Sunday, February 28, 2010



Chapter 3 of Luke begins with In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. John went throughout the country around Jordan and preached his message--the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, right out of Isaiah.

Remember, John is to be the great introducer of God's Messiah, Jesus. The people were quite impressed with John: The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Interesting comparison John makes. John baptizes people with water, but the Messiah will baptize people with the Spirit and fire. John's is an external sign, but the Messiah will bring spiritual transformation of the heart. The text goes on with: And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

Now we come to a brief mention of Jesus' baptism and the genealogy of Jesus: When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

The important focus of the genealogy is to prove that Jesus was in the godly line of the seed of David. Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." What does this mean? How could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which was of the seed of David. Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 seems to give Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary. So, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.

Who is Joseph's father? In Matthew 1:16 it says, "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Yeshua, who is called Messiah." However, Luke 3:23 says, "Yeshua himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli." Following through the genealogies, note that there are some names which are common to both, but also, a great number of differences. Matthew begins at Abraham, and works his way to Yeshua the Messiah. Luke begins at Yeshua, and works his way back to Adam. There are two genealogies, with two distinct purposes. Matthew, it appears reveals the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke, presents the genealogy of Mary. I see the genealogies of Matthew and Luke like listing out the two family trees of Jesus. The two trees don't match up. Some of the people correspond to each other, but many of them don't. However, both of them give proof to the fact that Jesus, God's Messiah, was of the godly lineage of David.

The Messiah was to come through the lineage of David. This is why these boring genealogies are so important. What blows my mind is that the last time any person could be confirmed as the Messiah was before 70 A.D. That was the year that the Romans destroyed the Temple and all of the genealogical records.

This is a good lesson for us. Jesus came on time the first time and He will be on time when He returns. You can also count on Him to be on time in your life. He will act on your behalf in His way and in His time. You can count on it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010



In the second chapter of Luke beginning in verse 22 Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord, because He was the first male.

There are 3 roles played out here that are interesting to me. First, the role of Simeon, the priest. Simeon was a righteous and devout man who was looking for the coming of the Messiah. He believed that he wouldn't die until after he had seen God's Messiah. Simeon must have been quite a student of the prophets who foretold even the timing of the Messiah's appearance.

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."

Second, the role of Jesus' parents. Note what it says in verse 33. The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Third, the role of a prophetess. There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then had been a widow for eighty-four years. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

ONE MORE THING HERE: Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Festival, according to the custom. After the Festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And as Jesus grew up, he increased in wisdom and in favor with God and people.

THREE OBSERVATIONS: 1. Jesus was exceptional, because Simeon and Anna recognized Him. 2. Jesus was exceptional, because His parents see that everything was true to what had been told them by the angels. 3. Jesus was exceptional, because He was able to converse with the rabbi's at the age of 12 years old.

But here's the bottom-line. Jesus was not exceptional due to some theological treatise affirming Him to be this way or that. He was exceptional, because it is obvious He is supernatural. But He is not only supernatural; at the same time Jesus is very real and basic--growing up and increasing in wisdom and favor with God and all the people. Jesus was supernatural alright, but He was supernatural--naturally. In order for us to relate to Him, Jesus was down-to-earth and natural. This is what I like best about our study in the writings of Luke. Luke presents the humanity of Jesus as the Son of Man. If we're going to follow Jesus, then it is important to embrace His humanity. I can't be God as He is God, but I can follow in His footsteps as I understand the Son of Man.

Now, as we walk through Luke, check out the Son of Man and emulate Him with all your heart.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010



Beginning with the 26th verse in Luke chapter 1 the story moves from Elizabeth's pregnancy to Mary's. When Elizabeth was 6 months along in her pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing that she would be the chosen one of all women to give birth to the Messiah. According to Gabriel the Messiah would be called the 'Son of the Most High' and should be given the name of JESUS.

Naturally, Mary was eager to tell her family, so she visited Elizabeth who was pregnant with John. Both Elizabeth and Mary were overwhelmed with what God had done in both of them.

Elizabeth gave birth to her baby and when it was time to name him, the neighbors and relatives were shocked. You see, it was customary to name the baby after his father. But Elizabeth protested against doing that and said, "No! He is to be called John." When the people questioned this to Zechariah, he wrote out the name "John" on a tablet. Immediately when he wrote this, his mouth was opened so that he could speak.

He began to prophesy over his new born son and said, "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

In chapter 2 Luke explains the birth of Jesus. They were in Bethlehem for legal registration for the census and Mary gave birth. Since there was no guest room available at the local inns, she gave birth in a cattle stall--a cave.

From that obscure location, the ripple effect began in the fields of Bethlehem among the shepherds. An angel appeared to them saying: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Luke is caught up in the motif of Jesus being the Savior of the world. He presents Jesus as the Savior in many ways: 1-Gabriel tells Mary to name him "Jesus" which means "YHWH saves" (1:31). 2-Mary exults in "God my Savior" (1:47). 3-The angels tell the shepherds "there has been born for you a Savior, He is the Messiah, the Lord" (2:11). 4-Simeon holds Jesus and prays, "My eyes have seen your salvation" (2:30). 5-Jesus describes his mission as coming to "seek and save that which is lost" (19:10).

