Monday, April 30, 2007



Matthew 5:5

We have considered the first two snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like-poor in spirit and mourning. Each one has an action step in the form of a personal discipline.

Discipline #1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit is to have a right evaluation of yourself before God. This right evaluation includes your wickedness which enables you to do almost anything, any time. You don't have to teach a child how to be selfish. This evaluation also includes your wonder which means that you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created in the image of the God of gods.

Discipline #2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES-4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. To mourn or reframe your weaknesses is to do something about that inner sense of wickedness and self-centeredness. I think this means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do.

Today we get to the third snapshot-5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

The discipline of this one is RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE. To renew your confidence means is to develop a quiet, controlled strength. Remember, the right evaluation of yourself before God included your wickedness and your wonder. Mourning relates more to the wickedness or weakness factor. And, now meekness relates to the wonder factor. The quiet, controlled confidence comes from your Creator. His mark of wonder is upon you.

Once you see clearly who you really are, you are ready for growth. Then, if you are able to mourn over that which keeps you from growing, you actually graduate through this pile of problems. Now, you can't remain under the pile of mourning; you must gain inner strength as you emerge from the pile.

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

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

It's learning to grow for it-no matter how rough or how tough life can be. Again, I say, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you that matters most. Renew your confidence and live your life-inside out and upside down-all in the rule or Kingdom of God.

The struggle here in renewing your confidence is to be diligent to find your inner strength in His work and not your own. Are you sensitive to God's transformation in your heart? Are you aware of His continued work every day in and through you? This is the reason why you can experience meekness in your heart while the rest of the world around you is shaky and falling apart.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. Whatever losses the person of meekness may seem to be experiencing here on this earth, Jesus gives an assurance that the meek will inherit it all. Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.

Sunday, April 29, 2007



Matthew 5:4

Remember, we started with "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The discipline for this Kingdom snapshot is to REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods).

Now, we come to the second beatitude: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Now wait a minute! Blessed are those who mourn? Are you kidding? How can mourning be a blessed experience or one that makes you happy? As you can easily see every one of these snapshots goes against what you might normally expect. Jesus and His Kingdom always move to the beat of a different drummer.

The second discipline emerges out of the first-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES. To reframe your weaknesses is to deal with the wickedness factor in your life. I see that mourning means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. This discipline or attitude builds right on top of the first-reaffirm your poverty. Once you have a right evaluation of your self, God, and others, it is natural to be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what's right. It's mourning over that which keeps you from Jesus and His Kingdom.

This is a mourning process. Learn to mourn over your weaknesses. Weaknesses seem to be categorized in two ways. First, your inner vulnerabilities that make you prone to fall apart or to do foolish things. Second, the trials you face when you suffer loss or when you are in the midst of your various problems.

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

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

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

NOTE one more thing within this snapshot. It says "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Focus on that second part-"for they will be comforted." You see, when you mourn over that which keeps you from God, Jesus says you will find an unusual comfort in the process. He will comfort you. This is what happened to the early disciples. Jesus was about to leave them. He told them that they were going to mourn over His departure. Then right away He said that He was going to send a comforter to them. He was going to send to them His Spirit to comfort them and encourage them.

So, try it out. Reframe your weaknesses so that you turn them into mourning. Then, you will be comforted by the Spirit of Jesus, Himself. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Thursday, April 26, 2007



Matthew 5:1-6

Now we come to the most amazing seminar/workshop Jesus ever taught. Jesus has already begun to do wonderful things in healing and touching the lives of so many in His new ministry among them as the new Rabbi in town. He has already chosen a few men to follow in His dust-to be taught in His way. So now the question automatically arises: "Jesus, how does your teaching differ from all of the other Rabbis' teaching that we have grown up with? How does your teaching compare with what we've been taught?"

This is the question for everyone of us, no matter from which culture or religious background you were brought up. HOW DO THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS DIFFER FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN TAUGHT SO FAR? Jesus sets out to answer this underlying question among the people and it is recorded in Matthew 5-7. These are the most dynamic chapters in the New Testament and possibly the most revolutionary!

Jesus has been teaching the good news message of the Kingdom and is enjoying a wonderful response from the people. Now, when He sets out to answer how His teaching differs from all other teachings, Jesus paints a portrait of what a person of the Kingdom might look like. Jesus doesn't paint a broad brush swipe, but first offers 8 snapshots of a happy Kingdom dweller. In attempting to take each of the snapshots and flesh them out in our lives, I see each one of these snapshots as a discipline. There is no way for us to instantly be like Jesus or live out a Kingdom lifestyle. This requires a set of certain life disciplines that Jesus spells out here.

