'
David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

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

What’s interesting is that the term, “the Son of David”, was a direct reference to the Messiah. David was viewed as Israel’s greatest king and the Messiah was to restore David’s kingdom to its original glory.

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

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

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

Monday, March 26, 2007



(Luke 20:27-40) Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

The Sadducees were setting Jesus up to trick Him by asking this question about marriage. You see, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection at all. The reason for the question is to show the difficulties in believing in the resurrection and an afterlife.

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

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

Jesus’ response is interesting and not especially popular today, when understood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 25, 2007



(Luke 20:20-26) Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?" "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 22, 2007



He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

"Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.' "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." 
When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

This parable tracks with the history of the Jewish reaction to God’s blessings. The owner of the vineyard is God who gave His blessings for the Jewish people to manage. Yet every representative He sent to them, they turned on them, persecuted and some they even killed. These were the Judges and Prophets.

Then God, the owner, sent His own Son. They did the same thing to Him, too. Then, as the story goes, the owner went to the field to throw out the tenants and kill them. And after this, He gave the vineyard to others. In other words, this parable tells the entire history of the children of Israel in relationship to their God—Jehovah.

Do you remember some earlier words from Luke that fit this same situation? "Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, (Luke 11:47-50)

"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. (Luke 13:34)

When Jesus told them what the Son would do to the tenants, they protested, “God forbid.” Jesus then looked intently at them and asked them about a familiar Scripture: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

One of the commonly known symbols of the Messiah throughout the Prophets was a stone. Here Jesus is saying that stone (Him) was rejected and now has become the cornerstone.

NOTE there are two ways you can relate to the stone (the Messiah):

FIRST—If you fall on the stone, you will be broken to pieces. I think this is coming to the point of a complete trust in Jesus, throwing yourself on the stone in humility. We’ve been saying that you really don’t break the commandments, but you are broken by them.

SECOND—If you rebel against the stone and resist His direction and blessings, then that same stone will crush you.

The same is true for us today. You can humbly put your trust in Jesus and allow Him to do as He wills with you. Or, you can pridefully try to run your life on your own, rejecting the Messiah (stone) and the stone will crush you.

It just doesn’t make any sense. God, the owner of everything you are and have is the owner of your vineyard. He is the one who wrote out your DNA, miraculously setting your life in motion. And all He wants from you, the manager of His vineyard (your life), is for you to share the fruit of the vineyard you manage with Him for His use. Well, what will it be? DEAL OR NO DEAL?



Jesus has just stirred up the anger of the Temple leadership by putting the money-changers out of business for a short time, calling them a den of thieves. Those leaders are out to kill Him and now they confront Him with a question:

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?" He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John's baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet." So they answered, "We don't know where it was from." Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Jesus answers their question with a question of His own that put them in a very difficult spot. Again it’s clear that the leaders, not the people, are the problem. They aren’t discussing whether or not Jesus is of the truth, but politically, “How shall we answer this so that we don’t get put into a bad light with our following?”

The basic problem is that the leaders refused to even be open to the fact that Jesus has obviously been sent by God. The people DO believe that He is, at least, someone very special—a prophet status, maybe. But the leaders can’t even allow themselves to open that door of possibility.

Jesus has made the blind see, healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, made the lame to walk and preached the good news to the poor, precisely as the Messiah was to do. His miracles alone were enough to raise the question of Messiahship. BUT if Jesus is from God, then those who claim to be of God will also be put out of business, unless they humble themselves and receive Him as the Messiah.

Remember last chapter when Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem? The crowds said: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

And why will the holy city of Jerusalem be destroyed? Because the leadership did not recognize THE TIME OF GOD’S COMING. Or, as some translations call it THE TIME OF GOD’S GREAT VISITATION. God reached out to man by sending Jesus to articulate God’s message of the good news of the Kingdom. And they rejected that message and the Messenger—Jesus. Now, not only will the city be destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans who will encircle the city as He describes here, but the people will be lost and destroyed in their hearts.

This is why Jesus weeps as He approaches Jerusalem. His heart is broken because He knew what was coming upon them. NOTE this all happens because they were too prideful to recognize God’s presence in what Jesus said and did. They wanted to continue their games of life and didn’t want God to interrupt what they were doing. They wanted just enough God to acknowledge that He exists, but not to alter their ways of living.

I think we face the same kind of thing today. It’s so much easier to continue our games of life we’re playing—building our little kingdoms and stuffing our lives with stuff without allowing God’s presence in Jesus to change much of our lives at all. You see, back 2000 years ago was God’s great visitation to man here on earth. And since that time through His Spirit He continues to walk among us—to visit us daily. He is still saying, “Follow Me.” He is still doing mighty works among His people and even among those who are not yet His people. And He is still standing in our midst with a tear in His eye that most of us most of the time don’t recognize Him as the Lord of lords and the God of gods. And in that rejection we are missing out on His peace in our lives.

