Thursday, April 28, 2011

Matthew 6:34


34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I've said it many times. YESTERDAY is a canceled check! TOMORROW is a promissory note! TODAY is the only cash you have!

Alcoholics Anonymous and all of the other Anon groups operate upon the theme of "ONE DAY AT A TIME." This is exactly what Jesus is saying here-one day at a time. Worry has little to do with the past, but mostly has to do with the future. We worry over what might happen or what might not happen. It's not in our control, but we spend lots of energy as if our worry could make a difference in the outcome. Jesus says "Don't bother!" Each day has plenty of trouble of its own without worrying about tomorrow's.

Jesus is teaching that if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, He will take care of everything else you need. He will do this ONE DAY AT A TIME. This is what He did with the children of Israel about one month into their 40 years of wandering. He rained down bread from heaven-manna-each day, except on Sabbath. Each day the manna came down from heaven. Each day they were to gather enough for the day, never thinking of storing up some for tomorrow. Each day there was enough. Jesus is the "new manna in town." Jesus is our daily bread. The word "manna" means a surprise like "What is it?" I see Jesus giving each of us a surprise of His manna, His leadership, His sustenance each and every day for those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

This is again why we practice the 3 habits: Walking with Jesus Walking with others Waiting on Jesus to lead out.

We practice these habits in order to gather the manna for today, which helps in minimizing our worry factor.

Have you noticed that when you think about tomorrow or next week, then the worries become overwhelming? I have to constantly focus my thinking and reflection upon today. This goes along with the message of the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon had tried everything to full his life with satisfaction and all was found to be empty-luxury, liquor, lust, etc.

He sums up his life's search with two summary truths: Fear God and keep His commandments. Enjoy your blessings every day!

That's living life ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matthew 6:25-33


25 For this reason I say to you, NOTE the connection to earthly and heavenly treasures. Now "for this reason" DON'T WORRY!

Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

26 ``Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 ``And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

So Jesus says, "Stop worrying about earthly treasures!" Stop Your Worrying about EARTHLY TREASURES! Such as your life-(eating and drinking) Look at the birds (26) implies that worry is natural. Worry is useless (27). You can't add anything to your height or years to your life.

28 ``And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 ``But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Such as your body-(clothing).

Observe the lilies (28-29). If God takes care of them, He will most surely take care of you. Worry is faithless (30). When you worry, you take everything into your own hands, which is not trusting in God.

31 ``Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' 32 ``For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 ``But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seek His Righteousness of HEAVENLY TREASURES! Since God already knows your needs and is not surprised when something happens (or doesn't happen) to you, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all of these things (eating, drinking and clothing) will be taken care of by God Himself. This is what is meant by "walking with Jesus." It's the principle of plenty.

The principle of plenty says that with God there is always enough. Without Him there is never enough! Trust God, enjoy the plenty. Trust anything or anyone other than God, and you will surely have a perpetual state of dissatisfaction! When you come to the end of yourself, then and only then will you come to the understanding that God is ENOUGH!

Look around you and be distressed. Look within you and be depressed. LOOK TO JESUS AND BE AT REST.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Matthew 6:19-24


19 ``Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 ``But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Remember, you were created to be dependent upon God. This is at the core of what that means. Jesus speaks more about money and how to handle it than most any other subject. That's not because He is taking up an offering or running a pledge drive. He has plenty without yours! It's because money and material things-earthly treasures-are the easiest to become dependent upon, the earthly treasures that most easily distract us away from God. So, here Jesus contrasts only two options. You can invest your life storing up heavenly treasures or you can invest your life storing up earthly treasures.

NOTE that earthly treasures are full of insecurity and the heavenly treasures will be secure! And NOTE that your heart will always reveal what your true treasure really is. In fact, your treasure leads the way for your heart!

22 ``The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 ``But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The focus of your eye determines the health of your inner-side. If your eye is clear (has a clear focus upon heavenly treasures), then your entire inners will be full of light, wholeness and health. If your eye is bad (unclear-having a focus on earthly treasures), they your inners will be full of darkness, stressfulness and emptiness. I see this as your spiritual focus that will directly affect your psychological (and later physical) well-being, all due to your focus!

