Monday, September 13, 2010



We now come to a second time Jesus predicts His upcoming death in Luke 9:43-50: While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered over to human hands." But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

This bad news Jesus is sharing with them was just too hard to take. It was still a mystery to them and they were afraid to ask anything further about it. However this isn't the most important issue in this passage. After all of these amazing supernatural experiences-being sent on a mission to heal people, participating with Jesus in feeding over 5000, seeing Jesus totally transfigured before their eyes, and healing a boy who was demonized, the disciples prove that they are missing the point of who Jesus is and what He came to do. They enter into 3 clashes.

FIRST CLASH--An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest."

In this 1st clash the disciples argue between themselves about who will be the greatest among them. They are still thinking in terms of a political kingdom. They are missing the point that Jesus, the King, came to bring a spiritual kingdom then and there. And Jesus was the key to any sort of positioning, because the kingdom is wherever the king is.

SECOND CLASH--"Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

NOTE this 2nd clash. Here the disciples are upset with some other followers of Jesus who were casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Now what was it that was bothersome to them? Get this. They were upset because these followers of Jesus "were not one of us". It was driving them nuts that anyone outside of their little fellowship could be following Jesus. Does that sound familiar?

THIRD CLASH--As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.

The 1st clash was between the disciples, the 2nd clash was between the disciples and other followers of Jesus, and then this 3rd clash is between the disciples of Jesus and a group of people from another religious system.

All three clashes shared a few commonalities: 1. Each clash was motivated by the pride of being more "right" than another. This is sure all too common among those who claim to be followers of Jesus today. 2. Each clash was divisive from within the group of disciples to outside the Jesus fellowship. 3. Each clash was missing Jesus as the central figure of their lives and thinking.

You see, if you leave Jesus out of the equation of relationships within the kingdom, you will inevitably experience divisiveness. Here's the principle: JESUS UNITES WHILE EVERYTHING ELSE DIVIDES. And what is Christianity known for? It's divisiveness and exclusivity. So, who pushed Jesus out of Christianity?



In order for a faith-lift to be effective, you need to understand who does what and when. A faith-lift includes God's part and yours.

We visited a study group this morning where the topic was atonement. Now that's a big word, but it actually is quite simple. It's the term that means reconciliation-especially between God and man. Through Jesus man can be reconciled with God. Through Jesus we can experience atonement-be at-one-ment with God. Every religious system has atonement as its ultimate goal.

The group discussion revolved around the grace of God-God's undeserved love toward everyone in the world. Grace is divided into two-common grace and specific grace. Common grace is what everyone on the planet enjoys-the sunshine, flowers, mountains, beaches, the love of another, the breath of life and the joy of children. Once you accept the reality of common grace that is extended to everyone, then you can either acknowledge God or not. When you acknowledge God and His grace, you then have the opportunity to receive it or reject it. In other words, if you want the love of God and all of its fulfillment and eternal satisfaction, you can have it. And if you don't want anything to do with the love of God, you will not be forced into it.

There are always two sides to every story and it is no different with mankind. There is God's side and your side-God's part and yours. His part is unconditional love and acceptance of you just as you are. Your part is to actually receive this love for yourself. This is easier said than done. You see, everything you hear and see in this world will communicate just the opposite to you. The most common communication about man's possible relationship with God is that man must do certain things to appease God-to do enough to earn the love and acceptance of God. This performance message is promoted by all kinds of religious groups as well. The result? You feel the stress of having to perform and the guilt of not performing well enough.

So, how do you counteract this constant flow of wrong information? You have to remind yourself of God's unconditional love and acceptance. That's the Good News of Jesus! In order to remind yourself of God's love and acceptance, you have to employ personal discipline-to transform your mind and heart with the Good News message. If you are able to do this, you will enjoy a sense of peace that will give you a faith-lift and get you through any situation you may face.

I've come to realize there are only two kinds of pain-discipline and regret. You choose which it will be. If you discipline yourself you will make progress toward what you want to accomplish. If you don't discipline yourself, you will sit in a pile of regret.

There are many you might want to discipline in order to bring about a faith-lift. For instance, if you want a faith-lift, why not begin with exercising discipline in the area of peace. Peace is the direct result of the Good News of Jesus. There are two kinds of peace-peace with God and the peace of God.

When the heavenly host appeared with the angel announcing the birth of Jesus, they said: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men." When the disciples were first sent out by Jesus they were to take the peace with them and give it away to those they found in the various villages who were leaning in. The first thing Jesus said to His disciples when He met them in a room after the resurrection was "Peace be with you."

