Sunday, August 31, 2008



In the next few weeks I want to cover several life myths. By myth I want to use the meaning of a "fairy tale"-an untruth that many have embraced as the truth. It's because of these myths or fairy tales that I believe we have missed out on seeing Jesus as He is and hearing what He is saying to us today. From time to time I've called them Christian rumors, however these rumors have become more universal as the years go by and are particularly contextualized in a Western culture.

One of the most devastating of these myths is religion itself, offering life when it cannot deliver real life. So, the religious machine has taken over and with all of its good there is certain futility and destruction awaiting.

Chip Brogden wrote a most fascinating piece called "Dismantling the Religious Machine" that sets up this series the way I want to share it. It's not a pretty picture and may even make you feel a bit unsettled, but pray for eyes to see and ears to hear Jesus as we progress through these myths.

"Machines are used to do repetitive or difficult work more quickly and efficiently, giving people more leisure and free time to pursue something besides work. Once upon a time a group of people saw that a machine was needed to make something hard and difficult more easily done. They put their heads together and came up with a handy little machine called "Religion."

The Religion Machine would make life easier for everyone they said. With the Machine, we don't have to waste precious time relating to a real God Who loves us. The machine would take these complex processes and break them down into a simple three-step process that anyone could follow, reducing God to a faceless, personless ideology of good works. The result would be a mass-production of religious people who all spoke, thought, acted, and believed the same way.

Things went very well for a while. The Religion Machine worked just like it was supposed to. Churches were built, movements were started, crusades were held, programs were implemented. The inventors congratulated themselves on making Religion so efficient.

But you and I know that machines require a lot of maintenance. Parts have to be replaced. People wanted the Religion Machine to be bigger, better, and faster each year. Research and development expense was incurred, testing expenses, raw materials and warehousing. The Religion Machine had to have qualified people to work on it, qualified people to run it, qualified people to supervise the people who run it, and so on.

With all the improvements and modifications to the original design, the Religion Machine got so big that they had to house it someplace; now they had factory overhead: the property, the specialized plant equipment, the electrical and water requirements, more work crews, the support staff, the management, still more parts, upgrades, routine maintenance, all the hidden costs associated with keeping the Machine running.

No one knew just how big the Religion Machine would get. The inventors would have never dreamed that their little invention would one day turn into a big business, but it did. People picked up their families and moved to live and work close to the Machine. There's money there, a chance to get ahead, a chance to settle down, a nice place to raise their kids. The Machine is a boost to the local economy because it produces jobs and goods. It's in everyone's interest to keep the Machine running along.

The people took great pride in their work. Take a drive with them to any part of the country and they would point to the impressive array of expensive church buildings, sprawling seminaries, and mega-church outreach centers. "We helped put that one together," they'd say. "Thank God for the Religion Machine! How did we get along without it before?"

But there's another side to the story. Oh, the work is simple enough. "Do what you're told. Push this button, pull that lever, flip that switch." Keep producing, keep the Machine running. But there's a human toll being exacted on the people who are running the Machine. Just another cog in the wheel, they begin to stop thinking for themselves; they depend on the supervisors to tell them what to do. They go home tired day after day (their busiest day is Sunday). They always work overtime and their family life is non-existent. Even when they're home they think about work. Production is the name of the game; keep the Machine running no matter what; produce more with less.

People always get injured on the job. It's hot, dirty work. And noisy. The Machine makes so much noise that all the workers eventually develop acute hearing loss. The light is so dim that the employees have become very narrow-eyed and squinty, not able to withstand bright light. But somehow the security that comes from getting paid each week is more important than the side-effects. So the work goes on.

Besides, where else could they go? What else could they do? Financial commitments based on that paycheck have been made: houses mortgaged, cars financed, durable goods charged. If the Machine stops running, the paychecks stop coming, and it means bankruptcy for the workers and the community. So on and on it goes.

Every once in awhile a pay raise comes. Some live long enough to retire, but most of the workers die young from stress, are injured on the job and permanently disabled, or have nervous breakdowns. But no matter what, the Machine kept running.

Then the unexpected happened. The Religion Machine used a synthetic, man-made oil for fuel to keep it running. The oil ran out. The Machine ground to a halt.

The workers were in a panic. No more fuel? How would the Machine run? What about their job? What about their paycheck? Who would take care of their families?

"What about natural oil?" someone asked. No that wouldn't work. They tried that years ago. Genuine oil would not run the Religion Machine.

The supervisors cursed and swore. How could they get the Machine running again? There was only one thing left to do.

The doors were locked, and the gates closed tight. Armed security gathered the workers together and had them form a line leading up to the top of the combustion chamber, the fiery inferno which fueled the Religion Machine.

One by one they were cast into the fuel tank. The Machine sparked and began to hum again. "More people! We need more people over here!" Like lambs being led to the slaughter, the deaf, dumb, and blind workers were pushed over the precipice to be used as fuel for the Religion Machine. Next it was their wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, all thrown alive and screaming into the Machine. The houses and cars, the clothing and jewelry, the furniture and possessions were all confiscated and dumped into to the Religion Machine to add more fuel for it to run.

At last everything that could be used for fuel had been used. It would not be enough, and it had all been in vain. Once again the Religion Machine ground to a halt, and no one was around to start it up again. The supervisors went out into the community to try and recruit new workers, but after hearing what had happened to the last shift no one would take the job. Today those supervisors are dead and gone. The Religion Machine was dismantled by the townspeople, the parts scattered to the four winds, never to be assembled again.

The problem with the Religion Machine was that it started out as a neat invention designed to help people, but it wound up hurting them. The Machine was made for man, but soon man lived for the Machine and became dependent upon it.

Once upon a time another group of people saw that a machine was needed to make something hard and difficult more easily done and give them more leisure time. They were even more talented, technologically advanced, and affluent than the first group of inventors. So they put their heads together and came up with a handy little machine called "American Christianity".

Tragically, what most often happens is that the person of Jesus is lost in the religious machinery. As Paul so aptly feared: "I fear, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the simplicity and purity of Jesus."