They have been called the Beatitudes. They are so outside the box that many theologians and ministers have relegated them to a later time in the future Kingdom, refusing to apply them to life today. But this is precisely the point of what Jesus is saying. These are Kingdom teachings and principles. And, we just saw where Jesus said that the Kingdom is near, later He will say the Kingdom is here and then He will say that the Kingdom is among you.

Jesus carefully describes each of these 8 dimensions with very few words. Each one begins with "happy" or "blessed" are you when you are this way or that. "You'll do well to be this way" is his point in every one or "The Kingdom citizen will be like this." However, He will turn your world and thinking inside out and upside down as you contemplate each one. The first 4 are all about our personal relationship with God on the inside. The second 4 extend the first 4 out into our relationships with others. It is truly a great pattern for first walking with Jesus and then walking with others. Over the next few days I want to take the 8 "beatitudes"-1 each day-and see if we can "catch" the essence of what Jesus is saying and own it for ourselves by embracing the discipline that is embedded there. Let's get started:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness-the big "I" for everything to revolve around.

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

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Those who are poor in spirit are the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven. Only two of the 8 snapshots reference the Kingdom-the first and the last. The Kingdom belongs to those who know and admit their need for God. It all starts here. You see, it's only when you come to the end of yourself (poor in spirit) that you finally realize that God is enough. So, reaffirm your poverty without God and you will become richer than you ever imagined.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007



Matthew 4:12-25

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake.... From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

NOTE what Jesus began to preach to the people: "Repent or change your mind about what you're doing-wake up-for the Kingdom of heaven has come near." He begins His teaching ministry with the Kingdom. Later, at the end of His earthly ministry, we will visit Jesus again during the 40 days He spent with His disciples before ascending into heaven and there, too, it was all about the Kingdom.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." At once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

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

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

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

NOTE that Jesus went all over, teaching in the local synagogues, proclaiming the "good news" of the Kingdom. His primary activity to demonstrate this "good news" of the Kingdom was to meet the various needs of the people-healing every disease and sickness among them.

ONE MORE THING HERE: The message of Jesus was the good news of the Kingdom. Those who were attracted to this message were attracted to the Kingdom. They weren't looking for a new Rabbi to come along and plant new synagogues in their villages. And, these new disciples of Jesus were following Jesus as the King and were thrilled with the message of the Kingdom.

I ask this question again: Why is it that our "gospel" (good news) message doesn't include the Kingdom at all? If we want to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus, then we must pay attention to Jesus-His message and His methodology. How could we ever think that our ways might be better and more effective than His? So, let's carefully and meaningfully respond to the two most revolutionary words in all of history-FOLLOW ME!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Over the past few years I have been experiencing a pronounced learning curve regarding Jesus. And, in the past 4-6 months my learning curve is no longer a curve, but it is perpendicular. I cannot believe the things I've overlooked in the teachings of Jesus throughout the years. The blinders that I have been wearing comes from being over-educated beyond my intelligence in Biblical studies. What I've come to realize is that what I've been educated to do is to make everything a little more complicated than it really is and then to tie it up in a nice little theological box.

Now, in the process of seeing Jesus more clearly, something very thrilling is emerging before my eyes and ears. Seeing Jesus clearly is one thing; understanding His teachings more clearly about the Kingdom is not only transformational, but truly revolutionary.

Now, I am becoming more and more fascinated with JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM. This combination is life-changing to those who dare to see and hear.

With this in mind I have decided to move through several of Jesus' teachings on the Kingdom within the gospel of Matthew. So, instead of moving through Matthew from start to finish, I want to dip into some of these teaching sections over the next month or so. The nature of the kingdom is simple. Your personal kingdom is all you have say over. Therefore, the Kingdom of God is all God has say over. When you encounter Jesus, you must sign off as king and submit to Jesus as the King of your kingdom, because He is the King of kings.

Before actually getting into Matthew, it's important to consider a couple of basic things about the Kingdom. FIRST-A cursory look at the theme of Jesus' teachings is about the Kingdom. Jesus mentions the "church" only twice, yet the gospels record 127 times where Jesus teaches the Kingdom.

SECOND-What is the two-dimensional message of Jesus, Phillip and Paul in the book of Acts? The message is the combination of Jesus and the Kingdom. In Acts 1 Jesus appears to His disciples for 40 days to give them certain proof of His resurrection and personness and He spent the time teaching them about the Kingdom. Phillip taught the combination of Jesus and the Kingdom to the Samaritans.

