Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Jesus made it clear what He expected His early followers to do. At the very end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Whatever else can be taught from this passage, it is important that you see what was on Jesus' heart in these last words for His followers. Jesus presents one command here; it's not an option. Jesus is making it clear that He wants His followers to make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all nations!

A disciple is literally a learner-one who listens and follows a teacher and his teachings. Jesus commands His disciples to go make disciples of all nations. "Nations" is best understood as cultures. We're realizing that no matter what culture is introduced to Jesus, the response is amazingly positive and transformational. And just as Jesus gave this command to His first disciples, it's clear that Jesus wants all of His disciples everywhere to continue to multiply more disciples.

Now, the term "disciple" is only used in the Gospels; it cannot be found in the rest of the New Testament. It's like the Gospels are filled with urging all to become disciples and the letters to the many fellowships of Jesus in the New Testament are filled with practicing what it means to be a disciple.

To me, a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus-one who hears His teachings and seeks to practice them. We are doing our best to be faithful disciples of Jesus and to obey Jesus by making disciples of Jesus everywhere we go. We see ourselves as followers of Jesus, not Christians or believers or Church members. We say it this way among our friends: "We're trying to do the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. We're trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is discipleship-to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Over the next few weeks I want to open up what discipleship is all about. In order to get us started I want to make 8 observations on the elements of being a disciple. FIRST-Being a disciple is to have a teachable spirit and a heart for God. If you are a disciple, you will work hard on being a learner. You don't already have it all figured out. You are coming to Jesus as a little child.

SECOND-Being a disciple is to be holy-set apart unto God for His mission. When you are set apart in this way, you will be going against the grain-a contrarian, but you will be walking hand in hand with Jesus and that's the only way to get through the piles of life anyway.

THIRD-Being a disciple means to enhance your self-esteem. Knowing whose you are will determine who you are. When you understand clearly how centering and empowering it is to follow Jesus, He becomes the key to your self-esteem.

FOURTH-Being a disciple means to confirm your calling-your purpose in life. When you follow Jesus, you will know the reason why you are here on planet earth and have a great opportunity to act it out.

FIFTH-Being a disciple means to manage your conflicts. When following Jesus, your conflicts become opportunities for making a difference and learning more about yourself.

SIXTH-Being a disciple means to be able to express your personal faith. One of the great problems believers have is to be able to share their faith. All kinds of training materials and methodologies have been produced over the years, but there is nothing more effective in communicating your faith than being a follower of Jesus plus nothing. It's contagious!

SEVENTH-Being a disciple means to make disciples. If you are a disciple, then you will multiply yourself. You will make other disciples of Jesus as you live your life. You won't be able to stop it! Jesus will shine through!

EIGHTH-Being a disciple means to know Jesus better. Being a disciple is all about knowing Jesus. In fact, I'm convinced that this may be the only real goal for anything we ever do-in your home, in your vocation, on your vacation, as you parent your children and when you come together as a group of people in the name of Jesus.

Paul, who was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus, expresses how important knowing Jesus better really is: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

How can I know Jesus better? That's what I want to know! In the days ahead I want to encourage you to know Jesus better. Begin by being His disciple.

Sunday, July 26, 2009



There are two areas within the world of biblical teachings that can get people so fired up that they become distracted away from the heart of the matter. One is the subject of demons or evil spirits. The other is the area of prophecy. There are so many varied teachings on the 2nd coming of Jesus.

What's most interesting is that each position held is taught in such a way so as to make you think this is THE WAY to understand it. "Our way is right and yours is wrong." And the division continues to widen between well-meaning followers of Jesus. Divisiveness is the first area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you are the one who knows when that time will be, you will prove to be divisive.

Each prophecy teacher dogmatically stands on his teachings and against the teachings of others. There is certainly nothing wrong with disagreeing over when Jesus is coming back, but to reject or separate yourself from other followers of Jesus because of your disagreement is sick and wrong.

Over the years I have made fun of the differing positions regarding when Jesus will show up again-specifically in the rapture-the time that believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Some believe in the pre-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up before the final seven-year tribulation period. Some believe in the mid-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up in the middle of the seven-year tribulation-three and one-half years into the final tribulation period. Then others believe in the post-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up at the end of the tribulation period.

Many years ago I came to an unshakable position on this. I am pre-trib until the tribulation starts. And if Jesus hasn't shown up by then, I will move quickly to a mid-trib position. And if Jesus doesn't show up by mid-night, three and one-half years into the tribulation, then I will swiftly move into a post-tribulation rapture theory position. And, I will not be shaken from this position. I call it the pan-trib position, meaning everything is going to pan out in the end anyway, no matter your position on the subject.

Distraction away from the primary message of the Good News of Jesus is the second area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you know when that time is, it is easy to become distracted away from cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus.

If you believe Jesus taught WHEN He is coming back and you think you know when that will be, you will be divisive and will add to the distractions away from the person of Jesus.

Jesus does speak a lot about coming back, but you will be hard-pressed to nail down the WHEN. Oh, I know most of the prophetic teaching positions that are popular today. I've even been a major proponent of prophetic teachings over the years. As I look back on that period of my life, I was so distracted away from my walk with Jesus and others, because of my focus on the latest and greatest fulfilled prophecies.

Now, since Jesus apprehended my life a few years ago, I have been less focused on WHEN Jesus is to return and am spending lots of my time and energy in getting to know WHO Jesus is. I began to be haunted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. Let's check a few of these out. Jesus says: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." He also says: "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." And again Jesus says: "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will."

What haunts me are the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Now, if Jesus means what He says here, then maybe the WHEN is not the important thing. If Jesus doesn't know the WHEN, then what makes any bible teacher think that he or she could possibly know it?

