Thursday, May 31, 2007



Matthew 6:34

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I've said it many times: YESTERDAY is a cancelled check. TOMORROW is a promissory note. TODAY is the only cash you have.

Alcoholics Anonymous and all of the other Anonymous groups operate upon the theme of "ONE DAY AT A TIME." This is exactly what Jesus is saying here-one day at a time. Worry has little to do with the past, but mostly has to do with the future. We worry over what might happen or what might not happen. It's not in our control, but we spend lots of energy as if our worry could make a difference in the outcome. Jesus says "Don't bother!" Each day has plenty of trouble of its own without worrying about your tomorrows.

Jesus is teaching that if you are seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of everything else you need. He will do this ONE DAY AT A TIME. This is what He did with the children of Israel about one month into their 40 years of wandering. He rained down bread from heaven-manna-each day, except on Sabbath. Each day the manna came down from heaven-each day they were to gather enough for the day, never thinking of storing up some for tomorrow. Each day there was enough.

Jesus is the "new manna in town." Jesus is our daily bread. The word "manna" means a surprise like "What is it?" I see Jesus giving each of us a surprise of His manna, His leadership, His sustenance each and every day for those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. This is again why we practice the 3 habits of:

1. Walking with Jesus. 2. Walking with others. 3. Waiting on Jesus to lead out.

We practice these habits in order to gather the manna for today, which helps in minimizing our worry factor.

Just today I was in a discussion with a former State Senator who has personally come to this understanding of practicing these habits. He and I had an amazing time sharing back and forth how exciting this adventure with Jesus actually is.

Have you noticed that when you think about tomorrow or next week, then the worries become overwhelming? I have to constantly focus my thinking and reflection upon today. This goes along with the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon had tried everything to fill his life with satisfaction and all was found to be empty-luxury, liquor, lust, etc. He sums up his life's search with two summary truths.

FIRST-Fear God and keep His commandments. SECOND-Enjoy your blessings every day.

Now, that's living life ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007



Matthew 6:25-33

NOTE the connection to earthly and heavenly treasures. If you focus your life on heavenly treasures, then the logical result is: DON'T WORRY!

25 "Therefore I tell you". Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Jesus first says: Stop Your Worrying about EARTHLY TREASURES! FIRST-Don't worry about your life-your eating and drinking. He points out how God cares for the birds. Worry is natural, but it's also useless. You can't add anything to your height or the years of your life.

SECOND-Don't worry about your clothes. He points to the flowers-the lilies of the field. He says: 28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?

The point here is if God takes care of them, He will most surely take care of you. He makes it clear that worry is not only useless; it is faithless. When you worry, you take everything into your own hands, which is not trusting in God.

Jesus goes on to say: 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In addition to stop your worry about EARTHLY TREASURES, Jesus' second assertion is to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness of HEAVENLY TREASURES!

Since God already knows your needs and is not surprised when something happens (or doesn't happen) to you, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things (eating, drinking and clothing) will be taken care of by God Himself. This is what is meant by "walking with Jesus." It's the principle of plenty.

The principle of plenty says that with God there is always enough; without Him there is never enough! Trust God, enjoy the plenty; trust anything or anyone other than God, and you will surely have a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and dis-ease. When you come to the end of yourself, then and only then will you come to the understanding that God is ENOUGH!

Look around you and be distressed; look within you and be depressed. LOOK TO JESUS AND BE AT REST.

ONE MORE THING: We've been using a new approach lately when it comes to worrying. I think you can use this very effectively. We continually encourage one another with the words: WAIT TO WORRY! You see, most things you have worried about in your life have never happened, so WAIT TO WORRY.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007



Matthew 6:19-24

19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also;

Remember, you were created to be dependent upon God. This is at the core of what that means. Jesus speaks more about money and how to handle it than most any other subject. That's not because He is taking up an offering or running a pledge drive. He has plenty without yours! It's because money and material things-earthly treasures-are the easiest to become dependent upon and most easily distract us away from God. So, here Jesus contrasts only two options. You can invest your life storing up heavenly treasures or you can invest your life storing up earthly treasures.

NOTE that earthly treasures are full of insecurity and the heavenly treasures will be secure! And NOTE that your heart will always reveal what your true treasure really is. In fact, your treasure leads the way for your heart!