Luke makes it clear that the real Jesus has not come as a spiritual guru to guide you into the self-realization of your identity or even divinity. He hasn't come to be your moral example, so you can try a little harder to be good. He has come to rescue you from your spiritual lostness. He came to be your Savior. He came to save you from your self and selfishness, from your self-centeredness and alienation from others and from your rebelliousness against your Creator-God. His name is JESUS. Listen to Him. Believe Him. Follow Him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010



In Luke 1:5-25 is recorded the miraculous birth of John. His dad was a priest (Zechariah) and his mom (Elizabeth) was unable to conceive. Both were righteous before the Lord. Then, they were chosen to have a baby with a special mission of introducing the Messiah. An angel appeared to Zechariah while performing a sacrifice:

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time."

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

John came in the spirit of Elijah. What does this mean? Well, John came wearing a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist. So did Elijah. He was a hairy man with a leather girdle.

Maybe John the Baptist is a continuation of the stance of Moses. John confronted a king, stays in the area of Jordan and the wilderness. But listen to this. Elijah also confronted an evil king, spent a lot of time outside of Israel proper, called down plagues on the land as did Moses, called down fire and was supernaturally fed by angels in the wilderness. So, Moses and Elijah played similar roles representing God. Both their lives were ended near Jericho across the Jordan. Moses was buried there and Elijah was taken up into heaven in a firey chariot. Note that John the Baptist spent his time at the same location baptizing people in the Jordan River.

One more connection between Moses, Elijah and John occurs with their successors. Elijah was followed by Elisha and was granted a double portion of Elijah's spirit. At this point Elisha walked through the Jordan on dry ground. Centuries earlier Joshua walked through the Jordan on dry ground, leading the Israelites into the promised land to conquer Jericho (Josh 3:14-17; 6). Just as Elisha was Elijah's successor, Joshua was Moses' successor. Here in Luke's portrait we see Jesus as the highest successor of all, preceded by John.

This background gives a great meaning to John's baptism. Just as Joshua and the Israelites originally entered the promised land by baptism in the Jordan, now John is baptizing people in the same place. It wasn't a convenient place to go for the people, but they went. It was like people who came to be baptized by John in the Jordan were re-entering Israel. This time, they were entering the land, acknowledging their prior failure to keep the covenant and now looking for a second chance.

I like to think that we all come in the spirit of Elijah and John with the privilege of introducing Jesus to the world around us. We don't have to preach or prophesy nor do we have to be articulate witnesses. The thought of that is most intimidating to most of us.

You can operate in the spirit of Elijah and John by simply introducing Jesus to those who are interested. Your best approach? Check out what Jesus did and said and go do it! Just by your loving touch on the people around you, Jesus will show up. Don't forget the most powerful question of all, "What can I do to help?"

Monday, February 22, 2010



Over the next few weeks I want to walk through the Gospel of Luke. Remember, Luke is the Gospel that presents Jesus as the Son of Man. For those of you who are really doing your best to follow the person of Jesus in a new and fresh way will enjoy this picture of Son of Man.

The key verse seems to be in chapter 19 and verse 10: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. As an educated physician and inspired historian Luke carries the message that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

Luke was probably a Greek and therefore was the only non-Jewish New Testament writer. Luke is the only gospel with a sequel--the book of Acts. The book of Luke is the longest gospel account and is more that 25% of the entire New Testament.

I think one of the most interesting things about this gospel is that there are 18 parables that are unique and not in the other gospels. We'll discover some amazing principles together within these parables.

Let's look at the first four verses of Luke's gospel: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

We don't know who this Theophilus is--probably a Roman official. By the way, his name means lover of God. Luke serves the fellowship of Jesus well with his detailed account of the facts of what Jesus said and did. Although we know and love Jesus personally and each a different experience with Him, it is great to have these facts to nail down our faith.

I am reminded of the statement: "The heart can only enjoy what the mind can accept." The key to knowing Jesus is to realize that everything about Jesus happened in real, space-time history. He really lived, really loved, really suffered and died, really resurrected from the dead and will some day really return. In the meantime, we live in the spirit of Acts 29--a continuation of Jesus really working among us today.

Sunday, February 21, 2010



I've been thinking lately about how easy it is to become side-tracked with the vastness of the Scriptures and miss the point of it all. That point which the Scriptures present is simply Jesus. Luke, the author of two of the five Gospels, notes how central Jesus is to the Scriptures.

Luke references Jesus, Himself, using the Scriptures to explain His central role. After the resurrection, Jesus joins a couple of disciples walking along the road and He begins with Moses and all the Prophets to explain what the Scriptures have to say about Him.

When Paul was in the synagogue in Thessalonica, note what he said. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah," he said.

In the next chapter of Acts (18) we find Apollos was in the practice of proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. Also when Philip met up with the Ethiopian eunuch, he began with the prophet Isaiah and explained to him the good news about Jesus.

The primary role of the Gospels was to take a teaching strand out of the ancient teachings of the prophets about the Messiah and pull that thread through to a fuller explanation. For instance, Matthew picked up on the teaching that the Messiah will take on the role of the King. Mark pulled through the thread that the Messiah would be the Servant. Luke picked up the teaching as the Son of Man and John presented Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God.

The Scriptures were not written to build a great religious or a theological system. The Scriptures were written to teach us and lead us to Jesus. And, this is the most frequent mistake made. Too many actually worship the Bible. This is what the Jewish leadership was doing in the 1st century and Jesus called them on it. Listen to this: You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Salvation and eternal life is not a religious thing nor even a theological understanding; it's a personal thing. The person? His name is Jesus.

