Wednesday, September 30, 2009



SECRET #18 is The follower of Jesus lives his life inside out. Jesus teaches this principle on many occasions, but the first time is in Matthew 5:20. He says: "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

As I pointed out in the last secret, Jesus is not saying here to be more showy than the scribes and Pharisees were. He is actually saying that He is looking for you to go beyond or deeper than that external religious show and get back to the heart of the matter-internally.

In the Old Testament and quoted again in the New Testament God says: "I want compassion and not sacrifice." God, Himself set up a most extensive and pervasive sacrificial system, yet wants your heart of compassion. There is a natural tendency toward external religious motions. It's to show to others how religious you really are.

What God wants is a heart relationship and not an external religiosity. The external consists of man-made traditions and commandments. These are usually add-ons that either smother or nullify the essence of what God wants.

There is a theme throughout the teachings of Jesus. It's being before doing. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks upon and evaluates the heart. This is what it means to live your life inside out. You are living your life before an audience of one-your Creator. Whatever is on the inside (being) will flow out into your actions (doing).

There is also the theme of salt (inner character) and light (external lifestyle). Your inner character of salt is required before your outer expression of light. This, too, is all about living life inside out. Lived out this way your life will be more credible, attractive and effective.

When you live your inside out-salt before light and being before doing, your life will become more and more like a fountain. People love to be around a fountain and enjoy it. People come to the fountain; the fountain is not taken to the people. This is the way you want to live your life-so attractive that people want to see and know more about where the center of your life really is. What makes you tick? What makes you so attractive?

I have often expressed that believers tend to move into a stance that has very little effect in changing their world. Believers tend to talk to themselves about the world or talk to the world about themselves. The favorite pastime of the church is to confess the sins of those outside the church. My favorite line is, "We are judging the world and talking to ourselves, when we ought to be judging ourselves and talking to the world!"

It's so much easier to busy ourselves with causes, but these 'good' causes get in the way of the 'best'-changing our world for good and forever! Bob Briner's book, SEVEN NOBLE CAUSES THAT KEEP CHRISTIANS FROM CHANGING THE WORLD, is right on target here! Check out the external, noble causes he lists: 1. Squabbling over prayer in public schools! 2. Making Jesus a right winger! 3. Thwarting the homosexual agenda! 4. Fighting other Christians over doctrinal purity! 5. Shutting down the abortion clinics! 6. Cleaning up television! 7. Fighting for family values!

These external causes are nothing more than deadly detours away from matters of the heart. It's all about external demonstrations for Jesus, but has little to do with demonstrating Jesus to the world.

We take deadly detours because they make us feel active and engaged. Why? Because it is so difficult to live your life from the inside out. It's so much easier to do something external and not really own it in your heart. To talk the walk is easy; to walk the walk is living like Jesus and that's tough. This is why I often say: "I'm trying to do the toughest thing I've ever tried to do in my life. I'm trying to following the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is why SECRET #18 is key: The follower of Jesus lives his life inside out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009



After painting a portrait of blessed believers, Jesus begins more specifically answering the question in everyone's mind: "How does your teaching differ from what we've been taught?" He positions His teachings with the Mosaic Law. Jesus makes it clear that He does not nullify the Law in any way, but has come to fulfill it. To fulfill literally means to fill it full. Imagine an empty glass as the Law and filling up the glass with Jesus. The Law was the form and Jesus is the substance! The Law of Moses spoke and illustrated Jesus throughout, then Jesus shows up to fill up the form set forth by that Law.

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever, then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever, keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

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

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

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

Jesus was not saying to outdo these super-religious people. He was saying that your righteousness must surpass their righteousness. I believe He is saying that your righteousness must go deeper-from the externals into the internals. Remember, God looks on the heart (internals) while man looks on the outward appearance (externals). Righteousness as Jesus teaches it is a matter of the heart.

I think the most important aspect of this section of the teachings of Jesus is how Jesus came to fill up the Jewish container shaped by their laws, traditions, dreams and desires. The more I study other religions, their laws, traditions, dreams and desires, the more I understand that Jesus came to fill full all of the religious containers of the world. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of everyone's heart. No matter the cultural or religious background of those you meet, Jesus will prove to be the ultimate fulfillment for them. All I want to do is introduce Jesus to them so that they recognize Him, whom they have sought after all their lives.

SECRET #17 is: The follower of Jesus respects all laws & religious structures, knowing his Master will fill it full of meaning and fulfillment. In the same way Jesus fills up the Jewish container I understand that this is the same thing Jesus does with every religious and cultural container in the world. Jesus is the only one in the world who can bring the world together in unity. I see it every day: Jesus unites and most everything else divides!

Monday, September 28, 2009



Salt and light! Salt is the invisible presence of God that must be sensed by the world. Salt is the inner dimension of your faith walk that is most important. Light is the external dimension of your faith walk. Unless your act of following Jesus works from the inside out-salt first, then light, you will find yourself without the invisible presence of God. Without the saltiness of the invisible presence of God, you'll tend to end up just faking it.

SECRET #16 is founded in Jesus' teachings about the light. He says: "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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16) SECRET #16 is: The follower of Jesus is the light of the world for all to see.

Whereas the dimension of salt must be sensed and not seen, the dimension of light must seen in order to be effective. Salt has more to do with your character; light has to do with your lifestyle. The implication here is that there is a watching world around you. They are watching how you live your life in the good times and in bad.

