Thursday, October 29, 2009



SECRET #39 is The follower of Jesus is careful to do the will of the Father. We just saw in SECRET #38 that Jesus makes it clear that no matter what your lingo is, calling Him "Lord", or what you have done-spoken, cast out demons or healed in the name of Jesus, or claim to be a believer in Jesus, you may not enter the Kingdom of heaven. There is only one qualification Jesus gives in this context and it is: only "he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."

Jesus uses this same terminology when He was making the point about who His real family members are: 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 12:49-50)

Jesus first refers to God as His Father in the 7th chapter of Matthew. It's interesting to note that Jesus doesn't use the term Father when speaking to the Pharisees or the devil. The term Father is used primarily when He is interacting with His disciples and potential disciples. It's also interesting to note Jesus is the only character in the Gospel of Matthew to use the term Father. Jesus identifies God as his own Father through the use of the phrases my Father, my heavenly Father, or my Father in heaven.

Jesus also makes several references to our relationship with the Father. Jesus says: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." "Therefore you are to be perfect or complete in your love toward everyone, as your heavenly Father is complete in His love of everyone." "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

Why is this Fatherly image so vital? In a sense, as Jesus shared His relationship with the Father, it was a personal invitation to enter into that same relationship with Jesus and the Father. Jesus says that "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44) And in His prayer to the Father in John 17 Jesus says: "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;" (John 17:20-22)

I love the end of that prayer: "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." The invitation for us is to be in Jesus and the Father and they in us-that we may be one together with them!

Paul Young, author of The Shack opened up a thought to me that really makes sense. Jesus makes it very clear that He only does what the Father directs Him to do-the will of the Father. Jesus says He does nothing on His own initiative, but always does things that are pleasing to the Father (John 8). So, when Jesus' mother suggested to Jesus that He help out their friends at the wedding celebration and make some more wine, Jesus said that it was not His time. Or, in other words, He hadn't heard the word from the Father to do such a thing. Then, shortly after she told the servants to do whatever He said, Jesus moves into gear and made the finest of wines for the wedding feast. What happened between the first rejection by Jesus and the next move of actually following through and doing it? He just received word from the Father that this was the thing to do!

SECRET #39 is The follower of Jesus is careful to do the will of the Father. So, what does it mean to do the will of the Father? I think Jesus answers this in His next story where He compares the wise man and the foolish man who built on two different foundations. Here it is: "He who hears my words and practices them" is the answer to doing the will of the Father! Listen to Jesus and do what He says. FOLLOW HIM!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



Jesus discussed two gates-wide and narrow-and now He paints a picture of two kinds of fruit-two kinds of prophets or leaders. He says: "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20)

This brings us to SECRET #38: The follower of Jesus is cautious of false prophets and teachers. This is a significant and strong teaching about the deception that is present within the circles of those who claim to know Jesus and His teachings. For years I have asked, "Who are these guys?" And, the usual answer is filled with a listing of everyone just to the right or left of the one who is answering. But Jesus gives us a clear understanding of who these people are so that we can identify those who are false and those who are genuine with respect to their relationship with Jesus.

Now, don't get the idea that a false teacher or false prophet has an FT or FP tattooed on his forehead. It's not that recognizable. However, Jesus does make it clear what the difference is. That difference Jesus articulates is more for a personal examination first before you use what He says as a litmus test to be applied to others. Jesus warns that there will be false prophets who seem harmless, but are out to destroy. He says that you can decipher them by their fruits. But even this may be difficult to judge (conclusively judge) whether or not a prophet is false or genuine, because many false prophets show a certain kind of fruitfulness in what they do. That's what makes them so attractive!

But NOTE what the test here really is. The term fruit is the operative word here. In order to check out a prophet's fruit (not their show or outward demonstration), you need to observe the person and ministry over a prolonged period of time. It takes time to produce fruit. There is no instant fruit. So watch for the fruit over a long period of time and you'll know.

Now NOTE what these false prophets actually do. This is amazing! "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus says that there will be people who come before Him in the last days, calling Him Lord, but will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Just using the right language will not get a person into the kingdom of heaven. HOWEVER, the one who does the will of the Father will enter-the person who not only talks a good game, but walks it and proves it out by his actions.

These people, Jesus says, will do 3 things that will make it all the more difficult to discern whether or not a person is a false prophet. They speak in the name of Jesus-"Did we not prophesy in your name?" They cast out demons in the name of Jesus. They perform many miracles in the name of Jesus.

WOW! These are some powerful things that the false prophets do. So how can you tell the difference between the false and the genuine. Jesus offers two identifiers here of what false teachers and prophets are all about. First-Watch their fruit! Second-"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."

The deceptiveness of these false prophets is another good reason why it's necessary to keep: 1-Walking with Jesus 2-Walking with others 3-Waiting on Jesus to lead out. THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST THE COUNTERFEIT IS TO KNOW THE GENUINE VERY WELL. HIS NAME IS JESUS AND ALL HE REQUIRES OF YOU IS TO FOLLOW HIM! SECRET #38 is The follower of Jesus is cautious of false prophets and teachers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009



As Jesus continues His first extended teaching session recorded by Matthew in chapters 5-7, He shifts gears away from the judging issue to a description of two gates-the narrow gate and the wide gate. Jesus puts it this way: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

NOTE the narrow gate is small and therefore difficult to go through and the wide gate is wide and therefore easy to go through. NOTE also that Jesus begins with the command urging us to enter in through the narrow gate. Remember, the entire Sermon on the Mount is answering the question, "How does your teaching differ from what we've been taught, Jesus?" His answer here is that to follow Him and His teaching will be difficult, but will lead to life. To choose not to follow Him and His teaching will be the easiest thing to do, because the masses are going in that direction. Don't follow the crowd. Follow Jesus!