Thursday, February 18, 2010



Jesus finishes up His teaching on fruitfulness in verses 8-11 where He sets forth a few results:
 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." Two things of note here: First-God, the Father is uniquely reflected as we abide in Jesus and bear much fruit. I'm sure you have noted the progression in this chapter. We've gone from no fruit, fruit, more fruit and now much fruit. This progression of growth takes time, so enjoy the time.

Second-By doing this abiding in Jesus and bearing much fruit, we uniquely prove to be His disciples. Again, note that He is not saying that you are My disciples by knowing anything or following a list of do's and don'ts, but by abiding-hanging out with, connecting with, staying with-in Jesus as a branch abides and stays connected to a vine. Here is the formula, if you like, for being a disciple! There's no course or class! It's simply abiding in Jesus so that you are receiving your very life flow from Him. You in Him and He in you!
9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "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. 11 "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." 
Jesus delineates two more benefits to those who abide in Him and He in them: First-You will be loved by Jesus in the same way His Father loved Him, so that you can abide in His love. Second-You will be given the joy of Jesus-His joy may be in you-so that your joy may be made full! How incredible is that! Someone says joy is the inner quality of life that enables you to enjoy the scenery on a detour.

So, what is being fruitful all about? What's the ultimate purpose bearing fruit? In a small gathering a few weeks ago we were discussing the parables of the Kingdom and focusing in on the sower and the soils. When I pointed out that the only action in the invisible form of the Kingdom is the sowing of the seed. One of the women in the group had a terrific insight. She said, "You know you have to be fruitful in order to have seeds to sow. Fruitfulness produces more seeds of the Good News of the Kingdom and then you sow these seeds from your life." Whoa! This blew me away! She's right!

This is why it is so important for us to be fruitful-bearing the fruit that Jesus, the Vine, produces in and through us. If we aren't fruitful, then we end up planting things other than the message of the Kingdom. We tend to plant seeds of traditions, denominationalism, doctrinal distinctives and man-made rules and add-ons. And, these seeds are unfruitful and useless with respect to Jesus and the Kingdom. What we want are the seeds produced in the fruit Jesus is producing.

Being fruitful is why we must seek to reach ourselves first. We get so bent on reaching the world that we frequently miss our own hearts. If I am abiding as a branch in Jesus, the Vine, then what I am experiencing can be given away or planted in the hearts of men and women around me. By the way, this is why Jesus was not concerned about "how many", but that the few really "get it"!

So, we are to be in the flow of planting seeds-the Good News message of the Kingdom seeds. And those seeds will naturally come out of our fruitfulness in relationship with Jesus. Note, in the Kingdom there is nothing said about "planting churches", only "seeds". This planting of seeds is most biblical as you read through the Acts of Jesus. The Good News message of Jesus and the Kingdom is planted in a new city or region. Sometimes those who were in the flow of planting these seeds remained there for a period of time and many times they kept moving on, after the message was received. Paul, Silas and Timothy spent 3 ½ weeks in Thessalonica and a major explosion echoed forth out of there.

Several years ago my wife's cousin committed suicide. I had met her and the family about a year before this tragic event. They were a prominent Catholic family in Lodi, California. Since they had a visiting priest from Asia who was difficult to understand, they asked if I would speak at the service on behalf of the family. We counted it a great privilege to participate.

The Catholic Church in Lodi is a large facility and with standing room only there were well over 1000 in attendance. My responsibility was easy and I was the only one anyone was going to understand, too. I spoke on behalf of the family and offered comfort only in the person of Jesus plus nothing. After the service, I met several people who were pleased with what I had said. One lady in particular still stands out to me. She came up to me outside and asked, "How long can you stay here in Lodi?" I quickly responded with, "Our flight is this afternoon, so only a few hours." She made it even clearer when she reiterated her question by saying, "I mean how long can you stay to continue teaching what you shared today in our homes here in Lodi?" Again, I put her off with our afternoon flight time.

On the way home it hit me like a ton of bricks! This woman was expressing to me a very large, open door to stay in Lodi for a day or two and continue the ministry with the people who were in such shock over this untimely death. I really blew it! I continually grieve over how I handled that encounter. That door was so open that anyone could have driven a Mac Truck right through it, but I had to catch a flight.

A NEW STRATEGY FOR THE TIMMONS-We are moving into a phase of our walk with Jesus and with others that is taking a little different twist. We call it THE LODI STRATEGY. We have friends in many cities around this country and beyond. We are seeking to visit these friends for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, taking friends with us from our local fellowship, to share and interact with our friends about this message of Jesus and the Kingdom or JESUS PLUS NOTHING. We are looking for initial small gatherings in these cities and then see what doors Jesus opens up. We may stay one day or we may hang out in that particular city for a few days.

In other words, we are looking for Jesus to open up the doors for us to continue in the flow of planting the Good News seed of the Kingdom. We're not looking to launch anything or set up any groups or organizations in these cities. We only want to introduce "Jesus plus nothing" to those who are interested. We believe the Jesus movement will explode in the hearts of men and women as we follow through with these old and new friends.

Pray for God to raise up interested people for us to visit! Pray about what this might look like in your city! Pray about helping to make this happen!

This is ACTS 29 in action! The purpose of bearing fruit is to continue the planting of seeds in the hearts of men and women everywhere.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



As we continue following the image of being fruitful as you make like a branch hang on to Jesus, the vine, we come to John 15:6-11. Jesus explains what happens to those who think they can do something without Him--those who believe they can live their lives successfully without hanging out with Jesus. 6 "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.

