Monday, December 31, 2012



Every day when you wake up, you are blasted with the message that there is something fearful out there that can harm you or bring on inevitable disaster for you and even the planet. I don't care what channel of news you watch; they are all the same. There is a feeding frenzy on the bad news and when the bad news begins to turn into good news, the news isn't worth covering any longer.
We just witnessed this with the fires here in southern California. When the fires are threatening, there is non-stop coverage to the point of layers of repetition. Or, if there is a slow day in the news-a day where nothing disastrous is imminent or a serial rapist is not on the loose or no asteroid is heading straight toward planet earth, then they still are bound to make something up and interview a man who once talked with a space alien.

Bad news is everywhere! When this stream of bad news is set before us, it is usually about something that is about to happen or could happen-in the future. This bad news always elicits fear. Fear occurs when your future is out of control. Remember years ago when we were in the gas crisis; the lines at the gas stations were amazing. Those who waited in line might have had gas in their tank, but they wanted to top it off. They were fearful that there would not be any gas tomorrow.

Fear is a horrible thing that can actually paralyze you and keep you from moving forward with your life. Fear of the future can also cause you to make bad or unwise choices. There are several common fears.

There is the fear of missing out that we see demonstrated by Adam and Eve in the Garden. Moses feared being embarrassed when he was to go before the people of Israel and before Pharaoh. This was a sense of feeling inferior for sure. Paul probably suffered from the fear of being wrong and therefore lived a dogmatic life, attacking the people of the way who were walking to a different drumbeat. Fear is always about the consequences we feel we are going to face in the future. Those who fear the future are most likely to fumble the present!

By the way, have you noticed that many of your fears have nothing to do with you personally? Like when the fires are burning without any possibility of getting to you, it still generates fear. This is also true of the mighty hurricanes that rip through certain parts of our country or earthquakes anywhere in the world. Just like second-hand smoke; I call this second-hand fears. Whatever makes your future spin out of control, fear is the result. Fear turns out the lights in your life so that you are faced with darkness and doom in your future. Fear is the darkness where negatives are developed.

What's interesting is that you can't control the future. There is nothing you can do. It takes a certain amount of pride to think you can. So, what is the answer to this dilemma?

In the book of I John there is a great antidote given for fear-to actually cast it away from you. It says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OR CASTS OUT FEAR FROM YOU! Perfect love is complete love. If we can experience this complete and full love, then fear will be cast away!

In this passage there are three kinds of love relationships referenced. FIRST-God loves you. This is the first step in casting out fear so that you don't have to experience its paralyzing hold on you. God loves you no matter what and He is not waiting for you to perform well enough to achieve acceptance with Him. This is the essence of the Good News of Jesus. Jesus came to communicate the love God has for us. You are to make the decision to receive God's unconditional love for you.

SECOND-You love God. You are to reciprocate God's love for you by responding to Him-actually focusing on God with a heart of gratitude and love for Him. Practically speaking, as you learn to follow Jesus, you show your love for Him by your obedience to Him-trusting Jesus with everything!

THIRD-You love others. You first receive God's love for you, then reciprocate this love back to Him and finally you are ready and freed up to release your love for one another.

Now think about this! If you are caught up in God's love for you, your love for God and then your love for one another, there is no room for fear. Therefore, fear has to go! When you are experiencing this kind of love in your life, you will find your faith muscle getting stronger and there will be no fear of your out-of-control future. You can turn your fears over to Jesus and let Him at the controls.

Try this on for size: When fear knocks at your door because your future is out of control, send faith over to answer it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012



As we come to the 19th chapter of Luke we are treated to the delightful story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Let's check it out:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 

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

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

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Wow! This is a fascinating story of a heart transformation. Here the chief tax collector is apprehended by Jesus while perched up in a sycamore tree. The scene is so visual. Zacchaeus is up in a tree so he can get a glimpse of Jesus. Everyone is talking about it. And, while waiting up there in the tree, Jesus looked up and invited Himself to lunch-at Zach's house. Talk about a shocker-for both Zacchaeus and the people watching!

I love what happens here. This is a divine appointment of the highest kind. Probably it was at the gathering at Zach's house, Zacchaeus stood up and made a most interesting pronouncement. He declared that he will give half of all his possessions to the poor and he will pay back four times the amount to those he has cheated. This is so typical. Simply by a personal encounter with Jesus, Zach is a transformed man and wants to pay back all he owes them, give half of what he makes to the poor and give four times the amount to those he has already cheated.

What happened? I think it's quite simple. Any time a person enters into an encounter with Jesus, he is changed. Zach Is coming alongside Jesus and is thoroughly changed by doing this.

Then Jesus expresses what many believe is the key verse of the book of Luke. He says, "For the son of man has come to seek and to save those who are lost." Jesus' relentless search for you and me is absolutely amazing. Jesus will go to extreme measures to interrupt what you're doing in order to bring you back to Himself.

I think what strikes me the deepest is the immediacy of Zach's heart to repay those he has cheated. It's as if when Jesus entered the picture, Zach's other gods or focal points of his life meant nothing. The same is true today. When you see Jesus for what and who he is, nothing else matters. Paul speaks of this in the letter to the followers of Jesus in the book of Colossians. I love this passage where Paul says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him."

Now I ask you, if you are having lunch with the one who embodies all the fullness of God, wouldn't your life be changed, too? I think everyone ought to meet Jesus for lunch, because that luncheon will transform your entire life.