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

The focus of your eye determines the health of your inner-side. If your eye is clear (has a clear focus upon heavenly treasures), then your entire inners will be full of light, wholeness and health. If your eye is bad (unclear-having a focus on earthly treasures), then your inners will be full of darkness, stressfulness and emptiness. I see this indicating that your spiritual focus will directly affect your psychological (and later physical) well-being-all due to your focus!

24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Now, Jesus gives the ultimatum of it all! You cannot serve two masters! We tend to think that we can get away with it, but we can't. We tend to make Jesus the Lord of the general, but make ourselves the Lord of the specifics. I have a masters degree in doing this. I call it "doing things my way for Jesus." Believers tend to talk about standing on the Rock of Ages, but their actions look like they are clinging to a piece of driftwood!

Jesus introduces a most dynamic Kingdom principle here. It's the PRINCIPLE OF PRIMARY FOCUS-SINGLEMINDEDNESS!

AN UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING. Walking with Jesus always moves you toward evaluating every dimension of your life. Try on a couple of simple steps in applying this paragraph.

#1-RELEASE YOUR EARTHLY TREASURES. You must remember that you came into this world naked and will go out in the same way. After you die, there will be a large garage sale. You have been entrusted with what you are and what you have to be the manager of it all while you're on planet earth. There will be an accounting at the end.

#2-REFOCUS ON YOUR HEAVENLY TREASURES. What are you doing that will last forever? Think about it!


Sunday, May 27, 2007



Matthew 6:16-18

There are three practices Jesus calls righteousnesses. So far He has taught on the first two-giving and praying. Now, we come to the third practice of Kingdom righteousness-fasting.

16"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The 3rd illustration of the abuse of practicing righteous acts that were meant to be before God only, yet were being practiced in order to be noticed by others, is fasting. He is saying that "when you fast", don't mope around with a long face, looking disheveled in order to show off the fact that you are fasting before the Lord.

FASTING is not simply nor necessarily to abstain from food, but from anything that hinders your communion with God. Fasting is the ultimate in practicing the principle of private focus. It's a discipline of removing all things that take your attention away form the Lord. We tend to spend most of our time talking to God in prayer and not listening. Fasting is a great way to force your self to be quiet enough and focused enough to really listen to what the Lord wants to communicate to you at the deepest levels.


#2-REMEMBER THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE! Faithfulness means successfulness-living life long-term.

#3-RECRUIT GOD AS YOUR TEAM-MEMBER! It is said that if you want to win the high jump, you want to find one person who can jump 7 feet not 7 people who can just 1 foot. When you practice private focus, these three righteous acts (giving-praying-fasting) must be done in secret. Then God will reward you.

#4-RESERVE TIME ALONE-JUST YOU AND GOD! Take the time to focus on God and your heart before Him. Read and pray. Contemplate. Take the time for reflection and fasting. We are urged, "Be still and know that I am God."

Think of it this way: We spend so much time talking to God, busily showing up for a variety of meetings, attending as many Bible studies as humanly possible and seeking answers and wisdom from God. However, we don't wait around long enough in silence to listen to His answers and His wisdom. The practice of fasting can provide this kind of private focus with the Lord. God wants to enlighten, empower, encompass, & encounter you. He will do these things as you meet Him through fasting.

Throughout Jesus' teaching He is encouraging you and me to get our support from God and relate to Him in a quiet, personal way. You see, in most cases believers operate in such a way that they have NO INVISIBLE MEANS OF SUPPORT.

Try taking the time to fast. Start with a half day and use the time to focus totally on your relationship with Jesus. See what happens when you practice the principle of private focus.

If you want to practice the Kingdom lifestyle, then you must practice the presence of God. And when you practice the presence of God, you'll know where He is at all times. And when you know where God is, then you'll know where you stand.

Thursday, May 24, 2007



Matthew 6:14-15

Here Jesus gives an aside. It's about forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the primary earmarks of living in the Kingdom of God.

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I don't think there is a more penetrating statement in all of scripture! If you don't forgive others, God will not forgive you. Your relationship with God is integrally part of your relationship with others and vice versa.

We are all desperate for it, but we are also confused with what true forgiveness really is. First, it's important to understand what forgiving is not: · Forgiving doesn't mean you must go back or reunite. · Forgiving doesn't mean we tolerate the wrong he did. · Forgiving doesn't mean we want to forget what happened. · Forgiving doesn't mean we excuse the person who did it. · Forgiving doesn't mean we take the edge off the evil done. · Forgiving doesn't mean we surrender our right to justice. · Forgiving doesn't mean invite someone to hurt us again.

