Sunday, July 19, 2009



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

So, what was it that Jesus came to do? What is the work He came to complete? The finished work of Jesus is more than what we normally think. It's within these words of Jesus' prayer in John 17 that we can find the true revolutionary nature of what Jesus came to do and what He expects from us as disciples. Jesus said that He finished the work the Father sent Him to do: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Notice what Jesus says is the finished work He came to do. "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

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

Jesus came into this world to invest His life in a few men and now He sends us out to do the same. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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