Maybe that ought to be our daily prayer. Lord, "I want to have lunch with Jesus today." Then after that lunch, you will never recover. Why? Because once you have been apprehended in your heart by Jesus, nothing else matters.



As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 

Contrast this blind beggar outside of Jericho with the rich, young ruler-from the "seemingly" most desirable disciple to "seemingly" the most undesirable. 

Certainly the rich businessman seems to be the one who had more potential of advancing the kingdom. However, this is not kingdom thinking, but worldly. Remember, always check your thinking and you will see that many times what Jesus would do will be the opposite.

In Mark's gospel this beggar is identified as Bartimaeus. This poor man has developed a lifestyle of begging for a living along the road in and out of Jericho.
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied.

NOTE blind Bart called Jesus "Son of David" which is a messianic title-the promised descendant of King David. It's interesting to note that since it was mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, this is the first time He has been called Son of David. And, in a few days He will be greeted and welcomed as the Son of David as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is the reason why Bartimaeus wasn't asking Jesus for money as he did to all of the others who passed by. He was asking for more than that-to see again! Jesus seems to make a point of this by asking him what he wanted Jesus to do for him. And blind Bart's answer was, "I want to see."

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. 

Jesus' response to Bart's request to see was specifically answered and attributed to his faith. He had a faith that didn't fly in the wind nor did it take no for an answer.

This blind beggar on the side of the road with a persistent and stubborn faith serves as an example for us all. What I like best is how quickly the formerly blind Bart began his journey of following Jesus. That's the ultimate proof of the genuineness of his faith. Remember Jesus said, "He who hears my word and practices it is like a man who builds his house on a rock. He who hears my word and doesn't practice it is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand without a firm foundation."

ONE MORE THING. Jesus was drawn to this man because of his brokenness. His brokenness or blindness is the connector to Jesus. This blindness didn't keep Bart from pursuing the ultimate answer to his problems. And, He knew that this man would be useful to Him on His journey to Jerusalem, so he allowed him to follow alongside Him.

In so many cases, the gateway to Jesus is through our brokenness. Jesus came as a great physician, looking for sick people. He was not making a list of those who were well without any needs. He continually gravitated toward the broken, the bruised, the addicted and the poor. The only thing I have to share with Jesus that will get His attention right away is my brokenness. This is why I am always yelling out to Jesus like the blind man, "Hey Jesus, over here! "
It's like the young man who said: "Jesus, I have a problem. It's me." And Jesus quickly replies, "My son, I have the answer. It's Me."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012



Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

The rich, young ruler has heard Jesus' direction to him: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow me." The man walked away sad and, no doubt, Jesus was also saddened by this encounter when He said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 

This statement may have caused more confusion than you might think. Remember Job? As long as he was rich, he was viewed as a blessed man of God. And, when his riches were taken away, the assumption was that he had sinned. This rich, young ruler was probably viewed by many as a very spiritual man-blessed by God. So, if this man who was keeping the law and seemed to be blessed by God with his wealth wasn't going to make it into salvation, then, "Who is going to be saved?"

The rich trust in their wealth to open doors of heaven for them. But the net value of their wealth in heaven is zip. Jesus makes it clear that only if they become as little children will they enter the kingdom.

It's in this context that Peter says, "We have left all we had to follow you." It was a statement begging some sort of response. Matthew's gospel adds the words, "What then will there be for us?"
Jesus answers Peter's question simply: "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life." 

The point here seems to be that your reward for being faithful and giving your all will be highly abundant. Matthew and Mark's account give specifics of reaping 100 times-super abundant results.

To me Jesus is saying simply this: YOU CAN'T OUTGIVE GOD. Whatever you think you have given up for Jesus and the Kingdom will be abundantly supplied back to you. This abundant reward is both near and far-temporal and eternal.

This reminds me of the kingdom parable where the man found a treasure in a field, hid it and then went back and sold all he had in order to buy the land. Or, the parable about diligently searching for a fine pearl. And, when he finds it, goes and sells all that he has to purchase that pearl. One comes into the kingdom by surprise and the other by careful searching. But both of them see the kingdom for its invaluable quality and go for it with their whole hearts.

We can all become a little discouraged from time to time. But know for certain that whatever you have given up for Jesus and the kingdom will be abundantly rewarded. You can count on it. So, with a reckless abandon give it all up for Him. You'll never regret it!



A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.

This ruler is apparently a leader, a successful businessman. Matthew writes about this man, too, and describes him as a young man who had an abundance of possessions.

His question is a powerful and pointed one. He must be feeling some sense of spiritual inadequacy. He seems to believe that eternal life is something you can earn or inherit or acquire.
NOTE the rich, young ruler, even though he had been keeping the commandments, he still felt a lack in his life. Jesus perceptively targets in on that lack. Note what happens: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Jesus here gives the answer to the original question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The answer? DON'T LET ANYTHING YOU HAVE OR YOU ARE SEPARATE YOU FROM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. He goes on to say, "Sell everything you have and give to the poor, THEN you will have treasure in heaven. THEN COME, FOLLOW ME." This is a tough saying, yet very, very simple. Eternal life has everything to do with a relationship-FOLLOW ME. In this man's case, it was necessary to say to him to sell all and give to the poor in order to get to the heart of his real god he was holding on to.

