Thursday, May 09, 2013


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Thursday, April 25, 2013



After being taught and teaching otherwise, I've come to the conclusion that God never intends to take those who respond to him out of here. Even with Jesus' teachings about his return and the end of the world, he has not given us a way to get out of here. That's not the direction! God is doing all he can to get down here-to dwell among us. So this is what God has been up to ever since the human race lost the Kingdom, the personal relationship, and the abiding presence of God. Through the priests, the judges, the kings, and the prophets, God wanted to dwell among those who would trust him, and those people would be a blessing to all the nations of the world.
After the prophets, there was a period of four hundred silent years. It was at this point that Jesus was sent to earth. His mission was to reveal the good news of the Kingdom and, by doing this, to restore what humankind had lost. Jesus repeatedly announced the Kingdom, he established the possibility of personal relationship with God, and he introduced the abiding presence of God for all to experience. He did all this down here-on earth.

Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth, because he is the King. Wherever the King is, there is the Kingdom. He was the dwelling place of God on earth, fully indwelt with the Spirit of God. God had finally come down here to dwell among those who would trust him.

Now with this in mind, that God is all about dwelling among His people on earth, listen to what Jesus shared with his disciples, just prior to ascending into the heavens. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

The primary activity Jesus wants his followers to focus on is to make disciples of all the nations-to invite, enroll, and encourage people from all of the nations to be followers of Jesus. Note what Jesus does not say here. He does not say to convert people from around the world to Christianity. He does not say to save the people of the world from hell and damnation. He does not say to offer the people of the world a ticket to get out of here with a ticket to heaven.

It is clear that Jesus is commanding his disciples to disciple the nations of the world-to make followers of Jesus around the world. Note that this is to be done right here, right now, on earth. To give his disciples the authority and power to do such a thing, Jesus says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." Jesus claims that he has complete authority over heaven and earth. How much? Jesus says, "All!" Now, since Jesus has all authority and we are followers of Jesus, we are able to operate within his authority. You see, Jesus is the King of the Kingdom we are seeking.

Jesus goes a little further to encourage us as followers. He says, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." So, while we, as his followers, are inviting others to become followers of Jesus, he, the one with all authority and power will be right here with us! He's not saying that he, from his heavenly position, will pray for us to do well. He is promising to be with us as we make disciples (followers) right here on earth. Note that Jesus is also not urging his followers to be looking and praying for his return in order to get bailed out of this earthly mess. On the contrary, he is urging his followers to be about the activity of introducing and inviting people everywhere into a relationship with Jesus, so they can be followers of Jesus, too. Where? Right here on earth!

Now, if Jesus is all about the making of disciples down here on earth, then in what context might we find the people we are to disciple? Do we have to become professional clergy to reach the non-religious? Do we have to become missionaries to go to foreign lands? If the making of disciples (followers) of Jesus were limited to the professionals, then not many disciples will be made.

In the mind and teaching of Jesus there are no professional clergy versus the laity in the Kingdom of God. All are equally responsible to walk with Jesus, to walk with other followers of Jesus, and to wait on Jesus to lead out. There is no professional disciple-maker. All of Jesus' followers are to make disciples of all the nations.

At times, Paul was a good example of this kind of thinking. Paul had a job that paid the bills. He was a tent-maker. He worked this job in order to be free to make disciples of all nations. Paul met a couple of other people in his profession. Check it out: After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers. And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Now, most of you have jobs or a profession-a way to make enough money to pay the bills. No matter what job you perform, that is considered a tent-maker job in the Kingdom of God. Some business or someone is paying you to do a certain job for them. In the Kingdom state of mind, you are to do this work as best you can. This job allows you to connect with others (colleagues, managers, and customers) and provides a platform for you to make disciples (followers) of Jesus. It allows you the opportunity to be Jesus in the marketplace. This is the context of the world, within which Jesus has placed you to be his presence-to be salt and light.

When a follower of Jesus gets this concept, he or she becomes a Kingdom man or a Kingdom woman-one who is living with a higher calling than just performing a job. The Kingdom man/woman is not at this position to preach or to demonstrate for Jesus, but to be a demonstration of the love and life of Jesus in touching others in the marketplace. This is truly the Kingdom state of mind at its best! This is the best position to be held on planet earth!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Jesus' primary teaching was the good news of the Kingdom. His challenge was to "Follow me!" and as people began to follow, the Jesus movement was launched.
The purpose of the movement is to do one of the most difficult things ever-to introduce Jesus to the world by demonstrating him to the world, by walking, talking, thinking, and loving like Jesus. You see, Jesus doesn't want you to demonstrate for him, but to be a demonstration of him-of his love and his peace.

Jesus launched a revolutionary movement. Are you participating in this movement-the orbiting (little-c) church movement Jesus founded-or are you still only a spectator in a big-C Church? You can do both and gain much out of your experience, but don't miss out on making the Jesus movement your priority right where you live. Jesus is already moving in the world around you. He's looking for you to join him there. This is what the Kingdom is all about. One couple with whom we walk has set up a study/fellowship evening at their home every Tuesday night. They have become convinced the most important aspect of this little gathering is that they are consistently there, no matter what, every Tuesday night. People come and go, but they know this home is open and welcoming to them on any Tuesday night. There's something refreshing in our world about consistency.

Another couple has spent their time and energy following Jesus' commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself. They have taken this neighborhood love to a whole new level. They don't preach to their neighbors. They don't invite them to a Church. They don't get caught up in the divisive gossip of the neighborhood. They do something entirely different. They have determined to be Jesus to their neighbors-live, think, love, listen, and talk like Jesus to their neighbors.

They have become loving neighbors in their community, and the members of this community are responding in positive ways. They listen to problems and concerns. They laugh with their neighbors and cry with them. In some ways, according to a Jesus standard, they act normally in their neighborhood with a lot of authentic, nonjudgmental love. We desperately need more "normal" neighbors, living life in the love of Jesus. This is what the Jesus movement is to be about. This is Kingdom living at its best!

The Jesus movement that orbits around the organized religious institutions and the community is not made up only of Christians. The Jesus movement includes a vast variety of people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. What holds this movement together is that each person, no matter his or her religious background, is a follower of Jesus. Each follower is walking through life with a Kingdom state of mind. In the well-known Garden of Eden story, Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God. They were all set-good jobs, lush place to live, great retirement benefits, and a personal relationship with God.