THINK IT OVER today as you make your way through life. Where is Jesus in your thinking, your walking, your loving and in your talking? He’s right here, but do you see Him?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007



At the end of Luke 19 we come to a familiar and often referenced scene where Jesus drives out the money-changers who were doing business in the Temple. This is commonly known as a act of righteous indignation.

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' "

Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Jesus is quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah here. Luke only touches on this cleansing of the Temple; the other Gospels offer more detail. The cleansing of the Temple was most likely just prior to the last week of Jesus’ ministry.

Why was Jesus so angry and irritated with what was going on at the Temple? Let me give you just a couple of practices that many have found to be reprehensible. First, when people came in from out of the area, they had to exchange their coinage. Most had Roman coins, but at the Temple only Tyronian shekels could be used to pay for their sacrifice. So, there was a money-changing business going on where people were being gouged, paying unreasonable fees for this exchange. Second, the lamb that was to be sacrificed was to be certified by a rabbi. The rabbi would frequently disallow the lamb, because it was to be a lamb without blemish. So, if the lamb they brought was not good enough, then they had to buy another lamb that would pass the test. Guess who had that concession? And, at the sale of this new lamb there was another exorbitant fee. You see, there was a hierarchy of priests who were getting a piece of the action in every transaction.

Rabbi Simeon, who was Gamaliel’s son (Gamaliel was Paul’s teacher) was insistent that the prices be lowered in the Temple for the sacrificial animals sold there. He urged them to reduce the price for a pair of doves by 99% of the going rate. Did you get that markup? A 99% markup! This is why Jesus called these businessmen in the Temple a den or cave of thieves. The whole thing was out of control and was a travesty—all in the name of the Lord.

NOTE there were several groups who were against Jesus and wanted to put Him to death. You see, in one of the most lucrative holiday feasts of the year—Passover—Jesus was ruining their business. These groups that united against Jesus were usually enemies of one another—chief priests, teachers (Pharisees), scribes, and community leaders.

Do you see anything today at the Temple that might make Jesus irritated and angry?

Jesus’ enemies were willing to do most anything to get rid of Him, even to the point of killing Him. There was only one thing holding them back—the people. You know, it’s been my experience that the people are the best and most supportive. It’s the leadership that continually stands in the way of the work of God.

I like the last statement in this chapter. It gives the reason for why the people became a problem. They hung on the words of Jesus. What an indictment! This is at the core of the spiritual revolution of Jesus today. What we are looking for is for people to be hung up on the teachings and principles of Jesus. Now, that’s a hang-up from which I hope I never do recover! How about you?

Monday, March 19, 2007



It’s at this point that Jesus finally makes His way into Jerusalem. This is what He has been looking forward to all along.

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'"

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it." They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

This entrance into Jerusalem is a highly referenced event throughout the Old Testament. Finally, Jesus’ time has come. And this time demands special preparation. According to Daniel this is the official presentation of Jesus as the Messiah. It’s the official offering of the Messiah to the Jewish people. I think this prophecy of Daniel was understood by many and therefore they were prepared for this grand entrance.

In Zechariah 9:9-10 riding into Jerusalem on a donkey is specifically mentioned. It says: Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.

The people were spreading clothing and palm branches before Him to carpet the pathway into Jerusalem to honor Him. It is a day of excitement and jubilation as the King's procession reaches the road's highest point as it crosses the ridge of the Mount of Olives. At this time of year, pilgrims clogging the roads rejoice as they come. And the pilgrims already in Jerusalem hear that Jesus is about to enter the city, and they come out to meet Him. The city is abuzz with the news of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and the pilgrims are eager to see this miracle worker they’ve heard so much about.

As this increasingly large band of "disciples" crosses the ridge and begins its descent into the Kidron Valley the people sing praise from Psalm 118:25, though only one line is quoted in Luke. Read the full passage to see how much refers to the coming of the Messiah: "Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, save us; [literally, "Hosanna!"] O Lord, grant us success.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." (Psalm 118:19-29)

Here are all of these Messianic phrases being repeated regarding Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem:

Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9)
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Luke 19:38)
Blessed is the King of Israel!" (John 12:13)

The Pharisees were offended by this outpouring of praise for Jesus in Messianic terms and they asked that Jesus calm them down. But Jesus said, “If the people keep quiet, then the stones will cry out.”

What I like most about this scene is how it all comes together. Jesus needs a donkey and there was someone already awaiting the order to provide the donkey. This is what strikes me about the genius of the Kingdom. God has His people planted all over the world to call into service whenever the time is right.

This is why it so vital for us to keep following the 3 habits:
1. Walking with Jesus.
2. Walking with others.
3. Waiting for Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities.

There are all kinds of important events that require the timing of the Lord and the readiness of many seemingly insignificant people to follow the Master’s calling.

We are in a spiritual revolution today and I am excited to say to you, THE REVOLUTION IS STILL ON! Jesus is still making an unlimited amount of triumphal entries into the lives of people today. He’s just looking to use someone’s donkey to carry Him in. And if that doesn’t work, then the rocks will cry out.