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

The rich, young ruler was sad, because he knew what Jesus was saying to him was true. It was his wealth that was keeping him from entering the kingdom of God. It's important to note that it is not his wealth per se, but his holding it closely as something too dear to him-even more important than a relationship with God. This is proven by his sadness and that instead of coming to Jesus in order to follow Him, he was obviously going to walk away.

NOTE the question that was asked Jesus: Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God."
Jesus' answer was clear. No matter who you are-rich or poor, being saved or having eternal life or entering into the kingdom of God is an impossibility in human terms, but not with God. With God the impossible becomes possible.

Over the years I've traveled into the Middle East. And, in Jerusalem it is continually explained what it means for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They show you a small opening that a camel on its knees and stripped of all of its baggage could squeeze through with great difficulty. That sounds like it may be true. But then I came to realize Jesus' words here. This salvation thing is not just difficult, but impossible. So, it makes so much more sense to me now that having salvation from God (eternal life) for a rich person who has so many things to distract him away from God is like a camel going through a large knitting needle. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE! BUT GOD specializes in the impossible. What is impossible with humans is possible with God. Talk about AMAZING GRACE-how sweet the sound!



In just three verses in Luke 18:15-17 we have the message of the kingdom bottom-lined and it's all about being like a child.
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  
In the parable just before this story about children Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humblesw himself will be exalted." Now Jesus says, "You must receive the kingdom of God like a little child in order to enter into the kingdom." This seems to be saying the same thing. And, there seem to be several ways we can hinder children from coming to Jesus.

The theme here is: Disciples of Jesus must remove all hindrances that keep children from coming to Jesus. The disciples were slightly annoyed that people were bringing babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. They scolded those who were bringing the babies to Jesus. They certainly didn't seem to think that children were strategic appointments for Jesus to bother with.

Jesus took this opportunity to make an important illustration out of this incident. Jesus ignored their rejection of the babies and countermanded what they were doing. He invited all of the little children to come to Him. He gives a most significant reason for embracing the children. The reason? The kingdom of God belongs to the little children.

Then Jesus makes a most amazing statement which is the lesson He wanted to make clear: "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Two things come to light here: FIRST-Don't hinder the children in any way from coming to Jesus. So, what are the things that we do that might hinder children from coming to Jesus.

1. Our pride in thinking that children don't know enough and haven't lived long enough to understand the things of Jesus. 2. Parental beliefs-There are two ways to hinder children from coming to Jesus. One is to indoctrinate your children with your beliefs. If you do this without encouraging your kids to think it through on their own to embrace it for themselves, you run the risk of propagandizing your children to believe what you believe without thinking about it. This will most surely set your children up for losing their (your) beliefs later, when attacked. The second is to ignore sharing any sort of beliefs with your children, believing they must be left alone to figure it out on their own. This sets your children up to be lost and confused throughout their lives. There is nothing redeeming about this approach at all.

The best way is for you to embrace your beliefs personally and to set an example for your children. This sets up your children to be more fully persuaded by the observation and influence of your life, based upon your relationship together. If you don't possess certain qualities, you can't pass them on to your children. But, most importantly, from your own faith and lifestyle you have the opportunity to advance the conversation about faith and about Jesus.

The SECOND thing that comes to light for me in this passage is the clear understanding regarding who will enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he comes as a little child. What are the characteristics of a little child? A few obvious ones are a simplicity, pure heart and thinking, inquisitive, an openness to learn and a curiosity.

Possibly the best characteristic of all is that children are trusting. I think this is what Jesus loves the most. He is looking for and waiting for "ANYONE" who will come to Him with simple and pure trust. For adults this is very difficult; for children it's easy and very natural. So, come to Jesus as little children.

Monday, December 24, 2012



One of the all-time bestselling series was LEFT BEHIND. It was based upon bible prophecy with the premise that someday those who are faithful followers of Jesus will be snatched away and the non-believers will be left behind. Although Jesus used the context of "in the days of Noah" where only the believer/followers were the ones left behind and not the non-believers, this teaching is very pervasive today.
Whatever teaching is true-Jesus' words or the popular prophets of our day-I am more concerned about Jesus being LEFT BEHIND. I especially think about this at the two most revered holidays within the Christian world-Christmas and Easter.

As you know we have set out to do the most difficult thing we've ever done in our lives. We are trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus and embrace Jesus as a lifestyle. One of the reasons for not being able to do this in the past is that we had our focus on something closely related to Jesus year after year, yet quite different with disappointing results. We were either adding something to Jesus as if He needed our additions or we were diluting the awesomeness of Jesus by packaging Him in our comfortable, spiritual boxes.

Because our focus was not on simply Jesus, many times we have caught ourselves just going through the motions of the spiritual life. We had effectively left Jesus behind as we set out to live our lives.

I found out the hard way that leaving Jesus behind proved to be disastrous. Life doesn't work well without Him and I didn't know what to do to work well for Him. I kept leaving Jesus behind!

This Christmas I want to suggest the three most common ways of putting Jesus in the position of being left behind in your life. FIRST-We tend to leave Jesus behind in the manger! Jesus is no longer in a manger or cattle feeding trough. Both the Bible and the Qur'an teach that Jesus was born of a virgin and He is called the Word of God. In the first chapter of John it says the "Word" became flesh (not a book nor a religious organization), grew up and "dwelt" among us (made Himself at home among us), being full of grace and truth. Jesus is not still in the manger, so don't leave Him there. Learn to relate and interact with Jesus out of the manger.

