Sunday, March 31, 2013



Although local religious establishments may come and go, the church or movement of Jesus-the gathering of His followers that He builds-will continue and thrive. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."
The "gates of Hades" means death, specifically the coming death of Jesus will not prevent the church or movement of Jesus from growing and thriving. The church of Jesus is built by Jesus and based on Jesus, the master of the followers who gather in His name. Jesus holds His movement together and will perpetuate it throughout the nations of the world. He is building His church and our responsibility is to be His church-His gathering-His movement.

What's interesting to me here is that the active agent is not the gates of Hades. It's not that the "gates of Hades" is the attacker of the church that Jesus builds. The active agent here is the church of Jesus-the Jesus movement itself-is so active and powerful that not even the gates of Hades-the power of death-can successfully withstand its penetration of light into the darkness.

This kind of power is not political power to legislate morality and righteousness. It's not a mega organization of any kind. Jesus is the only one who can activate this kind of power. He is the one who is able to empower His followers as they gather together in His name-Jesus. Note it's not the power of the membership of followers; it's the power of Jesus living and moving in and through His faithful followers.

The Jesus movement may appear small-just a few gathered together, but it's within the power of the few that the church of Jesus finds its greatest growth. Jesus taught this when He was describing what the Kingdom is to look like.

Matthew records this teaching in the 13th chapter, He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." So, it looks small, yet the Kingdom-the Jesus movement-the church of Jesus-will experience incredible growth. It can't be stopped!

Jesus goes on to say in this same setting, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." Here Jesus uses the illustration of a woman who puts a little yeast into about 60 pounds of dough and it permeates throughout the entire dough. No matter what you do, you cannot reverse this process. You cannot remove the yeast, once it is introduced into the dough. What He is teaching here is that the Kingdom-the Jesus movement-the church of Jesus-will experience irreversible growth. Again, once the Jesus movement is introduced into a community, it can't be stopped from spreading!

Within that same context of parables Jesus speaks of sowing seed on a variety of soils. The good soil is representative of a heart that has ears to hear and eyes to see. The good soil brings forth massive amounts of fruitfulness-some thirty, some sixty and some one hundred fold! What this says to me is that your focus on Jesus-making Jesus central to every dimension of your life-will naturally produce great fruitfulness in all you do.

Jesus speaks to this progressive increase in fruit when He uses the metaphor of the Vine and the branches. Jesus refers to those who have no fruit, then those who have fruit, then more fruit and much fruit. The whole dynamic of fruitfulness is directly correlated to your focus on your relationship with Jesus-whether you are abiding in Him or not.

All of these images-the mustard seed's incredible growth, the irreversible growth of the leaven, the highly productive nature of seeds planted in good soil and the "much fruit"-have to do with the spreading of the good news message of Jesus and the Kingdom. After Jesus spends His last forty days with His disciples to prove Himself to them and to teach them the principles of the Kingdom, He promises the coming of His Spirit to give them power. This power coincides with the spread of the good news message of Jesus and the Kingdom. He says, "When the Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power to be witnesses of Jesus in Jerusalem (local), Judea (a little further out), Samaria (to the most unlikely people in your world) and to the uttermost parts of the world (around the globe).

I had a fascinating meeting today with a brother, Vip Patel. Vip has a vision for introducing people to Jesus throughout the world-especially to the non-religious, atheistic parts of the world. He calls this action "making Jesus central to your life." Making Jesus central to your life has a natural built-in viral dynamic within it. If you are making Jesus central in your life, you will naturally want everyone, everywhere to know Jesus, too. This Jesus is just too incredible not to want to share it with the whole world! It's like the early disciples who said, "We can't stop talking about what we have seen and heard." We can quibble over the many differences within the religious groups of our world, but there is a huge number of people who have no thought of who Jesus is and have never even heard His name. Vip's passion in life is to introduce everyone, everywhere to Jesus and he is doing just that through his website:

There's no stopping the spread of the church or movement of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is on the move everywhere. So, whether you are attending a local religious establishment or not, always look for the Jesus movement in your community. You can be sure He is there and active in people's lives. So, pray that you will be aware of Jesus sightings around you, then do everything you can do to encourage the movement and embrace it for yourself. See what Jesus is doing and get there as soon as possible!

Thursday, March 28, 2013



As I mentioned yesterday Jesus only mentions the term "church" on two occasions. The "church" was not even close to the primary theme of Jesus' teachings. Jesus had a much bigger idea. What Jesus emphasized more than anything else was the Kingdom.
The parables Jesus taught were about the Kingdom. Frequently, Jesus referred to what it takes to "enter" the Kingdom and He takes pains to point out those who will not "enter". Jesus believed it was necessary to hang out with His disciples after His resurrection for 40 days to prove Himself as the resurrected one and He taught them during this time thoroughly about one thing-the Kingdom. This is recorded in the first chapter of Acts. Then, in the last chapter of Acts Paul spends two years teaching and conversing about two things with those who came to visit him in Rome-Jesus and the Kingdom.

The Kingdom is the rule of God on planet earth both personally and in community. The church is a simple gathering together of Kingdom kids. Remember, the term "church" is not a special or holy word as many believe and teach. It literally means "called out ones" and was used to describe city council meetings or any kind of assembly where people are called out to meet for a purpose. It simply is a gathering of followers of Jesus. This church or gathering or assembly can exist within any religious culture. I know of a gathering of Jesus followers who meet in a Mosque to pray and study the teachings and principles of Jesus. What makes the gathering significant is the purpose for gathering, assembling or churching.

The simple gathering of followers of Jesus on any day and at any location is a church. These gatherings revolve around four ingredients-fellowship, food, prayer and the apostles' teachings. The only one of these ingredients that might throw you a bit might be the apostles' teachings. We see this as what had been passed on through the early disciples about Jesus and the Kingdom. They're His teachings.

