Monday, November 30, 2009



One of the most misunderstood terms in the spiritual arena is "holy". Unfortunately, "holy" has become so intimidating and unreachable. It has a super-spiritual connotation to it. But Jesus doesn't want you to be a super-saint or a super-spiritual person.

There are three problems with this misunderstanding. FIRST-To be "holy", sets up a level of spirituality that is unattainable and intimidating. So, "holy" is not something we seek, unless you are an "out-there" sort of spiritual person.

SECOND-To be "holy" sets up a 1st class Christianity or spirituality versus those who are 2nd class or coach. Talk about shutting the door of the Kingdom on people!

THIRD-To be "holy" is to operate under a gross misunderstanding of what "holy" really means. It's usually half-understood. Literally, "holy" means to be separated unto God for His mission. However, where I grew up to be "holy" was shortened to mean " to be separated". The way it was applied to me was that we are to be separated-different from the rest of the world. It was definitely a "We-four-and-no-more kind of lifestyle!" We were an established holy huddle in our community. We were different because we didn't do certain things-attend movies, drink any alcohol, dance or even skate to secular music. We were different all right and successfully turned people away from the attractive, irresistible Jesus. I'm turned off with this kind of spirituality today!

To be "holy" is just the opposite of what Jesus intended. He mostly used the term "holy" to describe the Holy Spirit, holy angels, and the Holy Place-the Temple. As I said earlier the term "holy" means to be separated or set apart unto God for His mission. The Spirit is holy. The angels are holy. Even the Temple was holy-separated unto God for His mission.

Jesus was most upset and angry with those who continually acted holy and missed out on true holiness. He rebuked those super-spiritual, nit-picker, hair-splitting, feather-plucking, hyper-critical leaders who set themselves up as the religious examples of righteousness. They majored in the minors and minored in the majors. They professed righteousness without possessing it and they did it by carefully following their traditions, man-made commandments and religious causes. This kept them set apart and separated from the rest of the world. As they worked hard to keep the 613 laws-248 commandments and 365 prohibitions-they just kept drawing the condemnation of men on the righteous acts before God.

The Scriptures taught holiness, but the meaning of it was not to just be set apart and be different, gathering yourselves into a holy huddle. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is clear that God wants those who claim to be related to Him to be holy. This sets us up for SECRET #59: The follower of Jesus is separated unto God for His mission.

In Leviticus 11:44-45 it says: I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. Later in Leviticus 20:26 it says: You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own. Paul and Peter in the New Testament speak of being "called to be holy" and "make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy". Peter says in his first letter: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

Even though Jesus doesn't command His followers to be holy, in the spirit of what is understood by the references in Leviticus and by the few references to be holy by a few of Jesus' disciples, Jesus does actually teach holiness-to be set apart unto God for His mission. I think Jesus is all about teaching those who want to be His disciples how to be holy. He does this by His two most revolutionary words: FOLLOW ME! In contrast to the super-spiritual community of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Jesus invited the people who were interested in following Him to: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Do you see it? To be holy is to be set apart for God's use and purposes. Jesus invites us to follow Him-to be aligned with Him in such a way that we are on the mission He has planned for us-to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus. Jesus doesn't want us to be holy in the super-spiritual sense of the word, but holy-set apart to follow Him. SECRET #59: The follower of Jesus is separated unto God for His mission.

Sunday, November 29, 2009



Today we are returning to the 75 secrets with SECRET #58: The follower of Jesus is the church, when he walks with other followers of Jesus.

We discussed earlier that Jesus never intended for His followers to be 'going to church", because Jesus was not launching a ministry of buildings called churches that a person could go to. The term "church" is not a special, holy word. I was taught in my first Greek class that it was created as a highly charged, powerful term, meaning "called-out ones". It was presented to us as a spiritual term-a Christian term, but in actuality it wasn't. There was no special religious significance whatsoever. It was used for any common gathering-a city council or gathering for any specific purpose. The term means assembly or a group of people congregating-a congregation. A church is a community of people. It's interesting to note that Jesus, Himself, only uses the term "church" on two occasions.

In a snapshot of the earliest of gatherings that might be called a church or assembly in the 2nd chapter of the book of Acts there is a description of what was going on: They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

It's interesting to note there are two locations mentioned-at the temple and from house to house. This goes along with our idea previously mentioned about orbiting around the temple or big C Church. The location isn't the emphasis here nor is there a certain belief system mentioned other than the teachings of Jesus. The most important things seem to be what they did when they came together. They interacted around the teachings of the apostles (Jesus' teachings), they enjoyed fellowship, ate and prayed together. This kind of gathering can happen most anywhere! The power and unifying factor was in gathering together in the name, spirit and teachings of Jesus. Although there is mention of how the early gathering of Jesus' followers seems to multiply, the emphasis is all about people and their coming together.

Jesus practiced this principle of churching, assembling or gathering with even just a few. It's very clear that Jesus spent most of His time with only three men-Peter, James and John. This is the essence of the Jesus fellowship movement. Jesus also was careful to send out His disciples in small teams, usually two by two.

Even the first twelve disciples Jesus chose to be with Him are listed in pairs: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them. (Matthew 10)

SECRET #58: The follower of Jesus is the church, when he walks with other followers of Jesus. When you wrap your brain and heart around this principle, you will find a new awareness of the presence of Jesus in your midst. Small groups take on a greater purpose. Coffee shop meetings become Jesus gatherings-practicing the church of Jesus wherever you have come together. It's one thing to follow Jesus; it's revolutionary to do life with others who are following Jesus. Following Jesus will change your life; following Jesus with others who are following Jesus can change the world.