Jesus taught that He was the light of the world and here He teaches His disciples that they are to function as the light of the world, too. It seems that Jesus wants His disciples to walk closely in His steps, so that His disciples are actually carrying out His teachings. I've come to see that the followers of Jesus are called upon to be Jesus as they come in contact with others. This is essential to understanding what it means to be the light of the world.

To be the light of the world also means to love one another. Jesus makes it clear that loving one another will let the world know more clearly about Him and His message.

To be the light of the world means to bless others, even when you are insulted. To do this will stir up a curiosity in others to ask you for the reason for the hope that is in you. Why do you act so differently? Instead of getting even, you try to make things right. This shines the true light of Jesus in a world full of darkness.

To be the light of the world means to have as your life question toward others: What can I do to help? (And, really mean it!) To shine as light in darkness is to meet the needs of those you encounter as you are able-to be a good neighbor, even to your worst enemy.

To be the light of the world means to be willing and ready to share your personal story when the opportunity arises. This does not require you to preach, teach or set anyone straight. You don't want to be a bright spot light, but a helpful light that eliminates the darkness in people's minds and lives.

Jesus said: "You ARE the salt of the earth." Just like the dimension of salt, Jesus says: "You ARE the light of the world." People are attracted to the light. You don't have to do anything spectacular; just live your life from the inside out-from salt to light! Be very aware that who you are matters and can make a significant difference in your world. In a sense, with salt and light you are more like a thermostat that sets the temperature rather than a thermometer that reports what the temperature is. With salt and light, you can be proactive and not just reactive!

SECRET #16? The follower of Jesus is the light of the world for all to see. When they see you, may they see Jesus, simply Jesus.

Sunday, September 27, 2009



Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position you for the mission He has for you in this world-salt and light. The first is salt and sets us up for SECRET #15: The follower of Jesus is the invisible salt of the earth-the very presence of God.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the saltshaker and applied to the meat.

Salt is a vivid image of what Jesus wants from us. Salt has always been a highly valued commodity. It was even used for money. Roman soldiers were often paid in salt for their salary.

Salt is healing and soothing. The Hebrew word "salt" not only means to be soft, smooth and soothing, it was believed to possess healing properties. Salt was rubbed over newborn babies as a sign of cleansing and healing. Along with this idea, salt is a symbol of peace. We are not only called to bring peace, but to bring soothing and comfort to those who are in pain.

To be a saltless or tasteless disciple you are good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Tasteless is the word for foolish, dull, flat or deficient-to be a moron. To be the salt of the earth is to be full of wisdom. The foolish disciple has no impact on his world.

Salt adds flavor to things. Think of it this way. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus lends flavor to life and is therefore a difference-maker. It means that you as salt have the power to change the world-to flavor it.

In order to be salt it's important to understand the principle of invisibility. I view salt as the preserving, invisible presence of God. It's not what is seen; salt must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving effect of purity, honesty, fairness and wholeness.

ONE MORE OBERSERVATION: Salt was added to each sacrifice offered. In fact, salt was necessary to make the sacrifice complete. There had to be the offering or sacrifice and the salt. Think of it this way. Jesus is the sacrifice. You are the salt applied to it. In other words, you as the salt of the earth are necessary to complete the ultimate, sacrificial love demonstration ever. In a real sense, you are the salt of the earth and your saltiness completes the message of love Jesus came to give.

SECRET #15? The follower of Jesus is the invisible salt of the earth-the very presence of God. You ARE the salt of the earth. How's it going?

Thursday, September 24, 2009



As we unpack the 14th secret of following Jesus, we come to the last snapshot or beatitude: "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

SECRET #14 is: The follower of Jesus rejoices and celebrates when persecuted for being a follower of Jesus alone. To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles-especially the stresses that others bring upon you. Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life's stresses are circumstantial. I recently read: "You know it's a bad day when the sun comes up in the West, when you jump out of bed and miss the floor or when the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard or when you put both contact lenses in the same eye or when your pet rock snaps at you. When the blind date turns out to be your ex-wife or when your income tax refund check bounces." Those are circumstances that spell trouble.

NOTE the reason for persecution here. It's that same word we saw earlier-righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness-being like Jesus (allowing Him to live His life through you)-you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you.

ALSO note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It's insults, falsely saying all kinds of evil against you because of the Jesus and Kingdom lifestyle you are embracing. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous and threatened.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, His simple message was to present Himself and the gospel of the Kingdom. It didn't contain a system of do's and don'ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute Him terribly to the point of putting Him to death-to silence this simple one. If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable-especially those who believe they have it all together, bolstered by their many theological and religious props. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight-a bright light of hope.

The pre-requisite necessary for you to rejoice in persecution is to refocus your heart. Your passion for filling up the hole in your soul with simply Jesus-for genuine satisfaction and fulfillment in Him-can set you up as a primary target for an onslaught of verbal persecution. When you begin to experience a sense of inner satisfaction and some level of fulfillment, you will find the jealousy and envy of others waiting to cut you down to their size-or lower!

Rejoice in persecution is the attitude that is necessary to stand up against this verbal barrage. The attitude is to take a bigger view of it all. Those who are verbally attacking you are hurting deeply within themselves. What is most encouraging is that they have noticed something about you. You are growing up. You are beginning to find a personal satisfaction that sets you apart. Your response must be to redouble your efforts in refocusing your heart even more. You'll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution. Keep on hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others. Then rejoice in persecution. This will drive your detractors nuts. Enjoy it.