And, finally, Paul, when under house-arrest in Rome, spent his time and energy teaching those who came to visit him about one primary theme-Jesus and the Kingdom.

Once these things are observed, questions pop into my mind. Why is it that we are all about "church", when Jesus wasn't? Why do we preach the "church", when Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom? Why do we emphasize the "church" and minimize the Kingdom in our fellowships?

One of the primary answers to these questions is that playing "church" is what we've seen as an example of how to walk with Jesus. Even more concerning to me is that playing the "church" card gives a person a sense of being able to control a piece of spiritual life and lifestyle. You may control the "church", but you can never control the Kingdom of God.

Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus leads you to His Kingdom and the Kingdom principles lead you to Jesus, the King. In fact, Jesus actually calls it the "gospel of the Kingdom."

If you're up to it, come along on this journey with me and allow the message of the gospel of the kingdom be planted as a seed deep down in your soul. If you have ears to hear and eyes to see, your life will be transformed-inside out and upside down. So come along. You'll never regret the journey!

Monday, April 23, 2007



Jesus appears to His disciples in a revealing moment. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Even though they had been told what was to happen, the disciples were still in shock over it all. NOTE they fed Jesus some broiled fish. There are three things we learn about Jesus' resurrected body here: FIRST-His resurrected body has specific physical aspects. He has flesh and bones. He can eat food and has the ability to walk for miles.

SECOND-His resurrected body has some continuity with His previous body before death. The wounds in His hands, His feet and His side are still present.

THIRD-Jesus' resurrected body is not bound by the physical sphere. He appears and disappears.

Maybe our resurrected bodies will have the same dimensions.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

NOTE that before Jesus' ascension He tells His disciples to stay in the city and wait for empowerment. Luke continues and expands upon this thought in his second book-the Acts of Jesus. Let's look at it and learn from it:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

NOTE the disciples are still looking for some sort of political kingdom to be restored. However, Jesus let them know that there is no one who knows when the Kingdom in all its fullness will be restored.

ALSO NOTE again Luke refers to waiting in the city for the Spirit to come upon them with power. The reason for the power is that they will be witnesses of Jesus beginning in Jerusalem and to be spread throughout the world.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

The lesson of the appearance before the disciples is that Jesus really did die and has really risen from the dead. And, then as Jesus ascends into the heavens, the angels make another lesson clear. The lesson is that THIS SAME JESUS WHO IS GOING UP INTO HEAVEN WILL SOMEDAY RETURN IN THE SAME WAY.

So, the book of Luke comes to an end. Jesus, the King, has introduced the Kingdom to His disciples, explaining to them that the Kingdom is already here and will someday be realized in all its fullness on earth. To me, Luke is one of the best teachers of this Kingdom as taught by Jesus. Now, after studying his writings for nearly six months, it's vital for each of us to embrace this Jesus and His Kingdom for ourselves. There is no doubt that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Here's the bottom-line question: Is Jesus your King and your Lord?

Sunday, April 22, 2007



As we come to the end of the gospel of Luke there is an intriguing story about an encounter two men have with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked.

"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

These two were disciples of Jesus, meaning that they were part of a fairly large group that were followers of Jesus and His teachings. They had heard the word that the women had initially gone to the tomb and found it empty.

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

I love this! Jesus rehearsed all that the Scriptures said concerning Himself. And, while He was speaking to them, they realized that their hearts were burning within them. .

NOTE they recognized this was Jesus when He gave thanks and broke the bread in order to distribute it around the table. What was there about this act that tipped them off? Think of it this way. Jesus was a guest at this dinner, yet He acted as the host of the dinner and served them. This is precisely what He did at the last supper at the Passover dinner. He was the honored guest, yet He served them.

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Isn't it interesting that these two disciples didn't recognize Him for quite some time. I've been thinking. Does this happen to us today? I think sometimes the last thing we realize is that Jesus is at work in our lives, right in front of us.

ONE MORE THING: I think something we continually miss is that Jesus is the theme of the Scriptures. He is taught throughout the pages of Scripture. Now here's the problem today. We tend to get side-tracked with detours and distractions about everything other than Jesus in our study of the Scriptures. We tend to add on so many things that are good, but not the best. It's our add-ons that have created our many differences. It's our add-ons that have produced denominations. It's our add-ons that have created division after division within our world.