Thursday, August 28, 2008



The fifth reference Jesus made concerning what it takes to enter or not enter the Kingdom of God has a couple of dimensions. Both of these dimensions here contain direct warnings toward the religious. The first dimension is in Matthew 21:32: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

Beware of being so religious and self-righteous. Jesus became most disturbed and angry with those who didn't see their need for God-those who thought they were right and righteous because of their beliefs and practices. In this dimension Jesus points out that those who see their need most are the ones who are actually entering the Kingdom right now ahead of the religious and the righteous. In fact, He is not just saying that the most despised tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom someday, but that they are entering right now!

The second dimension is in Matthew 23:13: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." Note the specifics of what Jesus is saying here. He is clearly saying that these religious leaders in positions of authority are not entering the Kingdom. He has made several observations at other times about the reasons why they will not enter the Kingdom, primarily the leading one is their religious pride-that they know it all and know they are right.

Now Jesus points out that these religious leaders who are not entering the Kingdom are also stopping others to enter by shutting the door of the Kingdom of heaven in their faces. How is this done? I think it's done by continually setting up certain restrictions and limitations on who can get in and who will not. I did this as a teenager. I had been taught that no one could come into a relationship with God, unless he goes down front at the altar call at the end of the service and confess Jesus publicly before men. Either you go down front at the altar call or "invitation" or you won't get into heaven. In many discussions with my good friends I made this clear to them and basically kept them from entering the Kingdom. The man-made "rule" or "requirement" I had embraced served to be a major barrier to my friends being attracted to Jesus.

Also, in much of my ministry over the years I shut the door of the Kingdom on many by sharing a chart regarding Jesus being either "liar, lunatic or Lord". I cleverly drew the chart and then made fun of anyone who tried to make up a different conclusion, other than liar, lunatic or Lord. I would say that many today see Jesus as just a good teacher or a great example and Jesus simply didn't leave this alternative to us. You must choose one or the other-liar, lunatic or Lord. Jesus was the Lord, the Son of God and there is no other alternative.

What I was missing was the simple and clear example of Jesus' early disciples. They didn't make the decision that Jesus was the Lord or the Son of God at first. They saw Him as a good example, great teacher and a great man of integrity-flawless in every way. They didn't see Him as the Lord or the Son of God, UNTIL sometime later. Then, Jesus asked them, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "You are God's Messiah, the Son of God." Jesus strokes him for this answer, but points out that Peter didn't think this up on his own nor did he get it from any other person. God, the Father, gave him this insight and conviction. Why? Because Peter and the others had been following Jesus over these years and God transformed their thinking and their hearts to see Jesus as the Son of God. In other words, for a person to see and accept Jesus as the Son of God, it will be an act of God that will bring about this result. It is not something you are taught by others. This is not my thinking, but the thinking of Jesus.

So, why should we shut people down for not believing Jesus is the Son of God right from the get-go? Why not let people follow Jesus at their own pace? And as they follow Jesus, God will change their hearts just as He did the disciples. This is how we shut the door of the Kingdom on well-meaning and interested people in Jesus. Do you see how easy it is to do?

By the way, missing this understanding of how a person's heart is transformed or "converted" causes a lot of problems. How haughty is it to think that anyone-Christian, minister or missionary-is able to "convert" or transform another person's heart. It is and must be a work of God.

Recently, a Buddhist friend, seeking to know Jesus and His teachings, decided to attend a bible study in her community. She went out and bought a bible to read and take with her to the study. When she showed up, she was initially welcomed and then was told that she had the "wrong" bible and she must go get a different one. At the Christian bookstore someone had suggested to her that she might enjoy starting out with "The Message". Now, this group of Christians essentially shut the door of the Kingdom in this young lady's face. I don't think Jesus is lifted up by this kind of thing and it certainly is not perpetuating the Jesus movement!

This fifth reference to entering and not entering the Kingdom boils down to this: 1. Those who don't have it together will enter the Kingdom first.

2. Those who think they have it together through what they know/believe and what they do may not enter the Kingdom at all.

3. And these religious "know-it-alls" tend to shut others out of the Kingdom, too.

Two things to beware of: FIRST-Don't deceive yourself into thinking that your belief system or your behavior will get you into the Kingdom.

SECOND-Don't divert others away from Jesus, because of your dogmatic belief system.

Be careful to follow Jesus and put your trust in Him and Him alone. He is the only way you'll ever get out of this world alive! That's why He said: "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Sunday, August 24, 2008



The fourth reference Jesus makes concerning what it takes to enter the Kingdom of heaven has to do with the rich. Three of the Gospels record this one. The context for this Kingdom entrance principle is in relationship to a conversation Jesus had with a young, rich man. Let's listen in to this conversation: Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied, " 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NOTE that Jesus equates eternal life with entering life and then later in this passage he speaks of entering the Kingdom of God.)

The young man shockingly states: "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." By "perfect" Jesus means to be complete and whole in your search for life.

Then, note the man's final response to Jesus' words: When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus knew the man's heart and that he was holding on to his riches-his stuff-very tightly. In other words, his stuff had become his security, maybe even his god. For sure, his stuff had distracted this rich, young man away from filling up his heart with the ultimate desire to give it all up and follow Jesus.

Then, Jesus makes the following observation recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke: In Matthew 19:23-24:
 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, in Mark 10:24-25:
 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, again in Luke 18:24-25: Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Whether the image here truly is a camel or a rope going through the eye of a needle, the essence of what Jesus is saying is still the same. IT IS DIFFICULT FOR A RICH MAN TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD! The difficulty for the rich person is that he tends to trust in his riches for security and tends to think that people, places and things can make him happy or whole and complete.

Do you want to enter the Kingdom of God? If you are rich and have a lot of stuff, then hold on to that stuff "loosely", so that you are not trusting in your riches, but in God for a complete and full, eternal life.



All four Gospel writers record the third reference Jesus uses to show the way to be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 18:3: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Then, again in Mark 10:15 Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Then, in the Gospel of John, in a very familiar interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus uses a little different metaphor to say the same thing. He says in John 3:5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." He goes on to say: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." Jesus is referring to being "born again" and means something different than what is normally believed. Being born again is not a salvation experience-a special faith event where a person passes from death to life. Being born again is just what it says. You are born all over again, so that you are like a little child again with all of the purity and simplicity of being this childlike person.