Don't get caught up in prophecy in such a way that you are divided from other brothers and sisters and are distracted away from learning to walk with and trust Jesus in your life right here right now. Don't focus on the WHEN. Jesus didn't teach it and you can't know it. Focus on the WHO-ON JESUS HIMSELF. That's how you can be on the alert or be ready. Nothing else really matters in comparison!



This is a common myth among those of us who are so fed up with the damages of organized Christianity. It's so easy to identify the culprit in leading us away from Jesus' message as the artificial Christianization of Emperor Constantine, the atrocious Crusades, the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church or the divisiveness of the more than 35,000 sects within Christianity since the Protestant Reformation. However, to think that missing the message of Jesus began with these organizational travesties is to buy into a major myth and miss the point of what it is that goes wrong when the message of Jesus is ignored.

No, the organized Church is not where missing the message of Jesus began. It began from the very beginning with the early disciples of Jesus. There seems to be a natural tendency, no matter how much we have seen and heard, to become distracted away from the simplicity of Jesus plus nothing.

I want to walk you through one of my favorite passages that illustrates this truth unmistakably and you will also see yourself as we take a quick glimpse of what happened to the disciples. In the 9th chapter of Luke Jesus does a most unusual thing. He sends His disciples out, empowered to drive out demons, to cure diseases, to proclaim the message of the Kingdom and to heal the sick. What makes this most incredible is that Jesus sends out these disciples who aren't really believers yet nor do they yet believe Jesus is the Son of God. So they went out into many villages and performed their mission as prescribed by Jesus. Think of it! They are brand new followers of Jesus and they have already been sent on a mission to perform incredible miracles among the people! What an experience this must have been!

Next Jesus took them with Him to a nearby fishing village in Galilee where great crowds followed them. After speaking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing many of them, Jesus knew they needed to eat something so He fed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus performed this spectacular miracle by using the disciples to distribute the food to the masses of people. What a thrill that must have been for these disciples!

About eight days after telling His disciples that His Messianic mission included the necessity of dying, Jesus then takes Peter, John and James with Him up on a mountain to pray. While praying Jesus revealed His glory and brilliance as the visible presence of God right in front of them-the Shekinah glory. Moses and Elijah supernaturally appear with them and then the voice of God pronounces Jesus as the Son of God. Again, this must have been an amazing experience for these three disciples.

When they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met them. A man was concerned for his son who was afflicted with seizures and convulsions and complained to Jesus that the other nine disciples were unable to heal him. Jesus moves into gear and heals this man's son right away. Everyone, including the disciples was amazed at this sight!

These disciples have just been sent out to perform miracles in the villages, participated in the feeding of the 5000, three of them saw Jesus in all His glory, and they all saw Jesus heal this desperate little boy. What a ride! What a miraculous adventure watching Jesus do His thing and actually working alongside Him.

NOW, note what happens in the next three scenes with the disciples. They royally miss the preeminence of Jesus and His message. FIRST-An argument breaks out among the disciples: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest." What's this all about? After all of this demonstration that Jesus is the preeminent One, they have already missed the point. Jesus is the point, not them and their comparative greatness!

SECOND-The disciples become jealous over seeing another person doing things in the name of Jesus: "Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Now, the disciples are caught up in comparison again. This time the problem is that there is a person doing things in the name of Jesus. Now note this! John says the problem with this person is that he is not one of us. Do you get it? This guy who is doing terrific things in the name of Jesus just doesn't match up, because he is not a member of their little group. Ever heard or seen that attitude? Again, they are missing the preeminence of Jesus. Their little group has become more important than Jesus, Himself.

THIRD-There is a problem with the response of the Samaritans: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Now, it's getting worse! The disciples are now so miffed at the Samaritan's response that they are actually suggesting that they must be destroyed. Note, it's more serious than this. They aren't asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven; they are thinking that they might have the power in themselves to call the fire down to destroy the Samaritans-"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Are you kidding me? These guys have not only missed the preeminence of Jesus; they are taking on a little personal preeminence for themselves.

Missing the message of Jesus did not begin in the organized Church; that's a myth. It began with the earliest disciples of Jesus; even before the Jesus movement was officially launched! They missed it within a period of a few days in which they experienced the most miraculous adventure anyone could have ever imagined.

Who's the greatest? This guy is not one of us! Let's destroy these Samaritans who aren't receptive to our message! None of these responses by the disciples is on-message with what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus. They completely missed the point. JESUS IS THE POINT OF IT ALL! Do you see it that way or are you missing the point in your life?



I remember as a kid noting that Jesus talked more about "hell" than He did heaven. That made quite an impression on me, that Jesus felt He must teach so much about it. But a closer look at what Jesus taught will demonstrate that He didn't teach about "hell" at all! It's a myth-a well-preserved and emotional one, at that. There is a lake of fire mentioned only in the book of Revelation, but Jesus didn't teach about it.

I've always known through my study of the Greek New Testament that the translators of the Bible, beginning with the King James made a universal decision to translate many words as hell. I never really understood the problem with it until I heard Rob Bell, a teacher of the Bible in a most relevant way, speak on the subject of hell in the middle of a series he was doing. The series was called "God Wants To Save Christians" and he was saying that God wants to save Christians from missing the point in many areas.

The third word translated as hell is Gehenna. Gehenna does not mean hell either, yet this is the word Jesus frequently used. It is used eight times by Jesus (twelve, if you count the times a different writer repeated the same story). In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says: "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus says: "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. 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 Matthew 10:28, Jesus says: "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Then in His blasting of the religious leadership in Matthew 23, Jesus says: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." And later in that chapter, He says: "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?"