Jesus moves from speaking about people to plants. He warns that if anyone does not abide in Him, there are severe consequences. In the case of plants when the branches don't remain connected to the vine, they will end up in the fire. NOTE 3 things here: FIRST, branches that don't abide in the vine dry out, because there is no life-giving nutrition allowed to flow through the vine into the branch. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, also dry out, because they are not receiving the life of Jesus.

SECOND, branches that don't abide in the vine become completely useless, because there is no fruit being produced. Fruit is the purpose of the life of a plant. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, are also completely useless and unfruitful.

THIRD, branches that don't abide in the vine are thrown away, gathered up, and are cast into the fire to be burned in the trash. Disciples who don't abide in Jesus, the Vine, are thrown aside and trashed, instead of fulfilling the purpose and mission for them. I don't see this as referring to a disciple's salvation, but usefulness and purpose. Dallas Willard adds to this potentiality of not abiding in Jesus: "For the one who makes sure to walk as close to Jesus as possible there comes the reliable exercise of a power that is beyond them in dealing with the problems and evils that afflict earthly existence. Jesus is actually looking for people he can trust with his power. He knows that otherwise we remain largely helpless (and useless) and unable to promote his will for good in this world with adequate power."

So, here you have it, IF YOU DON'T ACT LIKE A BRANCH AND ABIDE IN JESUS, THE VINE, 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."

In verse 7 Jesus returns to those who abide in Him when He says: 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is such a powerful statement to hear! Again He says "If you abide in Me" and now He adds and My words abide in you". What I'm learning is that this abide 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 we give ourselves 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 Him. 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.

An amazing simplicity will take over our lives-a simplicity that is really just transparency." Abide in Me and I in you. Jesus wants to inhabit your life and all He is looking for is your willingness to cooperate!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010



In John 15:1-11 Jesus gives the three primary relationships of life-your relationship with Jesus, your relationship with other disciples of Jesus and your relationship with the world. Each relationship builds on the other. The first is the most important of all and it pictures the disciples as a branch attached to Jesus, the vine. So, Jesus is the vine and His disciples are the branches who have the natural purpose of being fruitful. I want to work our way through the first 5 verses today and then the rest of this section tomorrow. 1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Jesus begins speaking of two kinds of branches-one that is not bearing fruit and one that is bearing fruit. Note what is done to each one. First-the branch that is not bearing fruit. It says in most translations, "He takes away". At first glance, it sounds as if the unfruitful branch is somehow removed from being a branch. I don't believe this is what is meant here. The word used here might just as easily be translated "to lift up." TO LIFT UP THE BRANCH. Now that makes more sense to me! We're dealing with branches and a common problem with branches is when they droop down and touch the ground. Touching the ground will surely destroy the branch and its fruitfulness. So, God, the vine-dresser, when He sees a branch drooping and touching the ground, lifts up that branch and places it where it can be fruitful again. I love this! The Lord is so committed that we become fruitful that He is in the vineyard looking for those who have drooped to the ground.

Second-the branch that is bearing fruit. On the other hand, the branch that is bearing fruit must be pruned in order to increase its fruitfulness. That pruning is painful, because the pruning process requires that not only the dead parts are cut off but also part of the living parts as well.

So, have you ever been one of these branches? Have you ever been drooped down so low that you have become unfruitful? Or, have you found yourself questioning some of the painful experiences in your life? Either way, be assured that the Lord is more devoted to your fruitfulness than you are! He will do anything to bring you to Him and then to make your life meaningful and fruitful-anything!

It seems that there are two bottom-line requirements from Jesus here. FIRST-He requires that you be interested-interested enough to lean in with your heart and seek more from Him. SECOND-He requires that you cooperate with being a branch. He'll do the rest. You can't produce fruit; only the Lord can do that!

Jesus continues to describe this unique relationship between the vine and its branches and explains how it all works: 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you." 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? Jesus, the Son of God, created you to be completely inhabited by Him!

Jesus goes on to say: "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 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." 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 own, so we cannot do anything without hanging on to our relationship with Jesus. But wait a minute. Does He really mean I can't do anything!!!??? What Jesus is saying is that we cannot do anything without recognizing, depending and drawing our strength from Him. Can this be true? Is it true in your life?

Dr. Dallas Willard, a friend and marvelous professor (USC) says on this subject: "However we may understand the details there can be no doubt, on the biblical picture of human life, that we were meant to be inhabited by God and live by a power beyond ourselves. Human problems cannot be solved by human means. Human life can never flourish unless it pulses with "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." (Eph. 1:19) But only constant students of Jesus will be given adequate power to fulfill their calling to be God's person for their time and their place in this world.

There is no better visual for all who want to walk with Jesus. Note that He doesn't say "If you abide in Me, you can be a more faithful believer." He doesn't give any alternatives to being a branch. He doesn't give any other option than being a branch. He gives absolutely no wiggle room at all. We are expected to be positioned as a fruitful branch, intimately connected with Jesus, the vine.

These words resonate with me: "Abide in Me and I in you. Without Me you can do nothing." Do you believe this? Do you see the power of this image of a branch and a vine? There is no way you can bear fruit on your own and there is no way you can do anything that really matters for the Kingdom, UNLESS you hang on to the vine for your strength, nurture and power. Do you want it? I want this with all my heart. Let's go for it together! Let's make like branches and abide in Him!

Monday, February 15, 2010



The image of fruit, bearing fruit and fruitfulness is most vivid and illustrative of what it means to follow Jesus and His Kingdom. Jesus seems to return to this as one of His favorite ways of explaining how this relationship with Him is to work. He warns His disciples to beware of false teachers and gives them a telltale sign to discern the difference between true and false teachers-their fruit. He says, "You will know them by their fruit."