This reminds me of the program for a Christmas pageant several years ago that listed out all of the actors by name. When it came to Jesus, it said, "The baby Jesus is played by a 60 watt light bulb." When you leave Jesus behind, an impersonal light bulb may be the only light you'll be able to see and share.

SECOND-We tend to leave Jesus behind on the cross! Whether you are Catholic with Jesus visibly hanging there or you relate to Jesus with the symbol of an empty cross, the story and dynamic of Jesus is so much more than a cross. He's been there-done that and now wants you to enjoy Him as the resurrected one-the one who knows you best and loves you the most!

THIRD-We tend to leave Jesus behind in the clouds! Those who are so focused on Jesus' 2nd Coming tend to be looking up into the clouds and looking ahead to the sweet bye and bye. So life becomes all about Jesus coming in the clouds to get us out of this mess. This is not what Jesus taught and lived. He wants to dwell among us as our King-our Master-right here in the nasty now and now.

There is no escape clause for those who believe and follow Him. And, if Jesus does snatch those who believe and follow Him out of this world, it is only to bring us right back down here to dwell in His amazing presence on earth. In other words, there's a U-turn right back to earth. That's where the streets of gold, etc. will be-right here!

So, why do we tend to leave Jesus behind in the manger, on the cross or up in the clouds? Three simple things come to mind. It seems to be a natural, human tendency to leave Jesus behind or leave Jesus out. To do this (1) localizes Jesus to some place where we can visit or not, (2) limits Jesus from doing things that might be out of my comfort zone, and (3) leaves me alone to my own thinking, so that I can salvage some sort of fantasy of being in control.

To leave Jesus behind is to worship an impersonal God. And, if He is impersonal, then we tend to worship and lift up religiosity, traditions and man-made commandments. Hey, this Christmas do everything you can do to make it all about personalizing Jesus. Release Jesus from the manger. Remove Him from the cross. Refocus your eyes out of the clouds and be a part of what Jesus is doing right here on earth right now. Jesus is awesome, alive and actively desiring to make Himself at home in your life. Will you let Him do just that this Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2012



We come now to the 2nd story to focus the disciples' faith. Here in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shares a parable that is most contemporary for us today:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 

Luke warns us right away that Jesus was targeting a certain group of people-those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. Then he shares the parable.

It's obvious that Jesus is going to make some important comparisons for us to consider. Two men went to the temple to pray-a Pharisee and a tax collector.
NOTE the Pharisee's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood by himself to pray.
 SECOND-He exalts himself right in front of God. THIRD-He looks down on the tax collector as less than righteous. FOURTH-He lists his checklist of righteousness, exalting himself even more.

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

NOTE the tax collector's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood at a distance. SECOND-He didn't look up to heaven. THIRD-He beat his breasts in humility. FOURTH-He prayed a very brief prayer.

NOW NOTE what Jesus' evaluation was of these two men: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Bottom-line is the Pharisee's prayers didn't even reach the ceiling and the tax collector's prayers reached the heart of God. And the result is that only one goes home justified. The problem? Jesus sums it up with "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Two things are most clear to me from this parable: FIRST-The Pharisee's checklist of performance and status was all he had to talk about before God. Since he chose to exalt himself, God will surely humble him.

SECOND-The tax collector does not exalt himself at all. On the contrary, he throws himself into God's mercy. Since he chose this stance to humble himself, God will surely exalt him.

This story and its applications are so right on target for me. I am continually setting out to do something-even something good and righteous, laying out my plans and asking God for His help. What's the difference between me and the Pharisee? Oh, there is a difference, but very, very little. Sometimes by my actions I am putting forth my list of accomplishments and performance, thinking them to be so important.

It is so difficult to throw myself on the mercy of God, depending and waiting for Him to lead out. This doesn't mean to not use your giftedness, but it's all about dependency. Am I depending on God to lead out and empower what I do? And, am I willing to leave all the results-good and not so good, to Him.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012



Here in Luke 18 Jesus begins three teachings in a row to encourage His disciples to grow in their faith. He begins with the story of the persistent widow.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually come and attack me!'" 

And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
This story of the persistent widow was given to make a point. If even a corrupt judge could eventually be persuaded by the persistence of a widow, someone without standing or influence in society, how much more likely would the Lord be to respond to the persistent prayers of His followers?

Since Jesus is going to have to suffer and die before returning, things are likely to become very confusing. Therefore, it's very important for the disciples to be faithful in prayer to be ready. This is why Jesus ends this section with a question: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
For all of us today who are disciples of Jesus, He is teaching us to practice the habit of prayer that is characterized by persistence. Jesus is recorded teaching a similar concept in the gospel of Matthew: Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; Seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who keep on asking him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
In both cases the lesson is the same. If even those who are evil can be moved by persistence, how much more so will the Lord be moved? NOTE how the Lord longs for our participation in His plan. His return is already set in motion-a foregone conclusion. The decision was made before the foundations of the world were set in place. Yet He encourages us to keep praying for it, and to never give up till the day it happens. It's almost as if He's saying our prayers could influence the timing.