As Jesus was finishing up with Zachaeus He moves right into telling them a parable of the ten talents.

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten talents. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'

The plan is set in motion. The master made an investment in his servants desiring for each of them to make that investment grow.

"But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.' "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

NOTE the similarities between the story of the man who was seeking to be king and Jesus’ own situation. He, too, was hated by the leaders and seeking to be king. I can’t help but think that Jesus has an underlying meaning about Himself in this parable.

Three of his servants’ experiences with their investment are shared here: The first one came and said, 'Sir, your talents have earned ten more.' 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

The second came and said, 'Sir, your talents have earned five more.'
His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your talent; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.' His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'

Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his talent away from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.' 'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!' He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

Whatever else is going on in this familiar parable, here are some bottom-line principles that must be taken away from this parable. Remember, we are looking for what this teaches about the Kingdom and nothing more.

FIRST—In the Kingdom the King gives out talents to everyone. Most likely this is more than money and wealth, but also personal giftedness.

SECOND—The King expects each person to put these talents to work. Our talents—money and giftedness—are to be used wisely to grow or increase what they have been given.

THIRD—The King is looking for each of his servants to take the risk of expending what he has been given and not holding on to it.

FOURTH—If the talents aren’t used, then the person will suffer loss, because even what he has will be given away.

Maybe the most important lesson from this parable is that the King expects each of us servants to obey him. This all seems to be right in line with what the Kingdom is all about. It has nothing to do with accumulating more and more. It does have to do with following orders and doing exactly what the King says.

You see, all we have and all we are is totally from the King. Therefore whatever the King asks of us to do or say must be followed. As long as we are being obedient in the lifestyle of the Kingdom—using what we’ve been given for the King and the Kingdom—then all is well and we live in the joy of our Master, the King. However, when we are disobedient in the lifestyle of the Kingdom—not proactively using what we have been given, then all we have is loss.

I like to think of it like this:
1. Use it—all that you have been given.
2. Use it for the Kingdom.
3. Use it for the Kingdom all the time.
4. Use it for the Kingdom all the time or you’ll surely lose it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007



As we come to the 19th chapter of Luke we are treated to the delightful story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Let’s check it out:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Wow! This is a fascinating story of a heart transformation. Here the chief tax collector is apprehended by Jesus while perched up in a sycamore tree. The scene is so visual. Zacchaeus is up in a tree so he can get a glimpse of Jesus. Everyone is talking about it. And, while waiting up there in the tree, Jesus looked up and invited Himself to lunch—at Zach’s house. Talk about a shocker—for both Zacchaeus and the people watching!

I love what happens here. This is a divine appointment of the highest kind. Probably it was at the gathering at Zach’s house, Zacchaeus stood up and made a most interesting pronouncement. He declared that he will give half of all his possessions to the poor and he will pay back four times the amount to those he has cheated. This is so typical. Simply by a personal encounter with Jesus, Zach is a transformed man and wants to pay back all he owes them, give half of what he makes to the poor and give four times the amount to those he has already cheated.

What happened? I think it’s quite simple. Any time a person enters into an encounter with Jesus, he is changed. Zach Is coming alongside Jesus and is thoroughly changed by doing this.

Then Jesus expresses what many believe is the key verse of the book of Luke. He says, “For the son of man has come to seek and to save those who are lost.” Jesus’ relentless search for you and me is absolutely amazing. Jesus will go to extreme measures to interrupt what you’re doing in order to bring you back to Himself.

I think what strikes me the deepest is the immediacy of Zach’s heart to repay those he has cheated. It’s as if when Jesus entered the picture, Zach’s other gods or focal points of his life meant nothing. The same is true today. When you see Jesus for what and who he is, nothing else matters. Paul speaks of this in the letter to the followers of Jesus in the book of Colossians. I love this passage where Paul says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”

Now I ask you, if you are having lunch with the one who embodies all the fullness of God, wouldn’t your life be changed, too? I think everyone ought to meet Jesus for lunch, because that luncheon will transform your entire life. Maybe that ought to be our daily prayer. Lord, “I want to have lunch with Jesus today.” Then after that lunch, you will never recover. Why? Because once you have been apprehended in your heart by Jesus, nothing else matters.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007



As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Contrast this blind beggar outside of Jericho with the rich, young ruler—from the “seemingly” most desirable disciple to “seemingly” the most undesirable. Certainly the rich businessman seems to be the one who had more potential of advancing the kingdom. However, this is not kingdom thinking, but worldly. Remember, always check your thinking and you will see that many times what Jesus would do will be the opposite.

In Mark’s gospel this beggar is identified as Bartimaeus. This poor man has developed a lifestyle of begging for a living along the road in and out of Jericho.

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" 
 "Lord, I want to see," he replied.