Forgiveness involves three primary stages. First, HURT! There is no need for forgiveness without the pain of hurting. Don't try to minimize this stage. It's important to really feel this pain.

Second, HATE! It's like clockwork. You will have some degree of anger over the hurt. There's nothing wrong with this response. It's natural! The problem is not the anger, but not dealing with the anger. If you allow your anger to fester, this natural anger turns into a toxic resentment in your gut.

Third, HEALING! This third stage is the way it's supposed to go-toward some level of healing. This brings us to what forgiveness actually is. It's the final form of love. It's being willing to pay for the offense yourself and not get even with the one who hurt you. When you forgive, you take the pain yourself! Forgiveness is the final form of love.

There are five steps in forgiving another person: FIRST-Remind yourself that this person is only human!

SECOND-Relinquish your right to get even! The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to get (exactly) even. You will either not get back at them enough or you will overdo it. There is just no way to get even!

THIRD-Be ready to hurt in order to heal! You must take the pain all by yourself! This is the real secret to the dynamic of forgiving someone. You must pay for and not demand that they do!

FOURTH-Wish them well! This could be the best real evidence that forgiveness has taken place. Try praying for them-for their success!

FIFTH-You may have to repeat the process! Jesus was asked how many times a person ought to forgive another. His answer was 70 X 7 or 490! By the way, this doesn't mean that at 491, you can go get even with them!

This is all well and good, but what is the primary motivation to forgive anyone-especially your enemy? The answer is FREEDOM! As long as you refuse to forgive, you are in bondage to this person who hurt you! In bondage! You are his/her slave for as long as you don't forgive!

Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with his hand outstretched and said, "Will you forgive me?" She writes: "I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!" You see, to forgive is to set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007



Matthew 6:5-8

5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The 1st righteous act is GIVING. The 2nd righteous act is PRAYING. Praying, just as giving, is a righteous act meant to be between you and God. The Pharisees loved to make a show out of it. NOTE what they did.

FIRST-They love to stand and pray in the synagogues. This is interesting. Isn't it OK to stand and pray in the synagogue (church)? Not when it is a SHOW for someone else. Several years ago, I had to ask one of our pastors not to pray inside the church facility, because it became such a spectacle. Can you imagine asking a pastor to please refrain from praying in church? I even have difficulty with public prayers. It's so easy to drift off into preaching to the people and not really talking to the God of gods.

SECOND-They love to stand and pray on the street corners so that they may be seen. To me, this is even more offensive. And note that those who pray in this way have already received their reward in full and it's not from God. Some believe that if you pray out in the streets or other public arenas that it becomes a wonderful testimony to the non-believers. Jesus is against this kind of prayer that is prayed as a public testimony. Prayer is a righteous act before God. It's the principle of private focus.

THIRD-They love to pray using meaningless repetition and many words, believing that they will be heard better by God. Literally, Jesus says don't get into repeating meaningless phrases. Don't say "bata bata bata bata" over and over thinking this will be pleasing to God.

Do you know anyone who prays in one or more of these three forbidden ways? Believe me, Jesus is not impressed.

Jesus teaches, when you pray. Go into your inner room. Find a spot where you heard from God before, privately and away from all people and distractions, and close the door, talking only to your Father who is in secret.

Instead of using many meaningless words, try spending half of your time set aside for listening. Why? Because your Father knows what you need before you even ask.

The righteous act of praying is to be. · Only to your Father. · Without showing off in front of others. · In a private place. · Listening as well as talking to your Father.

At your next time of prayer try speaking only half the time and listening the other half. I'm learning (slowly, but surely) that Jesus wants me to shut up and resign from working for Him in an advisory capacity and listen to what He has for me. This will prove to be revolutionary. Since we belong to the Kingdom of God, our lives are to be revolutionary. Remember, the revolution is still on!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007



Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus has just compared His teachings with those of the Jewish leadership with respect to the Law of Moses. Now, He turns the corner a bit and focuses on certain practices of the Pharisees that were so empty and even offensive to God. As He delineates each practice He offers how to do it right-the Kingdom way.

1 ``Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven;

Earlier Jesus says that you are to let your light shine in such a way so that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. Here Jesus warns of practicing your righteousnesses before men to be noticed by them. So, what is the difference between "good works" and "practicing righteousness?" "Good works" seem to be your lifestyle-allowing your light to be seen. "Practicing righteousness" seems to be actions that are only to be between you and God. He illustrates these righteous acts with giving, praying and fasting.