24 ``No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Now, Jesus gives the ultimatum of it all! You cannot serve two masters! We tend to think that we can get away with it, but we can't. We tend to make Jesus the Lord of the general, but make ourselves the Lord of the specifics. I have a masters degree in doing this. I call it "doing things my way for Jesus." Believers tend to talk about standing on the Rock of Ages, but their actions look like they are clinging to a piece of driftwood!

Jesus introduces a most dynamic principle. It's the PRINCIPLE OF PRIMARY FOCUS or SINGLEMINDEDNESS!

AN UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING. Walking with Jesus always moves you toward evaluating every dimension of your life. Try on a couple of simple steps in applying this paragraph.

#1--RELEASE YOUR EARTHLY TREASURES! You must remember that you came into this world naked and will go out in the same way. After you die, there will be a large garage sale. You have been entrusted with what you are and what you have to be the manager of it all while you're on planet earth. There will be an accounting review!

#2--REFOCUS ON YOUR HEAVENLY TREASURES! What are you doing that will last forever? Think about it!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Matthew 6:16-18


16 ``Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 ``But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Fasting is the 3rd illustration of the abuse of practicing righteous acts that were meant to be before God only and practicing these acts to be noticed by others. We have seen giving, praying and now FASTING. He is saying that "when you fast", don't mope around with a long face, looking disheveled in order to show off the fact that you are fasting before the Lord.

FASTING is not simply nor necessarily to abstain from food, but from anything that hinders your communion with God. Fasting is the ultimate in practicing the principle of private focus. It's a discipline of removing all things that take your attention away from the Lord. We tend to spend most of our time talking to God in prayer and not listening. Fasting is a great way to force your self to be quiet enough and focused enough to really listen to what the Lord wants to communicate to you at the deepest levels.


#2--REMEMBER THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE! Faithfulness means successfulness, living life long-term.

#3--RECRUIT GOD AS YOUR TEAM-MEMBER! It is said that if you want to win the high jump, you want to find one person who can jump 7 feet not 7 people who can just 1 foot. When you practice private focus, these three righteous acts (giving-praying-fasting) must be done in secret. Then God will reward you openly.

#4--RESERVE TIME ALONE--JUST YOU AND GOD! Taking the time to focus on God and your heart before Him--read, pray, contemplate, take the time for fasting. We are urged, "Be still and know that I am God."

God wants to enlighten, empower, encompass, & encounter you! He will do these things as you meet Him through fasting.

You must practice the presence of God! And when you practice the presence of God, you'll know where He is at all times. And when you know where God is, then you'll know where you stand.

Throughout Jesus' teaching He is encouraging you and me to get our support from God and relate to Him in a quiet, personal way. You see, in most cases believers operate in such a way that they have NO INVISIBLE MEANS OF SUPPORT.

Try taking the time to fast. Start with a half day and use the time to focus totally on your relationship with Jesus. See what happens when you practice the principle of private focus.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Matthew 6:14-15


14 ``For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 ``But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

I don't think there is a more penetrating statement in all of scripture! If you don't forgive others, God will not forgive you! Your relationship with God is integrally part of your relationship with others and vice versa.

We are all desperate for it, but we are also confused with what true forgiveness really is. First, it's important to understand what forgiving is not: - Forgiving doesn't mean you must go back or reunite. - Forgiving doesn't mean we tolerate the wrong he did. - Forgiving doesn't mean we want to forget what happened. - Forgiving doesn't mean we excuse the person who did it. - Forgiving doesn't mean we take the edge off the evil done. - Forgiving doesn't mean we surrender our right to justice. - Forgiving doesn't mean invite someone to hurt us again.

Forgiveness involves three primary stages. First, HURT! There is no need for forgiveness without the pain of hurting. Don't try to minimize this stage. It's important to really feel this pain.

Second, HATE! It's like clockwork. You will have some degree of anger over the hurt. There's nothing wrong with this response. It's natural! The problem is not the anger, but not dealing with the anger. If you allow your anger to fester, this natural anger turns into a toxic resentment in your gut.