NOTE blind Bart called Jesus “Son of David” which is a messianic title—the promised descendant of King David. It’s interesting to note that since it was mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, this is the first time He has been called Son of David. And, in a few days He will be greeted and welcomed as the Son of David as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is the reason why Bartimaeus wasn’t asking Jesus for money as he did to all of the others who passed by. He was asking for more than that—to see again! Jesus seems to make a point of this by asking him what he wanted Jesus to do for him. And blind Bart’s answer was, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Jesus’ response to Bart’s request to see was specifically answered and attributed to his faith. He had a faith that didn’t fly in the wind nor did it take no for an answer.

This blind beggar on the side of the road with a persistent and stubborn faith serves as an example for us all. What I like best is how quickly the formerly blind Bart began his journey of following Jesus. That’s the ultimate proof of the genuineness of his faith. Remember Jesus said, “He who hears my word and practices it is like a man who builds his house on a rock. He who hears my word and doesn’t practice it is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand without a firm foundation.”

ONE MORE THING. Jesus was drawn to this man because of his brokenness. His brokenness or blindness is the connector to Jesus. This blindness didn’t keep Bart from pursuing the ultimate answer to his problems. And, He knew that this man would be useful to Him on His journey to Jerusalem, so he allowed him to follow alongside Him.

In so many cases, the gateway to Jesus is through our brokenness. Jesus came as a great physician, looking for sick people. He was not making a list of those who were well without any needs. He continually gravitated toward the broken, the bruised, the addicted and the poor. The only thing I have to share with Jesus that will get His attention right away is my brokenness. This is why I am always yelling out to Jesus like the blind man, “Hey Jesus, over here! “

It’s like the young man who said: “Jesus, I have a problem. It’s me.” And Jesus quickly replies, “My son, I have the answer. It’s Me.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007



Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

The rich, young ruler has heard Jesus' direction to him: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow me." The man walked away sad and, no doubt, Jesus was also saddened by this encounter when He said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

This statement may have caused more confusion than you might think. Remember Job? As long as he was rich, he was viewed as a blessed man of God. And, when his riches were taken away, the assumption was that he had sinned. This rich, young ruler was probably viewed by many as a very spiritual man—blessed by God. So, if this man who was keeping the law and seemed to be blessed by God with his wealth wasn’t going to make it into salvation, then, “Who is going to be saved?”

The rich trust in their wealth to open doors of heaven for them. But the net value of their wealth in heaven is zip. Jesus makes it clear that only if they become as little children will they enter the kingdom.

It’s in this context that Peter says, "We have left all we had to follow you.” It was a statement begging some sort of response. Matthew’s gospel adds the words, “What then will there be for us?”

Jesus answers Peter's question simply: "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life."

The point here seems to be that your reward for being faithful and giving your all will be highly abundant. Matthew and Mark’s account give specifics of reaping 100 times—super abundant results.

To me Jesus is saying simply this: YOU CAN’T OUTGIVE GOD. Whatever you think you have given up for Jesus and the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied back to you. This abundant reward is both near and far—temporal and eternal.

This reminds me of the kingdom parable where the man found a treasure in a field, hid it and then went back and sold all he had in order to buy the land. Or, the parable about diligently searching for a fine pearl. And, when he finds it, goes and sells all that he has to purchase that pearl. One comes into the kingdom by surprise and the other by careful searching. But both of them see the kingdom for its invaluable quality and go for it with their whole hearts.

We can all become a little discouraged from time to time. But know for certain that whatever you have given up for Jesus and the kingdom will be abundantly rewarded. You can count on it. So, with a reckless abandon give it all up for Him. You’ll never regret it!

Monday, March 12, 2007



A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

This ruler is apparently a leader, a successful businessman. Matthew writes about this man, too, and describes him as a young man who had an abundance of possessions.

His question is a powerful and pointed one. He must be feeling some sense of spiritual inadequacy. He seems to believe that eternal life is something you can earn or inherit or acquire.

NOTE the rich, young ruler, even though he had been keeping the commandments, he still felt a lack in his life. Jesus perceptively targets in on that lack. Note what happens: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Jesus here gives the answer to the original question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer? DON’T LET ANYTHING YOU HAVE OR YOU ARE SEPARATE YOU FROM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. He goes on to say, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, THEN you will have treasure in heaven. THEN COME, FOLLOW ME.” This is a tough saying, yet very, very simple. Eternal life has everything to do with a relationship—FOLLOW ME. In this man’s case, it was necessary to say to him to sell all and give to the poor in order to get to the heart of his real god he was holding on to.

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

The rich, young ruler was sad, because he knew what Jesus was saying to him was true. It was his wealth that was keeping him from entering the kingdom of God. It’s important to note that it is not his wealth per se, but his holding it closely as something too dear to him—even more important than a relationship with God. This is proven by his sadness and that instead of coming to Jesus in order to follow Him, he was obviously going to walk away.

NOTE the question that was asked Jesus: Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God."

Jesus’ answer was clear. No matter who you are—rich or poor, being saved or having eternal life or entering into the kingdom of God is an impossibility in human terms, but not with God. With God the impossible becomes possible.