So, since the kingdom is the rule and presence of God on planet earth, you could also think of it as wherever the King is, there is the Kingdom. The King and the Kingdom are inseparable. Therefore a good way to view the Kingdom is Christ-likeness universalized. Or, I like to say the Kingdom is Jesus actualized! The Kingdom is living out the principles and teachings of Jesus together.

The Kingdom is universal and everywhere. The church is a local gathering of followers of Jesus who are seeking, sharing in and spreading the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom. The Kingdom is everywhere and unlimited in its impact on society. The Kingdom is not waiting for a local gathering to be established in order to have its effect. The Kingdom is already there in every country and in every culture.

Now, take the same three characteristics of the preeminent Jesus we discussed and apply them to the Kingdom today-where the King is: FIRST-The example of character. The Kingdom is the only moral authority with any kind of power to change society. The facts are that the big C Church, Mosque, Temple or Synagogue are not capable of it. The organized Church, Mosque, Temple or Synagogue change from time to time. Sometimes it is effective in the community and sometimes it's not. Leaders are morally good and leaders become morally flawed. So, at any given time, these local religious gathering places will not be able to deliver a moral authority to the community. The Kingdom is constant. It's power and effectiveness depend upon its leader-Jesus. Therefore living in the Kingdom and inviting others to share in it is the only solution to transforming a broken culture.

SECOND-Jesus' teachings lead to fulfillment and meaning. Jesus is the ultimate standard and the Kingdom is the lifestyle of living this out in society. The lifestyle of Kingdom living is where ultimate fulfillment and meaning reside. They are the laws of the universe. You cannot break the laws of the Kingdom, but they can break you. For instance, one of the laws of the Kingdom is to forgive those who have hurt you. If you refuse to live out this Kingdom principle, you will pay dearly for it. You will be bound by your lack of forgiveness. You will be eaten up with this unforgiving heart. By breaking the principle, you are broken. When living within the Kingdom, you are safe and free and most fulfilled.

THIRD-The presence of God. Where better to discover a personal relationship with the God of gods than where He lives in His Kingdom. Most people only go to local religious establishments for special holy days in their religious calendar. It's been said that most go for baptisms, marriages, and funerals-only to be hatched, matched and dispatched. As followers of Jesus, we are to practice the presence of the Kingdom, the church (a gathering of followers), going to the people in our world rather than always inviting the world to come to us. With this kind of practice our culture will be changed.

Here's how it works. FOLLOW THE KING AND YOU'LL DISCOVER THE KINGDOM; EMBRACE THE KINGDOM LIFESTYLE AND YOU'LL DISCOVER THE KING AS YOU GATHER TOGETHER IN THE NAME OF JESUS. The church of Jesus-the Jesus movement-is living out the Kingdom principles in society wherever you are.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013



Since Jesus has been so universally and narrowly identified with Western Christianity, I have found it vital to lift up Jesus out of the Christian box. When Jesus is lifted up out of this box, then all of the religious and non-religious people of the world are welcome to Him. In our experience, when Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians and agnostics are able to reframe Jesus high and lifted up above all others and without any religious baggage attached, there is a freedom to genuinely check Him out and follow Him.
Separating Jesus from being owned by any particular religious system seems to be the most important truth that I share. I get more positive responses to this than anything else. Since Jesus was born into the Jewish culture, it might be possible for the Jews to claim Him for themselves, and some do. Since Jesus is the only prophet Mohammad raised up as supernatural, the only one referred to as the "word of God" seven times, the only one born of a virgin, the only one identified as the "clear sign of God" and the only one who is still alive and coming back to earth again, Muslims might be tempted to say that they own Jesus for themselves, and some do. Since the most prominent Hindu leader, Gandhi, held up Jesus as the most holy and complete man who ever lived, Hindus might tend to claim the ways of Jesus as their own, and some do. Since the leader of the Buddhist world, the Dalai Lama, holds up Jesus higher than himself and reveres Jesus in his teachings and writings, Buddhists might claim to be following the ways of Jesus, and some do. Since Jesus has been so closely identified to Christians, it is so easy for Christians to believe that they own Him for themselves, and some do.

But here's the truth. No religious system or culture owns Jesus exclusively. None. The name of Jesus is above all names. And, if Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men to Him.

What's most encouraging to me is when I meet with a Christian pastor, a Muslim Imam or Sheik, a Buddhist or Hindu monk or nun, or a Jewish Rabbi, their response to my personal story of the spiritual journey I've been on is most often very positive. It's the same with all of them. The simplicity of Jesus is so irresistible and refreshing, IF Jesus only belongs to the God of gods.

Growing up in a very strict religious community with all of its legalistic lists to follow in order to keep God happy, to make certain of heaven and to avoid going to hell, I always felt the heaviness of the religious system. It didn't make sense in so many ways that God would be harsh and demanding to those of us who were brought up on "Jesus loves me". I always felt there must be something more to a relationship with God. Then, in graduate school I came to understand the freedom we all have been given in Jesus. This freedom blew my mind. I was free!

It was through this understanding that I entered into one of the great struggles of my life. Still trying to shed the feelings of guilt from my legalistic past and trying to understand who I was in this new-found relationship with God, I discovered that God made me and wanted me to be exactly who I am with all my weirdness. I felt so "out of place" in the ministry as I compared myself with others-so out of step with the norm. And on a very late-night walk in the snow in Washington DC I had an emotional conversation with God and found the freedom I needed just to be uniquely who God made me. From that day forward I have been on a journey to relate to God "personally" and uniquely.

Several years ago Jesus apprehended my heart in a fresh way and poised me toward taking this same "Jesus plus nothing" message into the 7 major cultures of the world. The more I pondered how to relate Jesus to the cultures of the world, the clearer picture I was given of Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life-so much more so than I ever thought! Jesus is preeminent.