Thursday, November 26, 2009



In Luke 7:36-50 a fascinating scene occurs between a very religious man by the name of Simon and an unrighteous prostitute who is anonymous. Let's take a look at it: When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is-that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

The contrast here is clear. On the one hand, you have a self-righteous Pharisee who sees no great need that he has before God and therefore it doesn't occur to him that he ought to feel grateful to God. Then on the other hand, you have a sinful woman, a known prostitute in the village, who is passionately attending to Jesus out of a deep feeling of gratitude.

The central idea here is forgiveness. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and he also came to give His life as a ransom for many. In every one of the four Gospels you will find this same sort of scene where Jesus is forgiving those who are broken and in need.

In this particular scene this prostitute breaks open a very expensive jar of perfume and worships Jesus' feet with it. Jesus takes the opportunity to make His primary, life-changing point-people are in desperate need of forgiveness. And, Jesus came to reach out to the broken, hurting, poor and spiritually bankrupt within society. But there is more to this story than just another broken person restored. This story revolves around her appreciation of being forgiven. It's important to note that both characters in the parable Jesus shares are forgiven of their debts-one more than the other. Those who are forgiven little have little appreciation and gratefulness.

Since she was forgiven of much, she had this great need to thank Jesus in any way she could. She was indeed grateful while Simon, the man who had it all together, was not filled with gratitude, because he had not experienced this same level of forgiveness. In fact, Simon was too good, too righteous to see his need for Jesus and therefore had no reason to adore Him and thank Him.

Now, notice something here. Yesterday, we discussed the 10 lepers-pitiful outcasts of society-who were healed of their leprosy, but only one was grateful enough to thank Jesus for his healing. Today we are working with a prostitute who is unusually grateful for the transformation in her life because of Jesus.

Do you see the theme developing? Jesus is the great physician who is seeking out sick people--those who don't have it together. He is not looking for those who believe they are all together. In fact, that is where Jesus finds the most opposition.

So, I don't know about you, but when I think of Jesus' approach all I can say is "Over here Jesus, I am a crippled man who is in need of you." Once I came to this understanding and stance, I find myself filled with gratefulness through and through. How about you?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I'm interrupting the "75 Secrets of Following Jesus" to share a couple of messages with you regarding gratefulness during this Thanksgiving holiday. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus heals 10 lepers. This is not a parable; this is a real life story. In this case, you might call it an enacted parable.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009



"Going to church" was never the intent of the Jesus movement. All my life I have heard quoted a passage that has been used to keep people going to church. It is in the book of Hebrews in chapter 10: and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. This has become the Christian mantra for making sure everyone goes to Church whenever the doors are open.

Going to church. The idea of going to church limits God and His presence to a location. The idea of going to church misses the concept and practice of the presence of the Kingdom. The idea of going to church leads to building monuments rather than joining a movement.

The whole idea of "going to church" distracts you away from the most miraculous thing that has ever happened to mankind-GOD DWELLS IN YOU. So, your walk with Jesus and with others is not that you are to "go to church", but to be the church of Jesus. The Kingdom-the presence of the King-is already among you all, therefore practice it-live it out in your life-live out the King's presence in your life together. You are the church of Jesus as you gather together anywhere in His name.

Going to church as a location rather than a movement takes away the active, revolutionary nature of what Jesus intended for those who gather in His name. In Matthew 16 Jesus makes an incredible declaration. He says, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it or prevail against it." This sounds like the gates of Hades will not be able to bring it down. Now, if Jesus is talking about a church location or local organization, then He was mistaken. You see, many churches are brought down, defeated and closed down every week in the USA. The Message by Eugene Peterson nails the meaning of this passage and captures the essence of the original word "overcome" when it says, "This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hades will be able to keep it out."

Do the see the difference? It is not that the gates of Hades will be powerful enough to overcome the church, but that the gates of Hades will not be able to withstand or keep it out or stop the powerful thrust and energy of the Jesus movement-the always moveable gathering of Jesus. The powerful thrust of the church of Jesus gathering together as a movement is due to spiritual transformation through the power of Jesus in each follower's life.

So if we who are followers of Jesus are the church of Jesus-the gathering of Jesus, and it isn't about "going to church" but "being the church", what does Jesus want us to do with the organized Church today? Reading through the 5 gospels (Matthew-Mark-Luke-John-Acts) it is clear what Jesus and the disciples did with the "organized Church". Let's view the synagogue as the organized Church today. There are three observations that seem most relevant to us: 1. You don't find Jesus or the disciples bashing the Synagogue (Church). 2. You don't find Jesus or the disciples starting new Synagogues (Churches), because of inadequate teaching or worship. 3. You find Jesus and the disciples using the Synagogues (Churches) to worship together, to enjoy the reading of the word and then orbiting around them. This is what I see as SECRET #57: The follower of Jesus practices the Kingdom lifestyle and orbits around religious institutions.

This is exactly what the early fellowships of Jesus did. They participated in the Synagogue, yet they were in orbit around their Synagogue, their communities and around the marketplace. They went to Synagogue (Church) every Sabbath, yet they were there for a higher purpose-a Kingdom purpose. They were there to introduce more and more people to the preeminence of Jesus. When interest was expressed, they invited them to eat together and practice the presence of the Kingdom.

Here's the bottom-line. Don't spend your time, treasure and energies building the church; that's Jesus job. He said He will build His church. Don't build the church or go to church, revolving your life around a monument. That monument may someday be empty as the cathedrals of Europe. BE THE CHURCH OF JESUS! Now that's a powerful movement that cannot be stopped and will always be filled with the love and power of Jesus and His Kingdom.

There are two clear action steps here: FIRST-participate in the revolutionary fellowship movement of Jesus inside or outside the big C Church. SECOND-orbit around the big C Church, looking for those who are interested in Jesus and His movement. Once someone leans in with interest, invite him into the revolutionary fellowship of Jesus with you. SECRET #57: The follower of Jesus practices the Kingdom lifestyle and orbits around religious institutions.