Whether or not that is true, it's all a matter of single-mindedness and focus. Did you know that two-thirds of the prayers mentioned in the Bible, the prayers already knew the answer? So, it's not that the purpose of our prayers is necessarily to change anything. The reason why we pray is a proactive act of dependency on the Lord. Prayer brings a spiritual focus to your everyday life. It's one of the disciplines we can use to practice the presence of God in our lives every day.

You see, prayer may or may not change things, but it always, always, always will change you.



Jesus moves from the coming of the kingdom to the coming of the Son of Man. When you think about it, both are referring to the same event.

Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

"It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife!

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left." "Where, Lord?" they asked. He replied, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."

Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man. There were two basic meanings to that term. First-it was a Messianic term that most at that time would have been familiar with. Second-it was the term used to describe the humanity of Jesus.
Here Jesus speaks of the "day" or "days" of the Son of Man five times. The "day" that the Son of Man is revealed seems to be the same day on which destruction comes, the day when one is taken and another left. A lot seems to be happening in a very short period of time-almost cataclysmic in nature. It reminds me of how quickly the world changed within just a couple of hours on 9/11.

Whatever else is happening here Jesus uses two historical events to describe the time of the coming of the Son of Man-the time of the flood of Noah and the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two things are indicated through these events: First-People are going about their normal lives as if nothing was going to happen. Second-there will be a day of judgment and destruction from God which will occur suddenly. The coming of the Son of Man will be at such a time as this.

This is the passage among a few others where the Left Behind book series is based. Some are taken and others are left behind whether in bed or in the field. There is a lot of disagreement over when the Son of Man, the Messiah, will come again and bring about the "some are taken and others left behind" scene. It's clear to me that there is no way to know precisely when the Son of Man will return. Only God knows that timing.

Those who were pressing Him, asked Him further when and where the coming will be. They really wanted to know more detail. Jesus answers them by saying, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." Jesus is saying here that just as the presence of a dead carcass is clear by the circling of vultures, so will the presence of the Son of Man be clear. It will be clear when the Son of Man returns-immediate and very clear.

All my life I've heard people mention that Jesus might be among us already right now and we just haven't noticed His coming yet. Jesus puts a rest to that kind of thinking by saying, "For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." You won't be caught by surprise, however it will be very clear and very sudden.

I'm reminded of the bumper sticker that says, "Guess who's coming back and boy is he mad!" There's nothing to be afraid of, however. As long as you are walking with Jesus-hanging out with Him today, then you'll be sure to be right with Him when He returns. So, keep up the three habits of walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Him to lead out-or, waiting for Him to show up again. With these habits in gear, you'll be ready!

Sunday, December 16, 2012



Nestled in Luke 17:20-21 is a most profound statement regarding the kingdom of God. Jesus has been saying that the Kingdom is near and the kingdom is here, and now He is saying that the kingdom is much more than that:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." 

When Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He makes it clear that the kingdom is not a visible, physical, political kingdom that can be observed, but it is invisible. It's invisible because the kingdom of God is among you. Some translate this phrase within you.

There are three primary observations here worth noting. FIRST-Jesus is not speaking to His disciples, but to the Pharisees. This alone blows my mind. How can Jesus make this statement that the kingdom of God is among them?

SECOND-The kingdom of God cannot be seen. It is something invisible rather than visible. You won't be able to point to it at some location.

THIRD-The kingdom of God is among y'all right here and now. It is in your midst. It is right here for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Here's how I am able to tie all three of these observations together to make sense out of this encounter:

I take this back to our understanding that Jesus created all things and holds everything together. He is the glue that holds each cell together and without Him we would split apart. Since Jesus created our cells and holds them together, then He is the rightful authority over our tissues and cells. He is the king of kings. He is the ruler over all of us. We now have a choice. We can acknowledge that Jesus is the king and bow to His Kingship and Kingdom or we can ignore it and live our lives as if He isn't king at all.

Therefore, when Jesus says that the kingdom of God is among y'all, He is laying claim on His kingdom IF WE WILL ONLY ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AS KING. So, thinking in this way, even the Pharisees could respond to His original creation and His present work of holding us together. If they were to bow to Him as King, then they would enter into the kingdom of God and His presence immediately.

Just this morning we met with a couple whose hearts have been captured by the needs of a family in Africa. They are following their hearts and doing everything they can think of to support this young family of seven. In the process of moving in compassion toward meeting the needs of this dear impoverished family, they are ministering to Jesus personally. You know, when He said, "When you feed the poorest of the poor, you are feeding Me." Now, as this non-churched couple moves according to the principles of the kingdom of God, God is bringing all sorts of connections with just the right person to open the next door or to solve the next problem. It is absolutely amazing to watch. You see, when you step out and follow the kingdom principles, you will be led directly to Jesus, Himself. To hear them acknowledge God's assistance and miracles they are experiencing was a wonderful thing.

As they follow their hearts in this effort to do good toward the poorest of the poor, they are going to continually encounter Jesus. And, soon they will be able to see Jesus has orchestrated the entire plan, just so He could bring them to Himself.

Yes, the Kingdom of God is near, it is here and it is among us right now. What Jesus wants is for us to walk in the kingdom lifestyle right where we are. And, He will show Himself to us as we progress along this journey.

You see, we haven't rejected the kingdom of God, but we tend to reduce it. We reduce it to a future place and time. We reduce it to a mystical kingdom concept that we can't define or experience. We reduce it to our local church. Or, we reduce it to a social welfare project in an area of need.