Here's the question that must be asked in order to understand what Jesus was teaching: What did His audience think He was referring to, when He used the word, "Gehenna"? Gehenna is literally "the Valley of Hinnom"-Jerusalem's city dump, where children were sacrificed to Molech. Judean Kings Ahaz and Manasseh engaged in idolatrous worship there, which included the making of human sacrifices by fire to Baal. Later, King Josiah pronounced this horrible, fiery, garbage pit accursed, because of the horrendous human sacrifices performed there. The prophet Jeremiah cursed the place and predicted that it would become a place of death and corruption.

When Jesus used this term-Gehenna, those who were listening certainly didn't think to themselves that He was talking about a future destination called hell. Instead, they believed He was referring to that wretched, accursed, useless place-the fiery garbage pit-always burning. He was saying to the angry, the lustful, the religious leaders who were leading others astray and those who are fearful of the wrong things: "You deserve to be thrown into the pit of destruction, because you are useless and worthless because of these actions." "You are worthy of the Valley of Hinnom; you are worthy of Gehenna."

Jesus was not talking about a future location, but a place of worthlessness and uselessness right here, right now. He wasn't speaking of a lake of fire, but a place defiled and was used as the city's garbage dump; a place of rotting flesh, maggots, stench and fire. This may be one of the most powerful Christian rumors ever and should be a strong reminder to pay attention to what Jesus is really saying. This is certainly one of those times when the traditions and commands of men have made the commands and teachings of God ineffective and misleading. God wants to save Christians, alright; He wants to save them from missing the point!

Sunday, July 19, 2009



There is something inside most of us that believes that if we are walking with God, our God will make us more successful. And, if I am faithful to my God, then my God will keep me in His healing hands and keep me healthy. Certainly the God of gods is able to do all of the above and more.

This has become a damaging myth to so many. The first area of damage is to use God as you might use a genie. This is thinking that God works for you. Have you ever heard someone say, "I tried God out and He didn't work for me." Well, if you think in this way, then you have it all backwards. The Lord doesn't work for you; you are to work for Him.

The second area of damage in embracing this myth has been repeatedly applied by Christian radio and TV personalities. It is the presumption that if you give your money to God's work, then God will pay your bills. One preacher specifically asks his viewers to tally up the total of their bills and send a check for that amount to his ministry. And, believing this myth, many people actually follow through and send their checks.

The third area of damage for those who embrace this myth that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and successful is to come to believe that they are having troubles because their faith is too weak. If Jesus wants me to be healthy, wealthy and successful and I am not any of these, then I must feel spiritually inadequate-a spiritual midget, at best.

To debunk this myth I want to offer three observations. FIRST-Jesus speaks of suffering as a norm for those who are His disciples. Even when He gave Paul's mission through Ananias, Jesus said, "and I will show him what he must suffer."

SECOND-In one of the earliest books written after the Gospels-the book of Hebrews-there is a major chapter that lists out the Hall of Faith, demonstrating how God works in response to man's faith and faithfulness. But after so many successes of faith are listed, the writer of this book turns the corner a bit. The results are not always positive when a person exercises his faith in God. In some cases, people were sawn in two, stoned, lost their children by death, lived in caves and holes in the ground and their wardrobe was made of animal skins. Now that doesn't sound like healthy, wealthy and successful to me.

THIRD-How much does Jesus want from those who follow Him? There are basically four dimensions of your life as you relate to the Lord-time, treasure, talent and touch.

1. Time-How much of your time does Jesus want from you? You might revert to the principle of the Sabbath and say He wants one-seventh of your time-one day a week. However, as you examine what Jesus requires, I think you'll come to a different conclusion. Jesus wants 100% of your time. You are to be a follower of Jesus and one who practices His Kingdom all of the time-not part time, but full time.

2. Treasure-How much of your money and stuff does Jesus want from you? You might revert to the principle of tithing and say what He wants is 10%. However, as you examine the teachings of Jesus, I think you will discover that He wants everything you have-100%. You own nothing. He owns everything you have and all that you are. You are to be the manager of your money and stuff for Jesus and His Kingdom.

3. Talent-How much of your talent does Jesus want from you? Since He gave it to you and empowers you to use it, I think you'll find that He wants it all-100%.

4. Touch-How much of your touch-your relationship with people-does Jesus want? Every time you come into relationship with anyone, you are to love that person and every time you find a person in need, you are to do what you can to meet those needs-hunger, thirst, clothing, and shelter. He wants your 100% attention.

You see, Jesus doesn't want you to be healthy, wealthy and successful as much as He wants YOU. Nothing else really matters to Jesus, but knowing and walking with you. Jesus doesn't even want to hold first place in your life. First place implies that there are many other places that are ranked in importance and can easily crowd out whatever is in first place. You may be healthy or ill, wealthy or poor, a success or a failure, but Jesus wants to be at the center of it all. Jesus doesn't want first place; He wants to be the center of everything you are and all that you do. So, why not turn it over-100%.



Before 9/11 hit the USA, I was not much of a student of Islam. I had read the Qur'an, but without much interest or understanding. After 9/11, we were all shocked into a crash course on terrorism and Islam. Sermons, articles, books and Christian talk shows spewed out the Christian talking points on "Islam" and most everyone bought into them without much personal research.

One of the biggest and most common of the "talking points" was in the analysis of the Muslim name for their God-Allah. What was taught and bought was that Allah was an ancient Moon god and therefore had no connection with the God of the Bible. The battle lines were drawn again between Christian and Muslim. Certainly Jesus must be opposed to using the term Allah and we must separate ourselves from it and Allah's followers. But, I have come to understand this as a myth-a deadly misunderstanding.

Congressman Mark Siljander in his groundbreaking book, A Deadly Misunderstanding, says, "This is one of the most painful misunderstandings among Christians. Nearly all Christians universally feel that Allah is not the same God as the God of the Hebrews, or Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Ishmael." He goes on to say, "Televangelist Benny Hinn also commented, 'This is not a war between Arabs and Jews. It's a war between God and the devil.'"