NOTE that if your motive is to practice these acts in order to be seen, then you will not receive any reward from your Father. We'll see this more specifically set forth in each of the acts.

2 ``So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 ``But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

The scribes and Pharisees practiced their giving in order to be noticed by men. When they went to the Temple, they gave their coins into receptacles called "trumpets". You can imagine how much noise they could make with the coins to "trumpet" attention to themselves for others to see how holy they were in their giving. Also, they made a show of it as they gave to those in need in the streets. It was a show to seek honor from men. Jesus points out that when you give in this manner, the applause and honor you stir up from those who are impressed by your giving will be the only reward you will get for that act of giving. So, maybe you should have taped it, because that's all there is!

Jesus then offers His advice on giving: FIRST-As much as is possible do your giving in secret. SECOND-Your secret giving will be noticed by the only One that matters-God, Himself. THIRD-Giving in secret will bring about a special reward from God.

Have you ever given money, a pledge, a gift in kind or some measure of your time that you really wanted others to notice? I've been there-done that-and is it empty! Then, I became the recipient of someone's giving to me when I really needed it and had no idea where it came from. Wow! It was as if God, Himself, knew exactly what my needs were and supplied the answer to those needs through an anonymous, secret giver. Now, I can say that the most important giving I have ever done or do today is when it is a secret between the Lord and me. By the way, this will enhance your special relationship with Jesus, too.

Listen to the spirit of Jesus nudging at your heart. What are you hearing regarding your giving? Look for where can you give in secret in a special partnership with God? Now, be sure to give and hush up!

Monday, May 21, 2007



Matthew 5:43-48

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We now come to the last of the 6 comparisons Jesus uses to demonstrate His teaching versus that of the scribes and Pharisees-love your enemies! To "love your neighbor" was understood in their teaching. Loving your neighbor in the way neighbor was defined in their teachings was incomplete. Jesus enhances this teaching by taking it another level deeper. His point is that to love your enemies and even pray for those who persecute you is to act as a child of God, the Father. To be a son of God is to take on His character.

The last line of Jesus' teaching is that "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" may be one of the most misquoted and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. He is not saying that we are to be into perfection. That just isn't going to work. There is no way! What Jesus is saying is to be full and complete in your love as your Father is. He delineates how to be complete in your love in God's way, giving four illustrations:

FIRST-God causes the sun to rise on evil and good.

SECOND-God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

THIRD-Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special; even the tax collectors do that.

FOURTH-Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special; even the non-believer Gentiles do that.

NOTE just as Jesus' teaching on Retaliation is an ultimate expression of the Kingdom lifestyle, so is going to the full extent of loving your enemies. This is the ultimate expression of Jesus.

So, be full and complete in your act of loving as your Father fully and completely loves everyone-evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Love everyone, everywhere you go, in every encounter. Demonstrate the full and complete love of Jesus. This is the Gospel-the Good News of the Kingdom. This is Jesus, so be Jesus to everyone!

Sunday, May 20, 2007



Matthew 5:38-42

38 ``You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 ``But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 ``If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 ``Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ``Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Here we are at the last pair of the six issues Jesus has chosen. We've seen the first pair-internal application of the law, referenced by Murder and Adultery. The second pair-the improper emphasis on matters of the law, is referenced by Divorce and Vows. Now we come to the third pair-the ultimate application of the law. This is referenced by today's issue of Retaliation. We'll finish this pair tomorrow with Loving your enemies.

Now this is a tough one. Jesus turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with "retaliation in the Old Testament" versus "love and forgiveness in the New Testament." Actually, this isn't true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An "eye for an eye" had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. This kept everything in somewhat of a balance. Jesus is teaching here to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

This is one of the most radical of all of the teachings of the Kingdom. It seems to fit in with the other teachings about being salt and light. Also, being salt and light in this case will require that you give a blessing to those who insult you. And in so doing, you will blow their minds to the point that they will ask for the reason for the hope that is within you. That person who just slapped you on the cheek is hurting much deeper and much worse than that slap. So, go the extra mile in giving a blessing, for you were created that you might inherit and be a blessing, especially to those who are hurting and become ugly about it. This is the Kingdom way.

These were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands-REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: FIRST-Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don't even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

SECOND-Respond to evil by doing good. Turn the other cheek. Give more to the person suing you than what was asked. Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded. Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask.

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

I see this principle that is so contrary to "human nature" as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your "righteousness" will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It's like Jesus is saying, "When a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to them from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I'm going to show you by my response the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack.