Third, HEALING! This third stage is the way it's supposed to go-toward some level of healing. This brings us to what forgiveness actually is. It's the final form of love. It's being willing to pay for the offense yourself and not get even with the one who hurt you. When you forgive, you take the pain yourself! Forgiveness is the final form of love. There are five steps in forgiving another person: i. Remind yourself that this person is only human!

ii. Relinquish your right to get even! The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to get (exactly) even. You will either not get back at them enough or you will overdo it. There is just no way to get even!

iii. Be ready to hurt in order to heal! You must take the pain all by yourself! This is the real secret to the dynamic of forgiving someone. You must pay for and not demand that they do!

iv. Wish them well! This could be the best real evidence that forgiveness has taken place. Try praying for them-for their success!

v. You may have to repeat the process! Jesus was asked how many times a person ought to forgive another. His answer was 70 X 7 or 490! By the way, this doesn't mean that at 491, you can go get even with them!

This is all well and good, but what is the primary motivation to forgive anyone-especially your enemy? The answer is FREEDOM! As long as you refuse to forgive, you are in bondage to this person who hurt you! In bondage! You are his/her slave for as long as you don't forgive!

Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with his hand outstretched and said, "Will you forgive me?" She writes: "I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!" To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011



In reflecting further on the death of Jesus on the cross I feel compelled to share one more thought with you.

NOTE when the love of God is mentioned in the New Testament it is usually found in the context of Jesus' death on the cross. In John 3:16 Jesus says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." Then in Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And then again in I John 4:10: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." John goes further and says that GOD IS LOVE.

Emil Brunner called this "The most daring statement that has ever been made in human language." But that statement alone tells us nothing. It is the cross that unpacks its meaning. As Eugenia Price says in Share My Pleasant Stones, "God's mercy was not increased when Jesus came to earth, it was illustrated! Illustrated in a way we can understand."

The love that Jesus illustrated was self-giving for the benefit of others. We tend to think of love in emotional terms, but the New Testament concept of love is more focused on active self-giving. And the greater the cost of that self-giving, the greater the love, therefore Jesus commands those who follow Him to "love your enemies" as well as friends. The very night before Jesus was crucified, He said to His disciples: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

On the day Jesus died all of the guilt of the world was paid for by the sacrifice of the lamb of God. And, on that day all of the love of God rushed in to touch and transform all those who will see and hear the self-giving love of Jesus. You are a delight to God. He desires to have fellowship with you. He continues to court you with His self-giving love to woo you into a relationship with Him, no matter what you've done or haven't done. Now that's AMAZING GRACE.

ONE MORE THING: As followers of Jesus you are to practice this self-giving love with all those He brings to you. This self-giving love is best illustrated by loving and touching those who are in need and who are identified as your enemies.

So, it's SELF-GIVING LOVE or SELF-CENTERED LOVE? The good news of the Kingdom of God is that the Creator-God is love. And, God wants you and me to continually get back on track with the ultimate purpose of life. Do you know what that is? It's LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It's all about self-giving love. Every time you exert any energy toward "It's all about me!" or "What's in it for me?", you are spending yourself toward self-centered love which goes nowhere healthy. I find the greatest deception among followers of Jesus is that they can say, "I love God with all my heart as long as I can do life my way and I love my neighbor as myself as long as I can choose my neighbor." So, which is it for you? Self-giving love that spreads the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom to all the world around you or self-centered love that can only spread as far as your mirror and your decreasing band of friends? THINK IT OVER.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011



As we come to the end of the gospel of Luke there is an intriguing story about an encounter two men have with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked.

"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

These two were disciples of Jesus, meaning that they were part of a fairly large group that were followers of Jesus and His teachings. They had heard the word that the women had initially gone to the tomb and found it empty.

He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

I love this! Jesus rehearsed all that the Scriptures said concerning Himself. And, while He was speaking to them, they realized that their hearts were burning within them.

NOTE they recognized this was Jesus when He gave thanks and broke the bread in order to distribute it around the table. What was there about this act that tipped them off? Think of it this way. Jesus was a guest at this dinner, yet He acted as the host of the dinner and served them. This is precisely what He did at the last supper at the Passover dinner. He was the honored guest, yet He served them.

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Isn't it interesting that these two disciples didn't recognize Him for quite some time. I've been thinking. Does this happen to us today? I think sometimes the last thing we realize is that Jesus is at work in our lives, right in front of us.