NOTE what is promised for those who rejoice in persecution. Jesus says, "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We saw that at the very beginning with Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The first snapshot and the last-poor in spirit and being persecuted for being like Jesus. It's like all 8 beatitudes are wrapped up in a package-all describing what a citizen of the Kingdom looks like. What a picture it is!

All of the 75 secrets of following Jesus describe a very different lifestyle-the Kingdom lifestyle, all unveiled by the King-Jesus. In a very real sense, these last 8 snapshots or secrets make up a collage of Jesus Himself. So, to embrace these for yourself is to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom personally. Don't hesitate on this. There are many treasures and secrets of the Kingdom that will enable you to make the rest of your life, the best of your life. So, embrace SECRET #14: The follower of Jesus rejoices and celebrates when persecuted for being a follower of Jesus alone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



We are continuing through the 8 snapshots Jesus offers concerning what a Kingdom dweller looks like. We have come to the seventh snapshot or beatitude. It is: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."

This is all about restoring peace. To restore peace is to develop peace within your sphere of influence wherever possible. To be a peacemaker requires that you make peace where there is no peace. Search for trouble, distress, brokenness and those who are living in pieces. You don't have to look too far. Listen to those around you. There is a great void out there-a great need to be understood. In fact, you probably won't have to search, just listen and be aware. This is a strategic discipline that carries with it the dynamic message of the Gospel (Good News). This is Jesus-peace where there is no peace.

In order to restore peace you must see the other person's strengths. This proves that you are listening and truly understand. Seek answers for what's best for this person. Do what you can do to promote peace making-love, trust, and forgiveness. The world around you is in such desperate need of experiencing inner peace. When I even casually mention forgiveness in a seminar session, I notice the light bulbs switching on throughout the audience. People are in great need for healing-for knowing inner peace.

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last ditch effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father."

The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office over 800 "Pacos" showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Believe me, there are massive amounts of Pacos out there looking for peace!

NOTE that being a peacemaker emerges out of the beatitude of meekness. So, how can you best restore peace in the world around you? The pre-requisite is to renew your confidence-develop the attitude of meekness. Remember that meekness is a quiet, controlled inner strength. You don't have a chance to be a peacemaker without that quiet, controlled inner strength. You see, without that attitude of meekness you have the tendency to be a reactor to people and things rather than be proactive, which is what restoring peace requires. Meekness is the inner strength that allows you to be a peacemaker. Restore peace and make people whole or remove yourself from this responsibility and leave the people around you in pieces. So, choose to restore peace.

ALSO NOTE the peacemaker will be called a son of God. This is what God does. He brings peace to the world at great cost to Himself. When you are a peacemaker, you are like your Father in heaven.

I like the simple prayer that says: "Dear Lord, as in the world I toil and through this world I flit. I pray make me a drop of oil and not a piece of grit!" "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." So, SECRET #13 is: The follower of Jesus seeks to make peace where there is no peace.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009



The first 4 snapshots are about your heart before God: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." The second 4 snapshots are about your heart relationship before God as you relate to others. The first one of these is: "Blessed are the merciful and they will be shown mercy." Remember, being merciful emerges out of being poor in spirit.

Now today we come to the sixth snapshot or beatitude. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." On the surface being "pure in heart" doesn't appear to have much to do with others. But when you check it out as this term is used throughout the Scriptures, it's clear that "pure in heart" is about being loyal, honest and trustworthy as a friend. In the Proverbs it says "the king's friend is pure in heart." Pure in heart is one who can be counted on at all times-a safe person to have on your team.

To be pure in heart is basically relating as a loyal friend. To relate as a friend is to develop relationships where there is trust and love! Where there is trust and love, there is affirmation. Don't relate to others as friends for their approval. You don't want to give anyone that much power. You only seek approval from your Creator-your Higher Power. With friends, you must seek affirmation.

The discipline here is to determine not to be a Lone Ranger in living your life. You need friends around you and you must be the one who has this discipline as an initiative for your own life. You must be first in relating to another, not waiting for others to befriend you. But note how it must emerge out of your mourning over that which keeps you from God. Friendship begins in your heart! So, SECRET #12 is The follower of Jesus is a loyal, honest friend.

The pre-requisite for relating as a friend is to reframe your weaknesses! In other words, if you are going to be a safe friend, you will be helped by being sensitive to that which keeps you from God-by mourning. If you want to be more effective relating as a friend, you must check out how well you reframe your weaknesses. How is the mourning process going? You can't be a good friend unless you have a lifestyle of being sensitive to your own weaknesses.

There are two critical cautions at this point: First, don't relate to another who is not into some sort of mourning. If you try to be a friend to a person who isn't sensitive to his weaknesses and therefore in denial, you may be in big trouble. Solomon warned that if you relate to a fool, you will end up living as a fool, too. When a person hasn't reckoned with his/her weaknesses, he tends to want to point out yours in a condemnatory fashion.

Second, don't relate to another person without reframing your weaknesses. I have played the part of a fool on too many occasions. I've allowed people to use me to gain credibility that they lacked, allowed people to use me to pay for their own guilt by pointing out my failures, allowed wreckage to remain at the side of life's road, and allowed my naiveté to bring condemnation down upon me.

Without proper mourning you waste your sorrows and troubles, because without proper mourning there is no comfort and joy-satisfaction. And, without that satisfaction, you will find it very difficult to relate as a friend.