I love the passage that says: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus the Christ." (Romans 5:1) Or later in the letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:13) And, then to the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. (II Thessalonians 3:16)

Now if you discipline yourself to read and meditate on the many passages that speak of peace, this will make a great contribution to getting another faith-lift. However, there is one more passage that I like to use personally and share with others. Disciplining myself to do what this passage teaches has really served me and others well in giving us a lift.

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

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

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

THIRD-The 3rd discipline is to fill your mind with the following: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. The discipline here is to fill your mind with all things, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable excellent-all good things.

The result? The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. "Practice these things" means to discipline yourself by thinking on these things. That's your part! Then, the peace of God will be with you. That's God's part!

Are you in need of a faith-lift? There are only two kinds of pain-discipline and regret. You choose! Discipline yourself in the things that produce the peace of God or you will find yourself in endless regret. In other words, you can live in peace or in pieces.



OK, so Jesus says "Where two or three gather together in His name, He will be in their midst", but is there any other indicator about seeing Jesus at work in your life? I think there are a few helpful guidelines in finding Jesus at work around you.

FIRST-Jesus is focused on those in need, therefore look for Jesus as you are able to show concern for and offer help for the needy around you. This is where His heart is. He even says that when you feed, clothe and love those in need, you are actually ministering to Jesus, Himself.

SECOND-Jesus is focused on children, therefore look for Jesus to be hanging around them. Children do see things differently and say things innocently from the heart.

THIRD-Jesus doesn't make appointments; He will show up unexpectedly. If your day is interrupted, look for Jesus to show up in that interruption. Instead of being annoyed with your schedule being interrupted, look for Jesus there. In examining the life of Jesus you will see that He walked in and out of people's lives on His calendar. Although there are a few times Jesus initiates encounters with people, most of the time people seek Him out personally or on behalf of loved ones. In either case, when Jesus encounters a person in need, His touch is always healing and life-giving. None of these encounters were on anyone's appointment book. Each was an interruption to their daily routine.

If you are met with irritations or troubles, look for Jesus to show up through these. I have found that some of the most irritating people I know have been used by the Lord to teach me something I really needed. Look for Jesus to show up in the midst of your troubles, too. It's not that Jesus causes us these irritations or troubles; He is always present to use them for our benefit.

You see, the reason why you can find Jesus around you throughout your day is that Jesus is relentlessly searching for children and child-like faith, those who are in need and those who are caught up with irritations and troubles. And He uses all of these players and situations to grow us up spiritually.

In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke Jesus offers three stories about His relentless search for those who are lost-the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost child-the prodigal son. All of these illustrate the primary theme of Jesus' day every day. He is out to seek and to save or rescue those who have lost their way.

No matter what the touch of Jesus accomplishes in the life of a person, there is always the same result. Each and every person comes to the point of repentance. "Repentance" gets a bad rap. Most think of repentance as a highly emotional decision-a dramatic conversion experience. Now, repentance may include such emotion, but basically repentance means to change your mind about something or change your direction-turn around. It is usually referring to turning back to God-getting back on track. I like to think about it as simply coming to your senses.

There is an interesting encounter with Jesus that Jesus actually initiates. It's when Jesus met a tax-collector by the name of Zaccheus. Let's look in on what happened: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

NOTE that Jesus invites Himself to lunch at Zach's house. And even before they made it to his house for lunch, there is an immediate change in the heart of Zaccheus. It's amazing to me how quickly Zaccheus wants to rectify his wrongs against the people he had over-taxed. He repented. He came to his senses about what he was doing.

I see this all of the time with people. When they encounter Jesus, there is a dramatic coming to their senses about material things, about their family responsibilities, about their finances and about their sense of mission. This initial response to an encounter with Jesus indicates a genuine heart decision to follow Jesus.

Now note what Jesus' response was to the changes in Zaccheus. Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:1-10)

When you're looking for Jesus everyday, you will find Him actively seeking those who have lost their way. What Jesus wants from you is to be aware of His activity, cooperate with Him in His many encounters with people around you and to do whatever you can do to advance the conversation of Jesus in the marketplace. You see, when you are looking for Jesus every day, you begin to partner with Him. To be a partner with Jesus is to participate in bringing people to their senses. By the way, your life will begin to make more sense, too.

So, seek for Jesus and you will find Him every day. He is setting up all kinds of random appointments every day. All He wants you to do is to show up!