ONE MORE THING: I think something we continually miss is that Jesus is the theme of the Scriptures. He is taught throughout the pages of Scripture. Now here's the problem today. We tend to get side-tracked with detours and distractions about everything other than Jesus in our study of the Scriptures. We tend to add on so many things that are good, but not the best. It's our add-ons that have created our many differences. It's our add-ons that have produced denominations. It's our add-ons that have created division after division within our world.

You see, when you miss the primary point of Scripture, you make everything else the point. It all comes down to one basic truth. Jesus is the uniting factor of truth and life. Jesus brings sense and sensibility to our lives. Bottom-line? JESUS UNITES-EVERYTHING ELSE DIVIDES. No matter where you go in this world or whatever the topic of your discussion, this is the primary truth of life. In fact, the process of understanding the preeminence of Jesus is your road to Emmaus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



As we close out chapter 23 of Luke and begin chapter 24 we come to the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

NOTE Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body in order to give Him a proper burial. This Joseph was apparently a member of the Council of the Sanhedrin. He was a prominent man and a good man. He is also said to be a disciple-a follower of Jesus. So, here was a man Jesus had within the Sanhedrin who had position, but who also stood his ground and objected to their decision to go against Jesus. And, after the decision went wrong, he still had the courage to be a follower of Jesus.

NOTE something else about Joseph here: He was waiting for the kingdom of God. Now Jesus had said over and over that the kingdom is here, near and among you, yet that teaching was quickly going south with the arrest of Jesus and the sentencing of Him to be crucified. Without the King how can there be a Kingdom?

A lot of time and care is taken by the gospel writers about the burial of Jesus. Why do you think so? I believe it's important for it to be established that Jesus really was buried. He really died and He was really buried. Now watch what happens:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Jesus really died. He was really buried. And now Jesus is really resurrected from the dead, because the grave could not hold Him there.

Can you imagine how devastating it was to the followers of Jesus to watch Him die this horrible death of crucifixion? All of their dreams and hopes were shattered. And, even though He told them that He was going to be resurrected, they were not anticipating it. They were too despondent, wallowing in the bad news of it all.

But once they were convinced of His resurrection these same disciples turned into men of passion. They were on a mission to spread the good news and the resurrection was central to this news. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then there is no good news for victory over death. The death of Jesus was vital to the good news, but the resurrection caps it off and takes us to another level altogether.

The theme of the early followers of Jesus was the resurrection. You see it in the book of Acts and the early letters to the churches. The cross did not become a predominant symbol until the 300's A.D. If a symbol had to be produced for the resurrection, it might have been a rock, as in the rock that was supernaturally rolled away from the tomb at the resurrection.

More than anything else, the death, burial and resurrection brings the message of the possibility of starting over-again-for everybody. The disciples were so blown away on Friday when Jesus died, embodying all of their hopes. It was a day of despair. Then on Saturday the disciples must have moved from the shock of the death to a certain level of depression and disappointment, to the point of giving up. I'm sure there were lots of thoughts and discussions about giving it up and wondering what they might do next. Then, early on Sunday morning the disciples were treated to the shock of their lives. Jesus who died and was really buried, arose from the dead. He came back!

Monday, April 18, 2011



Listen to Luke's account of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals-one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is God's Messiah, the Chosen One."

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man." When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

So, we've heard the story of Jesus' crucifixion and His resulting death so many times. But I think these events require a simple explanation in order to understand why Jesus had to die in the first place.

You see, it's like this. Every one of us has something innate, built-in to our psyche. We just know deep down, inside that we must pay for whatever we do wrong or don't do right. There must be a payment. So, I feel guilty whenever I do anything wrong. That sense of guilt can only be satisfied when I pay for it, like when I do some compensation or penance that makes up for this wrong.

This payment concept is inherent in the sacrificial system that God established with Moses. A most vivid illustration of this is the Passover. Each family was required to kill a lamb, putting the blood of the lamb over the door of their home. When the death angel saw the blood of the lamb, it passed over that home. The lamb was sacrificed as a payment. The lamb died, so that the families might live. The lamb paid the price of death so that the family didn't have to die.