When speaking to the religious leadership who had continually rejected Jesus and His presentation of the Kingdom, Jesus says: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." (Matthew 21) NOTE the Kingdom will taken away from those who are not fruitful and will be given to those who are fruitful!

There are two more key times when Jesus uses the image of fruitfulness. I will deal with one of them today and finish out the week with the other. After Jesus has been soundly rejected by the religious leadership who have attributed the source of Jesus' works as from the Devil, himself, Jesus delineates what form the Kingdom will now take.

He extensively describes the Kingdom in Matthew 13 with 8 parables. Using the teaching method of parables was meant to sort out those who have ears to hear and eyes to see and those who do not. I believe the invisible form of the Kingdom Jesus described is present right here right now. The only action within these parables is the sowing of the seed and the seed will be scattered upon four kinds of soil.

Jesus illustrates receptivity (ears to hear) by the use of four soils-by the side of the road, the rocky places, among the thorns and the good soil. These represent what kind of receptivity you might expect as you participate in the sowing of the seed of the Gospel and, these soils also illustrate the various degrees of receptivity we each experience in our own lives.

Now note the interpretation of these soils: (1) The soil beside the road. 18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When people hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts. This is the seed sown along the path. NOTE what the message that is being sown here is-the Kingdom. This blows my mind. I have heard this, read it, and taught this passage for many years, but I never saw that the message that is being planted is the message of the Kingdom. And, it is this message that those who are the soil along the path hear, but do not understand. Since there is no understanding of what they are hearing, the seed is snatched away.

(2) The soil in rocky places. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. NOTE the Kingdom message is referred to in the next three soils as the word. This soil on the rocky ground is quite shallow, therefore the seed cannot take root and lasts for a short time. Jesus points out that the problem here is trouble and persecution. These overcome those who are the soil on the rocky ground. And, it's because of the word or the Kingdom message that they are finding trouble and being persecuted. This persecution is most likely verbal as Jesus has mentioned before.

(3) The soil among the thorns. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. NOTE the seed here falls among the thorns. This is where people hear the word or the Kingdom message and the word is choked. The choking or smothering of the word is due to the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Worries of this life is when you allow the stresses that surround you and threaten your security to overwhelm you, instead of placing your trust in Him. The deceitfulness of wealth is thinking that there is some sort of security in money, places and things. This is perhaps the greatest "over-promise and under-deliver" proposition in this world, believing this stuff can make you happy or might be fulfilling. The end result is that this soil is unfruitful.

(4) The good soil. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." NOTE that the entire goal has to do with fruitfulness. Only one out of four of the soils is productive or fruitful. And, the fruitfulness listed as the "good soil" here is monumental-phenomenal fruitfulness.

Check out four observations about these soils and fruitfulness: 1-Jesus is the sower of the seed. In Matthew's version of this teaching (Matt. 13:37) Jesus says that the Son of Man is the sower. When Jesus was physically on the earth, His words were pitched out to those who listened to Him. Today, Jesus is still sowing the seed as we introduce the person of Jesus to others through our lives and through our own stories.

2-The seed is the word of God. What the word of God meant to Jesus was the "Good News of the kingdom of God." This is what His primary message was as He taught throughout the villages and synagogues. Therefore, the word of God is the active presence of God in us in the form of a seed.

3-This word of the kingdom of God has tremendous spiritual power within us to be productive-to be fruitful. It was able to produce amazing levels of fruit.

4-Its effect on you is determined by your response to it. It's all a matter of responsiveness. NOTE that you are not responsible to bring forth the fruit, but the power of the seed will produce the fruit if planted in the good soil.

Fruitfulness will be present in those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Non-fruit or bad fruit will follow those whose ears are closed and whose eyes are shut off from the Good News message of the Kingdom. I see each of these 4 soils as fluid. In other words, we have all been each one of these soils at one time or another. Can you remember the times you were one or more of these soils? One more question: So, where are you when you measure your receptivity to the seed Jesus is sowing in your life right now? Remember, it's all about fruitfulness!

Sunday, February 14, 2010



This is exactly what is revolutionary about the revolutionary model and methodology of Jesus. Think about it! If you were out to start a movement that would change the world through its message of faith, love and hope, how would you have orchestrated it? I would have launched into doing massive seminars and workshops to as many people as possible. My model for reaching the world would have been filled with the latest papyri flyers being handed out by the best-trained management and sales team ever!

Jesus did just the opposite. He came into this world with a quiet, yet supernatural birth. He performed quiet, yet powerful miracles, mostly on individuals. Instead of a series of massive, promotional events, Jesus chose to work with a few. He chose a few just to come alongside Him-to be with Him (3 and 12). Note that He didn't lay out a plan to reach the world right away. That came later. Then, after experiencing the power of being together with the few and learning how to love one another, He sent out several more followers into the villages with His message (72 and 120).

Jesus' strategy proved to be the most explosive movement ever launched! This movement of a few consisted of unlikely people who were used to turn the world upside down! Now that's powerful!

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. We usually think in terms of one of the last "words" Jesus spoke at the end of His life while on the cross. He said there "It is finished." But then it's important to reflect on Jesus' prayer in John 17, which is really the Lord's Prayer. It's within these words 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: 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

6"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. 7"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8for 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.

13"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. 14"I have given them Your word.