The attraction of Jesus is His simplicity-Jesus plus nothing. Jesus, simply Jesus, is the foundation of the church or gathering He intended to launch. We tend to complicate Jesus too much. We throw up all sorts of obstacles for people. The better approach is to advance the conversation of Jesus so that people can get to know who this Jesus really is. He's not the scary, weird, otherworldly man you often see in movies. Jesus is for real. People have to get to know Him.

There are three things about Jesus that make Him compelling to anyone who is leaning in with interest: FIRST-Jesus' character is impeccable by all standards. Many people will be attracted to Jesus in this way. Years ago I argued the famous C. S. Lewis chart and reasoning that Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. I gave no one room to begin to follow Jesus as a good example. But today I realize this is wrong thinking. His character is a wonderful attraction to people in this world and many times it is the first step in showing a person's interest in following Jesus.

SECOND-Follow the principles of Jesus and you will find meaning and fulfillment. The fundamental principles of life rest with Jesus in the presence of the Kingdom. Most every self-help book or seminar is chocked full of these principles without giving Jesus the credit. Even the highly praised book, The Secret, is straight out of Jesus' game plan for living your life on purpose. In this particular case, the principle is stated and then you're told to focus on and pray to the "universe". This is just another well-intentioned highjacking of Jesus' Kingdom principles. Instead of praying to an impersonal "universe", why not keep the principle in its proper context and pray to the person of Jesus?

THIRD-Continue to follow Jesus and you will find God. The primary example of this is found with the early disciples. It took them several years of following Jesus before they believed He was the Son of God. By the way, this means that there are lots of people out there who are leaning in on following Jesus and His Kingdom principles, but haven't yet come to the conclusion that He is the Son of God. Give them room to follow. In fact, affirm them in their spiritual journey and don't be in a hurry to close the deal with them.

To add anything to Jesus is to complicate Him to the point where He can't be known. Jesus plus anything is actually the spirit of anti-Christ. Anti is literally "instead of", so when you add something to Jesus, it becomes the "instead of" Jesus and diminishes who Jesus really is. The church of Jesus is the movement that revolves around Jesus plus nothing. That's zero, zip, absolutely nothing that can possibly dilute the irresistible Jesus.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013



In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus shifts gears in His teaching style. He begins teaching by the use of short stories with a point. They are called parables.
He made this shift after the major rejection of Him and His message by the religious leadership. Jesus was riding high for a while. Those who were following Him believed their "candidate" for King and His Kingdom were going to win out. Now, they were hoping His Kingdom was going to put an end to the Roman domination. With this massive rejection of Jesus, His followers were concerned about the momentum of the Jesus movement being stifled. So, they were asking the question, "What will happen to the Kingdom now, with this rejection?"

By the use of 8 parables Jesus answers this question and gives them some sense of what the Kingdom is going to look like from now on. The heart of these parables that describe the Kingdom are the sower and the soils, the mustard seed and the leaven.

The sower and the soils demonstrate the primary activity of the Kingdom and that is the sowing of the seed. Jesus defines four different soil samples and gives a great visual to how the seed either becomes fruitful or not.

With the mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, Jesus expresses how a small seed is able to grow into a large and strong bush. This will be the nature of the Kingdom's incredible, almost invisible growth. He explains how a woman can introduce a little bit of yeast or leaven into a large lump of dough and the entire lump is permeated. With this visual Jesus is showing how irreversible the growth of the Kingdom is.

Out of all 8 of the parables in this teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom, there really is only one activity. That activity is the sowing of the seed. So, what is the seed and who is doing the sowing?

In the 8th chapter of the Gospel of Luke Jesus says, "The seed is the word of God." In the Matthew 13 passage Jesus says, "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When people hear the message about the Kingdom." So far, Jesus is saying that the seed is the word of God and that word is equal to the message about the Kingdom.

In the 4th chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus speaks about the sowing of the seed on the four soil samples: "The word is sown beside the road. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown." This passage reinforces the sowing of the word of God as the seed.

Now check out later in Matthew 13: Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom." Now note what Jesus does here. Jesus, the Son of Man, is the sower of the seed. AND, the seed stands for the people of the Kingdom-those who are the Kingdom kids-the followers of the King-the followers of Jesus!

Here's what I want to stress! The four ways of being and making disciples we have articulated over the last two sessions is all part of the sowing of the seed in the world. Jesus is the sower and the word of God-the message of the Kingdom-the people of the Kingdom-represent the seed that He is sowing into the world.

So, embracing the Jesus lifestyle, loving one another, meeting the needs of the needy and disenfranchised, and loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself all are part of the sowing activity in the Kingdom today.

The takeaway for me is this: DON'T SHARE OR EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL. JESUS IS THE GOSPEL! Jesus says that you are the salt of the earth-the light of the world! And now Jesus is saying that you are the Good News He is sowing into this world. This is all part of the plan of you being in Jesus and Jesus being in you.

So, as you go and make disciples of all nations, be the Gospel wherever you go! Be Jesus as you touch the world around you! Can you think of anything more thrilling or meaningful than to be united with Jesus, the best Good News there is in such a bad news world?



To continue our thoughts contrasting and comparing evangelism and discipleship, I want to remind you that Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize anyone. Jesus makes it very clear that He only wants us to make disciples or make the people of all nations to become followers of Him.
Jesus gives us how to best be a disciple-maker. Jesus first wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. Then, your lifestyle of being a follower can be observed and shared most credibly. Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do so. These four ways not only grow those who have committed to following Jesus; they also most effectively show Jesus off to the nations of the world.

Let me summarize the first three we examined last session. First, Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself by developing the habit of walking with Jesus every day. Second, Jesus wants you to love one another-primarily other disciples-by developing the habit of walking with a few others who are following Jesus every day. And third, Jesus wants you to follow Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised-by developing the habit of waiting on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. Remember, this is not evangelism as we have come to define it or proselyting in any way. This is discipleship the Jesus way!

The fourth foundational teaching of Jesus on how to be a disciple and make disciples may be the most important of the four I'm sharing with you. I've shared it before and you've certainly heard it before. My prayer is that this time around you might see it as a lifestyle you can embrace more diligently than ever!

