Thursday, March 31, 2011

Matthew 5:10-12


Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

#8 REJOICE IN PERSECUTION--To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles-especially the stresses that others bring upon you! Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life's stresses are circumstantial! I recently read: "You know it's a bad day, when the sun comes up in the West, you jump out of bed and miss the floor, the bird singing outside your window is a buzzard, you put both contact lenses in the same eye, your pet rock snaps at you, the blind date turns out to be your ex-wife, your income tax refund check bounces, you put your bra on backwards and it fits better, and Suicide Prevention puts you on hold."

Note the reason for persecution. It's that same word we saw earlier-righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness-being like Jesus (allowing Him to live His life through you)-you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you. Note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It's insults, falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of the Jesus lifestyle you've embraced. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, His simple message that He was the Gospel was just too easy. It didn't contain a system of do's and don'ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute Him terribly to the point of putting Him to death-to silence this simple one. If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable, especially those who believe they have it all together. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by the all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight-a bright light of hope.

REFOCUS YOUR HEART--REJOICE IN PERSECUTION The pre-requisite necessary for you to rejoice in persecution is to refocus your heart! Your passion for filling up the hole in your soul with simply Jesus-for genuine satisfaction and fulfillment in Him-can set you up as a primary target for an onslaught of verbal persecution. When you begin to experience a sense of inner satisfaction and some level of fulfillment, you will find the jealousy and envy of others waiting to cut you down to their size-or lower!

Rejoice in persecution is the attitude that is necessary to stand up against this verbal barrage. The attitude is to take a bigger view of it all. Those who are verbally attacking you are hurting deeply within themselves. What is most encouraging is that they have noticed something about you. You are growing up! You are beginning to find a personal satisfaction that sets you apart!

Your response must be to redouble your efforts to refocus your heart even more. You'll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution! Keep hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others! Then rejoice in persecution! This will drive your detractors nuts! Enjoy it!

BLESSED-YOU ARE TO BE CONGRATULATED! These 8 disciplines or attitudes are taken directly from the first seminar that Jesus gave on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee. They all begin with "Blessed" which means to be congratulated or to be filled with happiness! Take on these attitudes and make them your primary disciplines of life! Meditate on them and discover the great depth within them! They offer you the ingredients that will produce the most valuable and powerful emotional riches you could ever experience!

Note that every one of these beatitudes is different from your natural instincts. When you follow Jesus, you are walking to the beat of a different drummer. I have spent most of my life meditating and referring back to these 8 dynamics. Make them yours. Go back to them often. Maybe even memorize them and ask God to emblazon them on your soul.

Here's how it works: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. THEN, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. THEN, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. THEN, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. THEN, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

NOTE that each of these beatitudes or disciplines run against the grain of popular lifestyles. Jesus paints a portrait of a blessed or happy follower. These are Kingdom disciplines and describe what it means to be like Jesus. You see, Jesus moves to the beat of a different drummer than this world. Follow Jesus and you will also be moving to this beat. It's the beat of the different drummer that turns those who dare to follow Jesus in this way inside out. And, when people are turned inside out by Jesus, the world will be turned upside down. CAN YOU HEAR THE BEAT?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Matthew 5:9


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

#7 RESTORE PEACE--To restore peace is to develop peace within your sphere of influence wherever possible! Be a peacemaker-make peace where there is no peace. Search for trouble, distress, brokenness and those who are living in pieces. Listen to those around you. There is a great void out there-a great need to be understood. In fact, you probably won't have to search, just listen and be aware! This is a strategic discipline that carries with it the dynamic message of the Gospel (Good News). This is Jesus-peace where there is no peace.

In order to restore peace you must see the other person's strengths. This proves that you are listening and truly understand. Seek answers for what's best for this person. Do what you can do to promote peace-making-love, trust, and forgiveness. The world around you is in such desperate need of experiencing inner peace. When I even casually mention forgiveness in a seminar session, I notice the light-bulbs switching on throughout the audience. People are in great need for healing-for knowing inner peace!

The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last ditch effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father."

The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office over 800 "Pacos" showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Believe me, there are massive amounts of Pacos out there looking for peace!

RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE--RESTORE PEACE Note that being a peacemaker emerges out of the beatitude of meekness. So, how can you best restore peace in the world around you? The pre-requisite is to renew your confidence-develop the attitude of meekness. Remember that meekness is a quiet, controlled inner strength. You don't have a chance to be a peacemaker without that quiet, controlled inner strength. You see, without that attitude of meekness you have the tendency to be a reactor to people and things rather than be proactive, which is what restoring peace requires. Meekness is the inner strength that allows you to be a peacemaker! Restore peace and make people whole or remove yourself from this responsibility and leave the people around you in pieces. Choose to restore peace!

I like the simple prayer that says: "Dear Lord, as in the world I toil and through this world I flit. I pray make me a drop of oil and not a piece of grit!"

Well, are you a peacemaker or do you stir things up when you enter into the conversation? It isn't noble to stir it up and say, "Boy, did I tell them the truth and they were ticked!" You get no medals or pats on the back from Jesus with that routine. Anyone can stir it up. It takes a person walking, thinking and loving like Jesus to be a peacemaker.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matthew 5:8


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

#6 RELATE AS A FRIEND-To relate as a friend is to develop relationships where there is trust and love! Where there is trust and love, there is affirmation. Don't relate to others as friends for their approval. You don't want to give anyone that much power. You only seek approval from your Creator-your Higher Power. With friends, you must seek affirmation.

In the Proverbs it says "the king's friend is pure in heart." Pure in heart means to be loyal, trustworthy-one who can be counted on at all times-a safe person to have in your court.

The discipline here is to determine not to be a Lone Ranger in living your life. You need friends around you and you must be the one who has this discipline as an initiative on your life. But note how it must emerge out of your mourning over that which keeps you from God. Friendship begins in your heart!

REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES--RELATE AS A FRIEND The pre-requisite for relate as a friend is reframe your weaknesses! If you want to be more effective relating as a friend, you must check out how well you reframe your weaknesses. How is the mourning going? You can't be a good friend unless you have a lifestyle of being sensitive to your own weaknesses.

There are two critical cautions at this point: First, don't relate to another who is not into proper mourning! If you try to be a friend to a person who isn't sensitive to his weaknesses and therefore in denial, you may be in big trouble. Solomon warned that if you relate to a fool, you will end up living as a fool, too.

When a person hasn't reckoned with his/her weaknesses, he tends to want to point out yours in a condemnatory fashion.

Second, don't relate to another person without reframing your weaknesses! I have played the part of a fool on too many occasions. I have allowed people to use me to gain credibility that they lacked, allowed people to use me to pay for their own guilt by pointing out my failures, allowed wreckage to remain at the side of life's road, and allowed my naiveté to bring condemnation down upon me.

Without proper mourning you waste your sorrows and troubles, because without proper mourning there is no comfort and joy-satisfaction. And, without that satisfaction, you will find it very difficult to relate as a friend.

Everyone is in desperate need of the dynamic of friendship. Without a friendship you die. Life flows through it and death reigns without it!

How are you doing in developing this discipline? Make sure to live your life with trusted and loving friends. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you've forgotten the words. But there's one more dynamic I'd like to suggest. Turn your friends into "walking partners" as you walk your walk with Jesus. Learn to discuss and do things in the name of Jesus in that relationship. This will deepen any friendship into a life partnership!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Matthew 5:7


The first 4 beatitudes were about your relationship before God. The second 4 are internal qualities about our relationship with others. Each one extends out of another. Here is a visual of how this relationship works.


Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. The discipline here is #5 REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION-To reach out with compassion is to treat everyone with grace and mercy! This means to identify with others' needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you. Remember, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment! It's an interesting principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away!

Reaching out with compassion is a source of healing for those you touch and for yourself, so that everyone gets better! Don't forget, this is not just an action toward another person; it's an attitude!

There is no way you will be able to REACH OUT WITH COMPASSION without the dimension of REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY.

For each of the attitudes or disciplines in the second list (INNER SELF TOWARD OTHERS) there is a corresponding attitude in the first list (INNER SELF). The INNER SELF attitudes are actually pre-requisites for the INNER SELF TOWARD OTHERS attitudes.