You see, when you miss the primary point of Scripture, you make everything else the point. It all comes down to one basic truth. Jesus is the uniting factor of truth and life. Jesus brings sense and sensibility to our lives. Bottom-line? JESUS UNITES-EVERYTHING ELSE DIVIDES. No matter where you go in this world or whatever the topic of your discussion, this is the primary truth of life. In fact, the process of understanding the preeminence of Jesus is your road to Emmaus.

Thursday, April 19, 2007



As we close out chapter 23 of Luke and begin chapter 24 we come to the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

NOTE Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body in order to give Him a proper burial. This Joseph was apparently a member of the Council of the Sanhedrin. He was a prominent man and a good man. He is also said to be a disciple-a follower of Jesus. So, here was a man Jesus had within the Sanhedrin who had position, but who also stood his ground and objected to their decision to go against Jesus. And, after the decision went wrong, he still had the courage to be a follower of Jesus.

NOTE something else about Joseph here: He was waiting for the kingdom of God. Now Jesus had said over and over that the kingdom is here, near and among you, yet that teaching was quickly going south with the arrest of Jesus and the sentencing of Him to be crucified. Without the King how can there be a Kingdom?

A lot of time and care is taken by the gospel writers about the burial of Jesus. Why do you think so? I believe it's important for it to be established that Jesus really was buried. He really died and He was really buried. Now watch what happens:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Jesus really died. He was really buried. And now Jesus is really resurrected from the dead, because the grave could not hold Him there.

Can you imagine how devastating it was to the followers of Jesus to watch Him die this horrible death of crucifixion? All of their dreams and hopes were shattered. And, even though He told them that He was going to be resurrected, they were not anticipating it. They were too despondent, wallowing in the bad news of it all.

But once they were convinced of His resurrection these same disciples turned into men of passion. They were on a mission to spread the good news and the resurrection was central to this news. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then there is no good news for victory over death. The death of Jesus was vital to the good news, but the resurrection caps it off and takes us to another level altogether.

The theme of the early followers of Jesus was the resurrection. You see it in the book of Acts and the early letters to the churches. The cross did not become a predominant symbol until the 300's A.D. If a symbol had to be produced for the resurrection, it might have been a rock, as in the rock that was supernaturally rolled away from the tomb at the resurrection.

More than anything else, the death, burial and resurrection brings the message of the possibility of starting over-again-for everybody. The disciples were so blown away on Friday when Jesus died, embodying all of their hopes. It was a day of despair. Then on Saturday the disciples must have moved from the shock of the death to a certain level of depression and disappointment, to the point of giving up. I'm sure there were lots of thoughts and discussions about giving it up and wondering what they might do next. Then, early on Sunday morning the disciples were treated to the shock of their lives. Jesus who died and was really buried, arose from the dead. He came back!

We all have Fridays and Saturdays in our lives, don't we. And wherever you find yourself-at a Friday or a Saturday, because of the resurrection of Jesus, you can count on the hope of getting through your dark times and starting over-again. The resurrection of Jesus means you can start over, no matter what. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even though he dies, shall live." Now that fact is a wonderful thing. However the resurrection is not just a fact to know; it's a person to trust. The resurrection is Jesus. "I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007



In reflecting further on the death of Jesus on the cross I feel compelled to share one more thought with you.

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

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

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

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

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

So, it's SELF-GIVING LOVE or SELF-CENTERED LOVE? The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the Creator-God is love. And, God wants you and me to continually get back on track with the ultimate purpose of life. Do you know what that is? It's LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It's all about self-giving love. Every time you exert any energy toward "It's all about me!" or "What's in it for me?", you are spending yourself toward self-centered love which goes nowhere healthy. I find the greatest deception among followers of Jesus is that they can say, "I love God with all my heart as long as I can do life my way and I love my neighbor as myself as long as I can choose my neighbor." So, which is it for you? Self-giving love that spreads the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom to all the world around you or self-centered love that can only spread as far as your mirror and your decreasing band of friends? THINK IT OVER.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007



Listen to Luke's account of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2007



Now in the 23rd chapter of Luke we come to the Roman trials Jesus faced: Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king." So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "You have said so," Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man." But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him."

With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate (John 18:23) after Jesus was beaten. The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His religious trials. He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus so he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12). This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge is a terrible whipping of 39 lashes. In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:25). The trials of Jesus represent the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Talk about going along with the herd!