18"As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that 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. 22"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23I 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.

26and 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."

There are several things that stand out to me here... FIRST-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish, given to Him by the Father, was to share with His disciples certain words from the Father. Wow, if we only knew what these "words" were that the Father gave Jesus to share with His disciples, we could continue this as the work Jesus is still accomplishing today. Well, I think we do know what those words are, certainly for the most part. These words are recorded for us in the 5 Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. So, maybe it makes sense to focus most of our energies in learning what Jesus shared with His disciples in order to embrace the revolutionary work of Jesus.

SECOND-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be done with a few. I am continually struck with this fact. Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, saw that it would be most effective to work with a few as He shared what the Father asked Him to share. He was not tempted to share it with the masses, because He knew that they wouldn't "get it." By going to the masses, Jesus would have produced hearers of the word who delude themselves, rather than doers of the word. Or, that those within the masses who did "get it" might be diluted into thinking that these words from the Father could be passed on effectively by one or two people talking and the crowds only listening and not experiencing. Think about it. Most life-changing experiences from the Lord (truly transformational experiences) in your life have come in relationship with a few. So, if that is true (and I'm convinced it is), then why aren't we more compelled to share with others in such a way so they can have the same experience with the Lord?

THIRD-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be different from the world system already in place. Jesus, as the King of kings, came to establish His kingdom on earth with those who become His disciples on the earth. This kingdom is not separate from the earth, but different from it. Check it out. What Jesus shared seems to most always be just the opposite of what the world system is today and just the opposite of what we feel is the natural thing to do. Instead of buying and selling being the primary theme, Jesus teaches giving and receiving. Instead of getting even, Jesus teaches the supernatural power of forgiveness. Instead of avoiding pain and suffering, Jesus teaches to embrace your pain and suffering so that you will emerge more whole. Instead of being repulsed by the poor, diseased and disabled, Jesus teaches to go to them and extend His love toward them. Instead of going with the crowd, Jesus teaches us to stand with Him and His people. Instead of loving the masses in general (whatever that means), Jesus teaches us to love one another-on the personal level.

FOURTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be passed on by His disciples to others over the generations to come. Jesus came to share these "words" from the Father to those who will share these "words" with others. He even prays for those who will believe through these few for generations to come. It's just that simple. You haven't gotten the message of Jesus, until you learn to pass it on.

FIFTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish would result in His disciples having His joy made full in them and being loved the same way the Father loved Jesus-all wrapped up in one another in a unique oneness with the Father, Jesus and the disciples. This makes it all worth being a revolutionary with Jesus. You will know what it means to have His full joy and you will be enveloped in His love and the love of the Father. Possessing these two results will encourage you to continue, allowing Jesus' finished work to work itself out through you. We have known this joy and this love from time to time in our lives, but not on a continual basis, until Jesus apprehended our lives in a new and very real way. This is what makes this life of practicing Kingdom principles and acting as revolutionaries in the name of Jesus such an enjoyable adventure.

SIXTH-The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish is not limited to the first 12 apostle/disciples, but is for those of us who claim to be His disciples today. This is not another good Bible story to be stored away for small group discussions later. This is primary for our lives today! But let me take the edge off a bit by saying that being a revolutionary on your own or with a group of people has nothing to do with you and your performance. Being a revolutionary is simply lifting Jesus up in your life and inviting him to do his revolutionary work in you and through you as you touch others. It has nothing to do with "converting" people to a group, a club, a church or a religious system, but it is all about transformation. This is why I've always said that the reformation never went far enough. We must never settle for anything less than transformation and the only person I've ever seen who can accomplish transformation, changing a person's heart inside out, is Jesus. Consider joining the revolution, because the REVOLUTION IS STILL ON and thriving on planet earth!

Thursday, February 11, 2010



There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This dynamic creates an inner security and support system for those who participate.

The second dimension of the fellowship principle is to share with others in need. This has more to do with sharing with those who are in need physically. There are several categories of people in need that come to mind. When you come together, be aware of believers in need around you. This demonstration of fellowship was an integral part of the early fellowship experience.

Remember the description of the early disciples in the 2nd chapter of Acts. They had a sense of awe of the presence of God as they gathered together and "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:44-47)

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those around you. I am particularly struck with the way the Kingdom is practiced when it comes to the needs of those in the fellowship-they gave to anyone as he had need. This has been my experience as followers of Jesus participate in fellowship together. They have a sense of rallying around anyone who has a need and seek to meet that need. This may be financial or more than financial. When someone is sick or in trouble, when someone needs a job or when someone needs to be encouraged or challenged to make some changes.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of your teachers and those who minister to you. When Jesus called and sent out the Twelve on their initial assignment He instructed them: "Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support" (Matthew 10:8-10). This same understanding of sharing with those who minister to you is extended in Paul's letter to Timothy: "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages'" (I Timothy 5:17-18)

Several years ago Diana and I responded to a "calling" to follow Jesus more simply. A group of friends over the years continue to support us, so that we are released to study, pray, counsel, teach and minister to those Jesus brings our way in a full-time manner. It is a most humbling experience, yet we are free to work with anyone anywhere without having an agenda-especially a financial agenda. The monthly support is up and its down, but somehow the Lord continues to supply our needs as doors of ministry continue to open. We can think of no greater privilege than what we are doing right now.

We have also found new meaning to the term "tentmaker". Paul was by profession a tentmaker. He worked that business whenever he could in order to be free to minister to people without any hidden agenda. Also people supported him from time to time to get the job done. I am a speaker-a professional speaker, which means people actually pay for me to speak. The Lord has used this to supplement our support right when we need it. So, we do tentmaking from time to time.