You may be able to demonstrate that the name Allah was originally the name given for a moon god, but there is no Moslem today who believes he is praying or submitting to the moon god, but to the God of gods-Allah. But once this is said, someone inevitably points out that the Muslim world is actually calling on the moon god unknowingly.

This doesn't hold water at all. The people of Israel used the name of a Canaanite god "El"-a god that was worshipped as a bull deity (hence the idea of forming a golden calf)-and they came to call their God of gods "Elohim"-a plural form of El to denote the Godhead. In the Aramaic language of Jesus' day, the language Jesus used, Elohim would have been spoken as "Alah". And before Mohammed was born, Arab-speaking followers of Jesus would have used this same word-Alah.

The same thing can be said for the English word we use, "god". The Latin for God is "dios", which was originally used by pagans. Siljander notes: "'God' is derived from a proto-Germanic pagan word for a water god, water spirit, or idol (pronounced 'gut')." Or, take the Latin word for god "dios", which became "theos". This has a heathen Greek origin, taken from the same root for the god Zeus. So, when you use the name "God", do you really mean or are you calling up a "water god"? Or, when you use the word "theos" where we get our word theology-the study of god, are you calling up Zeus? Absolutely not! We have taken these terms and infused them with the meaning of the God of gods.

Siljander points out: "For over 500 years before the Prophet Mohammed, Arab Christians and even some Jews in the Arabian Peninsula used the Arabic word 'Allah' for God. How about the 10-12 millions of Christian Arabs who use Allah every day as their Arabic word for God? Do they remotely consider that they are praying to a Moon -god? Not at all! What of the five million Assyrian and Chaldean Christians who pray to 'Alaha,' being the same derivative of Allah?"

The Aramaic word for God is "Elahh" or "Alaha" and the Arabic word for God is "Elahh" or "Allah". If you saw Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, you know that it was filmed in Aramaic. Jesus spoke Aramaic. Therefore, when Jesus spoke of God, He would have used "Alaha" and this is simply the Arabic version of "Allah". When Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, He used "Alaha" or in the Arabic Bible, "Allah".

So, is Jesus opposed to Allah? No way! That's a bad myth. On the contrary, Jesus came as the fleshed-out form of Allah to the Muslims, of Alaha to the Assyrians and Chaldeans, of Elohim to the Jews, of God to the Germanic Christians and to every other cultural name given to the God of gods. You see, Jesus trumps everything! JESUS is the name above all names and someday everyone will come to acknowledge Him. Jesus, simply and wonderfully and irresistibly Jesus!



I remember going to special services on Good Friday each year as a kid and the primary theme was the seven words of Jesus on the cross. One of these sayings of Jesus was "It is finished." If you were to survey most Christians today and ask them what was it that was the finished work of Jesus or what did Jesus come to accomplish, you will receive the same answer most of the time. The finished work of Jesus was to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus did come to die and He mentioned this a few times with His disciples, but they just didn't get it or didn't want to get it.

As important as the death of Jesus was, it is a myth that this is why Jesus came. I say this with great backing from Jesus Himself. You see, it's important for us to get back to the teachings and principles of Jesus. His teachings and principles are primary in our understanding of the truth of Jesus. It is true that when Jesus said these words, it marked the finished work of Christ on the cross. He had finished the sacrifice that was required for the redemption of the world.

However, a few days before Jesus died on the cross, He revealed what His finished work actually was-the reason why He was sent to earth. So, what did Jesus say was the work he came to complete? When Jesus prayed to the Father, He prayed for Himself, for His disciples and for us today. This is really the Lord's Prayer. The "Our Father Who art in heaven" prayer is better viewed as the disciples' prayer, when He was teaching the disciples to pray.

So, 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. It's within these words of Jesus' prayer in John 17 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: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Notice what Jesus says is the finished work He came to do. "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. "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for 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.

"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. "I have given them Your word.

Jesus came into this world to invest His life in a few men and now He sends us out to do the same. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that 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. "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I 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. and 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."

Jesus invested in a few-all those God brought to Him. I believe this is the finished work of Jesus. He invested in the 12 and lost one of these, so He gave Himself to eleven men. Now if this strategy was good enough for Jesus, then don't you think it's the best strategy for you and me as well?

I spent most of my life preparing and training to invest my life to move the masses toward Jesus. Now I know this was the wrong strategy. Just as Jesus met and gave healing to one person at a time, so we are to do the same. Let me ask you something. What are you doing with the people God has brought to you? Are you investing your life and teachings in these few? Jesus saw this work as the most important work ever. Don't you think we can take a clue from Jesus and do the same?



The emphasis upon salvation throughout the years tends to over focus on salvation as the channel or gateway to heaven. This has become an overriding theme in Christianity and yet is a myth. Salvation is so much more than a gateway to heaven or eternal life.

In the Old Testament Scriptures the concept of Shalom is a primary theme. Shalom is where people experience a peaceful and satisfying relationship with every aspect of life. Shalom encompasses the idea of peace, wellbeing, prosperity, and the experience of God's blessings. Everywhere in the Old Testament, peace and prosperity are seen as God's reward to those whose ways are pleasing to Him. In Proverbs 16:7 it says: "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him." And in Psalm 128:1-2 it says: "Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours." Where "salvation" or "saved" is used in the Old Testament, it is in a "quite concrete" sense that "covers more than spiritual blessings," such as deliverance from earthly enemies, wellbeing and "the effect of God's goodness on his people". This sense of an all-embracing salvation is continued in the New Testament, even though the more spiritual aspect of forgiveness of sin receives a stronger emphasis today.