Matthew 5:13-16

Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

NOTE Jesus says, "You ARE the salt of the earth!" It's not that you might be or you could be, but you ARE. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. In order for the salt to be effective it must be out of the salt-shaker and applied to the meat. Salt is the invisible presence of God. It must be sensed! You're the salt in the world around you-the invisible presence of God among those you touch. Just by your presence there ought to be a preserving of purity, honesty and fairness.

NOTE that salt represents the inner quality-the being of the equation. Therefore, salt is the best tag to place on the first four beatitudes-poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. These snapshots are all about being, not doing. They describe your relationship with the Lord.

A saltless disciple is good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. Jesus uses the term tasteless. The original Greek word is MORAINO, which means to be foolish, to play the fool, insipid, dull, flat or deficient-literally to be a MORON.

In Rabbinic literature salt is associated with wisdom-a foolish disciple has no impact on his world. In a sense salt is a warning against being good for nothing. Also, salt adds flavor to things. Jesus is to life what salt is to food. Jesus and the Kingdom lend flavor to life to be a difference-maker. The world is changed by flavoring it with your salt-like presence. It's like a thermostat; you set the temperature.

It was Saint Francis who said, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." This is precisely what it means to be salt. You are the salt of the earth.

Now for the second image-light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

NOTE again Jesus says, "You ARE the light of the world!" Salt has a powerful invisible nature to it; light has more of the visible presence of God. Salt must be sensed-light must be seen! Light counteracts the darkness.

The visible presence of God consists of the energy of salt and the expression of light-IT MUST BE ATTRACTIVE AND AUTHENTIC! The core of this light can be found in loving your neighbor as yourself.

We are beyond the point where mere talk-no matter how sound-can make an impression. Demonstration is required. We must live what we talk, even in places where we cannot talk what we live. We stand again at Mt. Carmel (I K 18:20-40). THE TEST IS REALITY-AUTHENTICITY-THE GENUINE!

Whereas salt was a warning against being good for nothing, light is used to show us how to be good for something. It is the outer or doing side of these two images used by Jesus. Light is the best tag to be placed on the second four snapshots-merciful, pure in heart, peacemaker and rejoicing in persecution.

You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world; you are the invisible and visible presence of God on planet earth. Don't become tasteless as salt and don't dim out or cover up your light! Allow Jesus to be sensed and seen in you.

More than twenty years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number-one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.' Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how the Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Salt and Light.



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

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

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

Then Jesus reveals His third requirement: "So it is with you; only the man who says goodbye to all his possessions can be my disciple." (Luke 14:33) Many of your translations say something like this: "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." Naturally, the wording "give up everything" is the operative phrase here. What does it mean to give up everything? I like the first translation I read best: "Say goodbye to all of your possessions." That says it well! The Greek word here means to "take leave" or "renounce" your possessions.

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

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

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

Diana and I are devoting ourselves to practicing these three very tough requirements of Jesus. What's interesting is that the more closely you follow alongside Jesus the easier it is to live as a disciple. Jesus has made it possible for us to have the privilege of being released by friends who underwrite us financially so that we are free to work full-time at being disciples and making disciples. Living like this has been a graduate school experience of how to walk with Jesus, walk with others and to wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. Being a disciple of Jesus is one of the most amazing adventures ever. Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? What's holding you back?



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

Here's how Jesus states this requirement: "The man who will not carry his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Jesus' disciple must carry the cross just as Jesus did-following in the footsteps of Jesus. If you are unwilling to do this, then you cannot be His disciple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

In the 14th chapter of Luke's Gospel, he records all three of these requirements during one dramatic scene where crowds were following Jesus everywhere He went. We commonly make the mistake of thinking that the Twelve were the only ones who were even called disciples. We will see that many times there are lots of others mentioned as disciples who followed after Jesus. Here in this passage there are crowds of people who were following alongside Jesus for a variety of reasons and Jesus makes it perfectly clear what it takes to be His disciple. Luke writes: Now as Jesus proceeded on his journey, great crowds accompanied him and he turned and spoke to them, "If anyone comes to me without setting aside his relationship with his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine." (Luke 14:25-26)

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

He makes it even more personal, when He says to set aside "even your own life". Jesus wants you to place Him above all of your own self-interests. This is the area where we create many of our own little gods that we come to worship and put ahead of or equal to Jesus. You cannot be full of yourself and be acting as a disciple-a follower of Jesus. There is not enough room in your heart for that balancing act.