Therefore, in order for you to be able to reach out with compassion you will do well to reaffirm your poverty. In other words, if you want to check out how you can reach out with compassion more effectively, start with reaffirming your poverty. This makes so much sense when you think about it! It's very difficult to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. On the other hand, when you are a person who has a right evaluation of your self, God and others, you are freed up to be able to show genuine compassion to others! When you have received grace from God, it's much easier to give out mercy!

Is it difficult for you to show mercy to other people? Then check out being "poor in spirit." If you have an understanding of your wickedness and wonder-your poverty before God-that it is a right evaluation of yourself before God, then you are able to offer mercy to another. If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won't find it easy to extend mercy to another person at all. BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL FOR THEY WILL RECEIVE MERCY.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Matthew 5:6


We are making our way through the book of Matthew and more specifically we are going through the beatitudes. Each of these beatitudes is really a discipline. Here's how it works:

#1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY-To have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

#2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES-To reframe your wickedness means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

#3-RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE-To renew your confidence means is to develop a quiet, controlled strength. 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

#4-REFOCUS YOUR HEART 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

To refocus your heart is to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul! Everybody is passionately seeking inner satisfaction. Note the progression of the first four attitudes. The first three speak primarily of that which is lacking within you and how you need to handle it. This fourth attitude or discipline is a kind of hungering and thirsting for what you want in your innermost being. This is that total satisfaction I was referencing before.

"Righteousness" is right living. It's walking consistently with God's standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God's standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God's standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION-religious systems of do's and don'ts to avoid going to hell. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or even Christian. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One-Jesus, Himself. This sort of relationship is not a plan for avoiding hell, but it says "I've been to hell and don't want to return." It's a relationship with Jesus-walking with Jesus every day-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

NOTE what happens if you hunger and thirst this way "for they who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One will be satisfied." The term "satisfied" is used to describe the fattening up of cattle-to fill them up so that they have no more wants. Do you want to find satisfaction in your soul? Then you must practice hungering and thirsting for Jesus everyday! It's the only possible way to this kind of serenity and satisfaction. This is what I mean by refocusing your heart!

I'll expand on it later, but here is an illustration of how your discontent works in your favor, if you allow it. The power of discontent provides the opportunity to refocus your heart! I see this power released as you take three positive steps:

First, picture yourself as created by the Creator! Although I've mentioned this earlier and probably will reference it again, you must not ignore this as one of the most powerful ingredients for your success. When you recognize your Creator, you avoid the temptation to play like you're God. This tends to keep you on track with who you really are and who you aren't. (This is the core of reaffirm your poverty.)

Second, process the pain with the hope of something better to come! The underlying attitude here is: All of the pain and disappointment will pass and are worth it, if I can get more inner satisfaction and growth for having experienced them. (This is the core of reframe your weaknesses.)

Third, practice the presence of your Creator in your life! This means to enjoy every day of your life from a different perspective-on a higher plane. It's living with your Creator as your partner in everything you do. There is a sense of accountability here that can't be achieved any other way. I have often taught with positive affirmation in the corporate marketplace that if you attempt to live your life without your Creator, you don't have prayer!

It's only when sensing your emptiness that you have access to spiritual fullness. These are the quiet cravings-the hungering and thirsting-for spiritual things, for the inner satisfaction of your soul! When you hunger and thirst for something, you want it and will do most anything to satisfy these desires. Hungering and thirsting is not simply making it a higher priority or something you feel you really ought to do, but to hunger and thirst as if this is a life-sustenance issue!

Refocus your heart! On every flight you are instructed to put on your oxygen mask before helping those children alongside you. Part of the refocusing of your heart is just that-putting on your oxygen mask every day-talking to Jesus, listening to Him and seeking to please Him with your life throughout the day. Maybe you need to ask the simple question: "Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Matthew 5:5


We are making our way through the Gospel of Matthew and specifically we are into the 3rd beatitude. The first two beatitudes we turned into disciplines.