Jesus speaks of a wider sense of what salvation means. In Luke 7:50, Jesus says to the "sinful woman" regarding forgiveness of her sins, "Your faith has saved you", and in Mark 10:52 He uses the same Greek word for the blind man to imply restoration of sight. In Mark 5:28, He uses "saved" with a double meaning when he told the woman who had been suffering from bleeding, "Daughter, your faith has healed you, go in peace and be freed from your suffering." The word "healed" there is the word for "salvation". So, physical healing and spiritual salvation are found in the same term. Jesus didn't separate the physical from the spiritual.

Several years ago I delved into the term "salvation" and found several dimensions of its meaning and this revolutionized my thinking. Let me list them out: 1) Salvation means to make wide-This is a freedom from being stuck, from distress and the ability to pursue one's own objectives and unique purpose in life. 2) Salvation means God will come through on your behalf-I love this one. Wait and see the mighty deeds of God. God uses divine intervention in the midst of a crisis. However, He uses divine appointments in the continual process of life. 3) Salvation means safety and security-to maintain life unafraid of numerous dangers! 4) Salvation means healing-This is emotional and physical well-being-wholeness. This is the essence of the Hebrew word Shalom. 5) Salvation means constant redemption-God is true and loyal to His covenant with man and always seeks man's restoration. 6) Salvation destroys the purposes of evil forces-You can count on it. No matter how much evil throws at you, God is there to protect. 8) Salvation means God's love in action-It flows from His love as God is courting and wooing us back to Him. 9) Salvation means the active presence of God among His people-This is one of my favorite parts of salvation. God is present right here, right now, working in and through each one of us.

Jesus never thought of salvation in terms of heaven only. There was so much more to it in His mind and teachings. You see, when you embrace this myth you diminish the fullness of salvation for yourself. With this myth you tend to wait around for the "sweet bye-and-bye" and ignore what's happening now on earth. To hang out with Jesus and walk with Him, you must be present right here, showing up for the divine appointments He continually sets up for you every day. This is what it means to really love Jesus-to love God with all your heart, strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.

There is a funny story that sums up this myth. A very religious man approached another man on the street corner and asked, "Do you want to go to heaven?" The man quickly replied, "No!" The religious man was surprised at this answer and said, "I thought everybody wanted to go to heaven when they die." The man replied, "Oh, I thought you were getting up a group to go right now!" That's the experience of salvation right here in the present.

Psalm 62:1-2 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 37:39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. Psalm 40:16 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, "The LORD is great!"

Only a god who can bring salvation to me down here right now is worthy of worship! Everything else is just pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. Jesus, the Savior, is greater than all other gods and is worthy of your praise and worship, because of His salvation.



Since the 1950's most of evangelical Christianity has nearly totally embraced a theological concept that has come to be known as the "Sinner's Prayer." There are so many varieties of what this prayer is, but basically it is a prayer event where a person acknowledges he/she is a sinner and needs the Savior. Many believe Jesus requires that everyone must pray such a prayer in order to have salvation. That simply is not true. It's a myth!

One of the first questions that must be asked is, "Where is the sinner's prayer in Scripture?" It's just not there. There are two that have become most popular. One is the scene in Luke 18:9-14. It's where Jesus tells a parable where two men are observed praying-one a sinner and the other a religious Pharisee. Let's look at it: And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

This is a great comparison between a humble sinner and a prideful Pharisee, but it is not a universal special prayer that somehow must be prayed for salvation. Jesus just doesn't mean it for that reason.

The second common passage used to illustrate what a sinner's prayer might look like is in Revelation 3:20: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.' Although this has a great imagery to it, the context for this verse has to do with those who are already believers, but they are not fellowshipping with Jesus-maybe not walking with Him as He would like.

The damage of believing there is some sort of magical happening or prayer that one prays that will automatically bring about salvation is to miss what salvation is all about. You might call it "accepting Christ" or "meeting Christ" or "receiving Jesus as your personal Savior", but this just isn't what Jesus taught.

You might site Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus as the norm, but that experience is hardly the norm. It's very unique. Or, you might site the 3000 who were added to the early fellowship in one day in response to Peter's message on the Day of Pentecost. That's recorded in Acts 2:41: So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

But when you closely examine what is said about the 3000, you will discover a phrase that may give us the key to what really is going on. Later in that passage Luke says, They were praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. NOTE "those who were being saved". "Being saved" is used elsewhere and this offers a way to debunk the myth that there is required some eventful prayer-the sinner's prayer mentality-that will bring a person into salvation.

Let's take the 3000 and analyze what happened to them. FIRST-They received the message of Peter about Jesus. They agreed with the Good News message of Jesus.

SECOND-They were baptized to identify themselves as followers of Jesus. This was a Jewish tradition-to be baptized into whomever you are following. They were baptized into Moses, they were baptized with John's baptism and now here they are being baptized as followers of Jesus.

THIRD-The Lord added them to the fellowship of Jesus to follow Him together. They practiced discussing the teachings of the apostles, praying, eating and enjoying fellowship together. No one was pushing anyone into participating in this Jesus fellowship. This was a God-thing!

FOURTH-They were BEING SAVED. They weren't saved, but being saved. The way I see it this action of responding to Peter's message and being baptized was the initial step of being saved. The act of believing enough to respond in this way was the beginning of the process of being saved.

There are several illustrations of this initial step today. There is the altar call where people go down front in response at the end of a service. There is throwing a stick in a campfire and expressing one's desire to follow Jesus. There is the method of the "I Believe!" part of a service where a person stands to his feet and says out loud, "I believe!" All of these methods of response don't bring you salvation in and of themselves, but they are each an initial step in salvation of BEING SAVED. The problem comes when you are expecting that this initial response is the entire closed-out event and you are in!

FIFTH-Note there is no prayer in this response of the 3000 at all-not the sinner's prayer or any other kind of prayer.