They were to fulfill three purposes: * Together they were to reflect the image of the Creator God. * They were to reproduce that image by filling the earth with children. * They were to reign together against evil to cultivate and guard the garden as co-rulers with God.

Both Eve and Adam made a fatal mistake, not only in failing God, but also in failing each other. They had only one prohibition that was set up by God. However one wants to characterize that prohibition and the subsequent encounter with the serpent that lured them into breaking the universal law set up by their Creator, they blew it! They blew it by not trusting their Creator God and by disobeying what he said.

What's interesting is that, by disobeying him, not only did they break the law but also the law broke them. They were expelled from the Garden with three consequences:

* They lost the Kingdom where they were co-rulers with their Creator. * They lost the personal relationship with the Creator God. * They lost the abiding presence of God's Spirit.

Ever since those losses, humankind has been desperately trying to recover. Every religion, philosophy, and political ideology is an attempt to fill that hole in the soul, where there is a deep yearning for fulfillment and joy. Each is an attempt to seek the Kingdom that was lost in the Garden, to seek to reestablish a personal relationship with the Creator, and to seek to restore the abiding presence of God.

Most every religion sets up a system (and often an obstacle course to make your way through) in order to get out of this painful place and get to Heaven, Nirvana, Eden, Shangri-La, Paradise, or the Promised Land. Every religious system is a well-meaning attempt with its own desires and standards. Christians are trying to be the best Christians, Buddhists the best Buddhists, and so on with Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and animists.

Since God created all peoples and is holding them together, eternity has been placed in everyone's heart. This is why people worldwide search for God. At the core of the search is this deep ache from the hole in the soul. Everyone is seeking the Kingdom, seeking that personal relationship with the Creator God, and seeking an abiding presence with God as in the beginning in the Garden of Eden.

But setting up ways to get out of here isn't the way of God; it's the way of humankind. Nor is it God's way to set up a system of dos and don'ts to avoid going to hell. It's interesting to note that there was no system set up in the Garden of Eden and no worship, but only a relationship with the Creator God, walking together in the Garden. This is why, after establishing a massive system of sacrifices and feasts, God says through the prophets, "I want compassion rather than your sacrifices." God wants a relationship. There is a simple distinction made between religion and relationship. Religion is humanity's best attempt to avoid going to hell. Relationship says, "I've already been to hell and don't want to go back!" A personal relationship with Jesus and his movement is living in the Kingdom right here right now!



I want to revisit the words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew and Luke and unpack the two universal problems you can get rid of, as you seek after the Kingdom of God.
In Matthew's record Jesus offers the seeking of the Kingdom of God as an alternative to worry. He says, "You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles (or the rest of the world) eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:31-34)

NOTE there are two ways of living your life. Let's designate these two ways as earthly-the way the rest of the world lives-and heavenly-the way Jesus urges his followers to live. You could say the earthly way is the kingdom of man on earth and the heavenly way is the way of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus clearly describes the earthly kingdom of man as being filled with two dynamics. One-the nations of the world without faith eagerly seek after temporal things, such as eating, drinking, and clothing. Two-they continually worry about what they will eat, what they will drink and what they will wear. The earthly kingdom of man focuses itself on this kind of stressing out; they spend their time worrying! Essentially, this is worrying about your life, literally your life's breath.

The Kingdom of God people of faith are given three instructions. One-know that God knows your needs and wants, so don't spend your time worrying about these things. Two-keep on seeking after the Kingdom of God and God will add these temporal things to your life. Three-don't worry about tomorrow either.
So, do you tend to spend your time worrying about the temporal things of life or about what's going to happen in your future? Jesus gives you the two step answer to your worries right here. Step #1-"Stop your worrying, because God cares more than you do about your needs!" Step #2-"Spend your time seeking after the Kingdom!" Focus your life and time on what it means for you to trust in Jesus enough to follow him. Focus your life and time on getting into that Kingdom state of mind we discussed yesterday. Look for the divine appointments God is setting up for you each day and do your best to show up!

There is a watching, waiting and worn-out world around you. They are in desperate need of answers and solutions that only Jesus can give them.
So, if you want to follow Jesus more closely and experience the Kingdom state of mind, (1) stop spending your time worrying about things the rest of the world is worrying about. (2) Keep on seeking after the Kingdom 24/7.

In Luke's record Jesus offers the seeking of the Kingdom of God as an alternative to living a life of worry and fear. Jesus says, "And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:29-32)

Jesus repeats the same theme by saying, "Do not keep on worrying." Then, Jesus warns of another problem that goes along with worry-FEAR. Jesus says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." Worry and fear are destructive bedfellows. Fear is the opposite of everything you are in your Creator, and therefore it has a negative effect on your mental and physical health. Fear is worry magnified.

My dad used to say to me, "There's no use putting up your umbrella, until it rains." I've also advised my friends, "Wait to worry!" Most things we worry about never, ever happen!

If you find yourself eagerly holding on to either or both of these, you are living an earthly life without the benefit of God and His Kingdom. Jesus prayed, "May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus' answer to your worries and fears is: That's no way to live, so stop it and seek after the Kingdom state of mind.

Monday, April 22, 2013



Even though we have wonderful beaches and terrific weather throughout the year in California, many of us get away from it all by going to one of the Hawaiian Islands. I'll never forget our first trip there. We were greeted at the airport with an immediate tropical breeze, our hosts placed a flowered lei around each of our necks, and all the way to the hotel we were told that Hawaii is the most beautiful place on earth-a place to become "unbuttoned" and hang loose. The entire experience was an Aloha state of mind!

My son-in-law and colleague, Jason, shared with me this week that this is precisely how we are to view the Kingdom. Instead of an Aloha state of mind, seeking the Kingdom can be the Kingdom state of mind. I love it!

What does it mean to have a Kingdom state of mind-to live the Kingdom lifestyle right here, right now? I can think of 5 descriptors. FIRST-In the Kingdom state of mind, you are not in control; Jesus is. When you enter the Kingdom of God, you sign over your personal kingdom to Jesus. You look to Jesus first for direction-for orders and opportunities. He's in charge and you are not!

SECOND-In the Kingdom state of mind, you are aware that Jesus (your new King) is actively at work all around you. He is not only working in and through you, Jesus is working with every person all around you. You see, Jesus is more concerned about you and the people around you than you are.