Thursday, May 17, 2007



Matthew 5:33-37

33"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' 34"But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36"Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37"But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.

Here is another misapplication of their religious teachings and practices-making oaths or vows they did not intend to keep. They made many vows (promises), but found ways to get around them. This was not in legal situations, but in ordinary conversation.

Jesus is referring to: · Swearing that something is true when one knows it is false. · Failing to do what one has promised under oath.

In the Old Testament, if you would swear something and bring God's name into it, it better be the truth and you better do what you said-fulfill your vow. The Pharisaical practice was to trick people (usually the outsiders) by swearing to do something or that something was true "by heaven" or "by God's creation (earth)" or "by Jerusalem." The trick might be to swear "by the Holy Temple" that you will do this or that. But, among the Pharisees they knew that you had to swear "by the gold in the Holy Temple", then it was binding. They were caught up in getting around doing what they said they would do by the technical use of terms. They also felt that God, Himself, was not involved in these transactions and therefore they were not binding.

Jesus had 4 things to counter this action: FIRST-God cannot be separated from life's transactions. Heaven is God's throne, earth is God's footstool and Jerusalem is the Messiah's Capitol.

SECOND-Don't make vows you don't intend to keep.

THIRD-Don't make vows that depend upon your control as if you are in control. God is still in ultimate control, so any decision must be accompanied by IF GOD WILLS.

FOURTH-Fulfill your vows to the Lord by being clear with your words-yes means yes and no means no.

This is not applicable in a court of law. Jesus responded to an oath in that situation. Here are some practical applications:

· Always speak the truth and you won't need to hedge with some sort of oath. I think it's funny when a person prefaces a statement with "I'm going to tell you the truth!" What was he saying prior to this? Lies?

· When you make an oath, keep it.

· Do not make someone else responsible for your statements.

It all comes down to this: God is still on His throne-He's in control, so talk like it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007



Matthew 5:31-32

31 "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

NOTE they were used to "Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce." Divorce was allowed by Moses in the Law as an accommodation to the failure of a marriage. Divorce was permitted for about as many reasons as we have in our society today. The reasons were as loose as they are today-even for being obnoxious!

The way they thought about divorce was that it was important to do your paperwork, so that it was all lawful. So, they divorced for the most minute reasons. As long as they did there paperwork, then divorce was allowed. Jesus is saying that marriage is more serious than this. In Luke He says that the problem is divorcing one woman in order to marry another. Divorce is not a frivolous transaction, but demands your full attention. It's a very serious and destructive thing, especially handled in this way.

Two observations here: FIRST-When you divorce your mate, you force him/her into an adulterous situation. When a person's 1 + 1 = 1 relationship is broken, then the adulterous play is set in motion.

SECOND-Your marriage is a serious commitment and therefore divorce is a serious offence. God hates divorce. He hates it, because it brings destruction and distortion to the individuals involved and to His image of one flesh.

Remember, the issues of divorce and making vows are being used as illustrations by Jesus of how the Jewish leadership has typically had an improper emphasis of the Law. This goes along with other teachings of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law regarding purifications, keeping the Sabbath and tithing. With respect to purifications, they were like whitened tombstones-looking good on the outside, but absolutely dead on the inside. With respect to keeping the Sabbath, they taught that the Sabbath was to be kept so legalistically that even showing compassion and healing was forbidden until after sunset. With respect to tithing, they practiced tithing the very smallest of things and as Jesus said, "They swallowed camels." They tithed the little things in order for the show of it all, yet ignored the weightier things.

All of this adds up to being technically righteous, but practically quite unrighteous. I'm reminded of the statement, "Being so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." It's all about the show.

All religious expressions run the risk of being all about the show and little reality. I recently heard, "Showing off is the fool's idea of glory." Or, the Texans say it this way: BIG HAT-NO CATTLE. In the Kingdom of God your lifestyle is all about a life of substance, reality and authenticity. And, this is exactly what everyone is seeking-EVEN YOU!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007



Matthew 5:27-30

27 You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than, for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 

In the same way that an angry heart is murdering someone, so is lusting after someone in your heart committing adultery. Again, the religious are most concerned about whether or not they could be viewed as having committed adultery. Jesus is saying there is something deeper (internal) that counts most.