Everyone is in desperate need of the dynamic of friendship. Without a friendship you die. Life flows through it and death reigns without it. How are you doing in developing this discipline? Make sure to live your life with trusted and loving friends. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you've forgotten the words. But there's one more dynamic I'd like to suggest. Turn your friends into "walking partners" as you walk your walk with Jesus. Learn to discuss and do things in the name of Jesus and in the spirit of His Kingdom in that relationship. This will deepen any friendship into a life partnership as you learn to do life together.

ONE MORE THING: The pure in heart are given a special reward for taking care of the heart. They will see God. Whatever else that means, it's clear that God puts a high premium on your heart. Want to see God, then allow Him to own your heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." SECRET #12 is: The follower of Jesus is a loyal, honest friend.

Monday, September 21, 2009



The first 4 snapshots or beatitudes are about your relationship before God. They are quite personal-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The second 4 are internal qualities also before God regarding our relationship with others. Each one extends out of another. Here is a visual of how this relationship works. If you make two lists side by side with the first four on the left and the second four on the right, you will observe some fascinating things about the interrelationships within all eight snapshots.

NOTE the left side of the chart has to do with the first four and each is expressing what it means to be into BEING. The list on the right has to do with the second four and each of these is expressing what it means to be into DOING.

NOTE one more thing. Each of the being snapshots is the basis for the doing snapshots. In other words each of the DOING snapshots emerge out of the BEING ones. In order to understand merciful, it is helpful to define its source in poor in spirit. This is the same for each of the DOING snapshots that we are about to discuss.

Now, let's move on to the fifth snapshot or beatitude. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." The action step here is to reach out with compassion. So, SECRET #11 is The follower of Jesus is filled with compassion toward others. To reach out with compassion is to treat everyone with grace and mercy. This means to identify with other's needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you. Remember, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment. It's a reciprocal principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away. So, when you show mercy to someone, you feel this same mercy coming over you.

Reaching out with compassion is a source of healing for those you touch and for yourself, so that everyone gets better. Don't forget, this is not just an action toward another person; it's an attitude that is most natural and present within the Kingdom lifestyle.

There is no way you will be able to reach out with compassion or be merciful without the dimension of being poor in spirit where you reaffirm your spiritual bankruptcy without God. Poor in spirit is a pre-requisite for being merciful to others.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to reach out with compassion you will do well to reaffirm your poverty. In other words, if you want to check out how you can reach out with compassion more effectively, start with reaffirming your poverty. Start with checking whether or not you are poor in spirit. This makes so much sense when you think about it. It's very difficult to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. On the other hand, when you are a person who has a right evaluation of your self, God and others, you are freed up to be able to show genuine compassion to others. When you have received grace from God, it's much easier to give out mercy.

Is it difficult for you to show mercy to other people? Then check out being "poor in spirit." If you are understanding of your wickedness and wonder-your poverty before God-a right evaluation of yourself before God, then you are able to offer mercy to another. If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won't find it easy to extend mercy to another person at most any level.

So, beginning with a sincere acknowledgment of your desperate need for God, reach out to all those around you with sincere compassion. And, you will receive it right back in the process. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." This is better than Karma. This is immediate!

SECRET #11? The follower of Jesus is filled with compassion toward others.

Sunday, September 20, 2009



As we make our way through the beatitudes, which are really snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like, we come now to the 4th. So far we have discussed: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This means to reaffirm your poverty-your need for God--to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-both the wickedness and the wonder parts. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." This means to reframe your weaknesses; it's mourning over whatever it is that keeps you from Jesus and the Kingdom lifestyle. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." This snapshot means renew your confidence-to develop a quiet, controlled strength that is not compelled to be reactionary.

What's interesting to me is that each of these first three snapshots speak of where you lack. After practicing these three disciplines, you are pretty much filleted. You are ready for anything that will fill you up. This is precisely what the 4th snapshot will do. Check it out. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." This brings us to SECRET #10: The follower of Jesus hungers and thirsts to walk the walk of the Master.

NOTE the strong terms here-hunger and thirst, not simply desiring something or making it a high priority. This is desperation-the kind of desperation that has a full understanding of its need for God, a desperate kind of mourning and an attitude of meekness. At this point of desperation you are ready for hungering and thirsting for righteousness-for anything that is right and pure and good.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is a refocusing of your heart. To refocus your heart is to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul. Everybody is passionately seeking inner satisfaction. This fourth attitude or discipline is a kind of hungering and thirsting for what you want in your innermost being.

"Righteousness" is right living. It's walking consistently with God's standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God's standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God's standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION-religious systems of do's and don'ts to attain some level of approval by God-to reach some heavenly state and to avoid going to hell. Unfortunately, man's best attempts are like going to heaven on a six foot ladder. The problem with this method is that the ladder can only go up six feet.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or even Christian. All of these religious persuasions are cultural in nature and each one can find its meaning and highest desires in the person of Jesus. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One-Jesus, Himself. This sort of relationship is not a plan for avoiding hell, but it says "I've been to hell and don't want to return." It's a relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus every day-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

NOTE what happens if you hunger and thirst this way-"for they who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One will be satisfied." The term "satisfied" is used to describe the fattening up of cattle-to fill them up so that they have no more wants. Do you want to find satisfaction in your soul? Then you must practice hungering and thirsting for Jesus everyday! It's the only possible way to this kind of serenity and satisfaction. This is what I mean by refocusing your heart!

It's only when sensing your emptiness revealed within the first three snapshots that you have access to spiritual fullness. These are the quiet cravings-the hungering and thirsting-for spiritual things, for the inner satisfaction of your soul! When you hunger and thirst for something, then you want it and will do most anything to satisfy these desires. Hungering and thirsting is not simply making it a higher priority or something you feel you really ought to do, but to hunger and thirst as if this is a life-sustenance issue!