The kingdom of God is all-consuming. The kingdom is wherever the king is and wherever He reigns. And, as we learn to practice the presence of Jesus in our lives, no matter what we're doing, we are living in the kingdom of God right now. There is nothing more magical-nothing more joyous and nothing that offers more freedom that living our lives according to the kingdom of God. It's here! Submit your life to the king and learn to enjoy the kingdom lifestyle for yourself.



We are moving through the Gospel of Luke and we have come to the place where Jesus heals 10 lepers. This is not a parable; this is a real life story. In this case, you might call it an enacted parable.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.  
Jesus and His disciples are slowly making their way toward Jerusalem. This particular story occurs on the border between Samaria and Galilee among a racially-mixed group of lepers. Leprosy is no respecter of persons.

Leprosy back then was a skin disease that slowly rotted away the skin, destroying the nerves as it moved through a person's body. It was considered incurable and very contagious. Therefore lepers were banned from normal society and lived together as a group, whenever possible. According to Leviticus a person with any kind of infectious disease was to wear torn clothes, unkempt hair, covering the lower part of his face and was to cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" whenever he came near others. They were not only socially unclean, but they were viewed as ritually unclean as well.

They were allowed to attend synagogue but must be huddled in a separate area by themselves. They were the first to arrive and the last to leave the service, so not to contaminate anyone else. Leprosy was a dreaded disease and was viewed as a death sentence. Only two people by name in the Bible were cured of leprosy-Miriam and Naaman. Up to this time it had been over 700 years since anyone was cured of leprosy. This is why it was said that "When the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal a person of leprosy." This was to be one of three miracles that "only the Messiah could do" and therefore became a clear sign of discovering the genuine Messiah.

NOTE Jesus encountered these ten lepers outside the village. They stood at the proper distance away from Him and called out loudly, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" It's not clear that they were asking for healing, but for some act of compassion on them in their isolated poverty. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, because only the priest was able to declare a person healed of leprosy.

The text then says, "In the act of going, they were cleansed." This is striking to me. As they simply obeyed Jesus, they found the greatest gift they could ever have imagined-full cleansing. Their faith was simple enough and had genuine action to it. I mean, what did they have to lose?

So as they were walking together toward the priest, they noticed that they were cleansed. It must have been an amazing experience-a dramatic feeling of shock and freedom.

Only one leper, when discovering his healing, returned to thank Jesus for what He did for him. In the same loud voice that he asked for pity from Jesus, now returns and gives him thanks loudly. Jesus takes care to point out once again that the only one who came back to give thanks for his healing was not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

Four observations come to mind here for me. FIRST-Jesus' healing and cleansing power-His salvation-is for everyone, no matter what the religious and cultural background.

SECOND-When Jesus says to do something, it pays to do it-even if it is such a simple step. The end result may be more than we asked or could have imagined. These lepers only asked for pity-a little help, but He fully cleansed them of their leprosy.

THIRD-Jesus expects gratitude from us as well as our requests for help and healing. Remember, God is always looking at the heart.

FOURTH-Jesus rewards gratitude toward Him. NOTE that He said, "Your faith has made you well." The others were now cleansed, too, so Jesus seems to be blessing this grateful leper with an even deeper healing-the healing of the soul.

You know what strikes me most in my life right now? Everyday is a day for gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His blessing. Don't be one of the nine who were so excited about their healing that they forgot the healer.

This is the most critical and pivotal point of all. We tend to drift away from acknowledging the blessing of God in our lives. We neglect giving thanks. This is precisely what Paul references in Romans 1 when he says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

This is always the beginning of the end-to neglect giving thanks to God for what He has done and what He is doing in your life.



As we continue in this study of Jesus and the kingdom in Luke we come to Luke 17. 

Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. 

Things that cause people to stumble are inevitable. These are traps that are continually set in your path. However the worst trap or temptation is when one person causes another to stumble. Jesus mentions "little ones" here which could mean new believers or literally children. I believe He is speaking of the insignificant, those who don't stand out as leaders-the "little" and "powerless" people of our society.

The punishment is severe-to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Each household had a small stone mill to grind grain into flower. Obviously, you would surely drown with this heavy millstone around your neck. NOTE He says that it would be better to be punished in this way (with a millstone around your neck). In other words, you deserve worse than this, if you cause the "little" ones to stumble.

Then Jesus turns the attention toward what happens when a person sins against you: "If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." 

Did you get that? When a brother or sister sins against you, call them on it. If they "repent" or have a change of heart, admitting that they were wrong, then you are to forgive them. BUT on top of that, if they sin against you seven times in one day, then you are to come back to them seven times and forgive them! The disciples' response is interesting:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." 

Wow, Jesus, if we are going to practice this kind of response toward those who sin against us then we need a large amount of faith. Jesus quickly points out to them that they only need faith as small as a mustard seed and you will be able to do miraculous things. I think this is because it isn't the amount of faith, but the object of the faith that matters. So, you have more than enough faith to be effective. Then Jesus goes into a story:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

“If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
In these first 10 verses of Luke 17 it's as if Jesus is setting forth a list of spiritual qualities we are to embrace in the kingdom-a quality of spiritual life that doesn't cause others to stumble, a community that knows how to forgive and get along, a faith that is powerful and now, HUMILITY.