Here's the problem. This teaching can't just be taught; it must be caught!
Jesus repeatedly taught what He had come to believe was the greatest commandment of all. Even when He was asked the question, "What is the greatest commandment?", Jesus answered this question very uniquely. He couldn't give just one commandment, but felt the need to share two-a kind of two in one!

On three occasions Jesus shared this same "greatest" commandment. Let's take a look at each one.

The first is in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 'There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said, teacher," the man replied.

"You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

The second is in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

The third is in the 22nd chapter of Matthew: Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Here's how I see this teaching. Anyone anywhere can do this! I was haunted throughout my youth whether I could ever please God and do His will. If these teachings of Jesus had been reframed for me so that I could embrace them as a lifestyle, I think I would have bought into them. The will of God was always a mystery to me. In fact, as I began to work and speak at youth conferences, the most frequent question thrown at me was, "How can I know the will of God for my life?"

Jesus makes it so simple. Love God and love your neighbor and you'll be doing the will of God with great assurance!

In John's first letter, he wrote something very profound. He said, "God is love." Now, if God is love then when you love, you are acting like God-you are acting God out!

Do you want to show Jesus off? Do you want the God of gods to shine through your life? Make it your ultimate and daily purpose to practice two things: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself! A disciple of Jesus doesn't just talk about love. Jesus' disciples are lovers!



It was in graduate seminary that I had the privilege of working out so many Biblical issues. It wasn't in the classroom, but in the coffee shop that the real gems emerged. There was a group of 5 or 6 men who gathered nearly every day at the IHOP about two blocks away from school. Sometimes our discussions became so heated and interesting that we skipped chapel to continue "changing the world."
One of the early and frequent topics was to compare and contrast evangelism and discipleship. We viewed evangelism as the open door of converting a person and discipleship was the follow-up work after a person was converted. From time to time we swerved into the sub-topics of social evangelism versus friendship or aggressive evangelism. Social evangelism was basically doing good works for people-meeting their social needs, yet not expressly bringing Jesus into the interaction. We all were pretty much opposed to social evangelism.

What we settled on was either aggressive evangelism-initiating a straight up conversation about salvation-or friendship evangelism, which meant building a relationship with the person first and then sharing the Gospel with him.

I spent much of my spiritual life grappling with the issue of evangelism. For quite some time, I was filled with guilt over not sharing the Gospel enough or not having many results to my evangelistic efforts.

It was not until many years later that I discovered that Jesus never commanded His disciples to evangelize anyone. The two primary commands of Jesus that are relevant here are "make disciples of all nations" and "bear witness of me" or "you shall be witnesses of me" in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the remotest part of the world.

Because we have misunderstood this, we have come to embrace evangelism as a prominent teaching and practice that is expected of all followers of Jesus. And, the misunderstanding of evangelism goes further into wrong thinking.

Evangelism has come to mean to proselytize, which means to convert a person to another faith or religion. Jesus taught none of this! We are not to proselytize or attempt to convert anyone away from their culture or religious persuasion and into our culture or religious persuasion. Not only did Jesus NOT teach this; there is no way any one of us has the ability and power to truly convert a person's heart to follow after God.

When Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples (Jesus followers) of all nations, He meant exactly what He said-nothing less, nothing more. When Jesus commanded His disciples to "bear witness of Him" to the world (John 15) and to "be witnesses of Him", starting with Jerusalem and proceed to do this throughout the entire world (Acts 1), He was not urging any kind of conversion tactics. Instead, Jesus was urging them to introduce and encourage people from all nations to become followers of Jesus. You see, when a person is introduced to Jesus, then that person has the opportunity to be converted in his heart by the Spirit of Jesus-the only one in the conversion business!

So, if Jesus is not pushing for us to evangelize or proselytize, but only to make disciples or make followers of Jesus in all nations, how does this get done? Within the teachings of Jesus there are four specific ways He shares for all of His followers to do. We'll check out three of them today and then the fourth one we'll examine in our next session together.

The first is to be found in Jesus' early teaching in Matthew 5:13-16. He says: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Here Jesus says by embracing the lifestyle of Jesus-talking, walking, thinking and loving like Jesus, you will naturally attract the attention of the watching world and turn them toward a positive response to God. Your Jesus lifestyle will show up in a big and effective way!

The second way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in John 13:34-35, where Jesus says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Here Jesus is saying that your love for one another will make it crystal clear that you know and are being energized by Jesus.

The third way Jesus teaches that you can show Jesus off is found in Matthew 25:31-46. He says, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.'"

Jesus makes it clear here that when you meet the needs of people around you, you are actually ministering and connecting with Jesus personally! Now that is powerful!

Jesus wants you to be a disciple-a follower of Him. More than anything else Jesus wants you to embrace His lifestyle for yourself, love others who are following Him and pay special attention to where the heart of Jesus is-the needy and the disenfranchised. By the way, this amounts to practicing the 3 habits we talk about so much: Walk with Jesus. Walk with others. Wait on Jesus to lead out with orders and opportunities. That's not evangelism; that's discipleship the Jesus way!



Matthew 5:13-16
Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy, blessed and fulfilled follower, He uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world-salt and light. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jesus made it clear what He expected His early followers to do. At the very end of Matthew's Gospel Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Whatever else can be taught from this passage, it is important that you see what was on Jesus' heart in these last words for His followers. Jesus presents one command here; it's not an option. Jesus is making it clear that He wants His followers to make disciples of all nations. Make disciples of all nations!

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

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

To me, a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus-one who hears His teachings and seeks to practice them. We are doing our best to be faithful disciples of Jesus and to obey Jesus by making disciples of Jesus everywhere we go. We see ourselves as followers of Jesus, not Christians or believers or Church members.