Monday, November 23, 2009



This particular secret today is so pervasive and powerful-relevant to all of us. SECRET #56 is: The follower of Jesus doesn't believe political action, education, religion or corporate power can genuinely transform anyone.

So much money is expended in four most strategic arenas-political action, education, religion and the corporate world. There is this underlying belief that one or a combination of these four can make a major difference in the world. Politicians believe their ideology can transform society. Educators and clerics have the same belief in their perspectives on life. The corporate executives believe they have the power to make most anything work the way they want.

The truth is that none of these or any combination thereof can transform a person. You might experience reformation, but not transformation. Reformation is basically an external change that may never reach the heart. Transformation is internal-an inside-out experience.

We have found that there is only one consistent transformational experience, no matter the cultural background. It's not a technique, a class or program, not a system of beliefs and isn't found in climbing the corporate ladder. It's an encounter with a person-a relationship with Jesus. Whenever a person encounters Jesus, the power of personal transformation is present.

So, here's what I've come to believe. If you are a politician, an educator, a religious minister of some kind or a corporate executive, there is a higher calling on your life. I call this the tent-making principle. In the book of the Acts of Jesus, what I normally designate as the 5th Gospel, because it is a continuation of Luke, Paul, a tent-maker connects with a couple in Corinth who were also tent-makers-Aquila and Priscilla. Paul made a point that he used this trade of tent-making to make enough money so that he would not be a financial burden to those he ministered to. Tent-making was how he made a living in order to practice his higher calling of introducing Jesus to anyone who was leaning in.

Today, the way I see the principle of tent-making is that everything we do for a living is our tent-making. This includes politicians, educators, religious ministers and corporate executives. Each of these fine vocations plus all others are good in and of themselves. However, if you are looking to make a difference in the world, you must see your vocation as simply tent-making in order to do something greater with your life.

Your vocation pays the bills so that you can be a part of really making a difference in your world. I have a new friend who is running for a statewide office here in California. He is very clear that the ultimate difference he is going to make has to do with him being a genuine demonstration of Jesus, wherever he goes, whatever he says and does. The political position is tent-making for him. He is really working for the King of kings and has a much higher calling in life than politics. As Jesus is demonstrated through his life, all kinds of people will experience a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

I have several friends in the corporate world who work very hard at their jobs. However, they know they are at their positions to make a significant difference in the lives of those around them-to be Jesus in their positions. Lives will be transformed as they are drawn to Jesus.

I am meeting with several members of the clergy. It's been a little more difficult for them, but they are coming to the understanding that even their ministry positions are jobs-tent-making jobs that give them the opportunity to demonstrate Jesus and His Kingdom to those in their various congregations. Again, when Jesus is encountered through these good and well-intentioned ministers, He is the one who has the power to transform a life-not the clergyman or membership in a religious organization.

Only the genuine demonstration of Jesus has the power to transform anyone. Jesus is demonstrated through His followers, simply and powerfully. This is SECRET #56: The follower of Jesus doesn't believe political action, education, religion or corporate power can genuinely transform anyone. The ultimate human change-agent is Jesus. Simply Jesus.

Sunday, November 22, 2009



Jesus warns His disciples that they will be hated by the world. He says in John 15: "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master ' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."

It's clear the world will hate Jesus' disciples. If you believe that the world hates you, two consequences will emerge. FIRST-There is a tendency to feel like a helpless minority, living in a world that rejects you. If this is true for you, then you will either avoid or withdraw from the people of the world or you might overcompensate and try to control the people of this world and put them into your religious box. So the result is either a holy huddle (we four and no more) or a Christian power block to force people to obey your rules and standards.

SECOND-There is a tendency to "take a stand" for righteousness and to establish sacred noble causes that are all opposed to the world. Several years ago, Bob Briner in his book, Roaring Lambs, used to have as a subtitle: "7 Noble Causes That Keep Christians from Changing the World". He listed the following: 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!

This is still happening today-even this past week. A group of "influential" and "intelligent" Christians "taking a stand" against three noble causes, none of which compares to the pre-eminence or transforming power of Jesus. These may be noble causes, but when they become the focus and the "stand" you must take against the world, they push the world away from Jesus. It's a refusal to make the main thing the main thing. The main thing is Jesus, not these or any other issues no matter how important you believe them to be.

"Taking a stand" becomes so ugly. It's no wonder Christians are known for their condemning and judgmental spirit and not for the love of Jesus. For example, it's impossible to say to a homosexual, "I love you." Then, to tell him he is going to hell for being a homosexual. You just can't it both ways.

Now, it's been my experience that when you are troubled by something in the scriptures, keep reading. In John 16, Jesus clarifies who this world is: "All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God." And then Luke records some interesting words along this same line that gives us even more clarification on the kind of hate Jesus is talking about. In the 6th chapter of Luke Jesus says: "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of Me."

Who is the world? Who are these people? They will put you out of their synagogues-their religious establishments-and will think that they are doing a righteous act-the right thing-as they come against you. They will think they are offering a service to God by their actions. Who are these people? They are the religious ones who are at the helm of their man-made systems and simply Jesus-Jesus plus nothing-interrupts what they already have going for them. The world is not the secular world system, but the religious. This brings us to SECRET #55: The follower of Jesus knows he will be hated by the religious world.

We have more in common with the fellow travelers of the world than with the religious. It's the religious who believe they have it altogether and don't have need for Jesus that Jesus criticized and attacked. He called them vipers and painted tombstones. He really wasn't nice to them, because they are the greatest threat to the Jesus movement today. The non-religious are much more attracted to Jesus and to you as you practice the principles and teachings of Jesus and lovingly touch them.