THIRD-In the Kingdom state of mind, you know Jesus wants you to re-present him to whomever you meet and wherever you go. This, in itself, is a revolutionary thought. This is why Jesus says to his early disciples: "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world." In the Kingdom state of mind, your very presence in a room is the presence of Jesus in that same room. People will sense it. Your touch will be the touch of Jesus. In the Kingdom state of mind, your light will shine as Jesus and people will be attracted to you. Your light counteracts the darkness in people's hearts and minds. People will be able to see Jesus in you!

FOUR-In the Kingdom state of mind, you don't have to go find people to help. People in need will either be sent to you or people will be brought up in your mind. All day long Jesus is setting up "divine appointments" for you. He is setting them up and is awaiting for you to show up.

FIVE-In the Kingdom state of mind, you know the world around you is watching, waiting, and worn-out. There is a watching world. They are keen to observe your lifestyle-your relationships, values and decisions. They are keen to watch how you love others or if you do. They are also watching what you do, when you are cursed by others. Will you come back with a curse or will you give a blessing instead? In the Kingdom state of mind, you look for opportunities to be a blessing-to do good for another, to affirm others, and to speak well of others-wherever you go. In the Kingdom state of mind, you are to be bent on being a good-finder-an agent of Good News-a personal agent of Jesus!

There is a waiting world all around you-waiting for their prayers to be answered-waiting for someone to care enough to come alongside to help them or comfort them or love them. In the Kingdom state of mind, you are the possible answer to their prayers.

There is also a worn-out world. These are the disenfranchised-the marginalized. They have given up on their dreams. These are the hopeless and maybe even homeless of our world. In the Kingdom state of mind, these are the very special people who are on the heart of Jesus.

I could go on and on describing the Kingdom state of mind. And, so can you! Do you see how the presence of the Kingdom right here right now is not only good news; it's the best news anyone can experience or spread. This is why Jesus' first words were announcing the presence of the Kingdom. This is why most of what Jesus taught was about the Kingdom. His teachings weren't about a list of do's and don'ts or a performance system, whereby you can accumulate points to impress God. Jesus taught that anyone can live in the Kingdom state of mind.

This is why Jesus says the Father has chosen to gladly give you, a Jesus follower, the Kingdom (Luke 12). This is why when Jesus began speaking in parables in Matthew 13, he said that "the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom is given to those" who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

I don't know what you're thinking, but I really want to be in the Kingdom state of mind every day possible. I love the Aloha state of mind, for sure, but I'm sticking with the Kingdom. I know this. If I seek first his Kingdom, I can experience Jesus, in the Kingdom state of mind.

Sunday, April 21, 2013



In the past couple of weeks we've been expanding on the first of the revolutionary talking points-the Person of Jesus. We are committed to lifting up Jesus, the revolutionary, in every way we can. We want to see Jesus and hear Jesus more clearly every day. We've been on this Jesus journey for about eight years and it's like a new adventure every day. The learning never stops; our learning curve has become a perpendicular line.
Now, don't miss the point here. This Jesus journey is not about learning a set of doctrines or embracing a systematic theology. It's not even learning to position ourselves as bond-slaves or servants of Jesus, as some teach today. The Jesus journey is all about knowing and relating to Jesus personally and daily. As Jesus shared with his early disciples, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." (John 15:15-16) Jesus wants us to walk with him and relate to him as friends. Now, that's not only good news; it's revolutionary news! When you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you will see Jesus as your friend. This is the proper response to Jesus' invitation to: "Come and see."

Once you see Jesus, the revolutionary, as your personal and best friend, you are naturally confronted with a decision to make. Do you believe in Jesus enough to follow him with your life?

Last week we examined what Jesus said about who will enter the Kingdom and who will not. This week I want to move on to the 2nd revolutionary talking point-the Presence of the Kingdom. Jesus' first words were to announce the presence of the Kingdom right here right now. He said it's near, here, and among y'all, yet Bible teachers continue to reframe the simplicity of what Jesus taught about the Kingdom. Jesus only mentioned "church" on two occasions and most of his teachings were about the Kingdom, yet Bible teachers and leaders continue to promote planting, building and growing churches in all cultures. Jesus didn't come to plant an organized system of Churches throughout the world; he came to launch a spontaneous movement of his followers that could penetrate every culture.

"Come and see" is an invitation to check him out. Jesus shifts gears as he teaches about the Kingdom. He shifts from an invitation to check him out to a challenge to "Come and follow". This is the decision each believer must make-to follow Jesus or not. Jesus is recorded saying, "follow me" 19 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. To decide to follow Jesus is a decision to live in the Kingdom of God-to live life on a new level.

Early on in Jesus' ministry he commanded those who were leaning in to follow him, to choose to seek the Kingdom of God, rather than to live in a state of worry and fear, as the rest of the world does. Let's take a look at what Jesus said. In Matthew's record Jesus offers the seeking of the Kingdom of God as an alternative to worry. He says, "You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:31-34)

In Luke's record Jesus offers the seeking of the Kingdom of God as an alternative to living a life of worry and fear. Jesus says, "And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:29-32)

Do you see the picture? Jesus describes two kingdoms-two ways of living life. One is what we might call the earthly kingdom and the other is the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of heaven. Remember this comparison of two kingdoms when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. In that prayer Jesus said, "May your kingdom come and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." This is why Jesus' first message was to announce that the Kingdom of God is near, here and among y'all. This is Jesus' primary message. King Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth for us to enjoy living on a new level of fullness and satisfaction. I believe Jesus, himself, is the good news, yet Jesus also refers to the Kingdom as the good news. Jesus' primary proclamation was the "gospel of the kingdom" throughout his teachings.

I love the words of Jesus here as expressed by The Message: "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself."

I want to unpack more of Jesus' insights into the Kingdom in the next few days. Essentially, there is an inseparable connection between Jesus and the Kingdom-the Person of Jesus and the Presence of the Kingdom. Jesus is the source of it all with all of his teachings, principles, and his life. Seeking the Kingdom is to seek to live out the teachings, principles and life of Jesus on this earth. Or, in other words, living out the teachings, principles and life of Jesus is in response to Jesus' revolutionary call: "Follow me!"

Tuesday, April 16, 2013



The fifth reference Jesus made concerning what it takes to enter or not enter the Kingdom of God has a couple of dimensions. Both of these dimensions here contain direct warnings toward the religious. The first dimension is in Matthew 21:32: Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."
Beware of being so religious and self-righteous. Jesus became most disturbed and angry with those who didn't see their need for God-those who thought they were right and righteous because of their beliefs and practices. In this dimension Jesus points out that those who see their need most are the ones who are actually entering the Kingdom right now ahead of the religious and the righteous. In fact, He is not just saying that the most despised tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom someday, but that they are entering right now!