#1-REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY--To have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

#2-REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES--To reframe your wickedness means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

#3-RENEW YOUR CONFIDENCE 5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

To renew your confidence means to develop a quiet, controlled strength. This discipline or attitude continues the progression. First, reaffirm your poverty (a right evaluation of your self, God, and others), then reframe your weaknesses (a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing what you were created to be and to do), and now comes the renewing of your confidence-the renewal of your inner strength. In other words, once you see clearly who you really are, you are ready for growth. Then, if you are able to mourn over that which can keep you from growing, you actually graduate through this pile of problems. Now, you can't remain under the pile of mourning; you must gain inner strength as you emerge from the pile.

If you just learn how to mourn and remain there, you will be content to wallow in your weaknesses. Many people seem to enjoy suffering like this. They find a new friend in depression or loss or a sickness. They find that people seem to care more for them when they're wallowing in a problem, so they take that problem on as their identity-sort of a badge of courage. Don't wallow in your sorrows! Mourn them! Recognize them! See them for what they are! And grow through it!

Another way to look at the progression is: First, suffer the loss or problem with great sorrow! Second, see the passing nature of the situation! Third, stand on the promise of something better to come through it all!

To renew your confidence is to focus on the product of what you can learn in the midst of your struggles. "Gentle" is the word for meekness. Meekness is not weakness! It's developing a quiet, controlled inner strength or confidence that can only come from God's inside operation on your life. This is why we continue to speak of transformation or regeneration! It's an inside job by Jesus, Himself in a person's life. You recognize your desperate need, you mourn over it, inviting the Lord to do His work in your life. He does His work in your heart and creates a wonderful inner confidence-an inner strength that empowers you to start over!

It's learning to grow for it-no matter how rough or how tough life can be! Again, I say, it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you that matters most. Renew your confidence and live your life-inside out!

The struggle here in renewing your confidence is to be diligent to find your inner strength in His work and not your own. Are you sensitive to God's transformation in your heart? Are you aware of His continued work every day in and through you? This is the basis of meekness!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Matthew 5:4


When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 ``Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ``Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 ``Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 ``Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Remember, we started with "poor in spirit"-to REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY. to have a right evaluation of yourself before God-your wickedness (making it possible to do almost anything, any time) and your wonder (you are not as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods). Now, we come to the second beatitude-"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

#2 REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES To REFRAME YOUR WEAKNESSES means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. This discipline or attitude builds right on top of the first-reaffirm your poverty. Once you have a right evaluation of your self, God, and others, you must be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what's right.

I see this as a mourning process. Learn to mourn over your weaknesses. I view weaknesses in two ways. First, your inner vulnerabilities that make you prone to fall apart or to do foolish things. Second, the trials you face when you suffer loss or when you are in the midst of your various problems.

You reframe your weaknesses by mourning-genuine mourning. By the way, when you mourn, you must feel the pain. Moan and groan over it! Feel it! Don't deny your feelings about it! The pain is for real, so really feel it! If you mourn properly, you'll discover something of a surprise on the other end. You will find a sense of comfort and inner joy.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, you don't need to look for problems and troubles-either generated by you or delivered to you. They have already been scheduled for your endurance! One of the primary growth factors in life is developing your muscle of endurance. When you reframe your weaknesses, you set yourself up for greater growth! So, don't waste your sorrows, reframe them!

What is it that keeps you from walking with Jesus? What keeps you drifting away from what you know you really want with respect to your faithfulness to Him? List it out and actually MOURN. There's something about identifying it and saying it that helps to push it out of your way!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Matthew 5:1-6


Now we come to the most amazing seminar/workshop Jesus ever taught. In a book, A Few Buttons Missing, Gerald Fisher, an eminent psychiatrist, views this speech as the summation of the most complete statement of psychological health ever given in one speech or one writing (article, chapter, or book). In fact, he states that there is no better articulation of the essential principles of mental health than is summarized in these basic attitudes!

Jesus has already begun to do wonderful things in healing and touching the lives of so many in His new ministry among them as the new Rabbi in town. He has already chosen a few men to follow in His dust-to be taught in His way. So now the question automatically arises: "Jesus, how does your teaching differ from all of the other Rabbis' teaching that we have grown up with? How does your teaching compare with what we've been taught?" Jesus sets out to answer this underlying question among the people and it is recorded in Matthew 5-7. These are the most dynamic chapters in the New Testament and the most revolutionary!