Note Jesus' disciples are hated by the religious world primarily because of the name of Jesus: "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me." This is what's missing in the Christian world today-the matchless name of Jesus! Instead of taking a stand against sin and sinners or for the traditional Christian faith and tenets; take a stand with Jesus-simply Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009



SECRET #54 is: The follower of Jesus knows the power of the few. The primary example of the "power of the few" is found in Jesus' method of operation. Instead of using "Madison Avenue" marketing methods, Jesus launched His movement with a few-just three to be exact-Peter, James and John. He then selected nine more, then He sent out 72 in a 2 by 2 formation. Although Jesus spoke to large groups from time to time, He mostly hung out with a few at a time. Jesus obviously believed the "few" were more powerful than the masses. Why is this?

A long-time friend and mentor, Dr. Ed Neteland, used to say that he envisioned the concept like a rocket ship. In order to achieve blast off the power must all be put in a very small space. Jesus not only practiced this principle faithfully, but He instructed His disciples to do the same. He sent them out in small groupings. And, even after the resurrection, we see the disciples of Jesus practicing this same principle.

The classic example is the threesome that walked into Thessalonica for about 3 and a half weeks. Their relationship was a powerful little fellowship of followers of Jesus, so powerful that the impact spread throughout Asia Minor. We miss the fact that all three men wrote the letters to the Thessalonians. We always think Paul did the writing, because most translations put that ascription at the beginning of the books. And, those notes and headings throughout the many translations are not Scripture, but man's interpretations and many times miss the real point of the passage.

Not only did Jesus use the power of the few most effectively and His disciples followed His example, but today it is so important that we catch on to this dynamic. This essential can be most helpful in getting our minds off of the massive shows and demonstrations of Christianity and focus on the life transforming dynamic of hanging out with a few in the name of Jesus. Jesus promised that He would show up whenever two or three gather together in His name.

Now that I am into the power of the few, I am discovering that the few really, genuinely get it and embrace it for themselves. You see, when someone really gets what it means to walk with Jesus in His Kingdom presence, the message becomes contagious. To me, the power of the few is very effective in de-Christianizing Jesus and is a must for all who are serious about following Jesus.

The power of the few is what we have always sought within the organized church when we promote "small groups" of any kind. But even a small group may not get the results that we're talking about in the "power of the few". The real dynamic of the "power of the few" is genuine fellowship-participation in one another's lives in such a way so as to develop a personal support system. This support system becomes so strengthening that it serves as your inner security system. I am stronger as I live my life in relationship with other brothers and sisters.

We all need the powerful, interactive, relational support of other followers of Jesus in our lives. THE POWER OF THE FEW. The power of the few is the dwelling place of the presence of Jesus, Himself.

We live in an age of mega-sizing! Bigger is better! Whatever is mega ought to be better than what is small-especially is this true with respect to ministries. The killer question that is always asked of a church or a ministry is: "How many?" The living myth is that Jesus is most pleased with these numbers and the masses.

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. We need Jesus to show up among us and lead out with His orders and opportunities. You see, Jesus won't be found within the mega-church or mega-ministry as easily as within the context of the few. There's nothing wrong with the mega-church or mega-ministry, but there is something far better that Jesus had in mind.

Jesus prefers showing up when a few are gathered together in His name. If you knew Jesus was going to show up some place this week, wouldn't you want to be there, too? SECRET #54 is: The follower of Jesus knows the power of the few.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



Whenever I share the message of Jesus plus nothing, most frequently I get an initial response-a quote from the mouth of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth and the life." This usually comes from a person who is friendly to me and is appealing to me from what is considered to be a foundational statement from Jesus, Himself. And by the way, I couldn't agree more, but I don't see Jesus as narrow and exclusive.

The damage that comes from seeing Jesus as narrow and exclusive fuels the sense of "we are the only ones who are right and going to heaven" and the rest of the world is wrong and going to hell. In addition to this, viewing Jesus as narrow and exclusive in this prideful way and believing that our way of thinking and believing is the only way, truth and life as well, does something that Jesus abhors.

Embracing this thinking shuts the door of the Kingdom on everyone else who is not one of us and we have become the judge on the matter. Granted this statement of Jesus seems to be quite narrow and exclusive, but it's only narrow and exclusive if Jesus lives within the limitations of a Christian box. Since I separate Jesus from Christianity, deny that Jesus is the founder of the Christian Church and reject the mission of Jesus as being to convert the world to Christianity, people believe I must be removing Jesus from being the way, the truth and the life.

This couldn't be further from the truth! It's not that Jesus is so narrow and exclusive; Jesus is more preeminent than we have ever dreamed and He is all-inclusive. He'll work with anyone! This brings us to SECRET #53: The follower of Jesus is all-inclusive.

In Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5-7 He made a radical statement with respect to His relationship with the Jewish Law and traditions. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Literally, Jesus didn't come to abolish the Laws and traditions of the Jewish culture; He came to fill it full-to bring fullness to it. It's like the Jewish culture with its Law and traditions was like a glass-a form with some sort of structure to it. Then, Jesus came to fill up that form or glass to its fullest-to fill it full. Jesus came to bring ultimate meaning and fullness to the Jewish religious system. In other words, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for the Jewish dreams and yearnings.

In the same way, I am coming to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for all cultural and religious systems and traditions. Jesus is the meaning and fullness everyone is looking for. Jesus fills up the various forms or glasses of every culture.

This may seem a little far-fetched for you to embrace at first, but give it some thought. We are finding the footprints of Jesus in every culture. Many years ago Don Richardson wrote a groundbreaking book Eternity In Their Hearts. His research demonstrated that the fingerprints of the Creator-God were found to be in many cultures. God is already there, because God placed "eternity in their hearts".