Now that's the standard way of looking at this passage. But there is something more here. So much is made of the narrow gate being so narrow that only a few find it. I have a little different take on this imagery of the narrow and wide gates. I see it as Jesus making a very important point of how people authentically embrace life rather than destruction.

Think of it this way. When you are going along with the crowd-even a good crowd, it's so easy to pass up personal participation. There is no way to tell whether or not someone in the crowd really got it and understood or actually participated in acts of faith. But when you are within the context of the few, participation is required and it is very easy to tell whether or not someone really gets it. When I meet with a person-one-on-one, I know what they are getting.

Jesus came to launch a dynamic movement-a few here and a few there, gathering together in His name. This is where He promised to show up-where two or three are gathered together. And when Jesus shows up among the gathering of the few, He changes lives dramatically and authentically. This is vital! The church of Jesus is all about transformation and that transformation that leads to life happens within a "narrow" space where you will experience the life of Jesus within the context of a relational few.

Jesus was into the power of the few! Instead of going on CNN and seeking to produce mass seminars, mailers and email blasts, Jesus sought out three religious rejects to come and be with Him. And, from this relationship with the three, then the twelve and the seventy-two, the Jesus movement rippled throughout the world and the revolution is still on today!

We are seeing this play out in our ministry. We are focusing on the few and as those few really get it, the message of Jesus spreads like a wildfire. You see, within the context of the few, you are able to really get to know one another and put the principles and teachings into practice. This kind of experience is the taste of reality everyone is longing for. This is the Jesus movement at its best!

Jesus taught: "Where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will show up." This is what we want. This is what we desperately need. SECRET #37: The follower of Jesus will find himself walking with a few.

Monday, October 26, 2009



Jesus finishes his teaching on how to make some common sense judgment calls in the most effective way possible. Step #1 is to JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT. Remember that in the way you make a judgment call about someone or something, you will be judged in the same way and by the same standard as you judge. So be careful how you judge others. Judge with the proper spirit-with a balance of grace and truth.

Step #2 is JUDGE WITH THE PROPER STARTING POINT. Start with yourself first. When you see something wrong with someone else, quickly go look in a mirror first before saying a word about your friend. Take the "log" out of your eye first, then you are better able to help your friend with the "speck" in his eye.

Step #3-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SCREENING. Be careful to share your judgments within an appropriate context or you may face strong resistance and maybe total rejection of the wisdom you share.

Step #4-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE. Here's how Jesus taught this principle: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

When you judge with conclusion, common sense, judgment, don't rely only on your insights and wisdom. Be sure to seek God's perspective on the matter. Ask for wisdom on the matter! Jesus uses three action steps here to describe how to seek after a proper perspective-ask, seek and knock! It isn't just ask, seek and knock, but ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and knock and keep on knocking. And, this is the best part, as you keep on asking, seeking and knocking, your heavenly Father will give you exactly what you need! This is SECRET #36 The follower of Jesus judges by seeking spiritual perspective.

Then Jesus sums up His teachings on judging with the golden rule: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) This same principle can be found in other religious systems, but only Jesus says it positively. All others use the negative approach.

I call this teaching of Jesus THE PERSPECTIVE PRINCIPLE. Jesus' perspective on judging is just the opposite of what most think when they say, "Don't judge!" This Jesus principle requires that you be a judge-bringing discernment into our world, so that we can know what is right or wrong, good or bad, and wise or foolish. Without sound judgment, balanced with grace and truth, the entire society is in danger of falling apart. So you be the judge and do it Jesus' way!

Sunday, October 25, 2009



Jesus is teaching about how to make some common sense judgment calls in the most effective way possible. Step #1 is to JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT. Remember that in the way you make a judgment call about someone or something, you will be judged in the same way and by the same standard as you judge. So be careful how you judge others. Judge with the proper spirit-with a balance of grace and truth. Judging another with truth only can be harsh and lacks the relational dimension of a proper spirit. Judging another with grace only is weak and lacks the truth necessary to get people back on track.

Step #2-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER STARTING POINT. Start with yourself first. When you see something wrong with someone else, quickly go look in a mirror first before saying a word about your friend. Take the "log" out of your eye first, then you are better able to help your friend with the "speck" in his eye. There is a "speck" in his eye that needs to come out, but your judgment as to how to best help is distorted by what's in your own eye. Your perspective is distorted.

Jesus continues His teachings on how to judge with: "Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6) This may seem to be out of place in Jesus' teachings on how to judge another, but I don't think so. This is Step #3-JUDGE WITH PROPER SCREENING.

This is a warning by Jesus that your very good, sound, common sense judgment calls must be matched to the context where it is shared. This is SECRET #35: The follower of Jesus judges with a certain filtering.

When you judge with conclusion judgment, don't just randomly make your judgment calls wherever you might be. For instance, don't walk into a bar and start making pronouncements against drunkenness and alcoholism. This will be throwing your pearls before swine. They not only will not appreciate your words, but they will not be able to hear them at all. Your conclusions will not be appreciated and they may have valid grounds to criticize you.