Jesus is about to redefine the Law of Moses, to redefine what it means to be "righteous" before God and to work over every person who dares to listen from the inside out!

Jesus begins by painting a portrait of what a happy believer ought to look like--how a person who is walking with Jesus ought to be. He uses 8 colors as He paints this picture. They have been called the Beatitudes. They are so outside the box that many theologians and ministers have relegated them to a later time in the kingdom, refusing to apply them to our lives today. But this is precisely the point of what Jesus is saying. He wants those who are willing to follow Him to walk to the beat of a different drummer. It is truly at the root of what I've been referring to lately as living your life in a CSI manner:

C-covert, underground, not showy, but invisible. S-subversive, revolutionary, seeking to see people transformed from the inside out. I-indelible, permanent, eternal marking of a man or woman so that they own it for themselves from here to eternity.

Jesus carefully describes each of these 8 dimensions with a very few words. Each one begins with "happy" or "blessed" are you when you are this way or that. "You'll do well to be this way" is his point in every one. However, He will turn your world and thinking upside down as you contemplate each one. The first 4 are all about our personal relationship with God on the inside. The second 4 extend the first 4 out into our relationships with others. It is truly a great pattern for first walking with Jesus and then walking with others. Over the next 4 days of this week I want to take the first 4 "beatitudes"-1 each day-and see if we can't "catch" the essence of what Jesus is saying and own it for ourselves in a new way.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 ``Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 ``Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 ``Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 ``Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

It all begins right here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit". You are blessed if you have this quality of being poor in spirit. The term "poor in spirit" is a word that means that you must beg in order to eat. You are that desperate! It's having a right evaluation of yourself before God. He's God and self-sufficient and I am not! In order to embrace each of these beatitudes it seems best to me to rearticulate each into a discipline or an action step. With "poor in spirit" I see the discipline as.

#1 REAFFIRM YOUR POVERTY--Jesus is speaking to a massive group of people who have been taught by some of the most haughty men who have spent their lives outlining what it means to be right or righteous before God and that system is really a performance system of attempting some level of perfection. Jesus begins at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Righteousness begins when you understand your total need for God-your spiritual poverty!

To reaffirm your poverty means to have a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others. All of life begins right at this point. Possessing a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others is true humility-the exact opposite of the blindness of pride. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; it's universal among humans and it's devastating! Pride always seeks to be exalted, to be first and to be praised. (Don't misunderstand! There is a good sense that some people identify as pride as in self-confidence or self-satisfaction, but I believe it's helpful to call it just that-self-confidence or self-satisfaction.) Pride blinds you to the point that you don't see your self for who you are becoming, you position others in a crippled, weakened condition, and you begin to think that you may be God-the center of the universe!

Pride is not always blatant. It's an insidious cancer that skews your thinking, distances you from enjoying your relationships, and sets you up for a fall in whatever you do. [Some people get credit for being cheerful, when they are really just proud of their teeth!]

Reaffirming your poverty is the recognition of your spiritual bankruptcy. It's coming to grips with your humanity! I have brought upon myself the most devastation when I have violated this attitude. I used to believe I could jump over buildings (or anything in my way) in a single bound. I knew I could break through brick walls, no matter how thick. There was nothing much that I could not do or overcome!

But I want to confess to you that with this prideful attitude. I have enjoyed many successes, but I have endured many failures. A better way to say it is that on many occasions in my life I have failed miserably! Just to be able to recognize those failures is a freeing experience. The tendency is to reframe every one of those horrible experiences, blame someone or something else for what went wrong, and rid myself from those marks against me.

What I've learned is that it is through the pain of the miserable failures that I've grown the most. In the midst of that pain I have learned vital truths about me, God, and the others in my life.

To reaffirm your poverty is to stand at the threshold of the best of your life. This is precisely where those who must overcome their addictions have to begin. Without a doubt the most effective movement over the last several decades has been AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. This originated as a recovery movement for those who were struggling with the abuse of alcohol and its devastation upon their lives. It has grown to include those who are struggling with nearly every kind of problem imaginable-drugging, gambling, eating, sex, shopping, relationships, etc. The real beauty of this movement is that in order to find healing-to find life-you must recognize your own inadequacies. You must come to grips with your humanity. You must enjoy true humility-a right evaluation of your self, God, and others. You must reaffirm your poverty!