We say it this way among our friends: "We're trying to do the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. We're trying to follow the teachings and principles of Jesus." This is discipleship-to know Jesus and to make Him known.
Over the next few weeks I want to open up what discipleship is all about. In order to get us started I want to make 8 observations on the elements of being a disciple. FIRST-Being a disciple is to have a teachable spirit and a heart for God. If you are a disciple, you will work hard on being a learner. You don't already have it all figured out. You are coming to Jesus as a little child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2013



More than anyone else, Jesus has impacted the world. There are more volumes written about Jesus than any other person ever! When a person honestly encounters the teachings and principles of Jesus, that person rarely stays the same. Jesus has the power to change people-to turn people inside out and to turn the world upside down.
I have owned and operated several counseling centers over the years. After observing thousands of people come and go as they make their way through life's struggles, I have come to understand the best advice that I've ever offered. Whatever a person is going through, there is always a need for wisdom and the power to live that wisdom out. This is where I introduce Jesus into the therapy equation. When I encourage people to seek the wisdom and advice of Jesus, I am sending them to one who can actually give them exactly what they need. Jesus is the best source of peace, love, joy, hope and the most effective Higher Power ever. In relationships, Jesus unites; everyone and everything else seem to divide.

There are so many reasons I could list about this irresistible Jesus. One of my favorite writings from Paul is what he says to the gathering of Jesus followers in the city of Colossae. He says: For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.

So, what makes Jesus so irresistible? Generally, what makes Jesus so irresistible is that He is all about bringing Good News to the world. He's into Good News in a world that is filled with a continual flow of bad news. In fact, Jesus, Himself, is the Good News!

There are three things that stand out about Jesus that I want you to keep in mind. FIRST-The salvation of Jesus is remarkable! I grew up believing that salvation only had to do with going to heaven and avoiding hell. There is so much more to salvation than that. Literally, salvation means "to make wide"-to provide freedom from being stuck, so that one is free to be! Salvation means God will come through on your behalf. This is why we are urged through the Scriptures to wait and see the mighty Hand of God. Salvation means safety and security-maintaining a life unafraid of the many dangers that lurk around us. Salvation means healing-emotional and physical well-being-wholeness. The salvation of Jesus destroys the purposes of evil forces and you can count on it. One more thing here: the salvation of Jesus means the proactive presence of God among His people-right here, right now.

SECOND-The speech of Jesus is riveting! It was riveting, because unlike all other teachers of His day Jesus didn't quote any local, religious authorities. He stood on His own authority and this was amazing to all who heard Him speak. Jesus' teachings were also riveting in that what He said made sense. Jesus continued to resonate with His audiences in a powerful way.

THIRD-The search of Jesus is relentless! Jesus illustrates this through His parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son. Jesus made it clear that He was willing to do anything to bring the Good News to even one, lost person. Jesus walked throughout the land of Israel offering His loving touch to all who needed it. Even today Jesus is in the proactive stance of courting you with His love and He is awaiting your response to His love.

By the way, not only is Jesus the way, the truth and the life. He stands as the short cut to a relationship with the God of gods. Religions are the long way to God. Religions seek to bring man to a right standing with God. Within the typical religious systems you must perform religious acts and follow religious tenets. Even child, human and animal sacrifices have been used to pay some debt to God. There is a built-in payment system inside man's psyche-feeling a need to somehow pay for forgiveness. Jesus cuts all of this performance and sacrifice out and offers a short cut. The short cut is not a religious system of do's and don'ts; it's a person. His name is Jesus.

It's all a matter of getting to know Jesus for your self. This is why we are diligently pursuing writing an extensive curriculum about just Jesus and His teachings-simply Jesus. No matter your cultural background you can't help but bring religious or anti-religious blinders along with you as you look at Jesus.

I want to encourage you to use this next series of podcasts to do your best to get a better glimpse of simply Jesus. The best place I've found to see Jesus is within the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. The entire Scriptures speak of Jesus, but the Gospels clearly articulate Jesus and His teachings. So, over the next few weeks and months we're going to move through the Gospel of Matthew, then Mark, Luke, John and Acts. Let's make it our goal to see Jesus, so we can get to know Him better.

The irresistible Jesus wants to turn you Inside Out-the REALITY of knowing Him-in order to turn your world Upside Down-the RESULT of knowing Him and making Him known! DO YOU KNOW JESUS OR JUST A LOT ABOUT HIM?

Sunday, March 17, 2013



I receive an email or two per day relating stories of ugly persecution around the world. Usually the persecution is against a group of Christians who are being threatened, burned out of their Church buildings, tortured, abused or even killed. The stories are amazing and very sad.
Before I finished writing JESUS PLUS NOTHING, we advised a persecuted missionary in India to shift his approach from trying to "convert" the Hindus out of their culture into a Western Christian mold. It's no wonder they were being persecuted. Families were angered and village leadership fought against him with all their power and passion over this haughty conversion tactic being used.

Conversion in the sense of yanking a person from his culture and making him join a new culture isn't even mentioned one time in the Bible. Even though this is a fact, many blindly and stubbornly move ahead to put all of their monies and energies into converting people out of their cultures into the Western Christian culture. In a few translations the term "convert" or "converted" is used, but it means to turn to God, not change or deny a person's culture.

As we have discussed in the last couple of days, followers of Jesus are never commanded to convert the world, but to make disciples of Jesus from all of the nations. In fact, no person, clergy or missionary can convert or change a person's heart at all. Only God can perform this kind of inner transformation.

This was the essence of what came out of the conversation with Jesus and his disciples, when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."

By the way, when the persecuted missionary changed his approach from trying to convert Hindus to become Christians into simply introducing Hindus to Jesus, the persecution finally ceased.

JESUS PLUS NOTHING illustrates two of the most common types of persecution taught by Jesus. The first is that Jesus made it clear that the world will hate his followers in the same way they hate Jesus. Then, Jesus explains what the "world" will do to his followers. He says, "They will throw you out of their synagogues." In other words, the "world" Jesus is referring to is the religious world. I've certainly experienced this. Most of the so-called persecution I've ever received has come from the religious, not the secular world.