Jesus is teaching a couple of significant things here: FIRST-Lust in your heart for another is committing adultery. According to Jesus, if you have ever lusted after another, then you are an adulterer. Note that this has nothing to do with a physical or emotional affair; this is a matter of the heart. We tend to draw the line as good Pharisaical believers at "having sex" with another. But Jesus erases all lines and calls the lust in your heart adultery. So, are you an adulterer? Sadly, I am. I don't know of anyone with a pulse who isn't.

SECOND-Do whatever you have to do to keep from stumbling. This is like a doctor cutting off a limb to save a person's life. It's Jesus' use of hyperbole and is not to be applied literally. However, it points to the seriousness of violating the principles of God.

Jesus is pushing very hard at this point. There is literally no way out of being convicted of this sin. You see, Jesus is setting it all up. God requires perfection. Plan A says that you must be perfect. But since no one is able to rise to this perfection, you must move toward the perfection of Jesus, the Messiah. That's Plan B.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: In both of the first two illustrations here Jesus says that those who lust or are eaten up with anger are seriously deserving of hell. Jesus won't ease up on matters of the heart. He insists on performing surgery on each of us. Here's the point. If you think you have reason to view yourself as self-righteous, then think again. You are totally guilty, due to the quiet lusts of your heart.

So Jesus starts by calling you a murderer and now an adulterer. I mean to tell you, there's no way out, EXCEPT through Jesus. You are guilty at the core of your being-your heart-and only Jesus can get you out of this planet alive.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life AND I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even though he dies, shall live."

Monday, May 14, 2007



Matthew 5:21-26

The first pair that Jesus presents is MURDER and ADULTERY. Both of these illustrate how important it is to focus on the internal over the externals. The first one of the pair is MURDER:

21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.

25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. [This refers to a debtor's prison. Handle your conflicts to the best of your ability to avoid hurtful circumstances.]

Jesus is going for the jugular when speaking of murder. He is going deeper to the core of murder-anger. The problem is that no one is exempt when it comes to Jesus' teaching. Everyone has anger toward others in his heart. And Jesus points out that this core anger or resentment is worthy of the fire of hell. What they had been taught was the external-murder-was the most important, but Jesus says there is something deeper to be concerned about-your anger. Most people believe if they look good and haven't actually murdered anyone, then they are righteous. Jesus is saying that if you have anger or resentment toward another, then you are guilty of murder.

I don't think anyone would be against this teaching that a murderer ought to be sent to court for some accountability. Jesus takes the entire matter deeper. He is saying that murder is not committed simply on the social level between people (externally), but murder goes deeper into the heart (internally).

Jesus notes there are three degrees of murder. 1st Degree Murder is everyone who is angry at another brother. The root of murder is in the heart-anger! Now, you will have anger, but don't hang on to it and allow it to fester. That will prove to be as destructive as the social act of murder.

2nd Degree Murder is everyone who calls his brother "good-for-nothing". The word, Raca, has to do with attacking one's head, calling him stupid.

3rd Degree Murder is everyone who calls another a "fool". This term has to do with contempt for a person's heart and character. Jesus covers the entire spectrum of anger here.

Jesus then turns to driving His point home by using an extreme illustration. Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you. In other words, Jesus says that even the high act of worshipping God must not take precedence over your relationships with others. This is a powerful point. He will reiterate this dynamic later in His speech. You must understand that your relationships with one another are at the heart of God. Jesus sets out the best procedure to follow:

· Leave your offering there-stop your worship or attention toward the Lord. · Go to your brother-seek out this offended one. · Be reconciled to him-as far as it depends upon you. However, you may not accomplish full reconciliation in return. · Then come and present your offering, because now you are ready to face the God of gods.

Be careful not to act like a Pharisee and wrangle over words like saying, "Well, I haven't really had 'anger' in my heart, maybe 'dislike' but not anger. Nor have I called anyone 'stupid' or 'fool', therefore I've not done any of these things that are at the heart of murder.

GET OVER IT! You may not have murdered someone in society (an outward act), but you are guilty of murder through one or more of the degrees of murder (an inward act). NOW ACT UPON IT THE JESUS WAY. Be willing to acknowledge that you are just as bad off as any murderer in society. When you are tempted to rationalize your external behavior, quickly check out your heart. That's where God is checking you out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007



Matthew 5:21ff

Remember, this entire seminar Jesus is giving is answering, "Jesus, how do your teachings differ from what we've been taught?" Throughout the rest of this 5th chapter Jesus is going to compare His teachings with what they've been taught by the use of the Mosaic Law. I call this section the PRECEPTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is where Jesus actually moves through 6 specific teachings taught by the scribes and Pharisees and then gives His teaching on each one. Each teaching is from the Law which Jesus says He will not abolish, but will fulfill. Each time He prefaces the teaching with something like "You have heard it said, but I say to you." In each case the difference is very clear and deeply convicting.