There was a time that I tried to count how many times I had gone forward or responded to God in a public way, looking for a life-changing experience. I was looking for a climactic event where I finally meant it and actually got it all from God. I counted 42 times, but none of them delivered what I was looking for. It's because I was looking for the wrong thing. I was caught up in what our church's traditions and teachings were. I just didn't understand what Jesus wanted me to do.

So, there just isn't a clear "sinner's prayer" or climactic spiritual event in the teachings of Jesus that indicates any kind of requirement. Instead, Jesus simplifies what the prayer or the action must be for anyone who is leaning into following Him. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

NOTE Jesus is all about each of us simply "coming to Him"; it's a relational matter with Jesus. This is why His continual requirement is clearly "Come to Me!" or "Follow Me!"

Monday, July 13, 2009



This is a very different myth, but well worth tracking. There was a great challenge in the beginning to spread the Good News of Jesus to the Jewish and non-Jewish cultures. Jesus was not from a traditional school. Everyone was astonished at the authority with which Jesus taught. He didn't quote anyone. The authority, authenticity and attractive perspective on old truths and traditions were awesome and revolutionary. It was so different from what they had been taught.

Endless questioning and debating followed Jesus everywhere. Everyone had an opinion on Jesus' identity. Even the disciples had a sense of doubt and timidity about what they really thought about this Jesus. They were a work in progress, for sure.

But in the midst of all of this questioning and discussion about who this new Rabbi Jesus was, there is a group who already and always knew the true identity of Jesus. This group is so unlikely. That's why I call it a myth. The groups are energized and serve as emissaries of Satan. Satan does believe Jesus is the Son of God.

The only ones who greet Jesus as He enters a village and already know He is the Son of God are the demons. In Mark 3:10-12 it says, For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

Luke records another scene where Jesus is met by the demons and they say, "Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!"

In Mark 5 is another occurrence: When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God's name don't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

In Acts 19 Luke records an interesting interaction with the demons: Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demonized. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus knew this, they were all seized with fear and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.

NOTE the claim by the demons, "Jesus I know", and they did. They knew who Jesus was. They were clear on His identity. Also, note that the people who witnessed and/or heard of this interaction with the demons were made to have great fear and the name of Jesus was held in high honor.

It's been my experience that when you see Jesus through the eyes of Satan, you see Jesus and His power more clearly. Satan knows and believes Jesus is the Holy One of God-the Son of God. The more I have seen the face of evil the more I understand the power of the name of Jesus. Greater is Jesus in you than Satan's demons all around you. Don't get fascinated and distracted by the activities of demons and evil today. Focus on Jesus as the Holy One-the Son of God. Satan and his demons believe this and know it to be true. Do you believe this? This is one time I'd suggest that you agree with Satan.



This myth is a simple one. We so often refer to Jesus as JESUS CHRIST that it seems like Christ is Jesus' last name. Well, it isn't. That is a myth-a common misunderstanding. The debunking process is very simple-that is, Christ is Jesus' title. It is best translated as "the Christ" or "the Messiah".

Now in order to work our way through this myth I think it's best to examine the title, CHRIST, and then the name, JESUS. FIRST-The term "Christ" literally means to anoint-to rub or smear a symbolic oil or ointment on someone to establish a person in an official position. In the Hebrew culture there were three major offices among the people of Israel-prophet, priest and king. Each of these official positions were filled with people who were anointed-sort of set apart unto the God of gods. These three offices were quite distinct. The prophet spoke God's words to the people-representing God to man. The priest offered sacrifices, prayers and praises to God on behalf of the people-representing man in the presence of God. The king ruled over the people as God's representative on earth-representing the original dominion of man. Each person who was anointed was functioning as a servant of God.

Although these three anointed positions were distinct and exercised by different people in the Old Testament, they are all three united in the one person of the coming Messiah-the Christ. All three are fulfilled and brought to an ultimate conclusion in the Christ. The Christ-the anointed one-was to be God's servant-the Son of Man.

The threefold misery of men required the threefold offices of God's Messiah. The first is ignorance of what God requires and how man falls short. This requires God's prophet. The second is guilt that occurs due to the shortcomings or sins of the people. This requires God's priest. The third misery of man is the bondage and corruption that results from man attempting to rule over man. This requires God's king to rule over His Kingdom.

Therefore, mankind desperately needs the touch and work of God's Messiah-the Christ. Jesus is born of the Spirit of God, taking on flesh to fill all three official positions of the Christ. Jesus then is able to embrace the title of the Christ. He is best known as Jesus, the Christ. To think Christ is Jesus' last name misses the point of the official positions Jesus fulfilled for mankind.

SECOND-The name of Jesus all by itself without the title is highly significant and most powerful. In order to get this in perspective we must go way back to nearly 3500 years ago when Moses was being sent by God to face the people of Israel. Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:13-14).

From the beginning God's name was very important. His name is I AM WHO I AM. This personal name of God means that God exists and always has existed. It is spelled in the Hebrew language by four letters without any vowels. It is YHWH. Some ancient rabbis have described the name of God as like taking a breath. It is Yah-weh. And every breath you take is like saying His name. His name is revered so highly by the Jewish people that they wouldn't even pronounce it. Instead they would use the word for "lord" in its place. Even today, most Jews will not spell out the word, God. They usually write it with a hyphen, G-d.

When we come to the time of Jesus, there is a lot of emphasis placed upon the name of Jesus. In the first few verses of John it says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only.

Later in John Jesus says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." What is it about this Jesus that is so attractive? Well, in Acts 4:12 it says, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. There is something about that name.

Remember when the Lord spoke to Ananias about what he was to tell Paul, whom Jesus had just apprehended on the road to Damascus. He said, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel."

When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, He makes an interesting reference about the name of God, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me."