Jesus uses two interesting images here. The first is "giving what is holy to dogs." Moses wrote about this very image. He recorded God's words, "You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs."

That which is holy is that which is separated unto God for His special purpose. God warns the priests through Moses that any meat that is torn to pieces in offering a sacrifice is not holy and should be thrown out to the dogs. On the other hand, Jesus is saying that which is holy or that judgment conclusion which you have made before God is special and should not be thrown to the dogs as if it is meaningless.

The second image is "throwing your pearls before swine." The word pearl is where we get the name Margarita or Margaret. It means to have a value. Pearls look a bit like peas or acorns and might initially deceive the pigs, until they figure it out. Pigs or wild boars were well known during that time in the Jordan Valley. The way a wild boar, especially if angered, attacks you is to run at you with its tusks. It can't turn its head and bite you, but must gore you and knock you down. It tries to trample you.

When you make a proper judgment, you judge with a proper spirit, start with yourself first and be careful who you share your judgments with. Your fine judgment calls might not be received well. This can be easily applied to your interaction with those outside the faith. Don't just preach to someone what you have determined or found to be true. If the people you are talking with are not interested in, leaning in a bit or open to what you are saying, your audience may tear you to pieces. And, who could blame them?

The Good News of Jesus is that He loves and accepts you just as you are. That, in itself, can be offensive, if you are more interested in earning your acceptance with God. Also, 50% or more of the people of the world are turned off by Christianity and its religious system. Unless you are able to disconnect Jesus from Christianity, your audience may be already turned off with your thoughts and conclusions.

So be careful what you say to whatever audience you encounter. SECRET #35: The follower of Jesus judges with a certain filtering.

Thursday, October 22, 2009



If I were to write the song "What The World Needs Now?", I would offer a substitute for the normal answer of love. What the world needs more than anything else right now is good, sound judgment-common sense judgment. We have become intoxicated with the spirit of political correctness. This toxic spirit is so fearful of offending someone, so there is very little that is wrong, bad or foolish. In fact, we don't even want our youth to feel the pain of losing athletic contests, so many don't even want to keep score, where one team is the winner and the other a loser.

As followers of Jesus we have no right to judge someone with condemnation. This is what Jesus means when He introduces the idea of judging. We are to judge-to judge by making conclusions about what is good or bad, right or wrong and wise or foolish. This is common sense judgment. Common sense judgment or discernment is woefully lacking today. And when you make a conclusion kind of judgment, there are four steps to keep in mind as to how you go about making these kinds of conclusions.

Step #1 is to JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT-to remember that in the way you make a judgment call about someone or something, you will be judged in the same way and by the same standard as you judge. So be careful how you judge others. Judge with the proper spirit-with a balance of grace and truth. Judging another with truth only can be harsh and lacks the relational dimension of a proper spirit. Judging another with grace only is weak and lacks the truth necessary to get people back on track.

Today we come to the second principle Jesus teaches on how to judge: Step #2-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER STARTING POINT. Jesus says it this way: "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)

This brings us to SECRET #34: The follower of Jesus judges himself first. There is a really basic principle underlying this principle of how we judge things and one another. No matter what you set out to do, begin with yourself. If you want your child to be disciplined and responsible, you must be disciplined and responsible. There is no way you can give away to your child anything you don't own yourself, so you must begin with you.

We have really messed up this principle in our sense of outreach or as many call it, evangelism. So much time is spent investing in better and more effective outreach, however outreach must begin with you first. In order to be most effective in your outreach, you must reach yourself first. Everything begins with you personally. This has been violated over and over when it comes to making disciples. Jesus commands those who follow Him to make disciples of Him. The problem is that most of those who are leading discipleship classes haven't learned to be a simple follower of Jesus yet. Therefore, making disciples has been most ineffective.

When you judge with conclusion, common sense, judgment, it's vital that you look at yourself first. Don't go after the speck in your brother's eye, until you have taken the log out of your own eye. It's all a matter of perspective. Once you remove the log out of your eye, then you will be able to see clearly how to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

What's interesting is that when you haven't dealt with your own "stuff", you tend to pick away and condemn others for whatever their "stuff" happens to be. And, when you haven't dealt with your own "stuff", there are two problems that emerge. First-you lack any credibility to help another with his problem. Second-with a log in your eye you can't see well enough to help anyone else. In fact, you'll probably poke your brother's eye out while attempting to be a helper.

The violation of this secret, SECRET #34, is rampant among those who call themselves Christians or followers of Jesus. It's even come to the point that the favorite indoor sport for most churches is to come together weekly and confess the sins of the world! The follower of Jesus judges himself first.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



As we come to the 33rd secret of following Jesus we insert ourselves into the last 3rd of Jesus' extensive teaching in Matthew 5-7. Jesus shifts gears a bit here and emphasizes a few principles on how to relate to one another, especially when you are not necessarily in full agreement. It's here that Jesus makes a statement that has been one of the most frequently quoted sayings of Jesus. Even though this saying is widely quoted, its intended meaning is rarely fully understood.

The popular saying I'm talking about is "Don't judge that you be not judged." Here's the full quote of Jesus: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

This passage seems to say "No judging!" and is commonly quoted in this way. However, there are so many other passages in the Scripture that imply the necessity for making judgment calls in a variety of ways. There has to be sound judgment in our world, otherwise there would be chaos, confusion, attractive cults and cultishness, rampant lying throughout our society and immorality reigning on every hand. But wait a minute! That's exactly what we have now! It's because of the misunderstanding of what this passage really means.