In most translations Jesus is quoted as saying that He is requiring you to hate your family and to hate yourself. We covered this recently in one of the myths about Jesus and His teachings. Jesus spoke in Aramaic and in that language the wording is clearly not "hate", but to "set aside" all others to put Jesus in first place or in the very center of your life.

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

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



A disciple-a learner and follower of Jesus-must make it his or her single-minded focus to be like Jesus as best he can. Simply put, see and hear what Jesus does and do it! In order to be a true follower or disciple of Jesus-to be like Jesus, it's important to understand the leadership style of Jesus. Once you understand this, you can follow Him more effectively.

There are three basic dimensions to the leadership style of Jesus that are vital to embrace. FIRST-It's personal and powerful! Jesus was God in the flesh-the incarnational dimension of His leadership style. In the same way Jesus fleshed out the invisible God we are to flesh out or incarnate Jesus. We are essentially to be Jesus in all that we do. We do this by seeking to know Him better in all we do-including Jesus in every decision, every meeting and every relationship. We do this by practicing the presence of Jesus every day-walking, talking, thinking, loving and bleeding like Jesus. We miss the power in knowing Jesus, when we ignore His presence and avoid His pain. Remember Paul's words: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings."

SECOND-The leadership style of Jesus is relational and relevant! Jesus made it clear that there is no genuine relationship with Him without being in relationship with others. This is the leadership dimension of interdependence, connection and compassion. He demonstrated this relational dimension when He chose the first three disciples to be with Him-just to be with Him in relationship-in community. When you isolate yourself, you short-change yourself and others in the family of Jesus. When you embrace interdependence with Jesus and others, you exchange your life to know the power of God. You can actually experience His power in this community.

THIRD-The leadership style of Jesus is also underground and invisible! This is the secret dimension of Jesus' leadership style you are to follow that will generate real impact, accomplishment and creativity in the world around you. His ways are just not the normal ways of man. His own disciples in much of what He tried to do opposed him. They tried to push aside the woman who had a bleeding problem. They resisted the team of men who were lowering the lame man through the roof. They wanted to send the 5000 away for them to fend for themselves rather than feed them. They viewed the man born blind with a certain disregard. They had given up on any possibility of Jesus doing anything helpful for His friend Lazarus.

We resist Jesus as well, mostly by ignoring Him. We tend toward creating and producing the visible things; Jesus was and is totally into the invisible, under the radar, approach to serving others. This is real impact-really making a difference in the world around you.

To walk, talk, think, love and bleed like Jesus is the focus and goal of the disciple. Living your life in this way means that you will be a radical. "Radical" means getting to the root or operating from the basic fundamentals of life; it's following the principles that make life work best.

The key to being a disciple is learning and practicing how to be Jesus in everything you do and wherever you are. You see, Jesus doesn't want you to demonstrate for Him (that's the easy thing to do); He wants you to demonstrate Him as you walk like He walked, talk like He talked, think as He thought, love as He loved and even give yourself to sacrificially bleed as Jesus bled for the world. That is being a disciple of Jesus-doing the toughest thing you'll ever do in your life-to follow the teachings and principles of the irresistible and attractive Jesus.



Jesus made it clear what He expected His early followers to do. At the very end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Whatever else can be taught from this passage, it is important that you see what was on Jesus' heart in these last words for His followers. Jesus presents one command here; it's not an option. Jesus is making it clear that He wants His followers to make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all nations!

A disciple is literally a learner-one who listens and follows a teacher and his teachings. Jesus commands His disciples to go make disciples of all nations. "Nations" is best understood as cultures. We're realizing that no matter what culture is introduced to Jesus, the response is amazingly positive and transformational. And just as Jesus gave this command to His first disciples, it's clear that Jesus wants all of His disciples everywhere to continue to multiply more disciples.

Now, the term "disciple" is only used in the Gospels; it cannot be found in the rest of the New Testament. It's like the Gospels are filled with urging all to become disciples and the letters to the many fellowships of Jesus in the New Testament are filled with practicing what it means to be a disciple.

To me, a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus-one who hears His teachings and seeks to practice them. We are doing our best to be faithful disciples of Jesus and to obey Jesus by making disciples of Jesus everywhere we go. We see ourselves as followers of Jesus, not Christians or believers or Church members. We say it this way among our friends: "We're trying to do the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. We're trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is discipleship-to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Over the next few weeks I want to open up what discipleship is all about. In order to get us started I want to make 8 observations on the elements of being a disciple. FIRST-Being a disciple is to have a teachable spirit and a heart for God. If you are a disciple, you will work hard on being a learner. You don't already have it all figured out. You are coming to Jesus as a little child.