This same concept is what the entire sacrificial system is all about. A lamb or some other kind of animal was sacrificed to pay for certain sins. This occurred frequently for the Jewish family-daily, weekly monthly and annually. In the minds of the Jewish people the sacrifice of an animal substituted as a payment for the one who offered the sacrifice. The greatest payment ever received through the sacrificial system was a year's payment for their sins. Once the sacrifice has been made successfully by the high priest, then the people were absolved of their sins for one more year. This annual sacrifice is called Yom Kippur.

Then the Lord through His prophets made it clear that He was going to send His lamb some day to be the ultimate payment for any and all things that anyone has done wrong. This lamb was God's Messiah who was to die for the sins of the whole world. This is why John the Baptist, when recognizing Jesus, said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." He knew Jesus was God's lamb.

You see, Jesus died as your lamb-the lamb of God, so that you don't have to pay for anything any longer. You don't have to feel guilty, because your account is all paid up.

There is only one catch to it all. You must personally identify with the lamb by placing your hands on the lamb sacrifice. This was the way to put personal trust in the payment. Well, today you must place your personal trust in God's lamb sacrifice for your sins-for all you ever did wrong or for whatever you will do wrong. Jesus has truly paid it all!

And, just as the Passover feast is a celebration of freedom from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, you can be eternally free. There are two verses in Acts that say it all: "Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).

Do you get it? Through Jesus' death you have FORGIVENESS of sins (all you do wrong), so that you don't have to pay any longer. In fact, you can't make any payment that satisfies. And, through Jesus' death you have FREEDOM from it all, IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD. Forgiveness and freedom form the bottom line of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. So, Jesus' death is not some religious or theological belief; it's the spiritual and psychological dynamic that every human being needs to find true satisfaction. Do you know what that means for you personally?

Sunday, April 17, 2011



The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to him. At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. "If you are the Messiah," they said, "tell us."

Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You say that I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."

There were six different trials Jesus faced. The first three were in a religious court and the second three were in a Roman court. In the Jewish court Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest, then the current high priest, Caiaphas and finally here in this passage He is tried before the Sanhedrin. The primary charge in the religious court was blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

As we come to the final trial within the Jewish court of the Sanhedrin-the supreme court for the Jews. All of the religious trials were riddled with illegalities. I want to list out a few:

FIRST-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, he could never be arrested at night. It had to be in broad daylight. Jesus' arrest took place between 1 and 2 o'clock at night.

SECOND-If a man was arrested for a capital crime, no one cooperating in the arrest could be in any way connected to the one who is accused. No arrest for a capital crime could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague of the accused. Because they felt if the accused was guilty, so were his followers. But the entire plot revolved around Judas, one of the followers. This law was blatantly and openly ignored.

THIRD-No Jewish trial could ever be held at night. The law stated that it must be held in the daytime. Listen to the code, which is taken from the Talmud: "The members of the court may not alertly and intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours of darkness." But, if you check the record, both before Annas and before Caiaphas, these trials were held in darkness.

FOURTH-The members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of true witnesses (none of which were ever brought before Jesus) in a capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go home and remain alone and separate from one another for two days (at the least, one full day), thinking about the testimonies they had heard. During that time, here's what they were to do. They didn't do that. They never left the presence of Caiaphas!

FIFTH-Even the method of voting was specified. They never took an "all in favor say I, all opposed say no" kind of vote. Their vote was supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the youngest wouldn't be intimidated or influenced by the older votes. This never happened.

SIXTH-No trial could be held before only one judge, and never without a defense attorney. All of that was overlooked and ignored. Even though they were people of the book, they didn't follow their own rules.

According to the Gregorian calendar, the arrest and trials of Jesus took place on April 6th, 32AD, during a nine hour period. The Jews put together a plan that was illegal, fallacious, unfair, and unwarranted. No man was ever more innocent, and no man ever stood before six more illegal and unfair trials than Jesus.

Why were all of these illegalities committed? It simply goes back to Jesus in His revolutionary ways works with the heart. Jesus goes to the heart of the matter. His revolution makes everyone feel a little uncomfortable, because it threatens the prideful stance and position of so many-especially the leadership. The spiritual revolution of Jesus is all about turning you inside out and turning your world upside down. If you are not willing for Him to work on your heart, then you must do anything you can to destroy His work in your life-even if it means to destroy Him. Give it up and let Jesus do His surgery on you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Matthew 6:9-13


9 ``Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 `Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.11 `Give us this day our daily bread. 12 `And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 `And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Jesus just said not to use meaningless repetitions and many words and now teaches us to pray a 30 second, 65 word prayer to pray! Although this is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer, it is really the disciples' prayer. Jesus gave it as an example on how a disciple should pray. [The real Lord's Prayer is found in John 17.]