There are two types of judgment: FIRST-There is condemnation kind of judgment-a pronouncement of condemnation and rejection that is reserved for God only. SECOND-There is conclusion kind of judgment-making a judgment call after examining the evidence. This is really a personal responsibility for us.

This passage isn't saying not to judge, but when you judge, make conclusions about things and people. Judging by making conclusions about a person or a matter is really having a rare wisdom quality of life-discernment. We desperately need more discernment to understand what's right and wrong, good and evil, wise and foolish.

The great need for discernment-for making judgment calls and conclusions about a variety of things sets us up for SECRET #33: The follower of Jesus judges by conclusion, never condemnation.

And, as you make conclusion kind of judgments, be sure to conduct your judgment in the proper way. There are 4 steps for doing this that we'll handle one day at a time.

STEP #1-JUDGE WITH THE PROPER SPIRIT: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." In essence, Jesus is saying that when you judge another with conclusion kind of judgment, understand that you will be judged by others in precisely the same area. If you are critical of another's parenting style, you will be critically analyzed for your parenting prowess.

So, what is the proper spirit? I think it's the balance between grace and truth. Practically speaking, to have the proper spirit in making conclusions or exercising discernment, you must view life and people through the eyes of Jesus. By the way, who is the only one who is said to be "full of grace and truth"? Only Jesus. So judging with the proper spirit is treating others as Jesus would treat them. SECRET #33 is The follower of Jesus judges by conclusion, never condemnation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009



Earlier Jesus contrasted two ways of storing up your treasures. One is to store up for yourself earthly treasures and the other is to store up for yourself heavenly treasures. Earthly treasures are usually a focus on the visible stuff in our lives. To have your focus on earthly visible stuff will produce in you darkness even to your psychological and physical being. To have your focus on heavenly treasures is to keep your spiritual eyes on the invisible dimensions of life.

I've had the privilege of speaking at many memorial services which ministers to the family and friends who are experiencing the sorrow and the loss. At a time such as this there is very little talk, if any, about the visible, earthly treasures collected over the years. The primary discussion is about the invisible stuff that matters most-a series of reflections on the attitudes and actions of the departed one that have been observed over the years. What's interesting is that in order for these reflections to be observed, they all had to be in the context of relationships. You can see people relating, but the heart of relationships consists of the invisible. These are the heavenly treasures that last forever.

Then Jesus makes it clear that if you choose to build your life around heavenly treasures instead of the earthly ones, you will enjoy a healing light in your heart and throughout your whole body. And, if you live your life in this direction toward God and full of light inside, you don't have any reason to worry about the necessities of life. So, stop your worrying!

One of the insights Jesus gives to encourage you to stop your worrying is rarely talked about, but I think it's one of the most important of all. He mentions in passing that God already knows what your needs are. In other words, God is not surprised when something comes up in your life. He is not surprised! To me, this is one of the most comforting thoughts ever. Since God is not surprised with your situation, there is no reason to worry when things go wrong or don't go in the right direction you were hoping.

What I like about Jesus' instructions is that He doesn't just leave you hanging. He doesn't say stop your worrying without giving you something to do instead. Instead of worrying, Jesus gives you something very significant to do. He says: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) This is where we get the next secret. SECRET #32: The follower of Jesus seeks first the Kingdom and His righteousness.

Seek His Righteousness of HEAVENLY TREASURES! Since God already knows your needs and is not surprised when something happens (or doesn't happen) to you, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things (eating, drinking and clothing) will be taken care of by God Himself. This is what is meant by "walking with Jesus." I think seeking the Kingdom and His righteousness is the same as seeking after Jesus.

To seek after Jesus-His Kingdom and His righteousness-is to enjoy God's principle of plenty. The principle of plenty says that with God there is always enough. Without Him there is never enough! Trust God and enjoy the plenty from Him. Trust anything or anyone other than God, and you will surely have a perpetual state of dissatisfaction! When you come to the end of yourself, then and only then will you come to the understanding that God is ENOUGH!

Jesus has one more thing to add to this teaching. He says: "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) This is the source of the very helpful philosophy of life espoused by the various anonymous groups of the importance of living your life ONE DAY AT A TIME. You can count on it. Each day has enough problems on its own without piling up more that might happen in the future, so live your day fully-today. Yesterday is a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is the only cash you have, so spend your cash well.

Years ago I summed up this series of teachings this way: Look around you and be distressed. Look within you and be depressed. LOOK TO JESUS AND BE AT REST. SECRET #32 is The follower of Jesus seeks first the Kingdom and His righteousness.

Monday, October 19, 2009



Jesus continues His teaching with: "For this reason I say to you," NOTE the connection to earthly and heavenly treasures. Now "for this reason" DON'T WORRY! "Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:25-27) So, SECRET #31: The follower of Jesus does not worry about life necessities.

So Jesus says, "Stop worrying about earthly treasures!" Such as your life-(eating and drinking). "Look at the birds" (26) implies that worry is natural. Worry is useless (27). You can't add anything to your height or years to your life.

"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!" (Matthew 6:28-30)

Observe the lilies (28-29). If God takes care of them, He will most surely take care of you. Worry is not only useless; it is faithless (30). When you worry, you take everything into your own hands, which is not trusting in God.

"Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." (Matthew 6:31-32)

In addition to these words of Jesus on worry, there is one more passage that I like to use personally and share with others. Disciplining myself to do what this passage teaches has really served me and others well in giving us a lift.

Here it is. There are three things that require your discipline. FIRST-Do not be anxious about anything. Did you get that? In order to work on your faith, you must discipline yourself to stop worrying about everything! Worry gets you absolutely nowhere. But it is so easy to get caught up in the swirl of worrying, as if you could do something to control the situation.

SECOND-but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Instead of worrying, discipline yourself to pray about everything! Note that you are to ask God while being grateful-with thanksgiving. Then, note you are to present your requests-desires-what you want-to God. Tell God what you want. Discipline yourself to take all of your requests or desires to God. Just by offering up your desires to God indicates a surrender of your control and giving the matter over to Him. Remember, God already knows your desires before you ask them. What He wants to know is whether or not you are willing to present them in surrender before Him.

After the first two disciplines-(1) do not worry about anything, instead (2) let your desires be made known to God, there is a major result: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. You will experience the peace of God and it will be the kind of peace that is beyond belief. It will be incredible! Your part is to discipline yourself not to worry and to take your desires before God. Note that this peace that you are given will guard your heart and mind. Why is this so important? It's because your heart and mind is where your worry resides. Lock up your heart and mind, so that worry is unable to be activated!

SECRET #31: The follower of Jesus does not worry about life necessities. So stop your worry and put your trust in God who knows all that you need now or will ever need. He will come through on your behalf! As my wife likes me to say to her: "Everything is going to be OK!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009



We're making our way through 75 secrets or teachings of Jesus. The interesting thing about the secrets of Jesus is that they are intensely relevant and applicable no matter the society or generation. One of Jesus' primary themes is the struggle over money and wealth when desiring to live the spiritual life most consistently.

Jesus says: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) SECRET #30: The follower of Jesus has a single-mindedness toward heavenly treasures.

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

NOTE that earthly treasures are full of insecurity and the heavenly treasures will be secure! Earthly treasures produce emptiness, loss and even can be destructive. In my experience earthly treasures create four empty and destructive toxins-guilt, anger, fear and shame. Earthly treasures over promise and under deliver. The promises are always about peace, love, joy and hope. What's interesting is it's within a relationship with Jesus that peace, love, joy and hope can be consistently embraced and experienced. That's why Jesus is the Good News; Jesus is the essence of your heavenly treasures!

And NOTE that your heart will always reveal what your true treasure really is. In fact, your treasure leads the way for your heart! Jesus says: "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23)

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

Jesus says: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24) Now, Jesus gives the ultimatum of it all! You cannot serve two masters! We tend to think that we can get away with it, but we can't. We tend to make Jesus the Lord of the general, but make ourselves the Lord of the specifics. I have a masters degree in doing this. I call it "doing things my way for Jesus." Believers tend to talk about standing on the Rock of Ages, but their actions look like they are clinging to a piece of driftwood!

Jesus introduces a most dynamic principle. It's the PRINCIPLE OF PRIMARY FOCUS or SINGLEMINDEDNESS! AN UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING. Walking with Jesus always moves you toward evaluating every dimension of your life. Try on a couple of simple steps in applying this paragraph.

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

#2-REFOCUS ON YOUR HEAVENLY TREASURES! What are you doing that will last forever? Think about it! THE PRINCIPLE OF PRIMARY FOCUS MEANS A SINGLE-MINDEDNESS TOWARD GOD-your heavenly treasures in Jesus! SECRET #30: The follower of Jesus has a single-mindedness toward heavenly treasures. When you're walking with Jesus, keeping His principles, you're trafficking in heavenly treasures.

Thursday, October 15, 2009



Jesus declares the third prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of possessions. Note the progression of the three requirements Jesus is looking for. You must make Jesus your highest priority, then you must continue to make Him your priority no matter what-perseverance, and then all you have must be given up to Jesus for His use. With these three requirements in place Jesus says you are now eligible to be His disciple.

This final requirement Jesus presents to the crowd may be the toughest of all. Before He actually presents it, Jesus offers two illustrations that strongly urge you to count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. The first has to do with the building of a tower: "If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn't he first sit down and work out the cost of it to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, 'This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn't finish it!'" (Luke 14:28-30)

Then, Jesus illustrates counting the cost with a king going off to war against another king: "Or, suppose there is a king who is going to war with another king, doesn't he sit down first and consider whether he can engage the twenty thousand of the other king with his own ten thousand? And if he decides he can't, then while the other king is still a long way off, he sends messengers to him to ask for conditions of peace." (Luke 14:31-32)

Then Jesus reveals His third requirement: "So it is with you; only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple." (Luke 14:33) Many of your translations say something like this: "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." Naturally, the wording "give up everything" is the operative phrase here. What does it mean to give up everything?

I like the first translation I read best: "Say goodbye to all of your possessions." That says it well! The Greek word here means to "take leave" or "renounce" your possessions. This brings us to SECRET #29: The follower of Jesus renounces personal ownership of all his possessions, including his own existence.

We briefly referred to this in one of the myths about Jesus. Jesus is not saying that you are to give over all your possessions, but to give them up. I see this as renouncing the ownership of all you have. You really don't own what you have. You are a manager or steward of what God has allowed you to collect. Jesus wants you to realize this and be willing to give up your personal ownership of all you have for Jesus and the Kingdom. Jesus wants you to hold on to your stuff, but hold it loosely and be ready to share generously as it is needed.