I am convinced that those who are struggling along in their recovery groups may be the most blessed people of all, because they have been forced by the gravity of their problem to face themselves, God and others more honestly. I am also convinced that everyone struggles with a problem that he or she must face head on in order to find true sanity and freedom in life. The only place to start is through this vital discipline of reaffirming your poverty. The Twelve Steps begin right here:

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our problem-that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care and direction of God as we understood Him. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in need, and to practice principles in all our affairs.

Only when you come to the end of yourself does your life begin!

Are you willing to embrace your spiritual poverty-your personal bankruptcy? You don't have to be an addict to be spiritually bankrupt. Or I should say, you don't have to be addicted to chemicals to be spiritually bankrupt. This is a life problem. We are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness, the big "I" for everything to revolve around.

Start today to reaffirm your poverty. You are pretty bad off on the insides in need of supernatural empowerment, yet you are not as bad as you could be, since you were created by the God of gods and He doesn't make junk. So, there is a wickedness (the downside) and a wonder (the upside) about you. This is a right evaluation of yourself before God. Those who reaffirm their poverty before God are operating within the very presence of God and therefore they are practicing God's kingdom on earth and have the assurance that they are in possession of the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Matthew 4:12-25


12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, 
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Jesus approached two sets of brothers-fishermen-and summoned them to follow Him. What is most important here is to understand what is really going on here. This isn't one person walking up to another person and calling them to drop their nets and follow. The Jewish culture was a religious one and revolved around the teaching and leadership of the Rabbi's. Young boys were initially educated by the local Rabbi. As each student grew up he was always being evaluated by the Rabbi to determine how far along the student would go. Is this a good enough student to follow in the dust of the Rabbi or would this student be rejected from advancing into a higher education? When a Rabbi accepted a student, his parents were so proud. If rejected, then the student would be sent home to take on the profession of his father. This student's parents still accepted their young student, but this rejection meant a little lower level of society for their child.

These two sets of brothers had obviously been rejected by their Rabbi's and were therefore working in the trade of their fathers. When the new Rabbi, Jesus, came along and picked out these brothers to follow in His dust, this was an amazingly attractive opportunity. Note that James and John's father, Zebedee, doesn't seem to resist their decision to leave the family business. He was thrilled that a Rabbi had picked his kids!

NOTE that Jesus went all over, teaching in the local synagogues, proclaiming the "good news" of the kingdom. His primary activity to demonstrate this "good news kingdom" was to be all about the question, "What can I do to help?"

NOTE that Jesus' primary mission for these new followers of His teachings was to "make them fishers of men." CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING ABOUT FISHERMEN:

ARE WE FISHERMEN? Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And L0, there were many fish in the waters all around. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year. Those who called themselves fishermen met to talk about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing.

Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be a primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. They sponsored costly nation-wide and world-wide congresses to discuss fishing, promote fishing, and hear about all the ways of fishing such as the new fishing equipment, the fish calls, and any new bait.

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were many fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what was needed was a board which could challenge fishermen to be faithful to fishing.

Large training centers were built whose original and primary purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years, courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. And those who were sent out did exactly as those who sent them. They formed groups and held special meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to declare how important fishing was. They talked about the great need for fishing. They prayed much that many fish might be caught. They analyzed the fish and discussed what is necessary in order to catch fish. But one thing they did not do, they did not fish.

Now it's time that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen, yet never fished.

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don't catch fish are not really fishermen. Is a person a fisherman if he never catches a fish?

Jesus wanted disciples who would be fishers of men. Are you a fisherman or do you just talk a lot about it?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Matthew 4:1-11


Check out I John 2:15-17--15: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, ``If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'' 4 But He answered and said, ``It is written, `MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.' '' LUST OF THE FLESH-Dependence-The Devil always wants to get your dependence upon anything other than God.

5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said* to Him, ``If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, `HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and `ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.' '' 7 Jesus said to him, ``On the other hand, it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.' '' PRIDE OF LIFE-Dominance-The Devil always wants you to put God to the test, pushing you to the edge.