The second kind of persecution that emerges out of Jesus' teachings is the refusal of the Jewish leadership to go along with God's original program of reaching out to the nations of the world. Through God's agreement He made with Abraham, the Jews were to be especially blessed by God and to be a blessing to the nations of the world.

The greatest persecution in the New Testament writings happened when Jesus referred to extending salvation to the nations or Gentiles. When Jesus brought this up in his first talk at the synagogue in Nazareth, the people were so incensed that they took him out to push him off a cliff.

When Stephen referred to being a blessing to the nations of the world, he was stoned to death. And when Paul mentioned it, he was stoned and left for dead.

In my opinion, today most persecution comes out of a religious context and also occurs when well-meaning people try to do the work of wrenching people out of their cultures and changing them into becoming whatever flavor of religious persuasion one happens to be.

Remember what Jesus said to Peter? "My Father revealed these incredible transforming ideas to you. No flesh and blood can teach this, so that you are transformed."

God is calling people to Himself within the many cultures of our world. Instead of you trying to call people out or supporting those who do, just go along with what God is up to. He's got the best idea of all and He's the only one who can truly change a person's heart. Now that's a Jesus plus nothing principle, for sure!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013



Every generation of young people seem to go through the stage of pulling away from their faith and religious affiliation. This stirs up a continual fear among parents and religious leaders everywhere. It's natural and has always been a rite of passage for young people, but this time around there seems to be a difference. This time the youth aren't returning back to their religious upbringing and this time many of these youth are expressing an unusual hunger for spirituality, while rejecting the homegrown answers of their childhood.
A few years ago a successful children's filmmaker approached me. He was interested in making a children's video on the Bible and he was told that I would make it all about Jesus. It was a fascinating encounter, forcing me to find out what is happening in religious instruction for children. From my somewhat limited vantage point, all I could see was that we have spent so much time rehearsing the biographical stories out of the Bible, but only inserted Jesus at the "You-all-want-to-go-to-heaven-don't-you time!" So I moved into research mode.

My first sampling was to ask two of my most "churched" grandchildren what their favorite stories of Jesus were. They were 7 and 9 at the time. Much to my surprise, they were stumped for an answer. Then Luke said, "Jesus was born!" "Yes!" I said. Then Luke added, "And we get presents!" Well, he had the right answer, but maybe his application was a little weak. After that outburst, there was nothing more to be added by my two samples.

I moved into gear and told them about Jesus losing his best friend, Lazarus, and then after Lazarus was really dead, Jesus brought him back to life. "And Jesus had his best friend again!" they said. I then made my way into the wedding feast where Jesus turned the water into juice. "Apple juice?" "No, it was actually grape juice." I showed them how much water was used by outlining a room in their house and they were amazed.

After taking this sampling of what is taught to our children, I met with the Children's Pastors of three local mega-Churches. When I asked how much they actually teach the children about Jesus, they all answered, "Every week!" Then as I pressed in on the studies, they all realized as I had that they do not teach much about Jesus at all. It was a shocking moment for us all!

It's no wonder our youth are leaving the Church and not coming back. What are they going to come back for? The re-telling of the old stories? The old stories just aren't enough to hold a person's commitment and devotion. There must be something more.

You see, I think what we've been doing for so long is to teach children about our religious systems, doctrines and traditions, but have left Jesus out of the equation. Oh, we all know Jesus is around. He actually hasn't left the building yet, but there is little to introduce a kid to this amazing and irresistible Jesus. And if a child doesn't get to know Jesus, other than praying the sinner's prayer, that child will not learn to follow Jesus with his life. Why introduce kids to Church or your religious persuasion without Jesus? There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

As I have been writing this book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, two observations quickly come to mind. First, our children need to get to know Jesus. They are the most receptive to this most authentic person. Jesus even repeatedly teaches that unless one becomes like a little child, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The answer is not to teach our children better or more, so they can defend and propagate their faith. The answer for our children is to be introduced to Jesus.

Second, our children are most indelibly marked by their parents and other significant adults in their lives-not by going to a religious instruction class. Parents can be so critical of the religious institution, yet it is in the home where the most significant lessons of life and of Jesus are taught or not taught. Kids desperately need to see and hear Jesus from their parents and significant adults in their lives. More than anything else, kids need to get the sense that their models are sincerely following Jesus with their lives. It's more than teaching. Jesus is both taught and caught!

If your children aren't sufficiently turned off in the elementary years, there is a significant opportunity for them to be rescued from their wandering from God and satisfying their deepest spiritual longings through an active youth group. It's within this context that there is a greater opportunity to be influenced by others who have come to know Jesus in a personal way and are not boxed into a system of do's and don'ts and religious verbiage that serve to turn the youth away.

If you as a parent, a youth worker, a teacher, a coach, a mentor or a neighbor, join the Jesus movement and embrace "Jesus plus nothing" for yourself, you will be the best answer for the young seekers around you. In fact, when you touch a child with the powerful message of Jesus, you are planting a seed that has the potential to transform a generation. Note that I'm not speaking religiously, but personally. "Jesus plus nothing" is a personal matter. The person is Jesus!



After growing up in a Western Christian culture with lots of love and good Church and family experiences, I met Jesus. He was different than I expected. He was different from the faculty that educated me, different from the religious crowds that flocked around me at speaking events and conferences, different from the many spiritual friends that deserted me during my down times.
Jesus was the one who stayed. He was the one who didn't shake his head in disappointment, didn't turn away in disgust. He is the one who knelt down, picked me up, dusted me off. He is the one who embraced me. It was then I realized that the Jesus I had first embraced was different from the one who was embracing me now.

And I realized something else. That Jesus I could follow. That Jesus I wanted to follow, needed to follow, couldn't help but to follow.