It's even more than this. You are not just to give up everything you have, but all you are as well-your very existence. This is inherent in the word used for possessions. He owns it all-you and all of your stuff! It's learning to wear the cloak of materialism loosely and to live your life as one who is owned and directed by Jesus. So, make Jesus your highest priority over all relationships, make Him your priority no matter what and renounce the ownership of all you are and have. These are the requirements of being a disciple of Jesus.

The spirit of these discipleship requirements is all about surrender-abandoning all competing relationships and securities for Jesus and the Kingdom. There are many examples of surrender with both good and bad results. Peter, James and John left their fishing business to follow Jesus full-time. Levi left his position at the local tax collections office. Zacchaeus may not have left his vocation, but did give half his fortune to the poor. Then there is the rich young ruler who was unwilling to renounce his wealth and follow Jesus. He walked away with great sadness. Paul didn't leave his profession of making tents, but was able to take it with him wherever he went.

Being a disciple of Jesus is one of the most amazing adventures ever. Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? To make Him your priority, to follow Him no matter what and to renounce ownership of your life? What's holding you back? SECRET #29: The follower of Jesus renounces personal ownership of all his possessions, including his own existence. What's interesting is that the more closely you follow alongside Jesus the easier it is to live as a disciple. He gets you and you get Him. What a deal!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009



The first requirement to be a disciple or follower of Jesus was to make Him your highest priority of life. Jesus now declares the second prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of perseverance. The requirement of perseverance is to continue to follow Jesus no matter what happens to you. Your relationship with Jesus is your highest priority and you will not be deterred in following Him and shaping your life after Him by anything. You will hang in there no matter what.

Here's how Jesus states this requirement: "The man who will not carry his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Jesus' disciple must carry the cross just as Jesus did-following in the footsteps of Jesus. If you are unwilling to do this, then you cannot be His disciple. SECRET #28: The follower of Jesus continues to follow the Master no matter what.

So, what does it mean to carry the cross? The cross of Jesus was the greatest expression of sacrificial love ever. Here is God's Messiah-the Son of the living God and the most powerful person ever born-and his ultimate act was a demonstration of love, not power. The Roman Empire's symbol was the cross-an emblem of domination and power, because of their method of discipline-crucifixion. Jesus literally turned the cross upside down and inside out to turn this scary symbol of domination and power into the ultimate symbol of sacrificial love.

The disciples were looking for God's Messiah to overthrow the Roman domination and power. They believed that would be the appropriate game plan for the Messiah, so they were expecting some powerful moves by Jesus on their behalf against the Romans. This is why they just didn't hear it or didn't want to believe it, when Jesus announced His Messianic plan. His plan was to demonstrate the love of God to the world by allowing Himself to die on that Roman cross-transforming the terrifying symbol of the cross into a symbol of hope, peace and grace. Now that's the greatest example of sacrificial love ever and triggered the Jesus movement that has transformed more lives and cultures than any other movement in all of history.

So, what does it mean FOR YOU to carry the cross? I think it has to do with identifying your mission in life so much with Jesus that you actually incarnate Him-or flesh Him out. Carrying the cross is to be a sacrificial lover-to be Jesus in all you say and do.

Normally, when Jesus talks about the cross and discipleship, He uses the word to "take up" the cross. Luke uses a different word here. He uses the word that means to carry or bear the cross as opposed to take up or pick up your cross. The term Luke uses is not something you carry, but something that is attached to you. It's the same term Luke uses when he talks about Paul's mission was to bear the name of Jesus to the Gentiles, their kings and to the house of Israel. Note that Jesus says here: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) When you bear the name of Jesus, you will also suffer the shame of the cross.

Paul also used this term when he wrote to the followers of Jesus in Galatia, when he says: "From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body." Paul was so identified with Jesus by the scars and marks he had received while following Him. He carried this identification with him wherever he went. He didn't have to pick it up; he was already attached to Him.

When you carry the cross, you are actually so identified with Jesus that you are to be Jesus to the world around you. It's to be proactive with the love of Jesus rather than reactive against whatever or whoever assaults you.

There is a cost factor in carrying your cross. Following Jesus as your highest priority and fleshing Him out in your life will stir up lots of controversy for you. When you take the path of Jesus versus the normal ways of religious living, you will suffer the consequences. One of these consequences is that you will be excommunicated from your religious society and community. Being like Jesus, choosing the sacrificial love approach will most certainly separate you from most religious people, because you are like Jesus, a contrarian-going against the grain.

Note as the Church of Jesus became organized, the cross took on that same idea of domination and power within the Church itself. The organized Church of Christendom took on the power of being the only channel for salvation and communication with God. From the Roman Empire to Jesus to organized Christianity, the symbol of the cross went full circle. To carry the cross of Jesus in His footsteps is to resist this domination and power motif and to reverse the momentum back to Jesus. You will find great resistance as you take this on as a lifestyle.

Another consequence of carrying your cross is that you must endure everything that is thrown at you-trials, troubles, stresses, injustices and all kinds of things that will require you to give of yourself in a sacrificial way. When you think you can't take it any longer, you still hang on. It's the requirement of perseverance-hanging in there with Jesus no matter what! SECRET #28: The follower of Jesus continues to follow the Master no matter what.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



Most of the time we have in our minds that the disciples of Jesus were only the Twelve He chose. But as you examine the life and teachings of Jesus, you will come across several references to a much larger group of disciples or followers of Jesus.