The second dimension is in Matthew 23:13: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." Note the specifics of what Jesus is saying here. He is clearly saying that these religious leaders in positions of authority are not entering the Kingdom. He has made several observations at other times about the reasons why they will not enter the Kingdom, primarily the leading one is their religious pride-that they know it all and know they are right.

Now Jesus points out that these religious leaders who are not entering the Kingdom are also stopping others to enter by shutting the door of the Kingdom of heaven in their faces. How is this done? I think it's done by continually setting up certain restrictions and limitations on who can get in and who will not. I did this as a teenager. I had been taught that no one could come into a relationship with God, unless he goes down front at the altar call at the end of the service and confess Jesus publicly before men. Either you go down front at the altar call or "invitation" or you won't get into heaven. In many discussions with my good friends I made this clear to them and basically kept them from entering the Kingdom. The man-made "rule" or "requirement" I had embraced served to be a major barrier to my friends being attracted to Jesus.

Also, in much of my ministry over the years I shut the door of the Kingdom on many by sharing a chart regarding Jesus being either "liar, lunatic or Lord". I cleverly drew the chart and then made fun of anyone who tried to make up a different conclusion, other than liar, lunatic or Lord. I would say that many today see Jesus as just a good teacher or a great example and Jesus simply didn't leave this alternative to us. You must choose one or the other-liar, lunatic or Lord. Jesus was the Lord, the Son of God and there is no other alternative.

What I was missing was the simple and clear example of Jesus' early disciples. They didn't make the decision that Jesus was the Lord or the Son of God at first. They saw Him as a good example, great teacher and a great man of integrity-flawless in every way. They didn't see Him as the Lord or the Son of God, UNTIL sometime later. Then, Jesus asked them, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter said, "You are God's Messiah, the Son of God." Jesus strokes him for this answer, but points out that Peter didn't think this up on his own nor did he get it from any other person. God, the Father, gave him this insight and conviction.

Why? Because Peter and the others had been following Jesus over these years and God transformed their thinking and their hearts to see Jesus as the Son of God. In other words, for a person to see and accept Jesus as the Son of God, it will be an act of God that will bring about this result. It is not something you are taught by others. This is not my thinking, but the thinking of Jesus.

So, why should we shut people down for not believing Jesus is the Son of God right from the get-go? Why not let people follow Jesus at their own pace? And as they follow Jesus, God will change their hearts just as He did the disciples. This is how we shut the door of the Kingdom on well-meaning and interested people in Jesus. Do you see how easy it is to do?

By the way, missing this understanding of how a person's heart is transformed or "converted" causes a lot of problems. How haughty is it to think that anyone-Christian, minister or missionary-is able to "convert" or transform another person's heart. It is and must be a work of God.

Recently, a Buddhist friend, seeking to know Jesus and His teachings, decided to attend a bible study in her community. She went out and bought a bible to read and take with her to the study. When she showed up, she was initially welcomed and then was told that she had the "wrong" bible and she must go get a different one. At the Christian bookstore someone had suggested to her that she might enjoy starting out with "The Message". Now, this group of Christians essentially shut the door of the Kingdom in this young lady's face. I don't think Jesus is lifted up by this kind of thing and it certainly is not perpetuating the Jesus movement!

This fifth reference to entering and not entering the Kingdom boils down to this: 1. Those who don't have it together will enter the Kingdom first.

2. Those who think they have it together through what they know/believe and what they do may not enter the Kingdom at all.

3. And these religious "know-it-alls" tend to shut others out of the Kingdom, too.

Two things to beware of: FIRST-Don't deceive yourself into thinking that your belief system or your behavior will get you into the Kingdom.

SECOND-Don't divert others away from Jesus, because of your dogmatic belief system.

Be careful to follow Jesus and put your trust in Him and Him alone. He is the only way you'll ever get out of this world alive! That's why He said: "I am the way, the truth and the life."



The fourth reference Jesus makes concerning what it takes to enter the Kingdom of heaven has to do with the rich. Three of the Gospels record this one. The context for this Kingdom entrance principle is in relationship to a conversation Jesus had with a young, rich man. Let's listen in to this conversation: Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments." "Which ones?" he inquired. Jesus replied, " 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (NOTE that Jesus equates eternal life with entering life and then later in this passage he speaks of entering the Kingdom of God.)
The young man shockingly states: "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." By "perfect" Jesus means to be complete and whole in your search for life.

Then, note the man's final response to Jesus' words: When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus knew the man's heart and that he was holding on to his riches-his stuff-very tightly. In other words, his stuff had become his security, maybe even his god. For sure, his stuff had distracted this rich, young man away from filling up his heart with the ultimate desire to give it all up and follow Jesus.

Then, Jesus makes the following observation recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke: In Matthew 19:23-24: Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, in Mark 10:24-25: Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Then, again in Luke 18:24-25: 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Whether the image here truly is a camel or a rope going through the eye of a needle, the essence of what Jesus is saying is still the same. IT IS DIFFICULT FOR A RICH MAN TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD! The difficulty for the rich person is that he tends to trust in his riches for security and tends to think that people, places and things can make him happy or whole and complete.

Do you want to enter the Kingdom of God? If you are rich and have a lot of stuff, then hold on to that stuff "loosely", so that you are not trusting in your riches, but in God for a complete and full, eternal life.



All four Gospel writers record the third reference Jesus uses to show the way to be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 18:3: And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Then, again in Mark 10:15 Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke repeats Jesus' words from Mark: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Then, in the Gospel of John, in a very familiar interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus uses a little different metaphor to say the same thing. He says in John 3:5: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit." He goes on to say: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." Jesus is referring to being "born again" and means something different than what is normally believed. Being born again is not a salvation experience-a special faith event where a person passes from death to life. Being born again is just what it says. You are born all over again, so that you are like a little child again with all of the purity and simplicity of being this childlike person.

What does that mean to be childlike? A little child naturally trusts, knows very little, and is eager to mimic what he or she sees. In a very real sense, for an adult to become childlike is to be willing to unlearn and start over again with respect to what it means to follow Jesus and not remain dependent upon the religious system from which he or she originally came.

So, in the case of Nicodemus, who was probably the head of a rabbinical school, Jesus was challenging him to rethink his entire spiritual education-to start over and learn the ABC's of what it means to grow up spiritually into a personal relationship with God through His Messiah Jesus. Once a person turns from his ways and begins to act as a little child, then he is being born again.