Over the years I’ve traveled into the Middle East. And, in Jerusalem it is continually explained what it means for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They show you a small opening that a camel on its knees and stripped of all of its baggage could squeeze through with great difficulty. That sounds like it may be true. But then I came to realize Jesus’ words here. This salvation thing is not just difficult, but impossible. So, it makes so much more sense to me now that having salvation from God (eternal life) for a rich person who has so many things to distract him away from God is like a camel going through a large knitting needle. IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! BUT GOD specializes in the impossible. What is impossible with humans is possible with God. Talk about AMAZING GRACE—how sweet the sound!

Sunday, March 11, 2007



In just three verses in Luke 18:15-17 we have the message of the kingdom bottom-lined and it’s all about being like a child.

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

In the parable just before this story about children Jesus said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humblesw himself will be exalted.” Now Jesus says, “You must receive the kingdom of God like a little child in order to enter into the kingdom.” This seems to be saying the same thing. And, there seem to be several ways we can hinder children from coming to Jesus.

The theme here is: Disciples of Jesus must remove all hindrances that keep children from coming to Jesus. The disciples were slightly annoyed that people were bringing babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. They scolded those who were bringing the babies to Jesus. They certainly didn’t seem to think that children were strategic appointments for Jesus to bother with.

Jesus took this opportunity to make an important illustration out of this incident. Jesus ignored their rejection of the babies and countermanded what they were doing. He invited all of the little children to come to Him. He gives a most significant reason for embracing the children. The reason? The kingdom of God belongs to the little children.

Then Jesus makes a most amazing statement which is the lesson He wanted to make clear: “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Two things come to light here: FIRST—Don’t hinder the children in any way from coming to Jesus. So, what are the things that we do that might hinder children from coming to Jesus.
1. Our pride in thinking that children don’t know enough and haven’t lived long enough to understand the things of Jesus.
2. Parental beliefs—There are two ways to hinder children from coming to Jesus. One is to indoctrinate your children with your beliefs. If you do this without encouraging your kids to think it through on their own to embrace it for themselves, you run the risk of propagandizing your children to believe what you believe without thinking about it. This will most surely set your children up for losing their (your) beliefs later, when attacked. The second is to ignore sharing any sort of beliefs with your children, believing they must be left alone to figure it out on their own. This sets your children up to be lost and confused throughout their lives. There is nothing redeeming about this approach at all.

The best way is for you to embrace your beliefs personally and to set an example for your children. This sets up your children to be more fully persuaded by the observation and influence of your life, based upon your relationship together. If you don’t possess certain qualities, you can’t pass them on to your children. But, most importantly, from your own faith and lifestyle you have the opportunity to advance the conversation about faith and about Jesus.

The SECOND thing that comes to light for me in this passage is the clear understanding regarding who will enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he comes as a little child. What are the characteristics of a little child? A few obvious ones are a simplicity, pure heart and thinking, inquisitive, an openness to learn and a curiosity.

Possibly the best characteristic of all is that children are trusting. I think this is what Jesus loves the most. He is looking for and waiting for “ANYONE” who will come to Him with simple and pure trust. For adults this is very difficult; for children it’s easy and very natural. So, come to Jesus as little children.

Thursday, March 08, 2007



We come now to the 2nd story to focus the disciples’ faith. Here in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shares a parable that is most contemporary for us today:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

Luke warns us right away that Jesus was targeting a certain group of people—those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. Then he shares the parable.

It’s obvious that Jesus is going to make some important comparisons for us to consider. Two men went to the temple to pray—a Pharisee and a tax collector.

NOTE the Pharisee’s stance in prayer:
FIRST—He stood by himself to pray.
SECOND—He exalts himself right in front of God.
THIRD—He looks down on the tax collector as less than righteous.
FOURTH—He lists his checklist of righteousness, exalting himself even more.

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

NOTE the tax collector’s stance in prayer:
FIRST—He stood at a distance.
SECOND—He didn’t look up to heaven.
THIRD—He beat his breasts in humility.
FOURTH—He prayed a very brief prayer.

NOW NOTE what Jesus’ evaluation was of these two men:
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Bottom-line is the Pharisee’s prayers didn’t even reach the ceiling and the tax collector’s prayers reached the heart of God. And the result is that only one goes home justified. The problem? Jesus sums it up with “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Two things are most clear to me from this parable:
FIRST—The Pharisee’s checklist of performance and status was all he had to talk about before God. Since he chose to exalt himself, God will surely humble him.

SECOND—The tax collector does not exalt himself at all. On the contrary, he throws himself into God’s mercy. Since he chose this stance to humble himself, God will surely exalt him.

This story and its applications are so right on target for me. I am continually setting out to do something—even something good and righteous, laying out my plans and asking God for His help. What’s the difference between me and the Pharisee? Oh, there is a difference, but very, very little. Sometimes by my actions I am putting forth my list of accomplishments and performance, thinking them to be so important.