You see, we exist to serve God, and not vice-versa. It was inappropriate for slaves to feed themselves before they fed their master, no matter how hungry they were. God promises to meet our needs, but that's not the main point. We are not to view ourselves as God serving us-"What have you done for me lately, Lord?" But, we are to gratefully take on the responsibility of serving God. We don't work for God in an advisory capacity. He is God and we are not! We are not to be looking for God's praise or blessing because we serve Him. He is our God and we are to be His servants.

These four qualities are part of what makes up lifestyle in the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of man. If you are a follower of Jesus, the King, then you must seek to embrace the kingdom lifestyle that goes along with it. This is not a system of do's and don'ts, but a lifestyle that you will discover is most meaningful and fulfilling.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, when He said, "All of you who are weary and burdened down, come to Me." Or, my favorite paraphrase of that same message is: "The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

That's the joy of embracing the lifestyle of the kingdom! Have you tasted of that yet?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 

"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 

"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
The story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a portrayal of heaven, but it is still in the form of a parable. A parable is a story intended to convey a spiritual truth. The story doesn't have to be about real people or even real situations (like a camel passing through the eye of a needle). But to achieve its teaching goal, a parable must be striking and memorable, so that as the story is retold and remembered, the spiritual truth is reinforced again and again. The hearers must be able to imagine the situation.

Many scholars believe that Jesus is drawing upon a popular Jewish folk tale that had roots in Egypt about a rich man and poor man whose lots after death are completely reversed.

It's like me telling you a story of the preacher and a New York taxi driver who arrived at the pearly gates and were greeted by St. Peter. The taxi driver is richly rewarded while the preacher just barely squeaks in. Why was this? It's simple. When the preacher prayed, the people slept. But when the taxi driver drove, people prayed. Now that is a vivid story.

The rich man goes to the extreme of proposing that Lazarus rise from the dead to warn his brothers. Luke's readers will immediately think of Jesus, and how even His resurrection from the dead was not enough to sway the Pharisees from their hardened opposition to the truth.

There are four quick observations here: FIRST-Wealth without active mercy for the poor is a great evil. Jesus is critical of the Pharisees here. He is not criticizing them for their hypercritical attitude and practices, but their neglect to treat the poorest of the poor well.

SECOND-How you treat the needs of the poor and needy have great consequences.

THIRD-If you close your eyes to the truth you are given, then you are doomed. It is irreversible.

FOURTH-The love of money to the neglect of showing mercy is inexcusable.
If you don't notice and minister to the poor, what excuse will you have? In the final analysis, the rich man's punishment is not for riches, but for the neglect of the Scriptures and what they teach us about the HEART OF GOD. Let me ask you: Does your heart resonate with the heart of God?



"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and people are forcing their way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
In these three short verses Jesus is putting the Mosaic Law in to perspective. This is an example of Jesus' teaching on how the Law ought to be understood or interpreted. There seem to be four themes here:

FIRST-Jesus sees the good news of the kingdom as a shift into a new era. The era of the Law and the Prophets was up until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed. Jesus, being introduced by John continues the message of the good news of the kingdom as coming here right now. The Messiah's kingdom is ushered in at this time. It was the good news because through the Law and the Prophets you could only get a glimpse of God's Messiah and His kingdom. Now it is finally here in Jesus.
Jeremiah referred to the fulfillment of this great shift that Jesus began in 31:31-34: "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." 

SECOND-Jesus notes that the kingdom requires "forcing their way into it." This is a curious statement. Too often we want the blessings of the Kingdom, but are not willing to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. We are half-baked believers in Jesus. But Jesus makes it clear that He wants everything we have and we are.

So, Jesus is saying that everyone who becomes part of the kingdom is "forcing his way" into it. In other words, those who enter the kingdom must make some effort to do so. The effort? I like to think it is being interested with some effort to it. This is why Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you." You must seek it out for yourself. You can't enter the kingdom by going along with the crowd or by some sort of spiritual osmosis. You must be enthusiastic enough to "force your way in."

THIRD-Jesus affirms the permanence of the Law. Just because there has been a shift from the Law into this new kingdom era, doesn't mean that the Law has been done away with. It is still truer than ever.

We must reject the Pharisees' picky, legalistic approach to the Law, but must understand and affirm its purpose, spirit and intent. Primarily the Law must be undergirded by the spirit of the law versus the letter of the Law-the internal over the external. So, the Law is still powerful and true, but we must be careful to read the Law with its original intent.

FOURTH-Jesus insists that the Law must be interpreted properly, searching for the original intent. Then Jesus gives an example of the enduring nature of the Law's intent when it comes to marriage.

In Jesus' day some of the Pharisees had become extremely permissive, allowing men to divorce their wives on the most trivial grounds. If a wife spoiled her husband's dinner, she could be divorced. Another reason for divorce was when a man finds another woman prettier than his present wife. In other words, as long as you get your paperwork done, you can divorce your wife.
Jesus reaffirms the bond of marriage in no uncertain terms when He said, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
Here's His point: Marriage must be taken seriously and not lightly. Divorce is a serious matter and you must realize God hates divorce. It is not some loophole in the Law. The word construction of what Jesus says makes even more sense, when you translate this verse: "Anyone who divorces his wife IN ORDER TO marry another woman commits adultery." That's looking at marriage too loosely.

Also, it's important to NOTE: Jesus is the one who pursues lost sheep. He is the one who is looking for sinners (sick people), not the righteous (healthy people). So, Jesus holds sternly to the sanctity of marriage, but continues to reach out to those who have sinned in this area. The Law holds up the standard, yet those who fall short may come to Jesus for salvation and restoration.