Jesus was followed by crowds of people as He moved from village to village. Naturally, many of these were just looky-loos, but there were also quite a few who were taking Jesus seriously and desiring to get in line and follow Jesus. I'm sure you would have had a variety of definitions in Jesus' time as to what it meant to be a disciple. It's still a very relevant question requiring repeated and fresh examination today.

As we make our way through some thoughts on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, it's important to take Him at His word on the subject before making things up on our own. At one point in His ministry, Jesus turned to the many who were following Him and challenged them to be His true disciples. He presented three very tough requirements in order to be a disciple who claims to be a follower of Him.

In the 14th chapter of Luke's Gospel, he records all three of these requirements during one dramatic scene where crowds were following Jesus everywhere He went. We will see here that there are lots of others mentioned as disciples who followed after Jesus. Here in this passage there are crowds of people who were following alongside Jesus for a variety of reasons and Jesus makes it perfectly clear what it takes to be His disciple.

Luke writes: Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey, great crowds accompanied him and he turned and spoke to them, "If anyone comes to me without setting aside his relationship with his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine." (Luke 14:25-26)

Jesus declares the first prerequisite to be one of His disciples-the requirement of priority. There are many reasons people might follow Jesus, but if you want to in fact be a disciple of Jesus, it is necessary to make Jesus your number one, above all others, priority. He makes it tougher than just saying that He wants to be your best friend after your family members. He requires that you set aside your family members-father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters-to reduce in importance your family members in comparison with your relationship with Jesus. He is to be above them in priority. You go to Him first. So, SECRET #27 is: The follower of Jesus sets aside all relationships to make Jesus his greatest priority.

He makes it even more personal, when He says to set aside "even your own life". Jesus wants you to place Him above all of your own self-interests. This is the area where we create many of our own little gods that we come to worship and put ahead of or equal to Jesus. You cannot be full of yourself and be acting as a disciple-a follower of Jesus. There is not enough room in your heart for that balancing act. In most translations Jesus is quoted as saying that He is requiring you to hate your family and to hate yourself. We covered this recently in one of the myths about Jesus and His teachings. Jesus spoke in Aramaic and in that language the wording is clearly not "hate", but to "set aside" all others to put Jesus in first place or in the very center of your life.

Then, note that Jesus doesn't equivocate at all here. He says unless you put Him up as the highest priority in your life-the highest position of authority, you cannot be my disciple. It's not you cannot be a good disciple or one of the better disciples or a better than average disciple; it's that you cannot be a disciple of Jesus at all. There is no wiggle room here.

So, do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? Then, you must make Jesus your number one, above all others, person you go to-the one you consult first and the one you imitate most. Jesus wants you to walk with Him so closely that you don't start your day, enter into a meeting, begin a conversation, respond to a crisis, react to an enemy or end your day without talking with Him first. The requirement of priority! SECRET #27: The follower of Jesus sets aside all relationships to make Jesus his greatest priority. Will you take this challenge from Jesus and make Him your priority, starting today?

Monday, October 12, 2009



SECRET #26: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when fasting.

Here's how Jesus said it: "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18)

Fasting is the 3rd illustration of the abuse of practicing righteous acts that were meant to be before God only and practicing these acts to be noticed by others. We have seen giving, praying and now FASTING. He is saying that "when you fast", don't mope around with a long face, looking disheveled in order to show off the fact that you are fasting before the Lord.

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


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

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

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

God wants to enlighten, empower, encompass, & encounter you! He will do these things as you meet Him through fasting.

You must practice the presence of God! And when you practice the presence of God, you'll know where He is at all times. And when you know where God is, then you'll know where you stand.

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

SECRETS #24, #25 and #26 are all about private focus. The follower of Jesus has a private focus when he gives, prays and fasts.

See what happens when you practice the principle of private focus by your giving, your praying and your fasting. There is no better way to cultivate your personal relationship with God through Jesus.

Sunday, October 11, 2009



The second act of righteousness Jesus lists is praying. This naturally falls into place as SECRET #25: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when praying.

Here's how Jesus puts it: "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:5-8)

Giving was the first righteousness and now the 2nd righteous act is PRAYING. Praying, just as giving, is a righteous act meant to be between you and God. The Pharisees loved to make a show out of it.

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

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

THIRD-They love to pray using meaningless repetition and many words, believing that they will be heard better by God. Literally, Jesus says don't get into repeating meaningless phrases. Don't say "bata bata bata bata" over and over thinking this will be pleasing to God. Do you know anyone who prays in one or more of these three forbidden ways? Jesus is not impressed!

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

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

The righteous act of praying is to be: 1-Only to your Father. 2-Without showing off in front of others. 3-In a private place. 4-Listening as well as talking to your Father.

At your next time of prayer try speaking only half the time and listening the other half. I'm learning (slowly, but surely) that Jesus wants me to shut up and resign from working for Him in an advisory capacity and listen to what He has for me. This has proven to be revolutionary for us.

SECRET #25 is: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when praying. Essentially this principle, as the one before and the one after it, has its focus on what your audience is. You see, the principle of private focus is revolutionary, because you begin to live your life before an audience alright-an audience of one-the Lord Himself.