What does that mean to be childlike? A little child naturally trusts, knows very little, and is eager to mimic what he or she sees. In a very real sense, for an adult to become childlike is to be willing to unlearn and start over again with respect to what it means to follow Jesus and not remain dependent upon the religious system from which he or she originally came.

So, in the case of Nicodemus, who was probably the head of a rabbinical school, Jesus was challenging him to rethink his entire spiritual education-to start over and learn the ABC's of what it means to grow up spiritually into a personal relationship with God through His Messiah Jesus. Once a person turns from his ways and begins to act as a little child, then he is being born again.

A few weeks ago I had breakfast with a man who has rejected religion in the form of Christianity. As he says, "I just can't stand being approached by the 'born-againers' who keep trying to save me from going to hell." As we have been meeting together he is becoming fascinated with trying to understand who Jesus really is. He continually tells me he knows nothing and wants to learn this Jesus lifestyle and the basics. As we discussed what it means to be born again, I suddenly realized that my friend was in the process of being born again. He's becoming like a little child with respect to spiritual things.

Becoming as a little child with Jesus means the following: 1. You don't know everything.

2. All that you have been taught needs to be stripped away.

3. You want to learn all you can about this new life with Jesus.

4. In order to learn more about the ABC's of walking with Jesus, it's most helpful to watch Him carefully and mimic what you hear and see.

5. Learn to simply trust Jesus for your life-your strength, direction and future.

Adults think they know everything and have the ugly habit of trusting themselves. Children know they don't know everything and therefore gladly develop the beautiful habit of simply trusting.

Do you want to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Become like a little child!



The second reference Jesus makes concerning entering the Kingdom is most powerful. It's found at the close of His first seminar in Matthew 7:21: Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

The context is fascinating! In the next paragraph it's clear what's going on. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Jesus is referring to a group of apparent leaders or ministers who would naturally view themselves as believers, because of their actions. These "believers" are known for speaking in the name of Jesus, casting out demons in the name of Jesus and performing many miracles in Jesus' name. NOTE that Jesus rejects these so-called "believers" and says He doesn't even know them.

There is another group of "believers" mentioned in the New Testament who are not warmly known by Jesus either. These are the demons that believe and shudder. So, these false teachers, demons and those of us who call ourselves believers all have the same thing in common-belief. This shows us that it's not enough to just be a believer. There is something more. What makes the difference between these three groups of believers?

Jesus clarifies it here by saying "only those who do the will of my Father" will enter the Kingdom of heaven. No matter what you say or do in the name of Jesus the most critical issue is whether or not you are doing the will of the Father. What does He mean by "doing the will of the Father"? NOTE Jesus isn't focusing on something to believe, but to do the will of the Father.

In the next paragraph Jesus illustrates exactly what He means by "doing the will of My Father", when He says: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

I think it's clear that Jesus is saying "doing the will of the Father" is hearing Jesus' words and practicing them. This is simply following Jesus! So, there is something more important and vital than being a "believer" in Jesus. It's being a follower of Jesus, which is doing the will of the Father.

Now there is a belief factor in following as well. You must believe in Jesus enough to follow Him-to hear His words and practice them. Jesus repeatedly reiterates this same thought. In the early chapters of Mark Jesus' mother and a couple of other family members came to see Him. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach a very important truth. He asks: "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

NOTE the similarity to doing the will of the Father? Jesus says: "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." We are considered the family of Jesus when we are doers of the will of God.

So, do you want to enter the Kingdom? Then, do the will of the Father-FOLLOW JESUS. Whatever Jesus does and says to do, just do it!



John's Gospel uses the term "believe" in order to experience eternal life. The rest of the Gospels don't seem to make this an emphasis with a couple of exceptions, however all of the Gospels speak of "following" Jesus. Although Christians have boiled everything down to believe and you'll go to heaven and don't believe and you'll go to hell, Jesus' concern seems to revolve more around entering or not entering the Kingdom of heaven. And, entering the Kingdom seems to be an immediate experience, since the presence of the Kingdom is a present reality according to Jesus.

This week I want to cover all of the times Jesus refers to what we must do to enter or not enter into the Kingdom. To enter the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God may be the closest thing Jesus ever says about "getting into heaven". Jesus only uses the term "church" on two occasions. The emphasis of Jesus is on the Kingdom and how to enter it right now. Each of these references provides significant insight into what Jesus counts as most important in order to get into the Kingdom.

The first reference is found in Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5:20: 
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. The requirement here seems really tough. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for their religious displays of righteousness.

Now, Jesus makes it clear that in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven your righteousness must SURPASS that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. With all that Jesus teaches from here on out I think what He means by surpass is to go beyond their levels of righteousness. To be more specific, I think what He requires is for righteousness to be INTERNAL with an emphasis on the heart rather than the EXTERNAL emphasis of the legalistic, letter of the law of the Pharisees. Their emphasis was to look good-to look and act religious and holy-to be seen by others as righteous. Jesus wants us to surpass that kind of righteousness by going internal or going deeper.

Three observations that come to mind here for me: 1. God looks on the heart; man looks on the outward appearance. So, if you want to please God, then pay attention to your heart's response to Him.

2. After developing a full sacrificial system, the Lord tells His people that He doesn't want their sacrifices any longer, but wants their heart of compassion.

3. Jesus wants us to first be people of the heart where we are allowing Him to relate to us in a most personal and private way. All external actions should naturally flow out of that transformed heart. To Jesus, nothing else matters-nothing is more important.

Matt Redman wrote a terrific song entitled, "A Heart of Worship". When I think of what it is that Jesus really wants from us I think of the words of this song. The first verse goes:

When the music fades All is stripped away And I simply come Longing just to bring Something that's of worth That will bless Your heart.

The song continues with: I'll bring You more than a song For a song in itself Is not what You have required You search much deeper within Through the way things appear You're looking into my heart.

Then he concludes with the chorus: I'm coming back to the heart of worship And it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it When it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus.

Let me tell you how to enter the Kingdom according to Jesus. Focus your heart on a personal relationship with Jesus and make it your business to follow after Him. And, don't allow yourself to be caught up in the religiosity of following a list or system of do's and don'ts, thinking that you are impressing God while you are impressing others. Jesus makes it clear here that He is not impressed with this kind of thing, so don't you be!