So what is the name of God that was given to Jesus? It is Jesus or "Yeshua" in the Hebrew. NOTE what this means. It is a combination of YE, short for Yahweh, and SHUA which means saves. So, the name is YAHWEH SAVES-Yeshua. It's a combination of the name of God given to Moses and the Messianic name given to God in the flesh-Jesus-God saves!

Even more specific is that Jesus makes several claims to being the I AM. When Jesus announced to His disciples He would be leaving, Thomas said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

To think Christ is Jesus' last name not only misses the point of the official positions Jesus fulfilled, but also misses the person of Jesus. Jesus, the Christ-Jesus, the name above all names, and the Christ, the highest position God ever established. To accept this myth is to diminish Jesus the Christ in such a way that He cannot have His way in your life. Always remember, it's Jesus, the Christ.



This myth is so common and is so easily debunked that it becomes a tester for whether or not we are really paying attention to the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel writings. How is it possible to have the words of Jesus clearly written, not requiring any linguistic or cultural interpretation, to be so misunderstood and mis-taught? Yet we are finding these kinds of myths all around us.

The greatest damage comes when those who are freshly searching out the teachings and principles of Jesus discover that the traditional teachings don't match up with what Jesus actually did and said. In fact, there is such an undercurrent of concern within Christianity right now over losing the youth. This has been called the last Christian generation and I think there is great reason for this concern. It's because of teaching and holding to the many man-made traditions and teachings that just cannot be established by a simple reading of the life of Jesus. What's lacking is authenticity. This is why we continue to work our way through the many myths that have developed over the years.

This myth has a couple of dimensions. The first dimension is the traditional division that says Peter was sent to the Jews and Paul was sent to the gentiles. That's even the way I was taught how to divide the book of Acts. Acts 1-8 was about Peter and 9-28 was all about Paul.

Again, we just pass on what we've heard and don't take the time to actually read what really happened. In chapter 9 of Acts Paul is on his way to Damascus and Jesus apprehends him there. Let's look in on it: As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

NOTE who Jesus describes as the focus for Saul's new mission for Jesus-the gentiles, their kings and the people of Israel. It is not just to the gentiles; it's wider than that. Also note what His responsibility is to be. Many miss this! Saul is to proclaim or carry the name of Jesus to the gentiles, their kings and the house of Israel. He is not to take a doctrinal system, but the name of Jesus.

The second dimension of this myth is that there was a Jewish man named Saul who became a Christian and his name was changed to Paul. I remember this being taught in Sunday school as a child. Saul, the Jew, became a Christian and now is called Paul, his Christian name. This simply is not true. Paul is called Saul 13 additional times in Acts. Saul is his name in Hebrew and he was known as Paul among the Romans and Greeks. There is no Christian conversion of a Jew to Christianity implied here at all.

Think about something with me. As I have spent many days in the Acts of Jesus I am seeing Paul in a little different way. In the classic sense of the word, Paul was what we call a Christian today-a follower of the Christ. He was devoted to the Christ-the Messiah, so much so that he was really ticked off with the people of the Way about their views of the Messiah. He was so devoted to the Christ that he was willing to persecute and stop all others who claimed to be followers of the Christ, especially those who disagreed with his view. So here is Paul, a Christian-a follower of the Christ, and as he was acting out his Christian beliefs, Jesus apprehended him on the road to Damascus. I love this! This is what has happened to me. After being educated beyond my intelligence in theology and Bible, Jesus apprehended my life and I hope I never recover from it.

Now, I am a stubborn follower of Jesus to proclaim or bear the name of Jesus in every way I can. Whereas I used to defend Christianity; now I all I want to do is advance the conversation about Jesus. How about you? What are you arguing about or advancing in your relationships?



This myth has become universal in its impact and yet more and more people are understanding its limitations. By believing that the best way to spread the Good News message of Jesus is by talking, you are very limited in your perspective and probably not that effective.

We have called this method of talking the Gospel-witnessing. Many classes and seminars have been given to help believers know how to talk more effectively and yet most people carry a lot of guilt because they are unable to get their mouths to work when it comes to witnessing.

The damage here is, at least, fourfold: FIRST-You limit yourself to getting people to hear your pastor or teacher. Getting people into the church service becomes the most important thing you can do to spread the message of Jesus.

SECOND-You become a preacher. It's been my experience that people don't respond well to you breaking out into preaching. If they wanted to hear you preach, they would ask you to start a church.

THIRD-You become deductive-telling others what and how to believe. This takes away from the heart of the Good News. The Good News message is entirely relational. But if you think talking is the best way to spread the message, you will be spreading a system of beliefs rather than a simple and dynamic relationship with Jesus.

FOURTH-You tend to think in terms of finding out what the best argument is for a given group or flavor of people, so you can approach them more effectively. This focuses you on what your differences are with those who are not your particular flavor and not what you might have in common.

To debunk this myth I want to share only from the words of Jesus as to how to spread His message. The four ways Jesus teaches may not be exhaustive, but they are powerful.

FIRST-Jesus says that your lifestyle will be a light to those who are looking on. "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." (Matthew 5:14-16) NOTE the message of Jesus will be spread through your lifestyle of good works and people will notice in a positive way. Also, note that there is no talking here emphasized.

SECOND-Jesus says that your love for one another will spread His message. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) Note there is no talking emphasized here either.

THIRD-Jesus reveals another way that will have a most definite impact in the world that demonstrates the heart of Jesus. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25) Here the sacrificial love message of Jesus is spread by being aware of Jesus' heart and that Jesus can be found in those in need in our world-the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and those in prison. Jesus also spoke directly to those who didn't notice Jesus in the midst of the needy. "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' When we are aware of the poor and needy around us, we are demonstrating the heart of Jesus in our world. Jesus always sought them out and so should we. And when we do, the attractiveness of the sacrificial love of Jesus shines through. Again, there is no talking here.