Thursday, October 08, 2009



As we examine what it takes to be a follower of Jesus, there are several recurring themes that will emerge. These themes may be counter-intuitive. They will challenge your natural way of thinking. They will be revolutionary. Jesus turns to one of these themes that counters the teachers and the teachings of the first Century. Back then as well as today there is a tendency to go public with your spiritual walk-to show it off a bit or, at least, to compare it to the way others do their walk.

Jesus makes it very clear that this public way of living your life is not the best way to live. There are some things that are necessarily public, yet most of your lifestyle has a private focus to it.

Jesus opens this section of His teaching with: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

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

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

"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4)

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

Jesus then offers His advice on giving: 1-As much as is possible do your giving in secret. 2-Your secret giving will be noticed by the only One that matters-God, Himself. 3-Giving in secret will bring about a special reward from God. SECRET #24 is: The follower of Jesus has a private focus when giving.

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

Wednesday, October 07, 2009



We come now to the final illustration Jesus uses to compare His teachings with the traditional teachings of the day. This one continues the theme of the ultimate expression of God's love. The last one was about retaliation. In this one Jesus pushes the envelope a little further to the point of loving your enemies. SECRET #23 is: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.

Here's how Jesus put it: "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)

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

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

God causes the sun to rise on evil and good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special. Even the tax collectors do that. Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special. Even the non-believer Gentiles do that.

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

We have here the blueprint for solving the problem of alienation in our world-the ultimate solution for world peace. This is the most effective peace plan ever. Religious wars are in abundance and always have been between the various religious cultures of the world. Every religious system has had its ugly moments in history. Muslims believe all non-Muslims are going to hell. Christians believe all non-Christians are going to hell, etc. There are ugly differences even within the major religious communities. I grew up Baptist and we believed we were the only Baptists that were going to heaven.

There are three methods of bringing these disparate movements into some form of cooperation and unity. FIRST-There is the inter-faith approach. This is usually a benign, friendly meeting with no significant results. SECOND-There is what is called a multi-faith approach. This is very similar to the first one, yet seems to include a greater respect for one another. This breeds more of a sense of cooperation, yet it falls short of what Jesus is teaching.

The THIRD approach is what Jesus is teaching here. He is teaching how to eliminate all of your enemies altogether. Simply love them! If you love your enemies, you have no enemies. This is the essence of SECRET #23: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009



Now Jesus comes to the last two illustrations comparing His teachings to what had already been taught. Both of these have to do with the ultimate expression of God's love. The first is about the issue of retaliation and brings us to SECRET #22: The follower of Jesus is not into retaliation, but sacrificial love.

Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:38-42)

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

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

Jesus taught two things here: 1. Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don't even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

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

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

Joseph did this in forgiving his brothers and helping them later in life. David spared the life of Saul, who was out to kill him. Jesus, Himself is the primary example. Stephen while he was being stoned. Early believers who gladly received martyrdom and the plundering of their goods. Paul teaches that we are to scoot over and leave room for the wrath of God on those who are doing us evil, to overcome evil with good.

A modern day illustration of this expression of sacrificial love could certainly be Mahatma Ghandi. Ghandi took this teaching of Jesus and did something very unique; He actually lived it out to its ultimate. By doing this Ghandi not only changed a nation, but made a lasting impact upon the world. He is still viewed as one who was most like Jesus ever.

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

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

Talk about spiritual revolution! Take on SECRET #22: The follower of Jesus is not into retaliation, but sacrificial love.

Monday, October 05, 2009



In the first two teaching illustrations of Jesus here He taught that whether it's murder or adultery, it's a heart issue. Now He deals with two more illustrations-divorce and vows. These illustrate SECRET #21: The follower of Jesus does not take his vows lightly; he is a man of his word.

Here's what Jesus taught: "It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil." (Matthew 5:31-37)

With respect to divorce Jesus' listeners were used to "Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce." Divorce was allowed by Moses in the Law as an accommodation to the failure of a marriage. The reasons were as loose as they are today-even for being obnoxious! The religious of the day were basically concerned about doing their paperwork and then they could move ahead with divorce.

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

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

Jesus is referring to: 1-Swearing that something is true when one knows it is false. 2-Failing to do what one has promised under oath. In the Old Testament, if you would swear something and bring God's name into it, it better be the truth and you better do what you said-fulfill your vow. The Pharisaical practice was to trick people (usually the outsiders) by swearing to do something or that something was true "by heaven" or "by God's creation (earth)" or "by Jerusalem." The trick might be to swear "by the Holy Temple" that you will do this or that. But, among the Pharisees they knew that you had to swear "by the gold in the Holy Temple", then it was binding. They were caught up in getting around doing what they said they would do by the technical use of terms. They also felt that God, Himself, was not involved in these transactions and therefore they were not binding. Jesus had 4 things to counter this action: FIRST-God cannot be separated from life's transactions. Heaven is God's throne, earth is God's footstool and Jerusalem is the Messiah's Capitol.

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

THIRD-Don't make vows that depend upon your control as if you are in control. God is still in ultimate control-"if God wills".

FOURTH-Fulfill your vows to the Lord by being clear with your words-yes means yes and no means no. Here are some practical applications: 1. Always speak the truth and you won't need to hedge with some sort of oath. I think it's funny when a person prefaces a statement with "I'm going to tell you the truth!" What was he saying prior to this? Lies? 2. When you make an oath, keep it. 3. Do not make someone else responsible for your statements or your actions.

Your vows of marriage are far more important than getting your paperwork done and giving your word on something is a sacred trust.

God is still on His throne-still very much in charge-talk like it, act like it!