It is so difficult to throw myself on the mercy of God, depending and waiting for Him to lead out. This doesn’t mean to not use your giftedness, but it’s all about dependency. Am I depending on God to lead out and empower what I do? And, am I willing to leave all the results—good and not so good, to Him.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007



Here in Luke 18 Jesus begins three teachings in a row to encourage His disciples to grow in their faith. He begins with the story of the persistent widow.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'"

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

This story of the persistent widow was given to make a point. If even a corrupt judge could eventually be persuaded by the persistence of a widow, someone without standing or influence in society, how much more likely would the Lord be to respond to the persistent prayers of His followers?

Since Jesus is going to have to suffer and die before returning, things are likely to become very confusing. Therefore, it’s very important for the disciples to be faithful in prayer to be ready. This is why Jesus ends this section with a question: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

For all of us today who are disciples of Jesus, He is teaching us to practice the habit of prayer that is characterized by persistence. Jesus is recorded teaching a similar concept in the gospel of Matthew: Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; Seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who keep on asking him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

In both cases the lesson is the same. If even those who are evil can be moved by persistence, how much more so will the Lord be moved? NOTE how the Lord longs for our participation in His plan. His return is already set in motion—a foregone conclusion. The decision was made before the foundations of the world were set in place. Yet He encourages us to keep praying for it, and to never give up till the day it happens. It's almost as if He's saying our prayers could influence the timing.

Whether or not that is true, it’s all a matter of single-mindedness and focus. Did you know that two-thirds of the prayers mentioned in the Bible, the prayers already knew the answer? So, it’s not that the purpose of our prayers is necessarily to change anything. The reason why we pray is a proactive act of dependency on the Lord. Prayer brings a spiritual focus to your everyday life. It’s one of the disciplines we can use to practice the presence of God in our lives every day.

You see, prayer may or may not change things, but it always, always, always will change you.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007



Jesus moves from the coming of the kingdom to the coming of the Son of Man. When you think about it, both are referring to the same event.

Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

"It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife!

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left." "Where, Lord?" they asked. He replied, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."
Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man. There were two basic meanings to that term. First—it was a Messianic term that most at that time would have been familiar with. Second—it was the term used to describe the humanity of Jesus.

Here Jesus speaks of the “day” or “days” of the Son of Man five times. The “day” that the Son of Man is revealed seems to be the same day on which destruction comes, the day when one is taken and another left. A lot seems to be happening in a very short period of time—almost cataclysmic in nature. It reminds me of how quickly the world changed within just a couple of hours on 9/11.

Whatever else is happening here Jesus uses two historical events to describe the time of the coming of the Son of Man—the time of the flood of Noah and the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two things are indicated through these events: First—People are going about their normal lives as if nothing was going to happen. Second—there will be a day of judgment and destruction from God which will occur suddenly. The coming of the Son of Man will be at such a time as this.

This is the passage among a few others where the Left Behind book series is based. Some are taken and others are left behind whether in bed or in the field. There is a lot of disagreement over when the Son of Man, the Messiah, will come again and bring about the “some are taken and others left behind” scene. It’s clear to me that there is no way to know precisely when the Son of Man will return. Only God knows that timing.

Those who were pressing Him, asked Him further when and where the coming will be. They really wanted to know more detail. Jesus answers them by saying, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." Jesus is saying here that just as the presence of a dead carcass is clear by the circling of vultures, so will the presence of the Son of Man be clear. It will be clear when the Son of Man returns—immediate and very clear.

All my life I’ve heard people mention that Jesus might be among us already right now and we just haven’t noticed His coming yet. Jesus puts a rest to that kind of thinking by saying, “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” You won’t be caught by surprise, however it will be very clear and very sudden.

I’m reminded of the bumper sticker that says, “Guess who’s coming back and boy is he mad!” There’s nothing to be afraid of, however. As long as you are walking with Jesus—hanging out with Him today, then you’ll be sure to be right with Him when He returns. So, keep up the three habits of walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Him to lead out—or, waiting for Him to show up again. With these habits in gear, you’ll be ready!

Monday, March 05, 2007



Nestled in Luke 17:20-21 is a most profound statement regarding the kingdom of God. Jesus has been saying that the Kingdom is near and the kingdom is here, and now He is saying that the kingdom is much more than that:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst."

When Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He makes it clear that the kingdom is not a visible, physical, political kingdom that can be observed, but it is invisible. It’s invisible because the kingdom of God is among you. Some translate this phrase within you.

There are three primary observations here worth noting. FIRST—Jesus is not speaking to His disciples, but to the Pharisees. This alone blows my mind. How can Jesus make this statement that the kingdom of God is among them?

SECOND—The kingdom of God cannot be seen. It is something invisible rather than visible. You won’t be able to point to it at some location.

THIRD—The kingdom of God is among y’all right here and now. It is in your midst. It is right here for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Here’s how I am able to tie all three of these observations together to make sense out of this encounter:

I take this back to our understanding that Jesus created all things and holds everything together. He is the glue that holds each cell together and without Him we would split apart. Since Jesus created our cells and holds them together, then He is the rightful authority over our tissues and cells. He is the king of kings. He is the ruler over all of us. We now have a choice. We can acknowledge that Jesus is the king and bow to His Kingship and Kingdom or we can ignore it and live our lives as if He isn’t king at all.