Refocus your heart! On every flight you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping those children alongside you. Part of the refocusing of your heart is just that-putting on your oxygen mask every day-talking to Jesus, listening to Him and seeking to please Him with your life throughout the day. Maybe you need to ask the simple question: "Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?" Believe me, that simple question will refocus your heart. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." The follower of Jesus hungers and thirsts to walk the walk of the Master.

Thursday, September 17, 2009



Secrets #7 and #8 are taken from the first two snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like-poor in spirit and mourning. To be poor in spirit is to have a right evaluation of yourself before God. This right evaluation includes your wickedness or weaknesses that enable you to do almost anything, any time. You don't have to teach a child how to be selfish. This evaluation also includes your wonder, which means that you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created in the image of the God of gods.

To mourn or reframe your weaknesses is to do something about that inner sense of wickedness and self-centeredness. I think this means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do.

The third beatitude or Kingdom snapshot is: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." Mourning relates more to the wickedness or weakness factor. And, now meekness relates to the wonder factor. The quiet, controlled strength and confidence of meekness comes from your Creator. His mark of wonder is upon you.

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

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

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

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

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

So, SECRET #9 is: The follower of Jesus is meek, having a quiet, controlled, inner confidence that has no need to be reactive, but proactive from the inside out.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



Once you have a right evaluation of yourself before God by reaffirming your spiritual bankruptcy without God, you are ready to receive the next two secrets of Jesus. You see, a right evaluation of yourself reveals you have a "wickedness" and a "wonder" about you. The "wickedness" factor says you are capable of doing almost anything at any time. It's a reflection of your weaknesses. The "wonder" factor says you are not as bad as you could be, because God created you specially and uniquely.

The 8th secret is found in these words of Jesus: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Now wait a minute! Blessed are those who mourn? Are you kidding? How can mourning be a blessed experience or one that makes you happy? As you can easily see every one of these snapshots goes against what you might normally expect. Jesus and His Kingdom always move to the beat of a different drummer.

Here Jesus is working with the "wickedness" dimension of who you are and suggests how to deal with it-learn to mourn over it. I see that mourning means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. This attitude builds right on top of the first. Once you have a right evaluation of your self, God, and others, it is natural to be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what's right. It's mourning over that which keeps you from Jesus and His Kingdom.

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

By the way, when you genuinely mourn, you must feel the pain. Moan and groan over it! Feel it! Don't deny your feelings about it! The pain is for real, so really feel it! If you mourn properly, you'll discover something of a surprise on the other end. You will find a sense of comfort and inner joy. This is really the process of reframing your weaknesses so you can have a proper perspective on them.

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

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

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

SECRET #8 is: The follower of Jesus mourns over that which keeps him from God. So, try it out. Reframe your weaknesses so that you turn them into mourning. Then, you will be comforted by the Spirit of Jesus, Himself. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009



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

This is the question for everyone of us, no matter from which culture or religious background you were brought up. HOW DO THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS DIFFER FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN TAUGHT SO FAR? These are possibly the most revolutionary teachings ever!

Jesus has been teaching the good news message of the Kingdom and is enjoying a wonderful response from the people. Now, when He sets out to answer how His teaching differs from all other teachings, Jesus paints a portrait of what a person of the Kingdom might look like. Jesus doesn't paint a broad-brush swipe, but first offers 8 snapshots of a happy Kingdom dweller.

They have been called the Beatitudes. They are so outside the box that many theologians and ministers have relegated them to a later time in the future Kingdom, refusing to apply them to life today. But this is precisely the point of what Jesus is saying. These are Kingdom teachings and principles for today.

Jesus carefully describes each of these 8 dimensions with very few words. Each one begins with "happy" or "blessed" are you when you are this way or that. "You'll do well to be this way" is his point in every one or "The Kingdom citizen will be like this." However, He will turn your world and thinking inside out and upside down as you contemplate each one.

The first 4 are all about our personal relationship with God on the inside. The second 4 extend the first 4 out into our relationships with others. It is truly a great pattern for first walking with Jesus and then walking with others. Let's look at the first of these snapshots: Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

It all begins right here-"Blessed are the poor in spirit". You are blessed if you have this quality of being poor in spirit. The term "poor in spirit" is a word that means that you must beg in order to live. You are that desperate! It's having a right evaluation of yourself before God. He's God and self-sufficient and I am not!

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

Pride is an insidious cancer that skews your thinking, distances you from enjoying your relationships, and sets you up for a fall in whatever you do. Being "poor in spirit" is coming to grips with your humanity! It's the realization that we are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness-the big "I" for everything to revolve around.

So, SECRET #7 is: The follower of Jesus has a right evaluation of himself before God. You know that without God you are pretty bad off on the inside in need of supernatural empowerment, yet you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created by the God of gods and He doesn't make junk. So, there is a wickedness (the downside) and a wonder (the upside) about you. This is a right evaluation of yourself before God. Those who reaffirm their poverty before God are operating within the very presence of God and therefore they are practicing God's kingdom on earth and have the assurance that they are in possession of the kingdom of heaven. Those who are poor in spirit are the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom belongs to those who know and admit their need for God. It all starts here. You see, it's only when you come to the end of yourself (poor in spirit) that you finally realize that God is enough. The follower of Jesus has a right evaluation of himself before God. He is God and you? You are not!