There is nothing you can pull off that Jesus can't forgive and heal. The Law is the standard. You actually don't break the Law or the standard when you divorce. The Law or standard breaks you. Yet Jesus, who relentlessly pursues broken people, picks you up and stands you back on your feet again. He is the genuine balance between grace and truth. He loves you and forgives you and calls you to follow him in spite of your past sin, present situation and falling short of the standard. This is the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM!

Monday, December 10, 2012



Today we come to Luke 16 where Jesus presents another parable. This is a unique one, to be sure, and has stirred up a lot of trouble as people try to understand it. Because of this, this parable has often been ignored. So let's consider the story and try to determine the key teaching of Jesus. Remember, each parable seems to have one primary point that it is making about the kingdom of God.

Let's work our way through it.
Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' 

The owner of a business has discovered that his manager has not been doing a good job running the business. So, he informs the manager that he will be out of a job shortly and wants an accounting of what has been going on.

NOTE these businessmen he was dealing with were not paupers, but quite wealthy. They were working with large sums of money between them. The manager must have been thinking that if he were to befriend these wealthy businessmen, then when he is out of work he will still have a warm relationship with them for some future dealings. Now, check out the owner's response to what the manager had done.

"The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly."
He affirmed the manager for his shrewdness. "That was some good thinking." He wasn't praised for being dishonest, but for his shrewdness. His owner knew exactly what he had done. Jesus then applies this story:

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 

Jesus says that followers of the kingdom ought to learn to be as shrewd as those who are in the world. This seems a little strange coming from Jesus. What does He mean to urge His disciples to use worldly wealth to gain friends? He goes on to say, "so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Let's read on:

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." 

We know that there are two kinds of wealth-being rich toward God and being rich in yourself. When you use your worldly riches toward kingdom use, you will store up for yourself treasures in heaven-where you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings as Jesus says. So, be shrewd about how you handle your money, your wealth-your stuff. You are the manager and He is the owner.

Now, NOTE the response from the Pharisees: The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God's sight. 

The Pharisees have chosen the wrong way to handle their wealth. And NOTE what their problem was. They loved money and used it to justify themselves in the eyes of others. They used their wealth and positioning to look good in order to impress others. Now, it's important to understand that there is nothing wrong with money. Money is not the problem. It's how it is valued and how it is used. Money can be used in a compassionate way which is the way of the kingdom of God.

However, when you value money so much to be used for showing off and impressing others, you are misusing the wealth your "owner", the Creator, has allowed you to manage.
Then Jesus makes a very powerful statement: "What people value highly is detestable in God's sight." God knows your heart and what you really value most. 

So, pay attention to your heart. You cannot serve two masters, so choose, choose again and re-choose some more. There is one fascinating thing Jesus says here, tying money and God together. He says, ""Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"
Do you want to be entrusted with the true spiritual riches of the universe? Then, handle your money wisely, shrewdly and compassionately and then it's all yours to enjoy!



We come to the third parable of the lost. Jesus has shared the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and now the lost son. This is by far the most popular of the three. In this story Jesus takes it to a human level-the dynamics between a father and his two sons.

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. 

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father. 

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 

"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" 

This is so familiar that I'll let the story speak for itself. What I want to do is to deal with the three characters-the lost son, the son who stayed at home and the father.
FIRST-The younger son took his inheritance and squandered it all. He ended up working for someone else and found himself wallowing along with the pigs. He woke up and made the decision to go home and see if he could possibly work for his dad as servant, because he knew that being a servant for his dad was so much better than hanging out with his pig friends. When he came home, his father greeted him enthusiastically. He interrupts his son's rehearsed speech and ordered the servants to prepare for a celebration. He ordered them to bring four things-the best robe to honor him, a ring to signify his rich love for his son, sandals as a sign of a freeman as opposed to a slave and a fatted calf that had been specially fed in order to be ready for a special occasion.

SECOND-The older son who never left and squandered his wealth, but continued to stay at home and do what he was supposed to do. However, what we have here is not just one son who was in the wrong, but two.

There are two types of sinners mentioned in this story. There was the younger son who really blew it and squandered his father's wealth. And there was the older son who was more of a hypocritical son in the family. The younger son sinned against his father and admitted his wrongs. The older brother had anchored himself in Pharisaical self-righteousness. The younger obviously disregarded his father's love and yet the older also disregarded the love of his father. He didn't appreciate what he had. The younger was honest and the older is extremely hypocritical.
THIRD-The father was father not only to the prodigal son, but to the Pharisaical son. He had to face two kinds of failures in his family and did so very well.

There are, at least, 4 basic lessons in this story: 1. When there is true repentance, God exuberantly extends His love. 2. God's great love is for all sinners-no matter their stance before Him. 3. God desires sons more than servants. 4. God's love is unconditional. You can't do anything to turn His love away.

This third parable paints a good picture of God's attitude toward those who are lost. The father in this story is the God-like figure for us. All three parables on those who are lost-the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son-should set in concrete two revolutionary thoughts about God and His attitude toward you.

FIRST-God is relentlessly pursuing you with His love. He will do anything He has to do to connect with you.
SECOND-God loves you no matter what! This is nailed down by Paul's words in the letter he wrote to the followers of Jesus who live in Rome. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."