A few weeks ago I had breakfast with a man who has rejected religion in the form of Christianity. As he says, "I just can't stand being approached by the 'born-againers' who keep trying to save me from going to hell." As we have been meeting together he is becoming fascinated with trying to understand who Jesus really is. He continually tells me he knows nothing and wants to learn this Jesus lifestyle and the basics. As we discussed what it means to be born again, I suddenly realized that my friend was in the process of being born again. He's becoming like a little child with respect to spiritual things.

Becoming as a little child with Jesus means the following: 1. You don't know everything.

2. All that you have been taught needs to be stripped away.

3. You want to learn all you can about this new life with Jesus.

4. In order to learn more about the ABC's of walking with Jesus, it's most helpful to watch Him carefully and mimic what you hear and see.

5. Learn to simply trust Jesus for your life-your strength, direction and future.
Adults think they know everything and have the ugly habit of trusting themselves. Children know they don't know everything and therefore gladly develop the beautiful habit of simply trusting.

Do you want to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Become like a little child!

Monday, April 15, 2013



The second reference Jesus makes concerning entering the Kingdom is most powerful. It's found at the close of His first seminar in Matthew 7:21: Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
The context is fascinating! In the next paragraph it's clear what's going on. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Jesus is referring to a group of apparent leaders or ministers who would naturally view themselves as believers, because of their actions. These "believers" are known for speaking in the name of Jesus, casting out demons in the name of Jesus and performing many miracles in Jesus' name. NOTE that Jesus rejects these so-called "believers" and says He doesn't even know them.

There is another group of "believers" mentioned in the New Testament who are not warmly known by Jesus either. These are the demons that believe and shudder. So, these false teachers, demons and those of us who call ourselves believers all have the same thing in common-belief. This shows us that it's not enough to just be a believer. There is something more. What makes the difference between these three groups of believers?

Jesus clarifies it here by saying "only those who do the will of my Father" will enter the Kingdom of heaven. No matter what you say or do in the name of Jesus the most critical issue is whether or not you are doing the will of the Father. What does He mean by "doing the will of the Father"? NOTE Jesus isn't focusing on something to believe, but to do the will of the Father.

In the next paragraph Jesus illustrates exactly what He means by "doing the will of My Father", when He says: Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

I think it's clear that Jesus is saying "doing the will of the Father" is hearing Jesus' words and practicing them. This is simply following Jesus! So, there is something more important and vital than being a "believer" in Jesus. It's being a follower of Jesus, which is doing the will of the Father.

Now there is a belief factor in following as well. You must believe in Jesus enough to follow Him-to hear His words and practice them. Jesus repeatedly reiterates this same thought. In the early chapters of Mark Jesus' mother and a couple of other family members came to see Him. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach a very important truth. He asks: "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

NOTE the similarity to doing the will of the Father? Jesus says: "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." We are considered the family of Jesus when we are doers of the will of God.

So, do you want to enter the Kingdom? Then, do the will of the Father-FOLLOW JESUS. Whatever Jesus does and says to do, just do it!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


John's Gospel uses the term "believe" in order to experience eternal life. The rest of the Gospels don't seem to make this an emphasis with a couple of exceptions, however all of the Gospels speak of "following" Jesus. Although Christians have boiled everything down to believe and you'll go to heaven and don't believe and you'll go to hell, Jesus' concern seems to revolve more around entering or not entering the Kingdom of heaven. And, entering the Kingdom seems to be an immediate experience, since the presence of the Kingdom is a present reality according to Jesus.

This week I want to cover all of the times Jesus refers to what we must do to enter or not enter into the Kingdom. To enter the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God may be the closest thing Jesus ever says about "getting into heaven". Jesus only uses the term "church" on two occasions. The emphasis of Jesus is on the Kingdom and how to enter it right now. Each of these references provides significant insight into what Jesus counts as most important in order to get into the Kingdom.

The first reference is found in Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5:20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. The requirement here seems really tough. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for their religious displays of righteousness.

Now, Jesus makes it clear that in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven your righteousness must SURPASS that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. With all that Jesus teaches from here on out I think what He means by surpass is to go beyond their levels of righteousness. To be more specific, I think what He requires is for righteousness to be INTERNAL with an emphasis on the heart rather than the EXTERNAL emphasis of the legalistic, letter of the law of the Pharisees. Their emphasis was to look good-to look and act religious and holy-to be seen by others as righteous. Jesus wants us to surpass that kind of righteousness by going internal or going deeper.

Three observations that come to mind here for me: 1. God looks on the heart; man looks on the outward appearance. So, if you want to please God, then pay attention to your heart's response to Him.

2. After developing a full sacrificial system, the Lord tells His people that He doesn't want their sacrifices any longer, but wants their heart of compassion.

3. Jesus wants us to first be people of the heart where we are allowing Him to relate to us in a most personal and private way. All external actions should naturally flow out of that transformed heart. To Jesus, nothing else matters-nothing is more important.

Matt Redman wrote a terrific song entitled, "A Heart of Worship". When I think of what it is that Jesus really wants from us I think of the words of this song. The first verse goes:
When the music fades All is stripped away And I simply come Longing just to bring Something that's of worth That will bless Your heart.
The song continues with: I'll bring You more than a song For a song in itself Is not what You have required You search much deeper within Through the way things appear You're looking into my heart.

Then he concludes with the chorus: I'm coming back to the heart of worship And it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it When it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus.

Let me tell you how to enter the Kingdom according to Jesus. Focus your heart on a personal relationship with Jesus and make it your business to follow after Him. And, don't allow yourself to be caught up in the religiosity of following a list or system of do's and don'ts, thinking that you are impressing God while you are impressing others. Jesus makes it clear here that He is not impressed with this kind of thing, so don't you be!

If I have a choice as to whose word I'm going to accept as the ultimate truth-some bible teacher or Jesus, I'm going to choose Jesus' word every time. How about you?


Thursday, April 11, 2013



In Luke 11:37-54 the increasing spirit of confrontation comes to a head when Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to dinner. When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.  
Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you-be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it."
One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 

Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."
When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.

I recently came across the writings of Donald Williams on the net and he opened to me three universal problems of the religious leaders Jesus was facing and it's still with us today.
The FIRST problem is formalism-a commitment to outward forms-rituals, practices, creeds, type of worship, believing that these forms are key to true piety and make you acceptable to God. These forms aren't bad in themselves, but there can be a tendency toward an external focus rather than what flows out of the heart. Jesus points out their excessive emphasis on washings and cleansings. He has already provoked this part of formalism by not following through on the ceremonial washing as He entered the house. The Pharisee gloried in his washings as one of the most important evidence of being so self-righteous.