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, ``All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'' 10 Then Jesus said* to him, ``Go, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.' '' 11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. LUST OF THE EYES-Desires-The Devil always wants to give you more at a very high cost-to do it his way, to bow down and worship him instead of God!

NOTE: As soon as Jesus was announced and affirmed by His Father and His Spirit He was led by the Spirit into an encounter with the Devil. 1-You will find this same thing happening in your life. Immediately after one of your highest points, expect the real attacks and testings from the Evil One.

2-The same 3 temptations Jesus faced were the same as Eve and Adam encountered in the garden and the same we encounter today.

3-In every encounter with the Evil One Jesus came back at him by quoting the truth from Scripture right at him. The same is true for you today.

4-To counteract the counterfeit temptations from the Evil One you must know the genuine truth of God very well.

5-Your greatest temptations will come, when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired-H.A.L.T.

6-Check out James 4:6-7: ``GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.'' 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Make sure you let everyone know whose side you're on. "God, I'm on your side and Mr. Devil, I resist you and your influence on my life."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Matthew 3


1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, primarily along the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea saying, 2 ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew uses "kingdom of heaven" in place of "kingdom of God" 32 out of 36 times. This kingdom is not a place, but a rule-a presence of God on earth.

'' 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ``THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!' John's ministry was announcing the end of the old and introducing the new that is to come through the coming of the Messiah. '' 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

Who were going out to be baptized? Those who went out from Jerusalem must have heard of John's preaching and were interested enough to check him out. They must have had some discontentment with what they were experiencing. When they heard John's preaching to "repent", they submitted themselves to be baptized in this new way, confessing their sins of rejecting the way of the Messiah.

NOTE "repent" means to change your mind about what you believe or are doing and turn around in your thinking or behavior. The Jews had more reason to REPENT-to turn around and back to a personal relationship with their God.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ``You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 ``Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 ``The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John wasn't easy on the religious who came out to the wilderness to be baptized. He pointed out that they were so close to the axe and/or fire of judgment before making this decision to repent.

11 ``As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 ``His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.''

John came to open the door of change-to repent-to make way for God's Messiah. John baptized with water to move people into repentance. Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus' baptism will be an inside job by His Spirit and will be a purifying work of fire.

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ``I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'' 15 But Jesus answering said to him, ``Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'' Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ``This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.''

John didn't want to baptize Jesus, the One he spoke about earlier as mightier than he. However Jesus was determined that John would baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. Why is it that Jesus was determined to submit Himself to this baptism?

1. Example to follow-Jesus set the way for all those who will live out the Kingdom lifestyle. 2. Identification with sinners-Jesus wanted to identify Himself with sinners. This is very interesting. He identified Himself with sinners, so that we sinners would trust in Him and identify ourselves with Him. 3. Affirmation of John's ministry/teaching-Jesus wanted to give affirmation to the teachings of John to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven.

BAPTISM-The meaning of baptism is identification. The root meaning of "baptize" is to immerse or dip something into something else. For example, if you take a cloth that is identified by "white" and dip it (baptize) into a bucket of "red" dye, the white cloth will have a new identification-RED. When a person is baptized into Jesus, he is identified as a follower of Jesus-in one with Him.

I see water baptism as the "kingdom ID card" for all of those who want to walk with Jesus in His kingdom. New Testament baptism seems to be believer's baptism and not infant baptism. There are all kinds of good reasons given for baptizing babies, but this "kingdom ID card" is for those who have made a willing decision to be identified with Jesus in His kingdom.

So, have you picked up your "kingdom ID card" yet?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Matthew 2


1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 ``Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

NOTE they referred to "His star" as being identifiable. I believe the heavens declare the story of God-the message of creation, the Fall and the story of salvation through God's Messiah. Psalm 19:1-2 says: The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge. Those astronomers who have studied the stars can learn God's plan from beginning to end. This is not the modern day astrologer or the fortune-telling astrology in the newspapers or from a "spiritually gifted" person reading your lifeline. The astrology of today has picked up on a real truth about the stars, but it is a counterfeit to what God is really saying through the heavens. One of the best known sources of the genuine message of God's plan revealed through the stars is E.W. Bullinger's Witness of the Stars.