There are 6 requests or petitions listed here. The first 3 are for God's glory and the second 3 are for man's good. This is a great balance! Let's take a look at each of these 6 requests:

FIRST-Hallowed be your name. Another way of saying this is "May your name be sanctified." To sanctify God's name is to set His name apart from all other gods, from everyone and from everything else. "Father, may your name be set apart in my life and by my life."

SECOND-Your Kingdom come or may your Kingdom come. "May your Kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven." We are not only to be living our lives in such a way that we set God apart, distinct from everyone and everything else, but we are to be about His Kingdom and its movement to be here on earth more fully.

THIRD-Your will be done or may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If God's name is set apart from all else and His Kingdom is making its way into the lives of people on earth, then God's will is working itself out in our lives as well. We are to be praying for His name to be set apart in this world, for His Kingdom to make itself fully realized and for His will to become more and more of a reality here on earth.

The first three are primarily prayers for God to have His will and His way right here among us on earth. The second three have to do with our needs on earth.

FOURTH-Give us this day our daily bread. This is one of the most dynamic and practical principles of trust ever written. Jesus is referring His audience back to the wilderness where God fed the children of Israel one day at a time. We are to pray in the same way. We are to look for and count on God to come through on our behalf-daily, as we have need. This doesn't cover all you want, but what you need.

FIFTH-Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors. As we are counting on God to come through on our behalf on a daily basis to meet our basic needs, we need God's grace in forgiving us and setting us free to be. But NOTE that there seems to be a condition-as we have also forgiven our debtors. We will see more about this in tomorrow's session in verses 14-15.

SIXTH-And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This is a prayer for protection while we are living between the two kingdoms-God's and man's.

Three requests that will bring glory to God as His Kingdom comes down to earth and He dwells among us. Then, three requests specifically for our good. God's glory will always bring about good for us. As we focus on God-His name, His Kingdom and His will, we will discover what's best for us. I'm finding that doing things God's way is always the best way for us. It's like the principle of gravity. If you go along with it, all will be well. If you try to go against the principle of gravity, all will not be well for you. When you break God's universal laws, those laws will break you in the process. So, I pray, "May your name be set apart from all others in me!" "May your Kingdom come down to earth more fully in me!" And, "May your will be done in me!" In me, right here, right now, every day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Matthew 6:5-8


5 ``When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 ``But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 ``And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 ``So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

The 2nd righteous act is PRAYING. Praying, just as giving, is a righteous act meant to be between you and God. The Pharisees loved to make a show out of it.

NOTE what they did. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues. This is interesting. Isn't it OK to stand and pray in the synagogue (church)? Not when it is a SHOW for someone else. Several years ago, I had to ask one of our pastors not to pray inside the church facility, because it became such a spectacle. Can you imagine asking a pastor to please refrain from praying in church? I even have difficulty with public prayers. It's so easy to drift off into preaching to the people and not really talking to the God of gods.

They love to stand and pray on the street corners so that they may be seen. To me, this is even more offensive! And note that those who pray in this way have already received their reward in full and its not from God. Some believe that if you pray out in the streets or other public arenas that it becomes a wonderful testimony to the non-believers. Jesus is against this kind of prayer that is prayed as a public testimony. Prayer is a righteous act before God. It's the principle of private focus!

They love to pray using meaningless repetition and many words, believing that they will be heard better by God. Literally, Jesus says don't get into repeating meaningless phrases. Don't say "bata bata bata bata" over and over thinking this will be pleasing to God.

Do you know anyone who prays in one or more of these three forbidden ways? Jesus is not impressed!

Jesus teaches, when you pray. Go into your inner room. Find a spot where you heard from God before, privately and away from all people and distractions, and close the door, talking only to your Father who is in secret.

Instead of using many meaningless words, try spending half of your time set aside for listening. Why? Because your Father knows what you need before you even ask.

The righteous act of praying is to be: 1-Only to your Father. 2-Without showing off in front of others. 3-In a private place. 4-Listening as well as talking to your Father.