What's most important to understand with these 6 illustrations is that Jesus is setting forth three primary ways their teachers have misapplied the Law.

NOW, think of the 6 illustrations as three pairs. NOTE what the theme or basic teaching of each pair is. It seems that each pair does have a certain theme and maybe the most important factor in Jesus' choosing of these 6 to illustrate how His teachings are so different. In order for Kingdom Righteousness to go beyond that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, these themes must be practiced:

FIRST-Jesus refers to THE INTERNAL APPLICATION OF THE LAW-Kingdom Righteousness is an inside job. The external expression of righteousness always has a more important inner dimension. Just because you are keeping the external form doesn't mean that you are righteous according to the Kingdom lifestyle.

Jesus illustrates this with the teaching about murder. Jesus takes murder deeper into the heart to its source-anger. Then, again, Jesus takes their teachings on adultery. He goes much deeper than adultery to its source of lust. If you're going to apply the teachings of the Law, you must begin at the deepest, internal level.

SECOND-Jesus refers to THE PROPER EMPHASIS OF THE LAW-Kingdom Righteousness is not just getting your paperwork done. That's the wrong emphasis. So, Jesus uses the practice of divorce and making vows to illustrate this wrong emphasis. The practice of the day was emphasizing the wrong things. The marriage covenant is very serious and your word is your bond. So, instead of placing emphasis upon whether or not you divorce or whether or not your vows are proper or effective, emphasize your personal covenant and your personal word.

THIRD-Jesus refers to THE ULTIMATE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW-Kingdom Righteousness is a lifestyle that moves to the beat of a different drummer than the rest of the world. It's the lifestyle that revolves around the one and only, Jesus. To be Jesus to the world around us demands a radical stance of perfect and complete love. Jesus chooses to illustrate what an ultimate fulfillment of the Law might look like. He uses the practice of retaliation and loving your enemies.

Over the next few days we will discuss each of these illustrations. I want to unpack them in such a way that we can embrace the bottom-line of what Jesus' teachings are.

Basically religious systems have always focused on the externals over the internals, overemphasized a few distinctions and fall far short of the ultimate standard Jesus sets for living life to its fullest. Again, we are left with the understanding that religion is the best that man can do; a relationship with God is the best that God can do. In the beginning in the Garden of Eden there was no religion of man, no worship and no prescribed set of do's and don'ts in order to be approved. There was only relationship. And, that is what Jesus came to re-establish with you and me. It's a relationship with the Creator-God-a relationship where you feel safe, significant and secure. So, this is Jesus' intent concerning you. All He is looking for is your willingness to hang out with Him. So, what do you think? It's your move.

Thursday, May 10, 2007



Matthew 5:17-20

I see this passage as containing the key to the entire book of Matthew. This is the primary theme of what Matthew intended to communicate to all who would read his writings. It's the Kingdom message-the good news of the Kingdom. In a very real sense, this entire seminar is best known as Jesus' Kingdom Manifesto.

Remember Jesus is answering the question that is in everyone's mind: "Jesus, how do your teachings differ from what we've been taught?" Specifically, this question comes from the Jewish community and leadership. However, I think this question is in the minds of all cultures and every religious background on planet earth. Think of it in this way as we proceed through how Jesus answers the question.

He's already painted a picture of what a Kingdom dweller or citizen looks like through the 8 snapshots of the beatitudes. Now Jesus targets the heart of the Jewish leadership with this paragraph.

17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever, then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever, keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

He positions His teachings in this case with the Mosaic Law. Jesus makes it clear that He does not intend to nullify the Law in any way, but has come to fulfill it. To fulfill literally means to FILL IT FULL. Imagine an empty glass as the Law and filling up the glass with Jesus. The Law was the form and Jesus is the substance. Everything written in the Mosaic Law yearns for its fulfillment in Jesus.

NOTE that Jesus in no way excludes the Jewish people and their Law of Moses, but only has difficulty with their application of it. In fact, Jesus isn't like the Christian exclusivists; He is always inclusive. Jesus unites. Everything and everyone else tends toward dividing. I don't know many people like this Jesus.