Monday, September 14, 2009



For several years we have been urging followers of Jesus to practice three habits: FIRST-Practice walking with Jesus every day. SECOND-Practice walking with others. THIRD-Practice waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. It's the 3rd habit that speaks to secret #6. SECRET #6 is: The follower of Jesus views Jesus as his Master.

To come to the conclusion that you are going to wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities is to view Jesus as your Master. Viewing Jesus as your Master is something you do. It is not waiting in the sense of sitting back, but it's doing something. In order to make Jesus your Master you must be active and attentive.

I see 4 responsibilities here. FIRST-Your responsibility is not to be in charge, but to be ready for Jesus, the King, to take charge.

SECOND-Your responsibility is to continue relating within your support team-to one another-doing life together rather than spending your energy to keep on explaining your life.

THIRD-Your responsibility is to be anxious for nothing, but to rest in your relationship with Jesus and with others. He may have no direct orders for you today. Don't be in a hurry. You are not called into stress, but rest. Jesus calls His followers into His rest-a confident, peaceful and everything-is-going-to-be-OK kind of rest.

FOURTH-Your responsibility is to be ready to hear His voice. You must be ready to listen for your Master's voice. Don't keep telling Jesus what you want; stop and listen to Him. You might hear something important!

When you view Jesus as your Master, you are not waiting on Jesus to do what you can do. You can do what you know Jesus would do as best you can. You can relate to Him and to other followers of Jesus. You can be responsible to Jesus and to one another.

If Jesus is your Master, you're waiting for Jesus to do certain things: 1. To show up in your life as you gather in Jesus' name. 2. To give you an answer to your questions and heart's desires through an impression, a sense of peace, a desire or a thought. 3. To bring people into your life who are in need of being restored. 4. To bring people into your life who need you to walk with them-for fellowship and/or support.

When it comes to waiting on Jesus to lead out, I have had to acknowledge my sense of impatience, my struggle to remain focused and my tendency to promote people, places and things to get things done in my time. I have had to ask for God's wisdom to give me what's next. I pray for each of you that you might be encouraged and empowered by Jesus today to wait and by waiting make Him your Master.

Isaiah 40 comes to mind regarding waiting on Him: He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:1-31

I was also directed in my mind to Acts 1 where it says that Jesus gave orders to wait in Jerusalem for next steps! When Jesus caught up with His disciples in Jerusalem after the resurrection, He spent 40 days with them to prove Himself to them and to teach them about the Kingdom. What Jesus said to His disciples still speaks loudly to me today: "He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.'" (Acts 1:7-8).

We are to pray for Jesus to lead out and we are to follow Him. So we are praying and waiting for Jesus to lead the way. If you are going to be a follower of Jesus, you must first learn to wait on Him to lead out. Then, it's much easier to follow. SECRET #6 is: The follower of Jesus views Jesus as his Master. Do you want to be a follower of Jesus? Then, wait for Him!

Sunday, September 13, 2009



As you can plainly see there is an unmistakable, common thread at the core of all of the 75 SECRETS. Followers of Jesus are known to be lovers-grateful recipients of God's unconditional love, lovers of God, lovers of neighbors, lovers of others as family and now the pinnacle of it all-to be a lover of your enemies. SECRET #5 is: The follower of Jesus loves his enemies.

It was one thing for Jesus to announce to His early disciples the new commandment: "I want you to love one another just as I have loved you." That was a powerful foundation Jesus laid for them. I mean, here was quite a group of men from a variety of backgrounds. There were fishermen. Within that group there was Peter who seemingly had no unexpressed thought. There was a cynic by the name of Thomas who was never quite sure about whatever it was that everyone else seemed to have embraced as a truth. Then there was Matthew, a hated tax collector, sort of a traitor to the Jews who worked for the Romans. Simon, the Zealot, had to have been an interesting one. He was a political activist, from a party of radicals against the Romans. Can't you feel the initial tension in the room, when Jesus announced to them that He expected them to not only get along, but to love one another? I can hear the thoughts of some of them, thinking: "Jesus, I signed on to follow you, but not to hang out too closely with this motley crew."

Jesus had already given them a personal illustration of what He meant by loving one another, when He washed the disciples' feet. Loving one another was all about serving one another-lifting one another up higher than himself. This was a tough call, for sure!

But in order for the lover motif to be complete Jesus taught an even more radical thought for His followers to practice-to love your enemy. Let's listen in on how Jesus taught this.

Matthew records in the 5th chapter of his Gospel: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Luke records the same teaching in the 6th chapter of his Gospel: "But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful."

Now get this straight. Love your enemies? This is the most radical principle ever taught and is graphically illustrated by what Jesus did by dying on the cross. The symbol of the cross was a Roman symbol of death, power and domination. It was a frightening symbol. Jesus turned the Roman symbol of fear and domination upside down and inside out. He transformed it into a symbol of love and forgiveness. He took the punishment of the dominating world power and used its symbol as the radical symbol of sacrificial love.

The power of the Jesus movement is the dynamic of sacrificial love toward everyone, but especially your enemies. There is nothing more revolutionary ever taught or lived out in this world. SECRET #5 is: The follower of Jesus loves his enemies. Do you have any enemies? You can eliminate them all right now. Love them!

Friday, September 11, 2009



Since God is love, it only makes sense that the visible expression of God through Jesus would express this same dynamic. Jesus is all about love, but not love as a subject to be discussed or a belief system. To Jesus, love is a verb! Jesus would not say, "What the world needs now is love." No, Jesus would say, "What the world needs now is not more love, but more lovers."