However, I've come to realize that everyone who is a follower of Jesus is also a tentmaker. Your tentmaking is your occupation that you are paid to do. If you are a teacher, you are paid to teach. But in that paid occupation you have a greater calling and that is to pattern yourself after Jesus and to practice the Kingdom lifestyle. Even those of you who work for a Church are in a paid occupation-a job, but while doing your work you are to pay attention to the real calling and attraction to Jesus and the Kingdom.

When you come together, be aware of the needs of those who are sent out to do ministry outside of your local fellowship. This is especially true as God raises up leadership in other countries. You are not to just say, "We'll pray for you." You must think in terms of truly sharing with them, so that they are empowered to do what God has called them to do in the name of Jesus.

Paul says to Timothy: "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed" (I Timothy 6:17-19). The fellowship must stand ready to share financially to underwrite and support the needs of the Kingdom of Jesus wherever it may spread.

Jesus and His early disciples were supported mostly by successful business women. Then, as the movement spread finances were always available through followers of Jesus who viewed themselves as Kingdom kids, feeling responsible to keep the Good News message and movement of Jesus spreading everywhere doors opened. When the fellowship is functioning properly, there is no need for heavy promotions. It all has to do with attraction to the irresistible Jesus and the irreversible Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



NOTE the progression from yesterday. FIRST-pattern yourself after the teachings and principles of Jesus. See what Jesus does and says and do and say the same things. SECOND-practice the Kingdom principles of life and embrace them as a lifestyle. The Kingdom is practiced anywhere and everywhere, because it's a movement. BUT how is the Kingdom practiced?

The Kingdom is practiced by participation in a community of followers of Jesus. As is deeply founded in the Godhead relationship we are to live our lives in relationship with Jesus and in fellowship with one another.

Practicing the presence of the Kingdom requires fellowship. The term fellowship is widely known, but even more widely misunderstood. It's more than a pot-luck dinner. It's not a room called the "fellowship" hall. It's more than a group of friends watching football or hunting together. The fellowship may be the most important concept you will ever learn. However, this concept is not just to be learned; it must be lived! I call it FELLOWSHIP IS A VERB.

Jesus' strategic approach to spreading His Good News message throughout the world never involved "putting up another church", but practicing their relationship with Jesus and with one another in the Kingdom. This is what the fellowship is all about!

The fellowship is the answer to becoming the genuine salt and light that Jesus intended His followers to be. My friend who challenged me to be more strategic with my life also painted a couple of vivid pictures that are now etched in my mind indelibly. He urged me to be a fountain. "You don't take the fountain to people; the people come to the fountain" he said. "In the same way, you are to be a light that attracts. Bugs are attracted to a physical light. People are attracted to a spiritual light of truth. So be a light! Be a fountain! If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him." The fellowship operates on the principle of attraction, not promotion. This goes against the grain of most every religious program in our world.

The fellowship is not an organization, an institution or a denomination. Fellowship is a verb that, when properly activated, has the power to change the world-one person at a time! In order to use the fellowship as a verb you must learn the fellowship principle.

The primary term for fellowship in the New Testament is koinonia. The word has the idea of communion or sharing in common with another. It's the perfect word to describe the relationship we are to have with God and with one another-a partnership. This partnership is to be entered into-to join one's self to an associate or associates in order to become a sharer.

The designated partners within the fellowship include Jesus, Jesus' followers and you. The fellowship is with God Himself (Father, His Son Jesus and the His Spirit) and with His people. The fellowship principle is the full application of this dynamic partnership between God and His people.

There are two dimensions of the fellowship principle. We'll deal with one today and the second tomorrow. The first dimension is to share in life as in being partners in life. This is more of the spiritual dimension of having a genuine partnership-a blood-brother friendship. You were created to have this kind of partnership, rather than trying to live your life alone. It's knowing that someone gives a rip whether you live or die. This kind of partnership involves the many "one anothers" taught in the Scriptures-weeping with those who weep, rejoicing with those who rejoice, praying for one another, confessing your faults to one another, encouraging and admonishing one another, loving one another, etc. This dimension may be best described by the proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).

There are, at least, four specific ways to practice this dimension of the fellowship principle. When you come together, be sure to share what you are learning and experiencing in your walk. This will emerge out of your personal study of the Scriptures and your daily walk with Jesus.

When you come together, be sure to share yourself. Share your sins and failures-your vulnerabilities and your need for God. Share your blessings and your joys. You have been created to be dependent upon God. Share how easily you can be distracted away from God's intent and become dependent upon something else in its place.

When you come together, be sure to share accountability. You need a support system of people who are going the same direction, live for the same reasons you live and care enough to hold your hand through the good and the bad. You want people in your life like Jesus, who know you and love you anyway.

When you come together, be sure to share your prayer needs. There is no greater bond on earth than when a group bows down in the name of Jesus (the Higher Power), seeking to follow a Higher Calling.

Paul must have been a southerner, because he used what I call "the y'all principle" throughout most of his writing. Take a look: "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (among y'all), with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). Or, "I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (in y'all)" (Galatians 4:19). Or, "Christ in you (in y'all), the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).