If I have a choice as to whose word I'm going to accept as the ultimate truth-some bible teacher or Jesus, I'm going to choose Jesus' word every time. How about you?


Friday, August 22, 2008



Jesus finishes up His teaching on fruitfulness in verses 8-11 where He sets forth a few results:
 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." Two things of note here: First-God, the Father is uniquely reflected as we abide in Jesus and bear much fruit. I'm sure you have noted the progression in this chapter. We've gone from no fruit, fruit, more fruit and now much fruit. This progression of growth takes time, so enjoy the time.

Second-By doing this abiding in Jesus and bearing much fruit, we uniquely prove to be His disciples. Again, note that He is not saying that you are My disciples by knowing anything or following a list of do's and don'ts, but by abiding-hanging out with, connecting with, staying with-in Jesus as a branch abides and stays connected to a vine. Here is the formula, if you like, for being a disciple! There's no course or class! It's simply abiding in Jesus so that you are receiving your very life flow from Him. You in Him and He in you!
9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11 "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." 
Jesus delineates two more benefits to those who abide in Him and He in them: First-You will be loved by Jesus in the same way His Father loved Him, so that you can abide in His love. Second-You will be given the joy of Jesus-His joy may be in you-so that your joy may be made full! How incredible is that! Someone says joy is the inner quality of life that enables you to enjoy the scenery on a detour.

So, what is being fruitful all about? What's the ultimate purpose bearing fruit? In a small gathering a few weeks ago we were discussing the parables of the Kingdom and focusing in on the sower and the soils. When I pointed out that the only action in the invisible form of the Kingdom is the sowing of the seed. One of the women in the group had a terrific insight. She said, "You know you have to be fruitful in order to have seeds to sow. Fruitfulness produces more seeds of the Good News of the Kingdom and then you sow these seeds from your life." Whoa! This blew me away! She's right!

This is why it is so important for us to be fruitful-bearing the fruit that Jesus, the Vine, produces in and through us. If we aren't fruitful, then we end up planting things other than the message of the Kingdom. We tend to plant seeds of traditions, denominationalism, doctrinal distinctives and man-made rules and add-ons. And, these seeds are unfruitful and useless with respect to Jesus and the Kingdom. What we want are the seeds produced in the fruit Jesus is producing.

Being fruitful is why we must seek to reach ourselves first. We get so bent on reaching the world that we frequently miss our own hearts. If I am abiding as a branch in Jesus, the Vine, then what I am experiencing can be given away or planted in the hearts of men and women around me. By the way, this is why Jesus was not concerned about "how many", but that the few really "get it"!

So, we are to be in the flow of planting seeds-the Good News message of the Kingdom seeds. And those seeds will naturally come out of our fruitfulness in relationship with Jesus. Note, in the Kingdom there is nothing said about "planting churches", only "seeds". This planting of seeds is most biblical as you read through the Acts of Jesus. The Good News message of Jesus and the Kingdom is planted in a new city or region. Sometimes those who were in the flow of planting these seeds remained there for a period of time and many times they kept moving on, after the message was received. Paul, Silas and Timothy spent 3 ½ weeks in Thessalonica and a major explosion echoed forth out of there.

Several years ago my wife's cousin committed suicide. I had met her and the family about a year before this tragic event. They were a prominent Catholic family in Lodi, California. Since they had a visiting priest from Asia who was difficult to understand, they asked if I would speak at the service on behalf of the family. We counted it a great privilege to participate.

The Catholic Church in Lodi is a large facility and with standing room only there were well over 1000 in attendance. My responsibility was easy and I was the only one anyone was going to understand, too. I spoke on behalf of the family and offered comfort only in the person of Jesus plus nothing. After the service, I met several people who were pleased with what I had said. One lady in particular still stands out to me. She came up to me outside and asked, "How long can you stay here in Lodi?" I quickly responded with, "Our flight is this afternoon, so only a few hours." She made it even clearer when she reiterated her question by saying, "I mean how long can you stay to continue teaching what you shared today in our homes here in Lodi?" Again, I put her off with our afternoon flight time.

On the way home it hit me like a ton of bricks! This woman was expressing to me a very large, open door to stay in Lodi for a day or two and continue the ministry with the people who were in such shock over this untimely death. I really blew it! I continually grieve over how I handled that encounter. That door was so open that anyone could have driven a Mac Truck right through it, but I had to catch a flight.

A NEW STRATEGY FOR THE TIMMONS-We are moving into a phase of our walk with Jesus and with others that is taking a little different twist. We call it THE LODI STRATEGY. We have friends in many cities around this country and beyond. We are seeking to visit these friends for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, taking friends with us from our local fellowship, to share and interact with our friends about this message of Jesus and the Kingdom or JESUS PLUS NOTHING. We are looking for initial small gatherings in these cities and then see what doors Jesus opens up. We may stay one day or we may hang out in that particular city for a few days.

In other words, we are looking for Jesus to open up the doors for us to continue in the flow of planting the Good News seed of the Kingdom. We're not looking to launch anything or set up any groups or organizations in these cities. We only want to introduce "Jesus plus nothing" to those who are interested. We believe the Jesus movement will explode in the hearts of men and women as we follow through with these old and new friends.

Pray for God to raise up interested people for us to visit! Pray about what this might look like in your city! Pray about helping to make this happen!

This is ACTS 29 in action! The purpose of bearing fruit is to continue the planting of seeds in the hearts of men and women everywhere.

Thursday, August 21, 2008



As we continue following the image of being fruitful as you make like a branch hang on to Jesus, the vine, we come to John 15:6-11. Jesus explains what happens to those who think they can do something without Him--those who believe they can live their lives successfully without hanging out with Jesus.

6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 

Jesus moves from speaking about people to plants. He warns that if anyone does not abide in Him, there are severe consequences. In the case of plants when the branches don't remain connected to the vine, they will end up in the fire. NOTE 3 things here:

 FIRST, branches that don't abide in the vine dry out, because there is no life-giving nutrition allowed to flow through the vine into the branch. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, also dry out, because they are not receiving the life of Jesus.

SECOND, branches that don't abide in the vine become completely useless, because there is no fruit being produced. Fruit is the purpose of the life of a plant. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, are also completely useless and unfruitful. 