SECOND-Being a disciple is to be holy-set apart unto God for His mission. When you are set apart in this way, you will be going against the grain-a contrarian, but you will be walking hand in hand with Jesus and that's the only way to get through the piles of life anyway.

THIRD-Being a disciple means to enhance your self-esteem. Knowing whose you are will determine who you are. When you understand clearly how centering and empowering it is to follow Jesus, He becomes the key to your self-esteem.

FOURTH-Being a disciple means to confirm your calling-your purpose in life. When you follow Jesus, you will know the reason why you are here on planet earth and have a great opportunity to act it out.

FIFTH-Being a disciple means to manage your conflicts. When following Jesus, your conflicts become opportunities for making a difference and learning more about yourself.

SIXTH-Being a disciple means to be able to express your personal faith. One of the great problems believers have is to be able to share their faith. All kinds of training materials and methodologies have been produced over the years, but there is nothing more effective in communicating your faith than being a follower of Jesus plus nothing. It's contagious!

SEVENTH-Being a disciple means to make disciples. If you are a disciple, then you will multiply yourself. You will make other disciples of Jesus as you live your life. You won't be able to stop it! Jesus will shine through!

EIGHTH-Being a disciple means to know Jesus better. Being a disciple is all about knowing Jesus. In fact, I'm convinced that this may be the only real goal for anything we ever do-in your home, in your vocation, on your vacation, as you parent your children and when you come together as a group of people in the name of Jesus.

Paul, who was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus, expresses how important knowing Jesus better really is: "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

How can I know Jesus better? That's what I want to know! In the days ahead I want to encourage you to know Jesus better. Begin by being His disciple.



There are two areas within the world of biblical teachings that can get people so fired up that they become distracted away from the heart of the matter. One is the subject of demons or evil spirits. The other is the area of prophecy. There are so many varied teachings on the 2nd coming of Jesus.

What's most interesting is that each position held is taught in such a way so as to make you think this is THE WAY to understand it. "Our way is right and yours is wrong." And the division continues to widen between well-meaning followers of Jesus. Divisiveness is the first area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you are the one who knows when that time will be, you will prove to be divisive.

Each prophecy teacher dogmatically stands on his teachings and against the teachings of others. There is certainly nothing wrong with disagreeing over when Jesus is coming back, but to reject or separate yourself from other followers of Jesus because of your disagreement is sick and wrong.

Over the years I have made fun of the differing positions regarding when Jesus will show up again-specifically in the rapture-the time that believers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. Some believe in the pre-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up before the final seven-year tribulation period. Some believe in the mid-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up in the middle of the seven-year tribulation-three and one-half years into the final tribulation period. Then others believe in the post-tribulation rapture theory that Jesus will show up at the end of the tribulation period.

Many years ago I came to an unshakable position on this. I am pre-trib until the tribulation starts. And if Jesus hasn't shown up by then, I will move quickly to a mid-trib position. And if Jesus doesn't show up by mid-night, three and one-half years into the tribulation, then I will swiftly move into a post-tribulation rapture theory position. And, I will not be shaken from this position. I call it the pan-trib position, meaning everything is going to pan out in the end anyway, no matter your position on the subject.

Distraction away from the primary message of the Good News of Jesus is the second area of damage in embracing this myth. When you think Jesus has clearly taught when He will return and you know when that time is, it is easy to become distracted away from cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus.

If you believe Jesus taught WHEN He is coming back and you think you know when that will be, you will be divisive and will add to the distractions away from the person of Jesus.

Jesus does speak a lot about coming back, but you will be hard-pressed to nail down the WHEN. Oh, I know most of the prophetic teaching positions that are popular today. I've even been a major proponent of prophetic teachings over the years. As I look back on that period of my life, I was so distracted away from my walk with Jesus and others, because of my focus on the latest and greatest fulfilled prophecies.

Now, since Jesus apprehended my life a few years ago, I have been less focused on WHEN Jesus is to return and am spending lots of my time and energy in getting to know WHO Jesus is. I began to be haunted by the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. Let's check a few of these out. Jesus says: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." He also says: "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." And again Jesus says: "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will."

What haunts me are the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." Now, if Jesus means what He says here, then maybe the WHEN is not the important thing. If Jesus doesn't know the WHEN, then what makes any bible teacher think that he or she could possibly know it?