NOW, think of these same words of Jesus applied to every religious system or cultural ideals. He is the one who fills full the yearnings of all peoples. The Koran references Jesus nearly 100 times with the highest of titles, even calling Jesus the Son of God. The Koran references the virgin birth more than the Bible. Gandhi, who was viewed as the ultimate embodiment of the Hindu religion, was compared to the ultimate embodiment of fullness ever-Jesus. His people said of him that he was more "Christ-like" than anyone. NOTE he was more like the ultimate Jesus than anyone else. The Dalai Lama says that he is unworthy to even tie the shoes of Jesus. So, within the Moslem, Hindu and Buddhist religious systems Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment. He has filled their yearnings full! He came to fill all man's yearnings, dreams and standards on the planet.

Jesus then gives a clear statement on how to enter the Kingdom of heaven: 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

NOTE Jesus gives the requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. He says, "Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees." Wow! Is Jesus saying that we are to be more religious than these Jewish leaders? Not at all. It's just the opposite!

The scribes and Pharisee were some of the most religious people ever. Their religiosity was all about external matters-separation from sin and sinners and cleansing oneself. The Pharisees were known for: 1. Professing righteousness without possession of it! 2. Being hyper-critical-not hypocrites in the normal sense, but hair-splitters, nit-pickers, feather-pluckers! 3. Emphasizing the letter over the spirit of the Law-all truth and little grace! 4. Making absolutes out of non-absolutes-listing as many rules and regulations as possible! 5. Drawing the condemnation of men on righteous acts before God-such as praying, fasting, giving.

Jesus was not saying to outdo these super-religious people. He was saying that your righteousness must surpass their righteousness. I believe He is saying that your righteousness must go deeper-from the externals to the internals. Remember, God looks on the heart (internals) while man looks on the outward appearance (externals). Righteousness as Jesus teaches is a matter of the heart and He will delineate how this works in the next few paragraphs.

If you are counting on your good behavior or looking spiritual to get you into the kingdom of heaven, then you will be very disappointed. Unless your righteousness exceeds (goes deeper-internal) than that of the Pharisees, you will not get in.

From this point forward, Matthew will use Jesus' teaching and many other incidents to illustrate that all externals ought to emerge out of the internal-that being must come first, then on to the doing!

This Kingdom Manifesto of Jesus is for everyone. It is not exclusively for the Jews or the Christians. Jesus is all-inclusive. He is the ultimate answer for everyone everywhere. Jesus. Simply Jesus.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007



Matthew 5:13-16

Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the salt-shaker and applied to the meat. Salt is the invisible presence of God. It must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving of purity, honesty and fairness.

NOTE that salt represents the inner quality-the being of the equation. Therefore, salt is the best tag to place on the first four beatitudes-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These snapshots are all about being, not doing. They describe your relationship with the Lord.

A saltless disciple is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Jesus uses the term tasteless. The original Greek word is MORAINO, which means to be foolish, to play the fool, insipid, dull, flat or deficient-literally to be a MORON.

In Rabbinic literature salt is associated with wisdom-a foolish disciple has no impact on his world. In a sense salt is a warning against being good for nothing. Also, salt adds flavor to things. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus and the Kingdom lend flavor to life to be a difference-maker. The world is changed by flavoring it with your salt-like presence. It's like a thermostat; you set the temperature.

It was Saint Francis who said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." This is precisely what it means to be salt. You are the salt of the earth.

Now for the second image-light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NOTE again Jesus says, "You ARE the light of the world!" Salt has a powerful invisible nature to it; light has more of the visible presence of God. Salt must be sensed-light must be seen! Light counteracts the darkness.

The visible presence of God consists of the energy of salt and the expression of light-IT MUST BE ATTRACTIVE AND AUTHENTIC! The core of this light can be found in loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are beyond the point where mere talk-no matter how sound-can make an impression. Demonstration is required. We must live what we talk, even in places where we cannot talk what we live. We stand again at Mt. Carmel (I K 18:20-40). THE TEST IS REALITY-AUTHENTICITY-THE GENUINE!

Whereas salt was a warning against being good for nothing, light is used to show us how to be good for something. It is the outer or doing side of these two images used by Jesus. Light is the best tag to be placed on the second four snapshots-merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker and rejoicing in persecution.

You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world; you are the invisible and visible presence of God on planet earth. Don't become tasteless as salt and don't dim out or cover up your light! Allow Jesus to be sensed and seen in you

More than twenty years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number-one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.' Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how the Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Salt and Light.