All those who go on pilgrimage to Israel will visit the site of Caesarea by the Sea. And at that site archaeologists found an inscription naming Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea. This was a military title for a commander of 500 to 1000 troops. He is mentioned by Josephus, Philo, and Tacitus, and, of course, in the Gospels. He is appointed in 26 AD with the support of his mentor, Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. Pilate quickly builds a reputation of contempt for Jewish customs and beliefs. He is dismissed by Emperor Tiberius in 36 or 37 AD.

One of my professors, Dr. Hoehner, suggests a motive for Pilate being so pliable under the pressure of the Jewish leadership. He says, "If Jesus is crucified in 33 AD, as many believe, Pilate has only recently received news of the execution of his mentor Sejanus, and may realize that, with his lack of political support in Rome, he must be more compliant with Jewish demands than he had been in the past."

Herod has tried to see Jesus before (9:7-9), understanding him as a sort of John-the-Baptist figure. Now he gets his wish. Unfortunately, Herod isn't interested in truth but in entertainment. He wants to see Jesus perform one of those miracles he has heard about. But Herod takes neither John the Baptist or Jesus seriously. The picture of Herod painted by the New Testament as well as contemporary historians such as Josephus is one of a vain, selfish, and ruthless king. But Herod receives no amusement this day. He asks Jesus numerous questions, but Jesus says nothing.

So, Pilate gave in to the crowd's demands. As was the custom, the Roman authority would release a prisoner during Passover. What is incredible is that Jesus was charged with insurrection and being a rebel against the Roman government. Yet, when Pilate released Barabbas, he was releasing a man who truly was an insurrectionist and a rebel against the government.

This all reminds me of what Peter says about Jesus' actions in the face of these accusations. "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Jesus suffered in the following manner: · He committed no sin · No deceit was found in His mouth · He did not retaliate · He made no threats · He entrusted Himself to God · He was willing to hurt in order to heal!

We are to suffer injustice in the same way. Peter says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS. This seems difficult and maybe even impossible, but we'll uncover the bottom line reason for all of this suffering and death to bring about healing to the world tomorrow, when we discuss the crucifixion. Don't miss it!

Sunday, April 15, 2007



The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to him. At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. "If you are the Messiah," they said, "tell us."

SJesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You say that I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."

There were six different trials Jesus faced. The first three were in a religious court and the second three were in a Roman court. In the Jewish court Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest, then the current high priest, Caiaphas and finally here in this passage He is tried before the Sanhedrin. The primary charge in the religious court was blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

As we come to the final trial within the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin-the supreme court for the Jews. All of the religious trials were riddled with illegalities. I want to list out a few:

FIRST-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, he could never be arrested at night. It had to be in broad daylight. Jesus' arrest took place between 1 and 2 o'clock at night.

SECOND-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, no one cooperating in the arrest could be in any way connected to the one who is accused. No arrest for a capital crime could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague of the accused. Because they felt if the accused was guilty, so were his followers. But the entire plot revolved around Judas, one of the followers. This law was blatantly and openly ignored.

THIRD-No Jewish trial could ever be held at night. The law stated that it must be held in the daytime. Listen to the code, which is taken from the Talmud: "The members of the court may not alertly and intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours of darkness." But, if you check the record, both before Annas and before Caiaphas, these trials were held in darkness.

FOURTH-The members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of true witnesses (none of which were ever brought before Jesus) in a capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go home and remain alone and separate from one another for two days (at the least, one full day), thinking about the testimonies they had heard. During that time, here's what they were to do. They didn't do that. They never left the presence of Caiaphas!

FIFTH-Even the method of voting was specified. They never took an "all in favor say I, all opposed say no" kind of vote. Their vote was supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the youngest wouldn't be intimidated or influenced by the older votes. This never happened.

SIXTH-No trial could be held before only one judge, and never without a defense attorney. All of that was overlooked and ignored. Even though they were people of the book, they didn't follow their own rules.

According to the Gregorian calendar, the arrest and trials of Jesus took place on April 6th, 32AD, during a nine hour period. The Jews put together a plan that was illegal, fallacious, unfair, and unwarranted. No man was ever more innocent, and no man ever stood before six more illegal and unfair trials than Jesus.

Why were all of these illegalities committed? It simply goes back to Jesus in His revolutionary ways works with the heart. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. His revolution makes everyone feel a little uncomfortable, because it threatens the prideful stance and position of so many-especially the leadership. The spiritual revolution of Jesus is all about turning you inside out and turning your world upside down. If you are not willing for Him to work on your heart, then you must do anything you can to destroy His work in your life-even if it means to destroy Him. Give it up and let Jesus do His surgery on you.