Sermon on the Mount

05 Dec



This is the chapter where Jesus tells us he is the vine and we are the branches; the father is the main gardener. If we remain-abide in him we will bring forth fruit, if we do not ‘remain in him’ we are cut off and burned. In Johns other writings [1st John] he speaks about those who did not remain in the doctrine of Christ, they went out ‘from us, but were really not with us’. John was speaking of the Gnostic/Docetist groups that would reject the incarnation of Jesus; these did not ‘remain in him’. Also what about the immediate circle of disciples that Jesus was speaking to, did any of them ‘not remain’? Judas would also reject Christ, and Jesus said he too was not really a part of them from the start. In the above quote Jesus challenges the religious leaders of the day by doing the works that he did. The religion of the day viewed God’s will as religious performance, public praying on the street corners, fasting ‘to be seen’, their mindset was one of public performance. Jesus put priority on doing acts of justice, reaching out to the poor, spending time with the down and out, and also rejecting the ‘crowd pleasing’ mentality of the day. In John’s gospel his brothers tell him ‘go up to the public feast and show thyself, no man who does these things secretly will not eventually go public’ they thought there was something strange about his unwillingness to ‘go public’. I have often found it strange that we as believers put such a high priority on ‘public meetings-ministry’ to the point where we really believe that this is the main part of Christianity. A few years back I visited/stayed with some brothers in Europe, they ran a Christian community where they all lived and helped each other out [addicts and stuff]. I spent about a week with them and it was great, I immediately saw the work as a legitimate expression of ‘local church’ [Ecclesia] I even defended them to others who were saying ‘they are not church’. During the week I spent with them, the main leader of the group was just beginning to rent another building so they could ‘do church’. I went to a few of the meetings and it was okay. The point being they kind of felt like the public meetings were ‘really church’ and the actual community was 'Para church’ a very limited view indeed. The same thing has happened with many well meaning churches/ministries thru out the years. Jesus put a priority on things that the religious crowd deemed ‘non legitimate’ they would ask him ‘where are you getting your authority from, who gave you this authority’? In today’s jargon it might be said ‘who’s covering are you under, what ‘local church’ has legitimized you’. We often err, not knowing the scriptures or the power of God. Jesus put such a high priority on social justice, reaching out to the poor and needy, speaking out for the widow and oppressed. This same theme runs thru out the entire teaching of the New Testament. Very little time is spent on the idea of public meetings/ministry. Yet we have exalted the idea of church and ministry to the point where we see public performance as the main thing, that’s what we usually regulate our lives around. Jesus told the religious crowd that he came and did all the things that Gods kingdom was really about [helped the poor, raised the dead, etc.] Yet they found fault with him, they fulfilled the scriptures that said ‘they hated me for no good reason’ do the things we do have good reasons, or are we just following the crowd?

(1385) JOHN 4- Jesus does the unthinkable, he travels thru a bad side of town- Samaria. If you read our Kings study you will remember the history of the region, by the time of Jesus day they were considered the ‘dogs’ of society. Now Jesus meets the woman at the well and they engage is this intriguing conversation, she brings up the debate over where the true place of worship should be- do we meet in the church building or the house? Ah, Jesus says ‘woman, the time is coming and it is even here now when the true worshippers of God will do it in spirit and truth’. It really wasn’t a matter of ‘where’. Okay, she gets into this religious discussion with this strange person in the middle of her busy day, she really doesn’t have time to get into the whole thing. But for some reason she’s drawn to this person, he seems to have insight that is rare for the day. Jesus tells her ‘if you knew who it was that you were talking to, you would have asked for water and I would have given you water that once a person drinks from they will never thirst again’. Okay, another one of those strange sayings, but she’s running out of time, she needs to finish her business at the well at get back to town. What the heck, she says ‘Okay, give me the water’ well, first we have to deal with a few things- remember I’m looking for sprit and truth, brutal honesty about your life and situation. This isn’t an encounter with some ‘wealth coach’ for heaven’s sake! Here we go ‘call your husband’ what? What a strange question to interject at this point-okay, she knows how to answer questions about her past in a way that makes it sound like everything is all right, when we all know it’s not. She says ‘I have no husband’ got ya now. Jesus tells her ‘you have spoken the truth’ the man your living with now is not your husband, and you have been divorced 5 times already, so yes, you ‘have no husband’. Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road, this is what Jesus was getting at when he told her that worship is not about ‘where’ but about truth and honesty when confronted by God. At this point many walk away and stay offended for life, but she was thirsty enough to allow the confrontation/offense to happen. ‘Well, I know that the Messiah is going to come some day, and when he comes he will tell us all things’! It was really a shot at Jesus ‘sure, you know SOME STUFF about me, but the real Messiah knows everything!’ Jesus says ‘I that speak unto you am he’. At that point the disciples returned with the food, they are shocked that Jesus is engaging this woman, they must be thinking ‘thank God the Pharisees aren’t here for this one’ I mean they were always looking for an excuse to discredit him. Well the woman goes back into town and tells all the other ‘mongrels’ about Jesus, he is invited to the town and spends 2 days and this truly is the first great ‘gentile/Samaritan’ outreach of the first century. In our day there is much debate about the how and way to ‘do church’ much of what is missing from the conversation is the ‘spirit and truth’ aspect. I have noticed that when a famous preacher falls into some public sin, that when they make the rounds [Larry King, etc.] there is much interest. People want to know that the things that they have struggled with are also things that we all deal with. The ‘spirit and truth’ aspect is often missing from our modern practice of Christianity. This woman allowed the confrontation to happen; it needed to happen for her to get to the next step where she would believe that Jesus was the Messiah. She truly found the water that she asked for.