Therefore, when Jesus says that the kingdom of God is among y’all, He is laying claim on His kingdom IF WE WILL ONLY ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AS KING. So, thinking in this way, even the Pharisees could respond to His original creation and His present work of holding us together. If they were to bow to Him as King, then they would enter into the kingdom of God and His presence immediately.

Just this morning we met with a couple whose hearts have been captured by the needs of a family in Africa. They are following their hearts and doing everything they can think of to support this young family of seven. In the process of moving in compassion toward meeting the needs of this dear impoverished family, they are ministering to Jesus personally. You know, when He said, “When you feed the poorest of the poor, you are feeding Me.” Now, as this non-churched couple moves according to the principles of the kingdom of God, God is bringing all sorts of connections with just the right person to open the next door or to solve the next problem. It is absolutely amazing to watch. You see, when you step out and follow the kingdom principles, you will be led directly to Jesus, Himself. To hear them acknowledge God’s assistance and miracles they are experiencing was a wonderful thing.

As they follow their hearts in this effort to do good toward the poorest of the poor, they are going to continually encounter Jesus. And, soon they will be able to see Jesus has orchestrated the entire plan, just so He could bring them to Himself.

Yes, the Kingdom of God is near, it is here and it is among us right now. What Jesus wants is for us to walk in the kingdom lifestyle right where we are. And, He will show Himself to us as we progress along this journey.

You see, we haven’t rejected the kingdom of God, but we tend to reduce it. We reduce it to a future place and time. We reduce it to a mystical kingdom concept that we can’t define or experience. We reduce it to our local church. Or, we reduce it to a social welfare project in an area of need.

The kingdom of God is all-consuming. The kingdom is wherever the king is and wherever He reigns. And, as we learn to practice the presence of Jesus in our lives, no matter what we’re doing, we are living in the kingdom of God right now. There is nothing more magical—nothing more joyous and nothing that offers more freedom that living our lives according to the kingdom of God. It’s here! Submit your life to the king and learn to enjoy the kingdom lifestyle for yourself.

Sunday, March 04, 2007



We are moving through the Gospel of Luke and we have come to the place where Jesus heals 10 lepers. This is not a parable; this is a real life story. In this case, you might call it an enacted parable.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Jesus and His disciples are slowly making their way toward Jerusalem. This particular story occurs on the border between Samaria and Galilee among a racially-mixed group of lepers. Leprosy is no respecter of persons.

Leprosy back then was a skin disease that slowly rotted away the skin, destroying the nerves as it moved through a person’s body. It was considered incurable and very contagious. Therefore lepers were banned from normal society and lived together as a group, whenever possible. According to Leviticus a person with any kind of infectious disease was to wear torn clothes, unkempt hair, covering the lower part of his face and was to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he came near others. They were not only socially unclean, but they were viewed as ritually unclean as well.

They were allowed to attend synagogue but must be huddled in a separate area by themselves. They were the first to arrive and the last to leave the service, so not to contaminate anyone else. Leprosy was a dreaded disease and was viewed as a death sentence. Only two people by name in the Bible were cured of leprosy—Miriam and Naaman. Up to this time it had been over 700 years since anyone was cured of leprosy. This is why it was said that “When the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal a person of leprosy.” This was to be one of three miracles that “only the Messiah could do” and therefore became a clear sign of discovering the genuine Messiah.

NOTE Jesus encountered these ten lepers outside the village. They stood at the proper distance away from Him and called out loudly, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” It’s not clear that they were asking for healing, but for some act of compassion on them in their isolated poverty. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, because only the priest was able to declare a person healed of leprosy.

The text then says, “In the act of going, they were cleansed.” This is striking to me. As they simply obeyed Jesus, they found the greatest gift they could ever have imagined—full cleansing. Their faith was simple enough and had genuine action to it. I mean, what did they have to lose?

So as they were walking together toward the priest, they noticed that they were cleansed. It must have been an amazing experience—a dramatic feeling of shock and freedom.

Only one leper, when discovering his healing, returned to thank Jesus for what He did for him. In the same loud voice that he asked for pity from Jesus, now returns and gives him thanks loudly. Jesus takes care to point out once again that the only one who came back to give thanks for his healing was not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

Four observations come to mind here for me. FIRST—Jesus’ healing and cleansing power—His salvation—is for everyone, no matter what the religious and cultural background.

SECOND—When Jesus says to do something, it pays to do it—even if it is such a simple step. The end result may be more than we asked or could have imagined. These lepers only asked for pity—a little help, but He fully cleansed them of their leprosy.

THIRD—Jesus expects gratitude from us as well as our requests for help and healing. Remember, God is always looking at the heart.