THIRD, branches that don't abide in the vine are thrown away, gathered up, and are cast into the fire to be burned in the trash. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, are thrown aside and trashed, instead of fulfilling the purpose and mission for them. I don't see this as referring to a disciple's salvation, but usefulness and purpose. Dallas Willard adds to this potentiality of not abiding in Jesus: "For the one who makes sure to walk as close to Jesus as possible there comes the reliable exercise of a power that is beyond them in dealing with the problems and evils that afflict earthly existence. Jesus is actually looking for people he can trust with his power. He knows that otherwise we remain largely helpless (and useless) and unable to promote his will for good in this world with adequate power."

So, here you have it, IF YOU DON'T ACT LIKE A BRANCH AND ABIDE IN JESUS, THE VINE, you not only can do nothing significant, but you are attempting to live a life that is absolutely useless and unfruitful. All you are left with is "What might have been."

In verse 7 Jesus returns to those who abide in Him when He says:
 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 

This is such a powerful statement to hear! Again He says "If you abide in Me" and now He adds and My words abide in you". What I'm learning is that this abide in Jesus as a branch abides in the vine must be purposeful. It means arranging your life, arranging your prayer-asking and listening, and arranging your silences in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget Him. 

Now, if you are abiding in Jesus in this way, the more you become like the vine itself-you walk, talk, think and love just like Him. Your thoughts are so permeated with His thoughts that your inner character is being transformed. Then, it is easy to understand that your wishes are the same as His wishes, so you are walking in sync with Him and whatever wish you ask will be done for you. Now that's mind-boggling! But not out of the realm of possibility and reality. Otherwise, Jesus would not instruct us to be like this.

An amazing simplicity will take over our lives-a simplicity that is really just transparency."
Abide in Me and I in you. Jesus wants to inhabit your life and all He is looking for is your willingness to cooperate!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



In John 15:1-11 Jesus gives the three primary relationships of life-your relationship with Jesus, your relationship with other disciples of Jesus and your relationship with the world. Each relationship builds on the other. The first is the most important of all and it pictures the disciples as a branch attached to Jesus, the vine. So, Jesus is the vine and His disciples are the branches who have the natural purpose of being fruitful. I want to work our way through the first 5 verses today and then the rest of this section tomorrow. 1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Jesus begins speaking of two kinds of branches-one that is not bearing fruit and one that is bearing fruit. Note what is done to each one. First-the branch that is not bearing fruit. It says in most translations, "He takes away". At first glance, it sounds as if the unfruitful branch is somehow removed from being a branch. I don't believe this is what is meant here. The word used here might just as easily be translated "to lift up." TO LIFT UP THE BRANCH. Now that makes more sense to me! We're dealing with branches and a common problem with branches is when they droop down and touch the ground. Touching the ground will surely destroy the branch and its fruitfulness. So, God, the vine-dresser, when He sees a branch drooping and touching the ground, lifts up that branch and places it where it can be fruitful again. I love this! The Lord is so committed that we become fruitful that He is in the vineyard looking for those who have drooped to the ground.

Second-the branch that is bearing fruit. On the other hand, the branch that is bearing fruit must be pruned in order to increase its fruitfulness. That pruning is painful, because the pruning process requires that not only the dead parts are cut off but also part of the living parts as well.

So, have you ever been one of these branches? Have you ever been drooped down so low that you have become unfruitful? Or, have you found yourself questioning some of the painful experiences in your life? Either way, be assured that the Lord is more devoted to your fruitfulness than you are! He will do anything to bring you to Him and then to make your life meaningful and fruitful-anything!

It seems that there are two bottom-line requirements from Jesus here. FIRST-He requires that you be interested-interested enough to lean in with your heart and seek more from Him. SECOND-He requires that you cooperate with being a branch. He'll do the rest. You can't produce fruit; only the Lord can do that!

Jesus continues to describe this unique relationship between the vine and its branches and explains how it all works: 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you." This is the most dynamic principle you'll ever encounter! It's a reciprocal relationship! You abide-remain, stay with, wait on, hang out with, continue with-Jesus and Jesus remains, hangs out and continues with you. Are you getting this? Jesus, the Son of God, created you to be completely inhabited by Him!

Jesus goes on to say: "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." Jesus goes on to say something that blows my mind! I have read this over and over and talked about it more than most passages of Scriptures, but Jesus is speaking of a daily, moment-by-moment reality. Just as a branch is unable to be fruitful on its own, so we cannot do anything without hanging on to our relationship with Jesus. But wait a minute. Does He really mean I can't do anything!!!??? What Jesus is saying is that we cannot do anything without recognizing, depending and drawing our strength from Him. Can this be true? Is it true in your life?

Dr. Dallas Willard, a friend and marvelous professor (USC) says on this subject: "However we may understand the details there can be no doubt, on the biblical picture of human life, that we were meant to be inhabited by God and live by a power beyond ourselves. Human problems cannot be solved by human means. Human life can never flourish unless it pulses with "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." (Eph. 1:19) But only constant students of Jesus will be given adequate power to fulfill their calling to be God's person for their time and their place in this world.

There is no better visual for all who want to walk with Jesus. Note that He doesn't say "If you abide in Me, you can be a more faithful believer." He doesn't give any alternatives to being a branch. He doesn't give any other option than being a branch. He gives absolutely no wiggle room at all. We are expected to be positioned as a fruitful branch, intimately connected with Jesus, the vine.

These words resonate with me: "Abide in Me and I in you. Without Me you can do nothing." Do you believe this? Do you see the power of this image of a branch and a vine? There is no way you can bear fruit on your own and there is no way you can do anything that really matters for the Kingdom, UNLESS you hang on to the vine for your strength, nurture and power. Do you want it? I want this with all my heart. Let's go for it together! Let's make like branches and abide in Him!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008



The image of fruit, bearing fruit and fruitfulness is most vivid and illustrative of what it means to follow Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus seems to return to this as one of His favorite ways of explaining how this relationship with Him is to work. He warns His disciples to beware of false teachers and gives them a telltale sign to discern the difference between true and false teachers-their fruit. He says, "You will know them by their fruit."

When speaking to the religious leadership who had continually rejected Jesus and His presentation of the Kingdom, Jesus says: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21) NOTE the Kingdom will taken away from those who are not fruitful and will be given to those who are fruitful!