FOURTH-Jesus sends His twelve disciples out on a mission. Note what He sends them to do: Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

Jesus goes on to say that there will be certain divine appointments that they are going to have and doesn't want them to worry about what they will say. He says, "Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

FINALLY, Jesus encourages them to say something. He says three things about talking. 1. He will give His disciples authority and power to go spread the message. 2. He gave them the primary theme of their message. It was the message of the presence of the Kingdom. 3. Don't worry about what you will say when you are in a divine appointment, because Jesus promises you that you will be given the appropriate things to say.

So, quit talking so much and start embracing Jesus as a lifestyle, learn how to love one another and take on the heart of Jesus for those in need, then He will give you what to say when you need it. St. Francis of Assisi put this myth in perspective with his famous statement: "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

Sunday, July 12, 2009



This can be a subtle, deceptive myth. It's popular within much of Christianity to "take a stand" against sin and sinners. Therefore Christianity is known for its stands-political stands, values stands, stands against homosexuality, against same-sex marriage, against abortion and on and on and on.

There are three damages here: FIRST-When your emphasis is to "take a stand against" something or someone, you become known for your gloom and doom attitude and turn off those who are looking on.

SECOND-Even though you may have great intentions to fight against corruption, you will find yourself standing against the same people you want to share the good news with. It's very difficult to have it both ways, as we've discussed in an earlier myth.

THIRD-The greatest damage is that by following this myth, you will most certainly miss the example of Jesus and His Good News message.

To debunk this myth I want to share a few observations. FIRST-Jesus didn't take a stand against sinners. There were two kinds of people in the days of Jesus-the religious and the sinners. Jesus didn't seem to have any difficulty with the sinners at all, but His constant struggles and battles were against the religious.

SECOND-Jesus didn't take a stand against sinners; He stood side by side with them.

THIRD-Jesus didn't take a stand against sinners; He even sought them out to hang out with them.

Let's check out a few illustrations of Jesus standing side by side and even hanging out with sinners. When Matthew, a tax-collector, was called by Jesus, there is an interesting scene at dinner in Mark 2: Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

In Matthew 11:19 it is recorded: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' That's how He was identified with respect to sinners-as their friend.

In Luke 7 Jesus has another interesting encounter with sinners: When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner." Jesus allowing sinners to be near Him and touch Him really stirred up the religious leaders.

Then in Luke 15: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." And again Luke records in chapter 19: All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

Jesus didn't stand against sinners, so why should we? Jesus identified with them, loved them and sought them out, so why don't we? Jesus went to the sinners instead of inviting them to come to an event He was leading. This is precisely where I believe we have gone wrong for so many years. We seem to think the most effective way to reach out to people in need of God is to invite them to come to us rather than going to them. By the way, the early Jesus movement did not grow through promoting large events and building large facilities, inviting the world to come and join them. The spontaneous expansion of the church of Jesus spread by contagious followers of Jesus touching other individuals and families with the Good News of the love of Jesus.

One more thing is important here. The modern day Jesus movement is spreading spontaneously and massively throughout the world by taking Jesus into the marketplace. The Jesus movement is all about standing with the sinners-the non-religious-hanging out with them in their world. It's not about standing against the sinners and pointing them out, but about standing with them and pointing them to Jesus.

Sunday, July 05, 2009



My favorite verse that Paul penned is in the second letter he wrote to the followers of Jesus in the city of Corinth. He said, "I am afraid as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to the Christ."

Over the last 6 years we have come to understand what it means to embrace the message of "Jesus plus nothing". To embrace this is to embark on a diligent process of removing the man-made add-ons that have been attached to Jesus. When you start out in this process, it is easy to get caught up in the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus. At first, it's easy to drop off many of these add-ons. I mean, many of them are so obviously in the way and a distraction from Jesus.

Here's where the myth emerges. I hear it more often than I'd like. I hear people say: "I've never found anything so easy in all my life. It's easy to follow Jesus." This is it! If you feel this way, then I'm not sure you quite "get it" yet. On a certain level, this might be understandable in that you don't have to stuff your mind and life with all of the legalistic add-on stuff. But there is a myth here just the same.

I am returning to the decision I made when Jesus apprehended my life in a fresh way a few years ago. I said then and mean it more today: "I'm trying to do the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life-to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus."

"Jesus plus nothing" is simple and easy to understand, however living this kind of lifestyle is not so simple and easy. This is clearly seen in a few of the interactions with Jesus. It's much easier to just operate your life with a checklist, and then check them off as you do them. "Jesus plus nothing" is not a system of do's and don'ts-a system of beliefs or a checklist. It's a relationship-a day-in-day-out relationship with Jesus.

One of these interactions with Jesus is found in the Gospel of John (John 6): Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

So they asked him, "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "always give us this bread." Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God."

Here you have a very difficult time among the many disciples. When Jesus made Himself out to be the bread of life-the new manna in town, He invited them into a personal, intimate relationship with Him. It's like eating of the bread-taking me into your lives in such a way that you ingest me. Because of this difficult challenge by Jesus to come into a dynamic relationship with Him and learn to trust Him, many left Him.

Where did they go? I think they went back to the simple and easy life of going to Synagogue each week and dropped out of the Jesus movement. It was just too difficult to struggle through cultivating a relationship with Jesus.

It's the same today. The "Jesus plus nothing" lifestyle is not simpler and easier. If you believe that, you are mything out! I am committed to being a stubborn follower of Jesus and this is the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do in my life. The internal struggles are tough, but so worth it. How do you do the works of God? Get caught up into obeying, waiting and trusting Jesus for everything, then you'll have the satisfaction of doing the work of God.