Don't get caught up in prophecy in such a way that you are divided from other brothers and sisters and are distracted away from learning to walk with and trust Jesus in your life right here right now. Don't focus on the WHEN. Jesus didn't teach it and you can't know it. Focus on the WHO-ON JESUS HIMSELF. That's how you can be on the alert or be ready. Nothing else really matters in comparison!



This is a common myth among those of us who are so fed up with the damages of organized Christianity. It's so easy to identify the culprit in leading us away from Jesus' message as the artificial Christianization of Emperor Constantine, the atrocious Crusades, the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church or the divisiveness of the more than 35,000 sects within Christianity since the Protestant Reformation. However, to think that missing the message of Jesus began with these organizational travesties is to buy into a major myth and miss the point of what it is that goes wrong when the message of Jesus is ignored.

No, the organized Church is not where missing the message of Jesus began. It began from the very beginning with the early disciples of Jesus. There seems to be a natural tendency, no matter how much we have seen and heard, to become distracted away from the simplicity of Jesus plus nothing.

I want to walk you through one of my favorite passages that illustrates this truth unmistakably and you will also see yourself as we take a quick glimpse of what happened to the disciples. In the 9th chapter of Luke Jesus does a most unusual thing. He sends His disciples out, empowered to drive out demons, to cure diseases, to proclaim the message of the Kingdom and to heal the sick. What makes this most incredible is that Jesus sends out these disciples who aren't really believers yet nor do they yet believe Jesus is the Son of God. So they went out into many villages and performed their mission as prescribed by Jesus. Think of it! They are brand new followers of Jesus and they have already been sent on a mission to perform incredible miracles among the people! What an experience this must have been!

Next Jesus took them with Him to a nearby fishing village in Galilee where great crowds followed them. After speaking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing many of them, Jesus knew they needed to eat something so He fed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus performed this spectacular miracle by using the disciples to distribute the food to the masses of people. What a thrill that must have been for these disciples!

About eight days after telling His disciples that His Messianic mission included the necessity of dying, Jesus then takes Peter, John and James with Him up on a mountain to pray. While praying Jesus revealed His glory and brilliance as the visible presence of God right in front of them-the Shekinah glory. Moses and Elijah supernaturally appear with them and then the voice of God pronounces Jesus as the Son of God. Again, this must have been an amazing experience for these three disciples.

When they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met them. A man was concerned for his son who was afflicted with seizures and convulsions and complained to Jesus that the other nine disciples were unable to heal him. Jesus moves into gear and heals this man's son right away. Everyone, including the disciples was amazed at this sight!

These disciples have just been sent out to perform miracles in the villages, participated in the feeding of the 5000, three of them saw Jesus in all His glory, and they all saw Jesus heal this desperate little boy. What a ride! What a miraculous adventure watching Jesus do His thing and actually working alongside Him.

NOW, note what happens in the next three scenes with the disciples. They royally miss the preeminence of Jesus and His message. FIRST-An argument breaks out among the disciples: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest." What's this all about? After all of this demonstration that Jesus is the preeminent One, they have already missed the point. Jesus is the point, not them and their comparative greatness!

SECOND-The disciples become jealous over seeing another person doing things in the name of Jesus: "Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Now, the disciples are caught up in comparison again. This time the problem is that there is a person doing things in the name of Jesus. Now note this! John says the problem with this person is that he is not one of us. Do you get it? This guy who is doing terrific things in the name of Jesus just doesn't match up, because he is not a member of their little group. Ever heard or seen that attitude? Again, they are missing the preeminence of Jesus. Their little group has become more important than Jesus, Himself.

THIRD-There is a problem with the response of the Samaritans: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Now, it's getting worse! The disciples are now so miffed at the Samaritan's response that they are actually suggesting that they must be destroyed. Note, it's more serious than this. They aren't asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven; they are thinking that they might have the power in themselves to call the fire down to destroy the Samaritans-"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Are you kidding me? These guys have not only missed the preeminence of Jesus; they are taking on a little personal preeminence for themselves.

Missing the message of Jesus did not begin in the organized Church; that's a myth. It began with the earliest disciples of Jesus; even before the Jesus movement was officially launched! They missed it within a period of a few days in which they experienced the most miraculous adventure anyone could have ever imagined.

Who's the greatest? This guy is not one of us! Let's destroy these Samaritans who aren't receptive to our message! None of these responses by the disciples is on-message with what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus. They completely missed the point. JESUS IS THE POINT OF IT ALL! Do you see it that way or are you missing the point in your life?