Jesus offers two answers when the Pharisee questioned Him on not washing. The first was the parable of cup. Pharisees were so careful to wash the outside of the cup, but the leave the inside filthy. In other words, all that really matters is how someone looks. The second thing Jesus does is to fire away with some sarcasm. He says your fathers killed the prophets and you build the tombs. In other words, you are complicit in the process of even making the death of the prophets look good on the outside. Formalism is just too shallow to amount to anything genuinely spiritual.
The SECOND problem is legalism-Legalism is not just a strict stance on the Law. Legalism believes that by keeping a list of do's and don'ts you will be able to earn God's acceptance and salvation. The focus here is keeping whatever set of rules you have adopted and that devotion to keeping the rules becomes the empty activity, again proceeding without the heart for it. Jesus pokes fun at their practices of tithing. They took tithing to the point where they would go through their spice rack and carefully measure out a tenth of each jar-while ignoring the more significant matters of the Law, such as love. This practice became "burdensome"

You see, Pharisees are hypocrites. But they were hypocrites, not only in the sense of talking one thing and doing another. They were hypocrites, because they were "hyper-critical"-knit-pickers, feather-pluckers. The Sabbath also became a badge of legalistic righteousness. The practice of keeping the Sabbath also became an empty ritual or, in this case, Law that must be kept to the nth degree no matter what. So, legalists do things because they "have to", not because they "want to."
The THIRD problem is clericalism-Clericalism is the wrong kind of dependence on the position of clergy. Within clericalism there are two classes of people-first class and coach. First class believers are the clergy-those who are in the professional ministry. It's the tendency to put clergy up on a pedestal above everyone else in the body of Christ.

When a person is in the hospital, get the pastor. Call the priest immediately. When someone needs prayer, we must wait for the pastor. I strongly disagree with this thinking. When a clergyman prays over someone, he puts his empty hands on a person's empty head and prays for God to come through on his behalf. Anyone can do that.

Formalism, legalism and clericalism are all very much alive among us and act as dangerous cancers in our fellowships. Jesus was totally upset by those who seek the best seats of honor in the synagogues. He was livid over the fact that these pseudo-leaders took the key to knowing God and His ways as if they were the gate-keepers of faith. Yet, these same gate-keepers have never gone into a full faith relationship themselves while hindering others in the process.

For many years I've been saying, "We don't need more ministers. We need more people ministering." Lord, deliver us from thinking we're something when we're not, from following a man-made list of do's and don'ts and from the pompous spirit of clericalism. Lord, deliver us from our tendency to be drawn to any of these Pharisaical practices that are empty and destructive. Lord Jesus, deliver us from ourselves.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Did Jesus have a theology? If so, I want to embrace it. If Jesus has a basic theology, then there is no need to create something new, risking the tainting of a man-made system. Let's check it out!
Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of Christian faith and beliefs. Theologies, creeds, belief systems and doctrines are typically limited by context and timing. They are drawn up by a few who desire to bring about some unity and agreement with one another at a certain point in time. But since they are interpreted by a group of men at a point in time, they are not universal and applicable throughout the ages for the many diverse cultures.

Therefore, most every systematic theology, not only has a limited effect; it has a built-in divisiveness. This is counter to the intent of Jesus as we read his prayer to the Father. Three times in this prayer recorded in the 17th chapter of John, Jesus prayed that all of his followers might be one. He prayed that we might be united as one.

I was taught that there is a danger in the church of Jesus becoming one. I was warned that this kind of unity in the world would be participating in the building of the one world church that Satan will take over at the end of the age. Any talk of worldwide unity or that four-letter word, ecumenical, was just outright rejected.

With this built-in fear of worldwide unity, it was always difficult to understand Jesus' prayer for oneness. Then, I was introduced to Augustine's attempt to resolve differences between believers in the late 4th-early 5th Centuries. He put it this way: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love). I loved this, but it doesn't solve the problem of division. The problem is that we all will find disagreement right from the start in what are the essentials. In my experience, once you have more than one essential, you will have disagreement.

As we draw closer to understanding Jesus, the revolutionary, it's becoming clearer that Jesus does have a theology. It's simple, powerful and anyone can follow it! There are three occasions when Jesus talks about the most important commandment ever given to man. What's interesting is Jesus is unable to give just one commandment, but consistently shares two as equally important. Let's examine each instance.

Matthew records the first: "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' and He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus sums up with an astounding observation about these two commandments: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." You just don't get any better than this. Jesus is saying these two inseparable commandments are the foundation-the underpinning-of the entire Law and the Prophets. The Law and the Prophets amount to the whole truth God has given. It's all about loving God and loving your neighbor! Do you see Jesus' theology coming together?

Mark records the second instance: "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, Oh Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.' The scribe said to Him, 'Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'"(Mark 12:29-34)

Note the summary response Jesus makes in this instance: When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." In other words, if you embrace these two commandments, you are practicing the very things that bring you near to the presence of God-the Kingdom of God!

Luke records the third instance: And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:25-28)

So, if you get into loving God and loving your neighbor, you are at the core of all God's truth and you are near to the Kingdom of God. Now, Jesus adds one more observation: And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; Do this and you will live." This time Jesus says if you embrace these two commandments, you will know what it means to really live!

Just as Jesus lived His life in a loving relationship with the Creator God He called His Father, so are you as a follower of Jesus to do the same. Neither of these two commands was even listed among the 10 Commandments. It's because this is way more important than even God's big 10.

Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself is the bottom-line theme of Jesus' message. I believe this is the heart of the theology of Jesus. You can't do anything worthwhile, until you are operating with these two dimensions in your life. To think that anything else is more important than what Jesus says is the most important commandment is to miss the point of the love of God through Jesus. Why would anyone want something more than the theology of Jesus?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013



Now here is a revolutionary thought about the person of Jesus. Jesus is all-inclusive! Jesus made it a habit of reaching out to people from all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds. Note just a few illustrations of how the approach of Jesus and his disciples was all-inclusive. This was really GOOD NEWS!  
The woman at the well-John 4:12: The woman at the well was a Samaritan with very different beliefs regarding the center of worship. He left her with cultural beliefs intact, except that He trumped the center of worship by saying that someday the center of worship will not be in a given location, but in your heart. Jesus was not promoting a new religion; he was offering a personal relationship with God. This personal relationship would transform both her religion and the Hebrew religion. When Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman, He didn't make certain to warn her of her false beliefs and be sure to change the mountain where she worshipped. There was no renunciation of her false doctrines.
The Syrophoenician woman-Mark 7:26: She was a gentile from a godless culture. Her faith was evident in her persistent conversation with Jesus about her daughter. Jesus honored her faith, however He didn't pull her into a new religious system or study class, nor did He have her renounce her cultural upbringing. The presence of Jesus will change a person from the inside out to be like Jesus. God's presence will convict their hearts in His time of what needs to be changed in their personal and cultural ways; not us!
The trip to Gennesaret-Mark 6:45-7:23: Do you notice how many times the Gospel writers refer to going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? Whenever they were on the Jewish side, they crossed over to the other side. Why? Jesus performed the same works among the gentile world. He never urged them to change their religious culture, but let them remain right where they grew up. However, they were drawn to Him.
The Roman Centurion-Matthew 8:5: No doubt the Roman Centurion grew up with the Roman gods, yet Jesus does not speak to this at all. His concern was his faith. When Jesus declared the Roman official's faith as outstanding, even greater than He had seen among the house of Israel, Jesus didn't tell this man to make sure to repent and renounce the many Roman deities or his great faith would be for naught. Further in the scene in the healing of the Roman Centurion's servant, Jesus says: "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." These are non-Jews or, in our vernacular, non-Christians.
"Other sheep"-John 10:16: Jesus mentions "other sheep" that are His. Who are these other sheep? Could it be that they are from the various cultures of the world? Could they be those spoken of in Romans 2:14-15 and 1 John 4:7?
The first Gentile followers of Jesus-Acts 15:1-29: The first followers of Jesus were all Jews. When the first gentiles (everyone else) came to Jesus, some religious Jews insisted that all followers of Jesus must become cultural Jews. The apostles clearly decided against this. All people could be Followers of Jesus without changing their culture.
Peter's experience with the non-Jews--Acts 10: After Peter was supernaturally led to the house of Cornelius by a radical vision from God, he told them: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." Now, that's revolutionary talk and threatening to those who have life all figured out in their theological boxes. Jesus works outside our theological boxes.
Paul's message in Athens-Acts 17: "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." God made the nations-all nations-in such a way so that all men might seek and find God.

When Paul spoke before the Gentile audience in Athens, he didn't quote Scripture, didn't use Jesus' name at first, stroked them for their many idols of worship and proceeded to explain to them who this UNKNOWN GOD is that they commemorated. He didn't call for the renunciation of these "gods" and he used their "heathen" poems to explain what God is like (Acts 17:28), yet many believed in Jesus that day. What's that all about? I don't know many with this kind of approach.
Every tribe and tongue and people and nation-Revelation 5:9: Jesus came to reach all of these, not by exporting any given tribe, tongue, people or nation, but from within each of these faith in Jesus naturally emerges. Since the Creator-God is the source of all people, He has already marked all of these people groups. The word translated as "nations" is actually ethnos in the Greek. This is where we get the word "ethnic" from; in other words, there will be every cultural group with Jesus.

Jesus encountered people from other cultures and openly and freely gave them salvation. He didn't require them to become a Jew (or a Christian), because to Jesus it's all about a personal relationship with Him.

I believe and see it more clearly than ever Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth and the life." I'm seeing how Jesus is the way for everyone, everywhere! Christianity isn't the way! The Church isn't the way! Jesus is! Jesus is not narrow and exclusive so that He can fit into anyone's box. Jesus is all-inclusive and will work with anyone! Jesus is the GOOD NEWS!

Monday, April 08, 2013



In a revolution there is always conflict, disagreements, choosing up sides, and a variety of adversarial moves to thwart the revolutionary movement that threatens to break-up or pull down the establishment. The spiritual revolution of Jesus is no exception. So far, in this intense Jesus journey, we have encountered 4 revolutionary talking points that on the surface seem to be simple truths, yet can be very threatening to the people of the establishment. By the way, these are the 4 primary themes I've been blogging about for 7 years.
Today, I want to offer a brief overview of the 4 and then take the next few days to unpack each one a little more.
Talking Point #1-PERSON OF JESUS. Since Christianity claims Jesus as its Founder, you would think that lifting Jesus up would be welcomed. Although we receive positive responses every day as we speak of simply Jesus or Jesus plus nothing, there is a significant resistance to this simplicity.

It is so common to add good things on to Jesus with good intentions. These additives diminish the primacy of Jesus-the name above all names. This kind of thing begs the question: "Is Jesus alone enough for you or do you need something else to make your relationship with God satisfactory?"

Jesus, the revolutionary, didn't come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. He said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Think of the Jewish Law and the Prophets as an empty container. Jesus came to fill it up or fill it full-to give that container meaning. In the same way, Jesus came to give life more meaning and fullness to the nations of the world. This is the "good news" Jesus came to offer to the world, yet faced major resistance, even to the point of death.

Jesus, the revolutionary, came to fill up the Jewish container-to rearticulate what it means to be the chosen people. A major dimension of being the chosen people was to be a blessing to the non-Jews-to all of the other nations of the world. Since the Jewish people of the first century were guilty of neglect in being a blessing to the nations of the world-to the non-Jews, they were highly defensive and reactionary against Jesus for bringing it up. At one point, they took Jesus out of the synagogue in Nazareth and attempted to throw him off a cliff.

Now, don't miss this! The religious Jews rejected the good news Jesus came to offer to the Jews and through them to the nations of the world. In fact, I believe the person of Jesus is the good news. Notice Jesus said, "Follow me!", because this spiritual walk and relationship is personal. They rejected Jesus who is the embodiment of the good news.

Jesus warned his followers (that would include us) that they would be hated and persecuted by the world in the same way he was hated and persecuted. What's most interesting is to note the identification of this "world". Jesus says the world will make you outcasts from the synagogue and when they take a stand against you, they will feel they are doing a special service to God. You see, the "world" Jesus is talking about is the religious community. As we do our best to follow Jesus, we get very little resistance from the non-believer world. We get more persecution and resistance from the synagogue (the Church) and its leadership than from those who don't yet know Jesus. This happens as you walk in the steps of Jesus, the revolutionary.