Not the Jesus who is wrapped up in a religious system of do's and don'ts. Not the Jesus who is used to raise money to build more and more buildings or fill the religious treasuries. Not the Jesus who was highjacked for the violent Crusades-persecuting, killing, and even mass murdering Jews, Muslims, all non-Christians, and even other Christians who disagreed with them. Not the Jesus who is embraced by a political candidate or party to impress the people. Not the Jesus who wants you to join his club. Not the Jesus who puts a heavy guilt trip on you for not performing. Not the hell-fire-and-damnation Jesus. Nor the meek-and-mild Jesus.

This Jesus is the one I never really knew. The one without Christian verbiage. The one without religious baggage. The one without self-righteous garbage. This is Jesus plus nothing.

This Jesus is the Jesus that the early followers, called disciples, got to know. For three-and-a-half years they were in an apprentice relationship with Jesus. In their system of education they never made the grade of being chosen by a rabbi to follow in his steps, so they had returned home to work the family business. But this rabbi, this Jesus, this new guy in town, he chooses them to follow him. He picked uneducated, untrained, ordinary men to come along with him and learn from him. In a sense, Jesus chose those who hadn't made the cut, walk-ons, as the team he wanted on the field in the most important game in the history of the world.

From those early beginnings, the Jesus movement continues to be the largest in the world today. This all-encompassing movement consists of people from every culture and religion on the earth-Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Pantheists, Agnostics. When Jesus is not boxed into any religious system or wrapped up in a package marked "exclusive," he has proven to be universally attractive throughout the world. People from every culture embrace Jesus, simply Jesus, whether religious or not.

Take Gandhi, for example. He was so captivated with the life and teachings of Jesus that he became one of the greatest followers of Jesus ever. One of the most common descriptions of Gandhi was that he was so "Christ-like." Gandhi discovered that his cultural background as a Hindu was enhanced by Jesus. "I shall say to Hindus," he once said, "that your life will be incomplete unless you reverentially study the teachings of Jesus. Make this world the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added unto you." Gandhi, whose goal in life was to live the Sermon on the Mount, said, "It was that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me." And, about Jesus' death on the cross, he said: "A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act." And finally the quote that was probably his most famous: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

The current Dalai Lama is another example. He has expressed his love and respect for Jesus in many ways and on many occasions. Many of his teachings reflect those of Jesus. As the example and leader of the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama is called His Holiness, yet he says he is not worthy to even untie the shoes of Jesus. In an OP-ED article for The New York Times, the Dalai Lama wrote: "In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus' acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering."

Both Gandhi and the Dalai Lama revere Jesus as the greatest teacher and example who ever lived.

Looking at the long history of Jewish thought, some of the most prominent rabbis have come to revere Jesus as possibly the most influential Jew who ever lived. Dr. David Flusser, in his book, The Sage From Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius, broke down many barriers that have kept Jews from studying Jesus. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists in the world said this about Jesus: "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word."

Agnostics are another group of people who have many in their ranks who follow Jesus. In my experience they are perhaps the most open to Jesus when presented without all the religious baggage. Agnostics have a vacuum in their hearts. In my experience, this seems to be a God-shaped vacuum. I continually enjoy conversing with agnostics, once I am able to convince them that I don't want to discuss religion. It seems that this group is better able to view Jesus separated from the religious wrappings. They've already rejected the religious trappings and were left empty. But, when introduced to Jesus without religious baggage, so often they respond by saying: "I can follow this Jesus!"

The "self-help movement" is another group of people who revere Jesus, some going as far as to follow him. Even in our highly educated, secularized society, the principles of Jesus are the basis for most of the self-help and motivational principles. Though they may not use his name, they do use his teaching and his example.

In many ways this is nothing new. Jesus has always worked with people from every culture and found them to be attracted to him. The problem in the First Century was the religious jealousy of the "gate-keepers" of Judaism. When Jesus presented his message of love and compassion to the non-religious and to all other non-Jewish nations of the world, he was resisted, ridiculed, and ultimately rejected.

Yes, Jesus plus nothing-Jesus without religious baggage or boxes-is attractive and can be satisfying for everyone everywhere.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013



From the very beginning of writing the book, JESUS PLUS NOTHING, I have had so many people challenge the assertion: "Jesus plus nothing." Although I can't go into my answers to these challenges exhaustively in a daily podcast as I did in the book itself, here are a few thoughts for your consideration.
The challenges were basic to the discussion: What about prayer? Don't you need to pray? Yes, but who are you conversing with when you pray? Jesus!
What about the Scriptures? Don't you need Jesus and the Scriptures? Well, Jesus made it pretty clear, when criticizing the religious leaders that they were studying and memorizing the Scriptures and missing him in the process. The written Word speaks of Jesus, but only Jesus, the living Word, can give eternal life (John 5).

What about Church membership? Well, besides the fact that there is nothing in the Scriptures requiring Church membership, the church or gathering of Jesus happens when two or three come together in his name. So, Jesus is all you need-the one, the only one to gather around, whether you are gathering in a living room or assembling in a massive Church service. That's again Jesus plus nothing!

What about Jesus plus the Holy Spirit? What a person is really saying here is, "Aren't you forgetting the Holy Spirit by asserting Jesus plus nothing?"

Check out what Jesus says of the Spirit and the Father in the 15th and 16th chapters of John: "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me, because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."

Do you see the pre-eminence of Jesus acted out in the play? When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the marquee character. And the spotlight is always on him! So, again, "Jesus plus nothing" works!

This Vine and branches visual is powerful. When Jesus taught about the dynamic relationship he wanted with his disciples, he used the illustration of the vine and the branches. He clearly taught in this section that the relationship he wants and the only one that matters is for the disciples (the branches) to cling to and stay connected to Jesus (the vine). He even went further to say, "Without me you can do nothing." Nothing. What don't we understand about nothing? How much clearer could Jesus have said it?

Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15)."