At your next time of prayer try speaking only half the time and listening the other half. I'm learning (slowly, but surely) that Jesus wants me to shut up and resign from working for Him in an advisory capacity and listen to what He has for me. This has proven to be revolutionary!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Matthew 6:1-4


1 ``Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. "

Earlier Jesus says that His you are to let your light shine in such a way so that the world may see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. Here Jesus warns of practicing your righteousnesses before men to be noticed by them. So, what is the difference between "good works" and "practicing righteousness?" "Good works" seem to be your lifestyle-allowing your light to be seen. "Practicing righteousness" seems to be actions that are only to be between you and God. He illustrates these righteous acts with giving, praying and fasting.

NOTE that if your motive is to practice these acts in order to be seen, then you will not receive any reward from your Father. We'll see this more specifically set forth in each of the acts.

2 ``So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 ``But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

The scribes and Pharisees practiced their giving in order to be noticed by men. When they went to the Temple, they gave their coins into receptacles called "trumpets". You can imagine how much noise they could make with the coins to "trumpet" attention to themselves for others to see how holy they were in their giving. Also, they made a show of it as they gave to those in need in the streets. It was a show to seek honor from men. Jesus points out that when you give in this manner, the applause and honor you stir up from those who are impressed by your giving will be the only reward you will get for that act of giving. So, maybe you should have taped it, because that's all there is!

Jesus then offers His advice on giving: 1-As much as is possible do your giving in secret. 2-Your secret giving will be noticed by the only One that matters-God, Himself. 3-Giving in secret will bring about a special reward from God.

Have you ever given money, a pledge, a gift in kind or some measure of your time that you really wanted others to notice? I've been there-done that, and is it empty! Then, I became the recipient of someone's giving to me when I really needed it and had no idea where it came from. Wow! It was if God, Himself, knew exactly what my needs were and supplied the answer to those needs through an anonymous, secret giver. Now, I can say that the most important giving I have ever done or do today is when it is a secret between the Lord and me. By the way, this will enhance your special relationship with Jesus, too.

Listen to the spirit of Jesus nudging at your heart. What are you hearing regarding your giving? Where can you give in secret in a special partnership with God? Now, give and hush!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Matthew 5:43-48


43 ``You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' 44 ``But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 ``For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 ``If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 ``Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We now come to the last of the 6 comparisons Jesus uses to demonstrate His teaching versus that of the scribes and Pharisees-love your enemies! To "love your neighbor" was understood in their teaching. Loving your neighbor in the way neighbor was defined in their teachings was incomplete. Jesus enhances this teaching by taking it another level deeper. His point is that to love your enemies and even pray for those who persecute you is to act as a child of God, the Father. To be a son of God is to take on His character.

The last line of Jesus' teaching is that "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" may be one of the most misquoted and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. He is not saying that we are to be into perfection. That just isn't going to work. There is no way! What Jesus is saying is to be full and complete in your love.

God causes the sun to rise on evil and good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special. Even the tax collectors do that. Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special. Even the non-believer Gentiles do that.

So, be full and complete in your act of loving as your Father fully and completely loves everyone-evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Love everyone, everywhere you go, in every encounter. Demonstrate the full and complete love of Jesus. This is the Gospel-the Good News. This is Jesus, so be Jesus to everyone!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Matthew 5:38-42


38 ``You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 ``But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 ``If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 ``Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ``Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

WOW! Now this is a tough one! Jesus now turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with retaliation in the Old Testament versus love and forgiveness in the New Testament. This isn't true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An eye for an eye had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. Jesus is teaching to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

They were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: 1. Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don't even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

2. Respond to evil by doing good. · Turn the other cheek · Give more to the person suing you than what was asked · Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded · Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

Joseph did this in forgiving his brothers and helping them later in life.

David spared the life of Saul, who was out to kill him.

Jesus, Himself is the primary example.

Stephen while he was being stoned.

Early believers who gladly received martyrdom and the plundering of their goods.

Paul teaches that we are to scoot over and leave room for the wrath of God on those who are doing us evil, to overcome evil with good.

I see this principle that is so contrary to human nature as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your righteousness will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It's like Jesus is saying, when a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to them from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I'm going to show you the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack by my response to you!