'' 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, ``In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 `AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.' ''

NOTE there are location prophecies regarding the Messiah given here in this section. First, the God's Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The reason this is important to note is that there are all sorts of attacks on the story of Jesus' birth and place of origin, but these 4 location prophecies clear it up.

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared

Apparently the star had been noted by the magi quite some time ago, probably over a year earlier. They analyzed the meaning of the star and made their way to Jerusalem by camel, not by plane.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem Just as God had the king of Nineveh gather the people to hear Jonah's message from God, so does the Lord use another non-believer king to point the way to Bethlehem for the magi. and said, ``Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him Yeah, right!'' 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star which they had seen in the east went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was

NOTE the star they first saw sent them to Jerusalem and not Bethlehem. Now, having learned where to go from Jerusalem, the star reappears and directs them right to where Jesus was living. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy Their journey had been made complete as this star that they had followed rested over the place of the Messiah. Their faith was rewarded coming all this way and now what they believed was true was true. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother

NOTE that the Messiah was no longer in a stable, but in a house. He is well over a year old at this time. and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him

NOTE that the magi knew that they were dealing with God's Messiah, worthy of worship, because this is the promised gift to the world, testified in the stars. Also, note that this would have been a great time to worship Mary, if that would be appropriate. But they didn't. Their entire focus of worship was upon Jesus.

Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh How many "wise men" were? This is where we get that there were 3, because of the 3 types of gifts, but we don't really know. It's just another Christian rumor.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way God first guided them to Jesus through Herod and now is directing them to avoid Herod.

Now, given Herod's great desire to come and "worship" the new King who was born and that Herod knew where He was, it was time to "get out of Dodge" to protect God's Messiah.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared* to Joseph in a dream and said, ``Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.'' 14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ``OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'' Here's the 2nd location prophecy. The Messiah will live in Egypt for a time.

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 ``A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNIN, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED, TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.'' Here is the 3rd location prophecy associated with the Messiah's birth and early days. Apparently, in Herod's rage and determination to destroy this new King of the Jews he ordered that all babies under the age of two (just to be safe) be killed. Rama was within a circle of about 10 miles that included Bethlehem and its vicinity. Jeremiah, the prophet, noted that this mass killing of children by the jealous, evil Herod would be felt all the way to Rama. What a horrible tragedy!

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 ``Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead.'' 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there Archelaus had been mentored by his father and was just as bad. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: ``He shall be called a Nazarene.'' Here is location prophecy number 5. Jesus will live and grow up in Nazareth. Some today who are prone to attack the validity of the bible point to Jesus' being from Nazareth as the place He most likely was born and not Bethlehem. They make this assumption, because people were not prone to move about that much. However, Jesus and His family were moved about by God for His protection.]

NOTE: Who were these Magi? They came from Babylon or Persia. They weren't sorcerers or magicians, but astrologers/astronomers. They knew what they were looking for as they had searched the stars. They seemed to know something about the Messiah who was to come. Some believe that these men were of the religious persuasion of the Zoroastrians, who believed that God would someday send His Messiah to redeem the earth and its inhabitants. Note that they were non-Jews from a foreign country. How could they know such things to look for? The answer is that someone told them. It was Daniel. Daniel had been in Babylon and was made the head of the "magicians" (Magi). He no doubt taught them God's ways and Daniel is the prophet whom God used to pinpoint the exact timing of the birth, presentation of Him as King and the death of the Messiah. What Daniel had taught had been passed down from generation to generation.

What does this say to us? 1. The supernatural birth of God's Messiah, Jesus, was a most monumental event in history worthy of divine direction even to non-Jews. 2. God will guide those who are interested in searching out the Messiah. I especially have seen this of the Jewish people. God seems to give them more clues and indicators than He does the rest of us. All God requires of any of us is that we be interested, then He directs the path to truth. 3. If we are willing to search out God's Messiah, then the greatest joy imaginable will be the result. He is the way, the truth and the life! This is not a search in order to defend Christianity, but to search for the Christ-God's Messiah. Searching to know a religious system is worthless, unless you want to win debates. Searching for a relationship with God's Messiah will bring you joy, peace and the fullness of life that only God can give.