There are two more key times when Jesus uses the image of fruitfulness. I will deal with one of them today and finish out the week with the other. After Jesus has been soundly rejected by the religious leadership who have attributed the source of Jesus' works as from the Devil, himself, Jesus delineates what form the Kingdom will now take.

He extensively describes the Kingdom in Matthew 13 with 8 parables. Using the teaching method of parables was meant to sort out those who have ears to hear and eyes to see and those who do not. I believe the invisible form of the Kingdom Jesus described is present right here right now. The only action within these parables is the sowing of the seed and the seed will be scattered upon four kinds of soil.

Jesus illustrates receptivity (ears to hear) by the use of four soils-by the side of the road, the rocky places, among the thorns and the good soil. These represent what kind of receptivity you might expect as you participate in the sowing of the seed of the Gospel and, these soils also illustrate the various degrees of receptivity we each experience in our own lives.

Now note the interpretation of these soils: (1) The soil beside the road. 18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. NOTE what the message that is being sown here is-the Kingdom. This blows my mind. I have heard this, read it, and taught this passage for many years, but I never saw that the message that is being planted is the message of the Kingdom. And, it is this message that those who are the soil along the path hear, but do not understand. Since there is no understanding of what they are hearing, the seed is snatched away.

(2) The soil in rocky places. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. NOTE the Kingdom message is referred to in the next three soils as the word. This soil on the rocky ground is quite shallow, therefore the seed cannot take root and lasts for a short time. Jesus points out that the problem here is trouble and persecution. These overcome those who are the soil on the rocky ground. And, it's because of the word or the Kingdom message that they are finding trouble and being persecuted. This persecution is most likely verbal as Jesus has mentioned before.

(3) The soil among the thorns. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. NOTE the seed here falls among the thorns. This is where people hear the word or the Kingdom message and the word is choked. The choking or smothering of the word is due to the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Worries of this life is when you allow the stresses that surround you and threaten your security to overwhelm you, instead of placing your trust in Him. The deceitfulness of wealth is thinking that there is some sort of security in money, places and things. This is perhaps the greatest "over-promise and under-deliver" proposition in this world, believing this stuff can make you happy or might be fulfilling. The end result is that this soil is unfruitful.

(4) The good soil. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." NOTE that the entire goal has to do with fruitfulness. Only one out of four of the soils is productive or fruitful. And, the fruitfulness listed as the "good soil" here is monumental-phenomenal fruitfulness.

Check out four observations about these soils and fruitfulness: 1-Jesus is the sower of the seed. In Matthew's version of this teaching (Matt. 13:37) Jesus says that the Son of Man is the sower. When Jesus was physically on the earth, His words were pitched out to those who listened to Him. Today, Jesus is still sowing the seed as we introduce the person of Jesus to others through our lives and through our own stories.

2-The seed is the word of God. What the word of God meant to Jesus was the "Good News of the kingdom of God." This is what His primary message was as He taught throughout the villages and synagogues. Therefore, the word of God is the active presence of God in us in the form of a seed.

3-This word of the kingdom of God has tremendous spiritual power within us to be productive-to be fruitful. It was able to produce amazing levels of fruit.

4-Its effect on you is determined by your response to it. It's all a matter of responsiveness. NOTE that you are not responsible to bring forth the fruit, but the power of the seed will produce the fruit if planted in the good soil.

Fruitfulness will be present in those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Non-fruit or bad fruit will follow those whose ears are closed and whose eyes are shut off from the Good News message of the Kingdom. I see each of these 4 soils as fluid. In other words, we have all been each one of these soils at one time or another. Can you remember the times you were one or more of these soils? One more question: So, where are you when you measure your receptivity to the seed Jesus is sowing in your life right now? Remember, it's all about fruitfulness!

Monday, August 18, 2008



Today while standing in a security line at LAX airport, we were stopped by a TSA employee. We were to stop and let the 1st Class passengers go ahead of us up the stairs. A man standing next to me said, "Why do they go first?" The TSA agent said, "Because they paid more." "I don't care what they paid!" said the man next to me. He was getting a bit worked up and fuming. Then he turned to me and said, "When are we all going to be equal?" He was African-American and I said, "It's going to be awhile before we'll all be equal; the only way it will happen will be when you and I experience it. Then you work with another and I work with another. It will have to happen with only a few at a time." He said, "I think you're right, because those few will really get it." "Yes!" I said, "You know this is what Jesus did to start a world-wide movement. He picked out a few (3 to be exact) and they really got it and spread it around the world." This was really resonating with my new friend to the point that he calmed down and then said "Amen!"

This is exactly what is revolutionary about the revolutionary model and methodology of Jesus. Think about it! If you were out to start a movement that would change the world through its message of faith, love and hope, how would you have orchestrated it? I would have launched into doing massive seminars and workshops to as many people as possible. My model for reaching the world would have been filled with the latest papyri flyers being handed out by the best-trained management and sales team ever!

Jesus did just the opposite. He came into this world with a quiet, yet supernatural birth. He performed quiet, yet powerful miracles, mostly on individuals. Instead of a series of massive, promotional events, Jesus chose to work with a few. He chose a few just to come alongside Him-to be with Him (3 and 12). Note that He didn't lay out a plan to reach the world right away. That came later. Then, after experiencing the power of being together with the few and learning how to love one another, He sent out several more followers into the villages with His message (72 and 120).

Jesus' strategy proved to be the most explosive movement ever launched! This movement of a few consisted of unlikely people who were used to turn the world upside down! Now that's powerful!

What was it that Jesus came to do? What is the work He came to complete? The finished work of Jesus is more than what we normally think. We usually think in terms of one of the last "words" Jesus spoke at the end of His life while on the cross. He said there "It is finished." But then it's important to reflect on Jesus' prayer in John 17, which is really the Lord's Prayer. It's within these words that we can find the true revolutionary nature of what Jesus came to do and what He expects from us as disciples. Jesus said that He finished the work the Father sent Him to do: 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

6"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

13"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14"I have given them Your word.

18"As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

26and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

There are several things that stand out to me here... FIRST-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish, given to Him by the Father, was to share with His disciples certain words from the Father. Wow, if we only knew what these "words" were that the Father gave Jesus to share with His disciples, we could continue this as the work Jesus is still accomplishing today. Well, I think we do know what those words are, certainly for the most part. These words are recorded for us in the 5 Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. So, maybe it makes sense to focus most of our energies in learning what Jesus shared with His disciples in order to embrace the revolutionary work of Jesus.