The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart, loves his neighbor as himself, knowing God's unconditional love for him and now we come to the 4th secret. SECRET #4 is: The follower of Jesus loves others as family-brothers and sisters.

Jesus clearly illustrated this personally with his own family and friends. Listen to this: While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:46-50)

Here Jesus makes it clear that his family is not limited to His blood mother and brothers. His family includes His friends who are walking with Him. Then He specifies what is true about His extended family members. They consist of whoever does the will of the Father. In other words, all who are family members are those who are walking in the same direction, following Jesus by doing the will of the Father.

We are committed to a mentoring strategy in the many cultures of the world. The first mentoring house I visited blew my mind! My good friend and I flew into a prominent city in Asia and took a six hour taxi drive to visit the mentoring house. The young men who live in the house have been the lost youth of this particular culture. They were addicted to drugs and alcohol and basically adrift-some living on the streets. The mentoring house is set up as a family in a healthy context of relationships and it's transformational.

In packing for the trip I stuffed four copies of one of my books, Anyone Anonymous. This is a book using the 12 Steps to identify and handle anyone's problem. I could just see my book translated into their language; I was so excited to reveal my book with these young men. When we first visited, we went out to dinner at a local restaurant and had lots of time to discuss their lives. We asked them to each share his story since entering the mentoring house. They all told amazing stories about their addictions and difficulties prior to entering the house, but now are doing so well as they have learned to follow Jesus. When I asked them about the 12 Steps, they all had blank looks on their faces. They had never heard anything about these steps.

Well, there went my latest publishing dream! These young men have become clean and sober-even productive in their society-without any assistance from any recovery program. Their "program" consisted of being welcomed into a family setting-a group of brothers who love one another. They found healing in this context of family, all centered around the teachings and principles of Jesus.

We have recently been gathering together with three other couples. We are learning to be friends and love one another. Because we are all committed to doing life together, the bonds as men, women and as couples are proving to be deeper and richer week by week.

Just tonight we took dinner over to a couple of our dear friends. They are facing cancer as we are and we are all convinced that the only way through this is together as family. We love each other as brothers and sisters; we're family in the best of senses and we will get through our difficulties TOGETHER!

This concept of coming together as family is not enough. There is a dynamic that must be present in order for this family to experience the healing and peace that are available. That dynamic-that empowerment-can only be found in Jesus. When each family member is following Jesus, you are free to be a spiritual family with one another. You see, the dynamic comes down to this phrase: "In the name of Jesus."

With a family like this, you have a safe place. Without a family, you are all on your own. With a family like this, you are loved and empowered. Without a family like this, you face a dark, lonely trail of disaster after disaster. SECRET #4 is: The follower of Jesus loves others as family-brothers and sisters. Do you belong to a family-the family of Jesus? If not, find out where there are family members gathering and get there as soon as possible!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009



After setting up SECRETS #1 and #2 as the foundational two secrets-the secrets all the other principles build upon, I threw you a bit of a curve yesterday. I pointed out a third direction of love-God's love for you-that serves as the real underpinning of your love for God and your love for your neighbor.

Since God is love, it only makes sense that the visible expression of God through Jesus would express this same dynamic. Jesus is all about love within a relationship with Him and seeks a relationship with anyone who wants it. Whoever receives this message of God's love possesses the most revolutionary reality a person could ever experience-peace, acceptance, no guilt, the abiding presence of God, and the greatest empowerment ever imagined!

So SECRET #3 is: The follower of Jesus comes to know and accept God's unconditional love for him. I have delineated this secret into seven parts: 1. God loves you unconditionally. There is nothing you can do to earn the love of God. He loves you just as you are and there is nothing you can do to stop Him.

2. God made you to be special with a special mission. You are so unique with a DNA address that identifies and separates you from everyone else in the world.

3. God searches you out like being in a courtship. He is courting you as a lover. All He is looking for is some sort of response to His love. Do you reciprocate this love back to Him or are you ignoring or snubbing His gestures toward you?

4. God is relentless until He finds you to help you back on track. This is what Jesus was teaching, when He taught of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost or Prodigal son. God knows your heart is restless, until you find your rest in Him. He created you to be in relationship with Him-to be dependent upon Him as your Creator. If you ignore this purpose of the Creator, you will find yourself in a dependent mode on something or someone else. Then, you will be serving other gods and not the God.

5. God does not threaten you-not dangling you over the threat of hell. Most have been urged at one time or another to turn to God and avoid going to hell. Turn or burn has been the theme! God does not want you to live with this sort of threat and fear. This is why Jesus spent His time seeking out the lost, the down-and-out, the broken and the sinners. And Jesus did so with the greatest expressions of love. He only threatened the religious leadership and the haughty do-gooders. God wants a personal relationship with you through Jesus forever and forever can begin right now!

6. God set up all of the laws of the universe for your benefit. They are set up to help you live life to the fullest-to bring a more abundant life. You break those laws of the universe, you didn't just break God's laws; violation of those laws will break you.

7. God relates to people through Jesus. Jesus is the Good News that you can have a relationship with the Creator-God of the universe. In a very real sense, Jesus is the love-letter God sent to you to connect you up with God's love! It's your own personal relationship with your Creator through Jesus. This is why Jesus announced that He didn't come to condemn the world; He came to convince the world of the truth about God and the possible relationship with Him. Unfortunately, Christians seem to take on the primary job of condemning everyone else, contrary to the intent and heart of God through Jesus.