FOURTH—Jesus rewards gratitude toward Him. NOTE that He said, “Your faith has made you well.” The others were now cleansed, too, so Jesus seems to be blessing this grateful leper with an even deeper healing—the healing of the soul.

You know what strikes me most in my life right now? Everyday is a day for gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His blessing. Don’t be one of the nine who were so excited about their healing that they forgot the healer.

This is the most critical and pivotal point of all. We tend to drift away from acknowledging the blessing of God in our lives. We neglect giving thanks. This is precisely what Paul references in Romans 1 when he says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” This is always the beginning of the end—to neglect giving thanks to God for what He has done and what He is doing in your life.

Thursday, March 01, 2007



As we continue in this study of Jesus and the kingdom in Luke we come to Luke 17.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

Things that cause people to stumble are inevitable. These are traps that are continually set in your path. However the worst trap or temptation is when one person causes another to stumble. Jesus mentions “little ones” here which could mean new believers or literally children. I believe He is speaking of the insignificant, those who don’t stand out as leaders—the “little” and “powerless” people of our society.

The punishment is severe—to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Each household had a small stone mill to grind grain into flower. Obviously, you would surely drown with this heavy millstone around your neck. NOTE He says that it would be better to be punished in this way (with a millstone around your neck). In other words, you deserve worse than this, if you cause the “little” ones to stumble.

Then Jesus turns the attention toward what happens when a person sins against you: "If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them."

Did you get that? When a brother or sister sins against you, call them on it. If they “repent” or have a change of heart, admitting that they were wrong, then you are to forgive them. BUT on top of that, if they sin against you seven times in one day, then you are to come back to them seven times and forgive them! The disciples’ response is interesting:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.”

Wow, Jesus, if we are going to practice this kind of response toward those who sin against us then we need a large amount of faith. Jesus quickly points out to them that they only need faith as small as a mustard seed and you will be able to do miraculous things. I think this is because it isn’t the amount of faith, but the object of the faith that matters. So, you have more than enough faith to be effective. Then Jesus goes into a story:

"Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Won't he rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

In these first 10 verses of Luke 17 it’s as if Jesus is setting forth a list of spiritual qualities we are to embrace in the kingdom—a quality of spiritual life that doesn’t cause others to stumble, a community that knows how to forgive and get along, a faith that is powerful and now, HUMILITY.

You see, we exist to serve God, and not vice-versa. It was inappropriate for slaves to feed themselves before they fed their master, no matter how hungry they were. God promises to meet our needs, but that’s not the main point. We are not to view ourselves as God serving us—“What have you done for me lately, Lord?” But, we are to gratefully take on the responsibility of serving God. We don’t work for God in an advisory capacity. He is God and we are not! We are not to be looking for God’s praise or blessing because we serve Him. He is our God and we are to be His servants.

These four qualities are part of what makes up lifestyle in the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of man. If you are a follower of Jesus, the King, then you must seek to embrace the kingdom lifestyle that goes along with it. This is not a system of do’s and don’ts, but a lifestyle that you will discover is most meaningful and fulfilling.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, when He said, “All of you who are weary and burdened down, come to Me.” Or, my favorite paraphrase of that same message is: "The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

That’s the joy of embracing the lifestyle of the kingdom! Have you tasted of that yet?



"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a portrayal of heaven, but it is still in the form of a parable. A parable is a story intended to convey a spiritual truth. The story doesn't have to be about real people or even real situations (like a camel passing through the eye of a needle). But to achieve its teaching goal, a parable must be striking and memorable, so that as the story is retold and remembered, the spiritual truth is reinforced again and again. The hearers must be able to imagine the situation.

Many scholars believe that Jesus is drawing upon a popular Jewish folk tale that had roots in Egypt about a rich man and poor man whose lots after death are completely reversed.

It’s like me telling you a story of the preacher and a New York taxi driver who arrived at the pearly gates and were greeted by St. Peter. The taxi driver is richly rewarded while the preacher just barely squeaks in. Why was this? It’s simple. When the preacher prayed, the people slept. But when the taxi driver drove, people prayed. Now that is a vivid story.

The rich man goes to the extreme of proposing that Lazarus rise from the dead to warn his brothers. Luke's readers will immediately think of Jesus, and how even His resurrection from the dead was not enough to sway the Pharisees from their hardened opposition to the truth.

There are four quick observations here:

FIRST—Wealth without active mercy for the poor is a great evil. Jesus is critical of the Pharisees here. He is not criticizing them for their hypercritical attitude and practices, but their neglect to treat the poorest of the poor well.

SECOND—How you treat the needs of the poor and needy have great consequences.

THIRD—If you close your eyes to the truth you are given, then you are doomed. It is irreversible.

FOURTH—The love of money to the neglect of showing mercy is inexcusable.

If you don't notice and minister to the poor, what excuse will you have? In the final analysis, the rich man's punishment is not for riches, but for the neglect of the Scriptures and what they teach us about the HEART OF GOD. Let me ask you: Does your heart resonate with the heart of God?