Our mission must be to introduce Jesus to the cultures of the world and encourage them to respond with their unique, cultural customs. Wherever this is done, the Jesus movement flourishes. Jesus is all-inclusive and wants to work with everyone. Jesus met the woman at the well who was a Samaritan with very different beliefs regarding the center of worship. He left her with cultural beliefs intact, except that He trumped the center of worship by saying that someday the center of worship will not be in a given location, but in your heart.

Jesus' encounter with the Roman Centurion, who no doubt grew up with the Roman gods, yet Jesus does not speak to this at all. His concern was his faith. When Jesus declared the Roman official's faith as outstanding, even greater than He had seen among the house of Israel, Jesus didn't tell this man to make sure to repent and go renounce the many Roman deities or his faith would be for naught.

Further in the scene in the healing of the Roman Centurion's servant, Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

In the 17th chapter of Acts Paul speaks in Athens and says: "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." God made the nations-all nations-in such a way so that all men might seek and find Him. SECRET #53? The follower of Jesus is all-inclusive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



God in a box! Humans seem to be bent on creating God in their own image. They have this need of making sure that God is on their side-that God is one of them. It's actually a subtle way of controlling God to work for them. By putting God in a box, He is limited of His power and localized so people can visit Him whenever they want to. Oh, and people can also not visit God, too.

The same kind of thing is continually done with Jesus. Everyone wants to put Jesus into his or her own image, religious system or cause. Jesus has become the brand for Christianity and within Christianity those who claim to be devoted to Jesus fight one another.

One of the most amazing tragedies in modern times occurred in Rwanda, Africa. The genocide was committed not only by the soldiers but also by civilians. Both the victims and the perpetrators were for the most part Christians-Hutu Christians and Tutsi Christians. Pastors blessed the murders. Church leaders sanctioned the Hutu policy against the Tutsi. Very few Christians refused to participate in the violence. They had conveniently placed Jesus in a box. He was not the Lord of Lords and King of Kings to them. He was fit into their tribal boxes, so they were driven by their tribal instincts rather than Jesus as Lord.

SECRET #52 is: The follower of Jesus knows his Master does not fit into any box. If you place Jesus in a box, He can be easily ignored and kept from the people who need Him most. There is no one who ever walked this earth who can compare with Jesus. He is incomparable, irresistible, the most unique person ever. More than any other, Jesus walked what He talked consistently! Jesus cannot be fit into anyone's box. He just is too awesome and amazing!

I want to share five ways Jesus proves He cannot be fit into a box of any kind: FIRST-He wasn't like any other kind of king ever. All of the kings of the earth have asked their subjects to die for them. Jesus is the only king who ever died for His followers. No king such as this can fit into any man-made box.

SECOND-He was unorthodox in His methods of operation. The most unique method was His way of launching a movement. Most would do everything possible to find ways to persuade the masses to change their ways. Jesus did just the opposite. He set out to launch a global movement by selecting 3 men to come and be with Him-to change the world. Although Jesus did some amazing things with extremely large groups, for the most part He chose to avoid the crowds.

THIRD-Jesus' teachings were revolutionary and unprecedented. He taught that it was better to give than to receive. He taught to pay more attention to your heart than to your actions. But the most revolutionary teaching of all was how to eliminate your enemies. He taught His followers to love their enemies, thereby eradicating their enemy status.

FOURTH-Jesus had a Kingdom strategy that would never fit into anyone's thinking-anyone's box. At the peak of His popularity Jesus announces His Kingdom strategy. It was to die to demonstrate sacrificial love. By dying on the Roman cross Jesus turned the Roman symbol of domination and power inside out and upside down into a symbol of sacrificial love. This is too magnanimous for any box!

FIFTH-He preferred the disenfranchised, the broken and the poor-not the religious, but the sinners-not the powerful, but the poor. His blueprint for global revolution rests with ordinary, uneducated people.

Jesus' teachings, methods, focus and actions are just too awesome-too God-like-to ever fit into anyone's box. You know what seems to make the most sense here? Don't even attempt to place Jesus in a box. He doesn't fit and will be sure to jump out or break down its walls. SECRET #52 is: The follower of Jesus knows his Master does not fit into any box.

Monday, November 16, 2009



We are making our way through 75 secrets of following Jesus. Jesus is known as the mystery who was to be revealed. And, the more you examine Jesus and His teachings the more is revealed about life, meaning and fulfillment. Through these secrets we can understand more and more of what life is all about and how to live our lives more abundantly.

There are two levels of this secret I want to discuss. FIRST-There is an everyday, common understanding of what would Jesus do. This is learning how to walk, talk, love and think like Jesus. In the widespread WWJD? movement there was a certain awareness that was raised with this question-WWJD?-What Would Jesus Do?

What's interesting is that every time you ask that question, you already intuitively know the answer. To ask "What Would Jesus Do?" is to know what He would do. The question delivers the answer right away! Whenever you bring the light of Jesus into a situation, the way, the truth and the life all become clear.

There is a SECOND level of understanding what you should do or what you should say. This level is when you are put on the spot in a very difficult situation. How will you know what to say? This brings us to SECRET #51: The follower of Jesus doesn't worry what to say when put on the spot.

When Jesus first sent out His disciples, He gave them specific instructions on the approach He wanted them to take with a given village. He warned them that there will be times when they will be in a very difficult spot and might become worried what to say.

So, Jesus teaches a most interesting principle. He says, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Matthew 10:16-20)

Luke records similar instructions by Jesus: "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12:11-12)

He is saying that they need not worry about how or what they will say when they are faced with a difficult situation. This is a time when there is either not enough time to prepare or no way to know even how to prepare for such an encounter. What will happen? The Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

Over the past seven or eight years I have come to the point of practicing this principle. When Diana and I walk into a social dinner or charity event where we aren't sure what to expect, we always discuss before or on the way that we can count on the Spirit of Jesus giving us whatever we are there to do or what we are to say. We walk in with not only a certain confidence, but with a special anticipation of the opportunities that are going to present themselves as we encounter the people that evening.