In the days ahead I will articulate how the person of Jesus alone is a definite threat to the religious establishment of our generation as it was with Jesus in the first century.
Talking Point#2-PRESENCE OF THE KINGDOM. Jesus' first words were to announce the presence of the Kingdom right here right now. He said it's near, here and among y'all, yet Bible teachers continue to reframe the simplicity of what Jesus taught about the Kingdom. Jesus only mentioned "church" on two occasions and most of his teachings were about the Kingdom, yet Bible teachers and leaders continue to promote planting, building and growing churches in all cultures. Jesus didn't come to plant an organized system of Churches throughout the world; he came to launch a spontaneous movement of his followers that could penetrate every culture.

For some reason this is a revolutionary and radical thought within the religious establishment. I think it's because it threatens so much of the infrastructure of the many organizations being established. In the next few days we'll examine these threats as we see how they compare with Jesus and his teachings.
Talking Point #3-PARTNERSHIP OF FELLOWSHIP. Jesus was quite clear in his teachings and his personal example that each follower must be connected to a few other followers. This dynamic involves doing life together in a partnership within an interactive fellowship. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then it is imperative that you are not to live your life alone, but in tandem with a few others. Being only a spectator at religious services or classes just won't cut it. This is one of the most powerful revolutionary talking points of all.
Talking Point #4-PROCESS OF DISCIPLESHIP. Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of all nations. He didn't command them to go, to baptize, to teach or to convert all nations. Discipleship may be the most neglected and misunderstood revolutionary talking point of all. Even though there are hundreds of mega-Churches around the US, there is little impact upon our society. Discipleship is the only answer and yet true discipleship rubs against the grain of most religious organizations and strategies. It's just too difficult to make disciples; it's much easier to move people to make decisions and count them among the committed.

As I see it, these are the 4 primary revolutionary, talking points within the Jesus movement. Get a handle on these and you'll find yourself walking with Jesus more closely every day. Run away from these talking points and you'll find yourself walking away from Jesus and his teachings. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013



Jesus was a revolutionary in the sense that He introduced new ideas, new thoughts and ways of doing things, and upset the establishment. He was a spiritual revolutionary. Take a thesaurus or dictionary and unpack what it means to be a revolutionary. A revolutionary is radical in that he takes you to the roots-the bottom-line-back to the foundational core of ideas and thinking. A revolutionary is groundbreaking-an activist-sometimes world shattering. A revolutionary is innovative, progressive, sometimes rebellious, new and different.
Jesus was all of these and more! This is precisely why he was a threat to the establishment. The establishment has everything figured out, packaged neatly, and is comfortable with its thinking and its traditions. Anything new and different can be a threat.

Just the thought of a revolutionary is unnerving to some people. Years ago my friend, Keith, and I were flying to DC to attend some meetings. We had been discussing several new ideas about Jesus and the Jesus movement and we were becoming more and more enthused as we progressed in our thinking. One of us said. "This is revolutionary! What we are talking about is a revolution!" A lady seated in our row on the plane, who hadn't spoken a word throughout the flight, turned to us and compassionately pleaded with us, "Oh, don't use that word. No, don't use the word revolution. It's filled with too many explosives." She was extremely uncomfortable with us even using the term "revolution" and to speak of Jesus and revolution in the same sentence was anathema to her.

In the 5th chapter of Luke Jesus did and said several things that immediately moves him in the category of a revolutionary. Let's briefly check out five of them here. FIRST-While Jesus was teaching on the shore of Sea of Galilee, the crowds were growing so much so that he actually climbed in a fishing boat to continue his teaching from that vantage point. Now that wasn't revolutionary. It was just a smart thing to do. When his teaching was over, he observed the fishermen washing their nets after fishing all night without a catch. Jesus urged them to take the boat out into the deep and cast their nets. They complained that they knew their business and there were no fish out there all night long. He persisted; these seasoned fishermen cast their nets and caught more than a boatload of fish, needing help from the others to haul them in. This new rabbi who had recently come on the scene proved that he was better at their profession than they were. What a shocker!

SECOND-While he had their full attention, Jesus told them that catching fish was nothing compared to what he could see for them-to become fishers of men. Jesus reached out to a group of young boys who were uneducated and untrained in religious matters-a family of fishermen-and they left everything in order to follow Jesus. This was unheard of! No rabbi would choose a group of men such as these common workers with the idea of making a spiritual difference in the world. Jesus was picking his revolutionary team from a group of teenagers-from the junior varsity-to change the world.

THIRD-In a nearby city in the Galilee area a leper, seeking healing from Jesus, approached Jesus. Jesus didn't walk away as was the custom and required by the law; Jesus touched the leper with a healing touch. The leper was miraculously healed and therefore now a clean man. Now that was revolutionary!

FOURTH-A paralytic was brought to Jesus so that he might heal him. His friends went to so much trouble to get their crippled friend in front of Jesus by lowering him through the roof of the house. It was obvious what the need was and why the paralytic was brought to Jesus. He needed physical healing. Instead of healing his paralysis-his physical problem, Jesus drilled down into his soul and forgave him of his sins-his spiritual problem. Talk about an act of revolution! Jesus, knowing the new and different approach he had taken said, "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,"-He said to the paralytic-"I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26 They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today." They had seen a revolutionary at work!

FIFTH-Jesus, the new rabbi in town, approached the hated tax collector, Matthew, and made an offer to him. Jesus said, "Follow Me." The very words spoke complete acceptance of Matthew as being approved-good enough-to follow the new rabbi-the goal of most young Jewish students. Matthew had never been viewed by any rabbi as acceptable and good enough to follow in the rabbi's steps, until now. Matthew was so thrilled that he threw a party with all of his "sinner", non-religious, friends.

These were all revolutionary actions by Jesus. yet now Jesus introduces a vivid image of how he viewed his revolutionary teachings. When Jesus is questioned about his unorthodox actions and non-traditional practices, he uses a fascinating image to explain himself and his thinking that motivates how he lives. The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples. Jesus says, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins."

Jesus, the revolutionary, envisions his teachings and movement of followers as "new wine" and all other traditional establishment forms as "old wineskins". He warns that the new wine-his new way of thinking and even his new followers will, by their very nature, be unable to contain the new wine. In other words, Jesus' 'new wine' movement is so new and different-so revolutionary-that the traditional, man-made structures cannot contain the movement. In the next few days, I want to outline the four primary talking points of the Jesus revolution that is going on right now close to where you live. You see, the revolution of Jesus, the revolutionary, is still on today! Your job, should you accept it, is to see it and join it!