This all happens in the name of Jesus with nothing added. Not Miracle Grow on the leaves. Not mulch on the roots. Just Jesus. Note that it's not that you can do nothing without the Spirit, but it's without Jesus you can do nothing. You just can't short-change this. It is clearly Jesus plus nothing!

Two other thoughts come to mind here. First-every person he encountered, touched, healed or raised from the dead are convinced that Jesus alone is enough.

Second-After Paul listed out his major religious accomplishments when writing to the Philippians, he made it crystal clear that Jesus plus nothing else is all you will ever need. Check out what Paul said: "If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things."


Monday, March 11, 2013



If Jesus presented himself as enough, and those he touched believed he was enough, why do we miss this point, which is the very essence of the Good News of Jesus? Jesus plus nothing else added on is all we need, yet we seem to miss it.
We are able to develop entire belief systems around Jesus, enlist the masses to join our organizations around Jesus, judge those who do not quite see eye-to-eye with us about Jesus, and propagate these belief systems, organizations and dogma as the only way to life, yet all without getting to know this Jesus personally.

Today there is a Jesus movement that is popping up all over in the many cultures of the world. This Jesus movement is just that-a movement that is all about Jesus who is not packaged within any institutional, religious structure. The Jesus movement is attracted to and revolves around simply Jesus without being wrapped up in religious traditions or trappings.

Participants in the Jesus movement have been confused and even turned off by these wrappings. In order to fuel the Jesus movement in such a way, so as to keep the primary focus on Jesus without religious baggage, we have been creating materials, embracing the theme of JESUS PLUS NOTHING. It's a movement that is moving to a different beat than most religious groups; it's a Jesus beat!

Today, we are introducing many to Jesus, yet these new "followers of Jesus" quickly become distracted away from the simplicity and purity of walking with Jesus and walking with others. They can easily become distracted by the religious terminology that just doesn't matter in comparison to knowing and following Jesus. Instead of embracing Jesus and growing in Him, they tend to grow into better Bapterians, Presbytists and Episcolics. Simply Jesus or Jesus plus nothing is what these new followers of Jesus need and are looking for.

A lady said to me last week that when she attends one of our studies about Jesus plus nothing, she feels like she has just come back home. Jesus resonates with her; religiosity does not. It distracts her and confuses her and leaves her with her feet firmly planted in mid-air spiritually.

This is exactly what happened to me several years ago. Whenever I spent time with others who were highly focused on Jesus, I felt so at home with this Jesus who was being discussed. It was the most attractive and satisfying experience ever. They spoke about Jesus as if they had just had breakfast with him that morning.

Why had I been missing out on knowing this Jesus for so many years? There are three subtle ways in which this occurs, in my opinion.

First, there is a tendency to add something unnecessary to Jesus. This "something" takes the form of man-made commandments and long-standing traditions; in other words, Jesus with additives.

Second, there is a tendency to hold something sacred that has become a substitute for Jesus. These substitutes can be your sacred scriptures, your revered saints, your religious services, your particular organization or denomination, your cultural identification or religious icons.

Third, there is a tendency to leave Jesus behind. Whether it is in newsletters, religious services, sermons, articles, prayers, or worship experiences. Jesus is embarrassingly left behind! Even where two are three are gathered together in his name, he is so often left out of our conversations.

These tendencies take away from the message of Jesus. They diminish Jesus by adding something unnecessary to him, by replacing him with something, and by leaving him and his message behind. These tendencies amount to a deadly triad that keeps us from seeing Jesus clearly.

If we can't see him, how will we ever be able to know him? And if we can't know him, how will we ever be able to know if this Jesus plus nothing is enough?
This was Paul's primary concern, when he said: "I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus." When we move away from the purity and simplicity of Jesus, the natural results are the many Jesus additives. Whatever you are reading, studying and discussing, be sure to make it all about Jesus.

Sunday, March 10, 2013



Once you have committed to the first five agreements, you are ready to step into action-authentic action. There is a fundamental principle that is completed in the sixth agreement. The sixth universal agreement I believe that any follower of Jesus from any cultural background can embrace in order to walk together in unity, no matter the lesser disagreements, is to SERVE EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.
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!

Mark records the second instance: "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O 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!

In all of these teachings Jesus presents His most basic truth. There are two directions a follower of Jesus comes to understand. The first is vertical-to love God with all of your heart. The second is horizontal-to love your neighbor as yourself.

Here's the way it works. You cannot have one without the other. John wrote some terrific thoughts on this in his little letter called I John. He wrote: Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. And then he said: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. We love because he first loved us. If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another.

Once Jesus has transformed your heart, you will know your next move automatically. Your love focus will be on God through Jesus first and then you will have a whole new desire to love others. It's the natural context for your life and that context is in relationship to others.

Two things automatically overflow out of your relationship with God's love. FIRST-you will tend to radiate that love that is within you. A new sense of peace, joy and hope and a new heart of love for others will emanate from you. You won't have to do anything to get this sense of radiation; it's the evidence of being transformed inside out. This is a personal thing and only you may know it.

SECOND-you will tend to resonate with others. This is the horizontal or social dimension of being transformed by the love of God. To radiate will be an internal experience; to resonate is an external expression of your heart. To resonate will require that you make some decisions. There are only two kinds of pains in life-the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. You get to choose which pain to endure.

When I was in total control of my life without following Jesus, I used to think resonating the love of God to others took a technique or some unique methodology. But now that I am simply following Jesus and allowing Him to lead out with His orders and His opportunities, I have found that resonating God's love is so much easier than I had ever imagined. It all happens in the context of serving people-serving everyone, everywhere. Now this kind of service isn't directed by your agenda, but by theirs.

So, here's how it works best. To serve everyone, everywhere, simply ask the question, "What can I do to help?" If you practice asking this question and mean it, you will be activated immediately. At the moment you get an answer from anyone, anywhere, you will find yourself serving everyone, everywhere! Think it over!