There is another application of this principle that I've been practicing. After more than 40 years of disciplining myself to prepare messages to deliver to a variety of audiences, I have recently been changing my approach. I have been spending more and more time preparing my own heart and personal relationship with Jesus and His Spirit. When speaking to the needs of the moment, I am experiencing a greater resonance and empowerment with the people. It's as if the Spirit of Jesus is directing everything I say. It's not spooky; it's just more real. It's SECRET #51: The follower of Jesus doesn't worry what to say when put on the spot.

Sunday, November 15, 2009



Early in the teaching ministry of Jesus, He said: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given. (John 7:37-39) NOTE the believer/followers of Jesus will become channels of streams of living water, flowing inside out. A believer/follower of Jesus is a fountain of spiritual refreshment. This brings us to SECRET #50: The follower of Jesus has the Spirit of the Master indwelling him like a refreshing fountain.

When Jesus gathered His disciples in the "upper room" before going to His death and resurrection, Jesus taught a lot about the Spirit: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17) He continues: "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (John 16:8-15)

Here Jesus introduces more fully the coming of the Spirit of God. Before Jesus came, the Spirit came on believers temporarily for specific tasks and missions. Now, Jesus says the Spirit will be given to believers to be with them forever and He will live inside all those who are believer/followers of Jesus.

He is to be our constant helper and comforter as we walk this walk. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and He enables and empowers us to work out into our lifestyles the salvation that is within.

It's also important to note that the Spirit of God is the key to Jesus' disciples doing greater things than Jesus did. Jesus did some amazing things, much of it was not even recorded. Although it seems like so much more, there are only 35 miracles mentioned in the Gospels that Jesus performed. Now, as Jesus' disciples are powerfully indwelt by His Spirit, they will be able to bring His miraculous touch to millions upon millions!

As you walk with Jesus and with others you will get to know the Spirit. He will become very real to you In your greatest weakness, need, desperation, and troubles. In a lot of ways the Spirit of God has been placed within us to be our spiritual adrenaline.

The Spirit gives you the possibility to enjoy a mighty and mature partnership with your Creator-God! I see it following a natural progression. FIRST-Possess the Spirit-You possess the Spirit when you place your FAITH in Jesus. SECOND-Possessed by the Spirit-Then you become possessed by your FAITHFULNESS. This is by your habits of holiness. It's not that you get more of the Spirit, but the Spirit gets more of you! THIRD-Practice the presence of the Spirit-This is as you learn to FOLLOW His lead. You will learn to cooperate with His nudgings and promptings as you grow older in your faith.

The last words of Jesus to His disciples were about the Spirit: After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:3-8)

This is why Paul spoke so emotionally about the Spirit in I Corinthians 3 and 6, when he said, "Don't you know that your body is the holy dwelling place of God? Therefore glorify God in your body!" Don't you get it? The very presence of God lives inside you right now, so maybe it's time you ACT LIKE IT. SECRET #50: The follower of Jesus has the Spirit of the Master indwelling him like a refreshing fountain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



Today we come to a most basic and frequent theme of Jesus' teachings. Jesus had a fascination with children. Jesus held up little children as the prime examples of what a model follower might look like. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that being like a little child is necessary for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.

All four Gospel writers record Jesus' teachings on this special entrance requirement. In Matthew 18:3: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." In Mark 10:15 Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." This is SECRET #49: The follower of Jesus lives his life as a little child.

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

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

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

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

Becoming as a little child with Jesus means the following: 1. You don't know everything. 2. All that you have been taught needs to be stripped away. 3. You want to learn all you can about this new life with Jesus. 4. In order to learn more about the ABC's of walking with Jesus, it's most helpful to watch Him carefully and mimic what you hear and see. 5. Learn to simply trust Jesus for your life-your strength, direction and future.

Adults think they know everything and have the ugly habit of trusting themselves. Children know they don't know everything and therefore gladly develop the beautiful habit of simply trusting. Do you want to enter the Kingdom of heaven? Become like a little child! SECRET #49: The follower of Jesus lives his life as a little child.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009



Within the very same context in the 10th chapter of John as the shepherd motif Jesus introduces another "I AM" signature. Let's look at it. So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:7-10) This brings us to SECRET #48: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the door.

Every detail of the shepherd's life lights up the picture of the Good Shepherd whose sheep hear his voice and whose constant care is for His flock. The Jews did not understand the meaning of the story of the Good Shepherd. So Jesus, plainly and without concealment, applied it to Himself. He began by saying: "I am the door." In this parable Jesus spoke about two kinds of sheepfolds. In the villages and towns themselves there were communal sheepfolds where all the village flocks were sheltered when they returned home at night. These folds were protected by a strong door of which only the guardian of the door held the key. It was to that kind of fold Jesus referred earlier in this session when He said, "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."

But when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheepfolds on the hillside. These hillside sheepfolds were just open spaces enclosed by a make-shift, wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.

That is what Jesus was thinking of when he said: "I am the door." Through him, and through him alone, men find access to God. Jesus opens the way to God. Until Jesus came men could think of God only as, at best, a stranger and as, at worst, an enemy. But Jesus came to show men what God is like, and to open the way to Him. He is the door through whom you may make your way toward the God of gods.

This image focuses on the role of Jesus fleshing out the invisible God of gods. This is where I like to share this statement: "Jesus is God here. God is Jesus everywhere!" It's difficult, maybe impossible, to follow and relate to the invisible God. This is why Jesus is necessary! Jesus is God simplified!