SECOND-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be done with a few. I am continually struck with this fact. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, saw that it would be most effective to work with a few as He shared what the Father asked Him to share. He was not tempted to share it with the masses, because He knew that they wouldn't "get it." By going to the masses, Jesus would have produced hearers of the word who delude themselves, rather than doers of the word. Or, that those within the masses who did "get it" might be diluted into thinking that these words from the Father could be passed on effectively by one or two people talking and the crowds only listening and not experiencing. Think about it. Most life-changing experiences from the Lord (truly transformational experiences) in your life have come in relationship with a few. So, if that is true (and I'm convinced it is), then why aren't we more compelled to share with others in such a way so they can have the same experience with the Lord?

THIRD-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be different from the world system already in place. Jesus, as the King of kings, came to establish His kingdom on earth with those who become His disciples on the earth. This kingdom is not separate from the earth, but different from it. Check it out. What Jesus shared seems to most always be just the opposite of what the world system is today and just the opposite of what we feel is the natural thing to do. Instead of buying and selling being the primary theme, Jesus teaches giving and receiving. Instead of getting even, Jesus teaches the supernatural power of forgiveness. Instead of avoiding pain and suffering, Jesus teaches to embrace your pain and suffering so that you will emerge more whole. Instead of being repulsed by the poor, diseased and disabled, Jesus teaches to go to them and extend His love toward them. Instead of going with the crowd, Jesus teaches us to stand with Him and His people. Instead of loving the masses in general (whatever that means), Jesus teaches us to love one another-on the personal level.

FOURTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be passed on by His disciples to others over the generations to come. Jesus came to share these "words" from the Father to those who will share these "words" with others. He even prays for those who will believe through these few for generations to come. It's just that simple. You haven't gotten the message of Jesus, until you learn to pass it on.

FIFTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish would result in His disciples having His joy made full in them and being loved the same way the Father loved Jesus-all wrapped up in one another in a unique oneness with the Father, Jesus and the disciples. This makes it all worth being a revolutionary with Jesus. You will know what it means to have His full joy and you will be enveloped in His love and the love of the Father. Possessing these two results will encourage you to continue, allowing Jesus' finished work to work itself out through you. We have known this joy and this love from time to time in our lives, but not on a continual basis, until Jesus apprehended our lives in a new and very real way. This is what makes this life of practicing Kingdom principles and acting as revolutionaries in the name of Jesus such an enjoyable adventure.

SIXTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish is not limited to the first 12 apostle/disciples, but is for those of us who claim to be His disciples today. This is not another good Bible story to be stored away for small group discussions later. This is primary for our lives today! But let me take the edge off a bit by saying that being a revolutionary on your own or with a group of people has nothing to do with you and your performance. Being a revolutionary is simply lifting Jesus up in your life and inviting him to do his revolutionary work in you and through you as you touch others. It has nothing to do with "converting" people to a group, a club, a church or a religious system, but it is all about transformation. This is why I've always said that the reformation never went far enough. We must never settle for anything less than transformation and the only person I've ever seen who can accomplish transformation, changing a person's heart inside out, is Jesus. Consider joining the revolution, because the REVOLUTION IS STILL ON and thriving on planet earth!

Thursday, August 14, 2008



There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This dynamic creates an inner security and support system for those who participate.

The second dimension of the fellowship principle is to share with others in need. This has more to do with sharing with those who are in need physically. There are several categories of people in need that come to mind. When you come together, be aware of believers in need around you. This demonstration of fellowship was an integral part of the early fellowship experience.

Remember the description of the early disciples in the 2nd chapter of Acts. They had a sense of awe of the presence of God as they gathered together and "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:44-47)

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those around you. I am particularly struck with the way the Kingdom is practiced when it comes to the needs of those in the fellowship-they gave to anyone as he had need. This has been my experience as followers of Jesus participate in fellowship together. They have a sense of rallying around anyone who has a need and seek to meet that need. This may be financial or more than financial. When someone is sick or in trouble, when someone needs a job or when someone needs to be encouraged or challenged to make some changes.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of your teachers and those who minister to you. When Jesus called and sent out the Twelve on their initial assignment He instructed them: "Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support" (Matthew 10:8-10). This same understanding of sharing with those who minister to you is extended in Paul's letter to Timothy: "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages'" (I Timothy 5:17-18)

Several years ago Diana and I responded to a "calling" to follow Jesus more simply. A group of friends over the years continue to support us, so that we are released to study, pray, counsel, teach and minister to those Jesus brings our way in a full-time manner. It is a most humbling experience, yet we are free to work with anyone anywhere without having an agenda-especially a financial agenda. The monthly support is up and its down, but somehow the Lord continues to supply our needs as doors of ministry continue to open. We can think of no greater privilege than what we are doing right now.

We have also found new meaning to the term "tentmaker". Paul was by profession a tentmaker. He worked that business whenever he could in order to be free to minister to people without any hidden agenda. Also people supported him from time to time to get the job done. I am a speaker-a professional speaker, which means people actually pay for me to speak. The Lord has used this to supplement our support right when we need it. So, we do tentmaking from time to time.

However, I've come to realize that everyone who is a follower of Jesus is also a tentmaker. Your tentmaking is your occupation that you are paid to do. If you are a teacher, you are paid to teach. But in that paid occupation you have a greater calling and that is to pattern yourself after Jesus and to practice the Kingdom lifestyle. Even those of you who work for a Church are in a paid occupation-a job, but while doing your work you are to pay attention to the real calling and attraction to Jesus and the Kingdom.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those who are sent out to do ministry outside of your local fellowship. This is especially true as God raises up leadership in other countries. You are not to just say, "We'll pray for you." You must think in terms of truly sharing with them, so that they are empowered to do what God has called them to do in the name of Jesus.

Paul says to Timothy: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (I Timothy 6:17-19). The fellowship must stand ready to share financially to underwrite and support the needs of the Kingdom of Jesus wherever it may spread.