We get some insight into what Jesus believed about God's love for you in His prayer to the Father. He says: "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. "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent 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." (John 17:22-26)

Then I think it's interesting to note what Paul's conclusion was about the love of God for those who are followers of Jesus. He says: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

SECRET #3 is the most basic and overriding secret of all: The follower of Jesus comes to know and accept God's unconditional love for him. Well, how's it going? Are you beginning to get the picture that God loves you no matter what? Think it over and then think it over again!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009



In SECRET #1 we saw that when Jesus was asked to choose the greatest commandment, He couldn't choose just one. He chose to set forth two inseparable commands-love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the second secret: The follower of Jesus loves his neighbor.

The way Jesus positions these two directions for your love requires that they must be viewed as inseparable-undividable! You can't have one without the other. I've always visualized this couplet as a right angle-the perpendicular vertical direction is love toward God and the horizontal direction is love toward others. It's like a big L, which stands for LOVE.

There is an interesting self-checkup within this love connection. If you feel a bit estranged or distanced from God, check out your love for others. By loving others you will find love for God. If you are feeling detached from others, check out your love for God. You will find your love for others in the heart of God. Think of the right angle L-shaped visual and do your best to practice them together.

So, who is your neighbor? Jesus was asked this and seemed to say that your neighbor is anyone you come upon who is in need. To be a neighbor you must not walk past or avoid the person in need, if you have the wherewithal to be helpful. Jesus also makes it clear that you are not to help someone, expecting anything in return.

NOTE Jesus says to "love your neighbor as you love your self." What's this all about? I think it's clear that the quality and care you take to love your neighbor ought to be equal to how much and well you love your self. Now here's the problem. If you don't love your self, then your neighbor is in a heap of trouble!

We live in a world where self-love and acceptance is rare. This may seem strange with all of the selfishness that permeates our cultures. Self-love and acceptance are not based upon your performance; they're not based upon anyone else's approval of you, although this is precisely where we naturally go for approval-to others. You won't find any sense of satisfaction in seeking approval from others. You don't want others' approval; you might want and need their affirmation of you, but not their approval. If you give the "others" in your world enough power to give you approval, you also give them the power to destroy you. Only your Maker can place the stamp of approval on you. (God has also given the right to parents to give His stamp of approval on their children, whether they do it or not.)

So, there are two directions of this love stated by Jesus-love God and love others. BUT there is one other direction of love that is the bottom-line here-the foundation of all love. The third direction of love is God's love for you and me. We love because He first loved us. Because of God's unconditional love and relentless search to have a relationship with you, you now have the ability and freedom to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

SECRET #1 is: The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. SECRET #2 is: The follower of Jesus loves his neighbor. Who are the neighbors in need who have been brought your way? To follow Jesus do your best to love them and you will make a major difference in their lives as well as your own!

These first two secrets are foundational to all of the rest we are going to examine-to love God and to love your neighbors. In fact, if you ever get overwhelmed with all of the teachings and principles of following Jesus, always default back to these first two secrets. If you practice these two as a lifestyle, you will be practicing the Kingdom purely and powerfully. If you embrace these two, you will learn how to really live life to its fullest! So, why not go for it, starting today?

Monday, September 07, 2009



There are three occasions when Jesus talks about the most important commandment ever given to man. What's interesting is Jesus is unable to give just one commandment, but consistently shares two as equally important. Let's examine each instance.

Matthew records the first: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus sums up with an astounding observation about these two commandments: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." You just don't get any better than this. Jesus is saying these two inseparable commandments are the foundation-the underpinning-of the entire Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets amount to the whole truth God has given. It's all about loving God and loving your neighbor!

Mark records the second instance: "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (Mark 12:29-34)

Note the summary response Jesus makes in this instance: When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." In other words, if you embrace these two commandments, you are practicing the very things that bring you near to the presence of God-the Kingdom of God!

Luke records the third instance: And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Luke 10:25-28)

So, if you get into loving God and loving your neighbor, you are at the core of all God's truth and you are near to the Kingdom of God. Now, Jesus adds one more observation: And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." This time Jesus says if you embrace these two commandments, you will know what it means to really live!

SECRET #1 of following Jesus is: The follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. Just as Jesus lived His life in a loving relationship with the Creator God He called His Father, so are you as a follower of Jesus to do the same. This first part of the greatest commandment-to love God with all your heart-was not even listed as one of the 10 commandments. It's because this is way more important than even God's big 10.

This is so similar to the first of the 10 commandments: You shall have no other gods before Me. There are three specific meanings here. FIRST-You shall have no other gods instead of Me! God wants to be your God without any substitute. SECOND-You shall have no other gods in front of Me! God takes offense at even seeing any other god placed in front of Him. THIRD-You shall have no other gods in addition to Me! God is against any sort of add-ons. The God of gods wants to be just that to you-the God of gods!

Why? What motivates the follower of Jesus to love God with all his heart? I've come up with, at least, four motivating factors-four things the follower of Jesus knows. 1. He knows God is the God of gods. There is no doubt; God is God and you are not. 2. He knows God is the source of life, goodness and wholeness. Therefore he focuses on God with all of his heart. He loves Him. 3. He knows God is there and cares. God is not distant, but very present and God is love. 4. He knows God knows him the best and loves him the most. Think of it! God knows every little weakness and flaw and yet still loves you unconditionally.

This is why the follower of Jesus loves God with all his heart. So, how about you? Do you love God with all your heart or just enough to get by? Think it over!