I like to think of it this way. If there ever was a man that was God in human flesh, He would be like Jesus. It makes sense then that Jesus is the most attractive, irresistible and relevant person who ever lived!

Jesus claims that He came that men might have life and might have it more abundantly. The Greek phrase used for having it more abundantly means to have a superabundance of a thing. To be a follower of Jesus, to know who He is and what He means, is to have a superabundance of life. When we try to live our own lives on our own, life is a dull, dispirited thing. When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Jesus that life becomes really worth living and we genuinely begin to live life on purpose.

SECRET #48: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the door. Jesus as the door is much like Jesus is the way. However in the case of being the door, Jesus is the great protector of His sheep. He makes sure His sheep stay safely within the sheepfold and He makes sure that nothing that might threaten His sheep can come in. Jesus is the door for His sheep.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009



The next "I AM" signature of Jesus is a comforting one. It's all about our relationship with Him as a shepherd. He plays the role of shepherd and we are His sheep. Here's how Jesus puts it: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."

Several flocks of sheep were held in a pen for the evening, each flock belonging to a different shepherd. When it was time for a shepherd to take his flock out of the pen, he actually called his sheep. And the sheep heard and recognized their shepherd's voice and followed.

In this relational image of shepherd and sheep we who are followers of Jesus are the sheep. As His sheep we hear and know His voice and follow. The challenge for us today is three-fold: FIRST-We must do all we can do to spend more and more time with our shepherd, so we can get to know Him as our shepherd-to get to know His voice when He speaks.

SECOND-We must be careful to take the time to listen for our shepherd's voice. It's too easy to be so busy making noise that we aren't quiet enough to hear what Jesus is saying.

THIRD-The shepherd calls His sheep and leads them out. We must wait for the shepherd to speak and to lead out with His orders and opportunities.

Jesus continues His teaching: "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."

It's from this teaching that we get SECRET #47: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the good shepherd. Jesus views Himself as a shepherd-owner of His sheep. He doesn't see it as a job that He was hired to do, but He has a vital relationship with His sheep. He owns them, He loves them and will do anything He has to do to protect them. So as we relate to Jesus as our shepherd, we have a sense of real security and protection from whatever might happen.

Then Jesus shifts gears a bit and says something very interesting. He says, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again." (John 10)

Who are these "other sheep" Jesus mentions here? There have been several creative interpretations of this phrase. The best way to get what Jesus means is to understand who His audience is. He is speaking primarily to a Jewish audience here. So when He speaks of "other sheep" He owns, it seems clearly that Jesus is referring to all non-Jews who will also be sheep who are owned by the shepherd. This will turn out to be a big deal to the Jews. They won't like it and will even violently react to such a thought later.

This can especially be seen in the book of the Acts of Jesus. The Jews had a rough time giving up the idea that they owned the shepherd. NOTE Jesus never says that the sheep own the shepherd, but the shepherd is the owner of the sheep.

Let me take this one step further for your consideration. Just as the Jews had trouble with this concept of not owning the shepherd, so do Christians today have trouble with not being the sole owner of Jesus, the shepherd. Jesus is all-inclusive in that He will work with anyone anywhere. He is not owned by any group of sheep-not even the Christians. No, Jesus is more awesome than this. He is the shepherd-owner of the sheep. If you know Him and hear His voice, then you are His sheep. This is the relationship Jesus wants with you. He wants to be your shepherd. SECRET #47: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the good shepherd. So, get to know Jesus as your shepherd and listen for His voice. Follow Him as your shepherd.

Monday, November 09, 2009



Now we come to the most insightful and vivid image Jesus shares as one of His "I AM" signatures. It's the relationship Jesus wants with His disciples. Jesus is the vine and those who follow Him are the branches. Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He lifts up; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit."

Jesus continues this theme: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." Here Jesus makes it clear that not abiding in Him, your life is as unfruitful and worthless as a dead branch.

On the other hand, Jesus says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."

This is the basic teaching of Jesus that reveals SECRET #46: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as a branch relates to the vine. What I'm learning is that abiding in Jesus as a branch abides in the vine must be purposeful. It means arranging your life, arranging your prayer-asking and listening, and arranging your silences in such a way that there is never a day when you give yourself a chance to forget Him. Now, if you are abiding in Jesus in this way, the more you become like the vine itself-you walk, talk, think and love just like Jesus. Your thoughts are so permeated with His thoughts that your inner character is being transformed. Then, it is easy to understand that your wishes are the same as His wishes, so you are walking in sync with Him and whatever wish you ask will be done for you. Now that's mind-boggling! But not out of the realm of possibility and reality. Otherwise, Jesus would not instruct us to be like this. 

This is the most dynamic principle you'll ever encounter! It's a reciprocal relationship! You abide-remain, stay with, wait on, hang out with, continue with Jesus and Jesus remains, hangs out and continues with you. Are you getting this? You are created by God to be completely inhabited by Him through Jesus!

Jesus goes on to say something that blows my mind! I have read this over and over and talked about it more than most passages of Scriptures, but Jesus is speaking of a daily, moment-by-moment reality. Just as a branch is unable to be fruitful on its on, so we cannot do anything without hanging on to our relationship with Jesus. But wait a minute; I can't do anything!!!??? What Jesus is saying is that we cannot do anything without recognizing, depending upon and drawing our strength from Him. Can this be true? Is it true in your life?

SECRET #46: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as a branch relates to the vine. So, here you have it, IF YOU DON'T ACT LIKE A BRANCH AND ABIDE IN THE VINE, JESUS, you not only can do nothing significant, but you are attempting to live a life that is absolutely useless and unfruitful. All you are left with is "What might have been." It's an amazing simplicity that takes over your life-a simplicity that is really just transparency. "Abide in Me and I in you." Jesus wants to inhabit your life. All He is looking for is your willingness to cooperate!