Jesus and His early disciples were supported mostly by successful business women. Then, as the movement spread finances were always available through followers of Jesus who viewed themselves as Kingdom kids, feeling responsible to keep the Good News message and movement of Jesus spreading everywhere doors opened. When the fellowship is functioning properly, there is no need for heavy promotions. It all has to do with attraction to the irresistible Jesus and the irreversible Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008



NOTE the progression from yesterday. FIRST-pattern yourself after the teachings and principles of Jesus. See what Jesus does and says and do and say the same things. SECOND-practice the Kingdom principles of life and embrace them as a lifestyle. The Kingdom is practiced anywhere and everywhere, because it's a movement. BUT how is the Kingdom practiced?

The Kingdom is practiced by participation in a community of followers of Jesus. As is deeply founded in the Godhead relationship we are to live our lives in relationship with Jesus and in fellowship with one another.

Practicing the presence of the Kingdom requires fellowship. The term fellowship is widely known, but even more widely misunderstood. It's more than a pot-luck dinner. It's not a room called the "fellowship" hall. It's more than a group of friends watching football or hunting together. The fellowship may be the most important concept you will ever learn. However, this concept is not just to be learned; it must be lived! I call it FELLOWSHIP IS A VERB.

Jesus' strategic approach to spreading His Good News message throughout the world never involved "putting up another church", but practicing their relationship with Jesus and with one another in the Kingdom. This is what the fellowship is all about!

The fellowship is the answer to becoming the genuine salt and light that Jesus intended His followers to be. My friend who challenged me to be more strategic with my life also painted a couple of vivid pictures that are now etched in my mind indelibly. He urged me to be a fountain. "You don't take the fountain to people; the people come to the fountain" he said. "In the same way, you are to be a light that attracts. Bugs are attracted to a physical light. People are attracted to a spiritual light of truth. So be a light! Be a fountain! If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him." The fellowship operates on the principle of attraction, not promotion. This goes against the grain of most every religious program in our world.

The fellowship is not an organization, an institution or a denomination. Fellowship is a verb that, when properly activated, has the power to change the world-one person at a time! In order to use the fellowship as a verb you must learn the fellowship principle.

The primary term for fellowship in the New Testament is koinonia. The word has the idea of communion or sharing in common with another. It's the perfect word to describe the relationship we are to have with God and with one another-a partnership. This partnership is to be entered into-to join one's self to an associate or associates in order to become a sharer.

The designated partners within the fellowship include Jesus, Jesus' followers and you. The fellowship is with God Himself (Father, His Son Jesus and the His Spirit) and with His people. The fellowship principle is the full application of this dynamic partnership between God and His people.

There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. We'll deal with one today and the second tomorrow. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This is more of the spiritual dimension of having a genuine partnership-a blood-brother friendship. You were created to have this kind of partnership, rather than trying to live your life alone. It's knowing that someone gives a rip whether you live or die. This kind of partnership involves the many "one anothers" taught in the Scriptures-weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, praying for one another, confessing your faults to one another, encouraging and admonishing one another, loving one another, etc. This dimension may be best described by the proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

There are, at least, four specific ways to practice this dimension of the fellowship principle. When you come together, be sure to share what you are learning and experiencing in your walk. This will emerge out of your personal study of the Scriptures and your daily walk with Jesus.

When you come together, be sure to share yourself. Share your sins and failures-your vulnerabilities and your need for God. Share your blessings and your joys. You have been created to be dependent upon God. Share how easily you can be distracted away from God's intent and become dependent upon something else in its place.

When you come together, be sure to share accountability. You need a support system of people who are going the same direction, live for the same reasons you live and care enough to hold your hand through the good and the bad. You want people in your life like Jesus, who know you and love you anyway.

When you come together, be sure to share your prayer needs. There is no greater bond on earth than when a group bows down in the name of Jesus (the Higher Power), seeking to follow a Higher Calling.

Paul must have been a southerner, because he used what I call "the y'all principle" throughout most of his writing. Take a look: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (among y'all), with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). Or, "I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (in y'all)" (Galatians 4:19). Or, "Christ in you (in y'all), the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Paul is commanding believers everywhere to allow Jesus to make His dwelling place (make Himself at home) as you come together into the fellowship. The dynamite (power) of the gospel will be present in the midst of a few who are gathered together in Jesus' name. The y'all principle is the fellowship principle and the practice of the presence of the Kingdom. Making covenants to one another galvanizes a community of followers of Jesus. It is amazing how simple agreements and commitments to one another provide a bonding power among the participants. These covenants may be agreements to pray for certain things for a certain time period, going on a mission trip together, producing an event, or agreements to go through a study together. This is the fellowship principle!

This takes us back to the principle of the power of the few. This is the key to the mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory". It isn't Christ in you or me or he or she. Jesus doesn't make Himself at home in a single person. Jesus wants to dwell among His people. "Christ in you" is in the plural, not the singular. It is literally "Christ in y'all" as you gather together.

Jesus wasn't kidding when He said that He would show up where two or three are gathered together. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that His preeminence shows up. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that the presence of the King in His Kingdom is experienced.

The power of the few is really a complete paradigm shift. Jesus introduced an entirely new dynamic into the teaching process. Let's call it "table fellowship". Instead of one person teaching a class, Jesus spent lots of significant time around the table with food. The gospel of Luke records ten meals with Jesus. Eight of them are eaten in the flow of Jesus' ministry activity and two are eaten with the disciples after the resurrection.

In many of the meals Jesus broke several social and religious customs. Jesus was operating under a new paradigm where He broke down any and all boundaries between the sinners and the religious, the men and women, servants and masters, rich and poor. In other words, Jesus uses fellowship around the table to bring everyone together and to demonstrate Kingdom living at its simple, tangible best.

As these many meals with Jesus are examined closely, it's helpful to pay special attention to the settings. The settings vary from the homes of the highly religious to special friends and even in two tax-collector homes. Most of the time Jesus is invited and in the case of Zacheus Jesus invited Himself to lunch at Zach's place. The guest list is always fascinating-priests, sinners, prostitutes and a variety of broken people and those who are looking for that special touch from Jesus.

The simple program of Jesus for changing the whole world is to make each person He touches magnetic enough with love to draw others to love God and to love one another. This transformation happens within the relational community of a few. Are you in that kind of relationship?