Paul is commanding believers everywhere to allow Jesus to make His dwelling place (make Himself at home) as you come together into the fellowship. The dynamite (power) of the gospel will be present in the midst of a few who are gathered together in Jesus' name. The y'all principle is the fellowship principle and the practice of the presence of the Kingdom. Making covenants to one another galvanizes a community of followers of Jesus. It is amazing how simple agreements and commitments to one another provide a bonding power among the participants. These covenants may be agreements to pray for certain things for a certain time period, going on a mission trip together, producing an event, or agreements to go through a study together. This is the fellowship principle!

This takes us back to the principle of the power of the few. This is the key to the mystery of "Christ in you, the hope of glory". It isn't Christ in you or me or he or she. Jesus doesn't make Himself at home in a single person. Jesus wants to dwell among His people. "Christ in you" is in the plural, not the singular. It is literally "Christ in y'all" as you gather together.

Jesus wasn't kidding when He said that He would show up where two or three are gathered together. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that His preeminence shows up. It's when a few gather in the name of Jesus that the presence of the King in His Kingdom is experienced.

The power of the few is really a complete paradigm shift. Jesus introduced an entirely new dynamic into the teaching process. Let's call it "table fellowship". Instead of one person teaching a class, Jesus spent lots of significant time around the table with food. The gospel of Luke records ten meals with Jesus. Eight of them are eaten in the flow of Jesus' ministry activity and two are eaten with the disciples after the resurrection.

In many of the meals Jesus broke several social and religious customs. Jesus was operating under a new paradigm where He broke down any and all boundaries between the sinners and the religious, the men and women, servants and masters, rich and poor. In other words, Jesus uses fellowship around the table to bring everyone together and to demonstrate Kingdom living at its simple, tangible best.

As these many meals with Jesus are examined closely, it's helpful to pay special attention to the settings. The settings vary from the homes of the highly religious to special friends and even in two tax-collector homes. Most of the time Jesus is invited and in the case of Zacheus Jesus invited Himself to lunch at Zach's place. The guest list is always fascinating-priests, sinners, prostitutes and a variety of broken people and those who are looking for that special touch from Jesus.

The simple program of Jesus for changing the whole world is to make each person He touches magnetic enough with love to draw others to love God and to love one another. This transformation happens within the relational community of a few. Are you in that kind of relationship?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010



This seems to be one of the most frequently misunderstood issues of the Kingdom. The confusion centers around the distinction between the "church" and the "kingdom". Even though Jesus only mentions the "church" in two instances, today the "church" is the constant and most frequent theme for those who believe in Jesus. Why did Jesus avoid teaching about the church? Why did He spend most of His teaching about the Kingdom? The only logical answer that makes sense to me is that He intended for us to seek after the Kingdom and practice it in all of our relationships.

Most confuse the church today with the Kingdom just like most confuse "heaven" with the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the rule of God on planet earth both personally and in community. The church is a simple gathering together. The term "church" is not a special or holy word as many believe and teach. It literally means "called out ones" and was used to describe city council meetings or any kind of assembly. It simply is a gathering of followers of Jesus. It's a movement, not an organization!

You see this plainly when you consider how Jesus and His disciples viewed and referred to the synagogue. Very rarely did any of them criticize the synagogue or suggest that other synagogues ought to be established or planted in order to have better teaching or worship or even a synagogue where Jesus' words would be taught. This is so different from what we see and hear today!

The followers of Jesus were caught up in actively following Jesus and His teachings. This is why I like to call it a movement-the Jesus movement. The Jesus movement met in homes and in the Temple courts. They went to synagogue, but they had a different relationship with the synagogue. They were caught up in this Jesus movement, so that they didn't feel the need to bash the synagogue. They orbited around it and people at the synagogue were attracted to the irresistible Jesus and the practice of the Kingdom in the dynamic of the disciples. They also orbited around their villages and businesses where friends and family were drawn in to the love of Jesus. The Jesus movement was in orbit wherever 2 or 3 followers of Jesus gathered together in fellowship. It was an orbiting movement!

In the same way today, there is no need for us to bash the synagogue (the church) or even to feel we must start new ones in order to have better teaching or worship than an already established one. There is not even anything from Jesus that urges us to build the "church". He said, "I will build my church." What He wants from us is to be it. Being the church of Jesus is patterning yourself after Jesus and His teachings and practicing the Kingdom principles within the context of a few friends-all in the name of Jesus. In that sense the church of Jesus is and can be anywhere and everywhere.

Luke describes these little gatherings and what they did in the Acts of Jesus: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

It seems to me that rather than building the Church, it would be so much more effective to practice the Kingdom. NOTE some differences between the organized church and the Kingdom: - The Church is local and limited; the Kingdom is universal and unlimited. - The Church is an earth-to-heaven connection; the Kingdom is a heaven-to-earth connection.

- The Church is never called the Gospel or the Good News; the Kingdom is. - Jesus barely mentioned Church (twice); He taught so much about the Kingdom.

- The Church is visible; the Kingdom is invisible. - You go to Church; the Kingdom goes with you. - The Church tends to be an organization; the Kingdom, a movement.

- The Church gathers and scatters; the Kingdom is always present among you. - You enter Church by attendance or membership; enter the Kingdom by following Jesus. - The Church may or may not grow; the Kingdom is continually growing.

- Churches can be shut down; the Kingdom cannot be shut down. - The Church may have God present; the Kingdom is God's presence.

So, where is the Kingdom practiced? Anywhere and everywhere! The challenge is this. Are you patterning your life after Jesus and His teachings and practicing the Kingdom with a few or are you just attending a Church. The Church is great. The Jesus Kingdom movement is far better!