Sunday, November 08, 2009



We are making our way through 75 secrets of following Jesus. I use the term "secret", because Jesus is said to be the mystery that was revealed to the world. So, the secret has the idea of a continual process of revealing who Jesus is.

Today we come to another significant "I AM" signature of Jesus. Let's examine it: Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." So the Pharisees said to Him, "You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true." Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me." So they were saying to Him, "Where is Your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also." These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come. (John 8:12-20)

This is SECRET #45: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the light of the world. Just as Jesus is the new manna sent down from heaven, the water from the rock, He is also the cloud, the light of God's holy presence among His people. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Just before this Jesus claimed He was the living water for all those who are thirsty. Now, Jesus claims, "I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD to eliminate the darkness."

Jesus' claim of being THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD is a reminder of the cloud and the pillar of fire that led the people through the wilderness for 40 years-huge and striking in size and symbolized God's presence with His people. This great cloud of glory gave off light by night and illuminated the way for His people. By day the cloud led the nation and gave direction. From the cloud God spoke. The presence of God overshadowed them and went with them in their wandering through the wilderness.

It's the same cloud of glory that filled the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem when the LORD came down and met with His people. The pillar dispelled the darkness of the night and any would be attackers. However, the glory departed from Israel. Much of the religious ceremonies that continued was only ritual.

In Matthew 5 Jesus said, "You are the light of the world!" Now He says, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.''

So, FIRST-He is the Light. SECOND-You have the Light of life. THIRD-You are now the Light of the world. Then note a few observations of Jesus being the light of the world in us. 1. We are all blind from birth-spiritually. 2. Jesus takes the initiative in healing our blindness. 3. Jesus does a work of creation (regeneration), not reformation. 4. People will notice, when you begin to see differently. 5. It is very easy to get hung up in peripheral theological issues and miss an opportunity for ministry (light). 6. Jesus sees people and the world in a profoundly different light than we do. 7. Some of God's greatest works are done in most desperate human situations (darkness).

SECRET #45: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the light of the world. Embrace Jesus in this way and you will never walk in darkness and will never see people in the same light again.

Thursday, November 05, 2009



Of all of the personal signatures-the "I AM's", Jesus shared one that was possibly the most intimate of all of them recorded in John. Not only was it the most intimate, it also stirred up the most controversy. Many disciples walked away from Jesus over this teaching. Their rejection was so hurtful to Jesus that He turned to His early core disciples and asked, "Are you going to walk away from me, too?"

Here's a brief summary of His teachings: Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the TRUE bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." (John 6:26-35)

Jesus scolds them for hanging around and following after Him for the free lunch that might come their way, referring to the feeding of the 5000. That bread is nothing, because it will perish! What they ought to do is work for the kind of food that will not perish, but is eternal. That food will only come through God's Messiah-the Son of Man!

The people do an interesting thing. They ask Jesus for a sign. He has just miraculously fed 5000 and shown up miraculously across the Sea of Galilee without a boat, yet they are looking for something more. Their question is a good one: "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Or, "What must we be doing as a habit that we may go on working the works of God?"

Jesus answers them by saying, "This is the work of God-believe in Him whom He has sent!" The work of God is to BELIEVE JESUS-to trust Jesus with your life-every day! The struggle is to SIMPLY TRUST JESUS. This is more than what we need to do, this is all about what God is seeking to do. God wants us to enter into the things that He is doing and that begins and ends with believing in Jesus and trusting Him with your life. We're not to start a new movement, but join God's movement-JESUS! We are in a fellowship-an assembly of believers seeking to walk with Jesus as we learn to walk together. Can you see that this life is not about going to church, but being the church of Jesus?

All of the religions of the world have a religious program of do's and don'ts to absolve your sins-a program of begging to be accepted and to be forgiven. All of the religions of the world have a religious program of works to do to be free to come to God, which becomes a program of bondage to a certain performance of works. By the way, Christianity is not exempt from these religious programs, but has offered some of the most creative of all. Jesus comes to reverse it all! You don't have to do anything to be accepted, forgiven or free; those would be works that perish anyway! The work that God wants you to do is to BELIEVE JESUS! Here we are back to JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

THE WORK OF GOD THAT WE ARE TO DO IS TO SIMPLY BELIEVE JESUS-believe in Him, trust Him and keep on trusting Him.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (John 6:35-38)

Those who heard Jesus' words began grumbling against Him. In response Jesus explained further and said: "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats this bread I give, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:48-58)

Manna was sent down from heaven to the children of Israel for their daily use. They could not store it or it would rot, so they had to gather it daily and eat it. It was a daily sustenance for them to be nourished and to remain healthy. Jesus points out to His listeners that this supernatural distribution of the manna in the time of Moses was good, but all who ate of it are not still alive, but they are all dead.

Jesus is really saying with reference to the manna, "I'M THE NEW MANNA IN TOWN!" This is why He says I AM the bread of life-the living bread that offers eternal life to anyone who eats it. If you believe in Jesus and trust Him as your daily manna, you will never hunger, never thirst, have eternal life and will be raised up at the end. As with the old manna in the wilderness, your relationship with Jesus as the living manna must be gathered and cultivated every day. If you try to store it, you will lose its freshness. So, it's a daily trusting of Jesus-depending upon Him as if your life depended on it!

JESUS IS THE NEW MANNA IN TOWN! Take Him into your life and allow Him to be your strength. Embrace Jesus, the "bread", that keeps you nourished, alive and spiritually whole. Jesus wants the most intimate relationship with you possible. He wants you to ingest Him as you would bread and He, the bread of life, becomes an essential reality in your life. It's SECRET #44: The follower of Jesus relates to the Master as the bread of life.