(1384) YOU’RE NO EINSTEIN! A few weeks back my wife was getting on me for looking like a homeless guy, she tells me ‘John, why don’t you cut your hair- at least brush it’ and I responded ‘Einstein let his hair grow out’- the response ‘your no Einstein’. Humility is one of those gifts that just keeps on giving. Okay, seriously I have become a little messy these last few years. I am feeling okay physically though I realize all things are not well. About a year [actually a few years] ago I noticed some physical signs that probably needed to be checked out, but I had just lost my health insurance and finally went on line and did the best with what I had. At the same time there were days where I would get off of work and barely be able to walk [back problems] and would go to the homeless mission to see the brothers and some of them are in there 20’s, doing much better than me, and yet they are on Social Security, getting medical stuff for free, and I couldn’t even get the darn VA clinic to check me out! [I was in the navy, and my wife also. Tried but failed to get approved for the clinic]. So I guess after a while you get frustrated. Okay, in John chapter 2 Jesus turns the water into wine. The governor of the wedding drinks it and says ‘wow, most people serve the best stuff first, and after everyone is feeling good- then he sets out the cheap stuff. But you have saved the best for last’. Of course we know this is a story that speaks about the New Covenant in Jesus Blood being better than the old, but the point I want to make is this governor testified about Jesus and he didn’t even know it. Later on after the leaders draw up their personal opinions of him, they will not give him the credit for ‘the good wine’ they will find all sorts of reasons to demean him, but those who simply got a taste of the wine said ‘wow, that’s some of the best ever’. Do you [I] have a tendency to reject the ‘wine’ because we have already pre judged the source? Have people ever approached you and said ‘hey, did you hear that brothers teaching, it’s really good’ and yet you felt offended because ‘that brother’ might have hit a nerve or 2 along the way. Jesus turned the water into wine, not just any wine, but some of the best stuff on the planet. Many wouldn’t access it because they were offended by his straight forward approach- they even said of John the Baptist that he had strange eating habits [locusts!] and looked a little shabby [camels hair wardrobe]. Don’t let the personal animosities keep you from the good wine, people are going to drink it whether you like it or not, might as well get in on it while there’s still some time left.

(1381) DON’T THINK YOU NEED TO PUT ON A FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN BEFORE YOU START, YOU ARE THE EQUIPMENT… WHEN YOU ENTER A TOWN/CITY, DON’T INSIST ON STAYING IN A LUXURY INN, GET A MODEST PLACE WITH MODEST PEOPLE, AND BE CONTENT WITH THAT- Jesus, message bible [Matthew 10] One day I was reading the Billy Graham column in the paper; the question asked ‘Dear Doctor, I am having a problem with ED [erectile dysfunction] and would like your advice on…’ I thought, you gotta be kidding me man! Then I realized it was a question to another ‘doctor’ that gives medical advice on the same page. It’s easy to confuse ‘the way of the world’ with the way of God. Notice in Jesus above words that he clearly lays down the parameters for us; he flat out tells us ‘don’t go for the luxury, the expensive ‘go getter’ lifestyle, you guys are my witnesses and it won’t help the cause’. Now was Jesus saying there should never be an expression of ministry that uses lots of wealth? No. A good example would be Billy Graham, though his organization has used lots of money over many years, yet society at large does not view brother Graham as a luxurious high thrift spender. You don’t hear messages from Graham on ‘we are the king’s kids! We are the head and not the tail!’ type stuff. Even though you can find this ‘head and not the tail’ principle in scripture [Duet. 28] yet in context we need to hear the whole counsel of God. Jesus flat out gives us up front instructions on how to operate in the area of staying in motels for heaven’s sake, the last thing we need to see is another media expose on some evangelist who stayed in a 5 thousand dollar a night luxury resort on the peoples tab, and then using these other [out of context] verses to justify it! This week we had a guy fly his plane into the IRS building in Austin, as the story unfolded he was disgruntled about the way the IRS fined him and taxed him. In his on line rant he accused the catholic church [and churches in general] as being these hypocrites who use all this money, live these flashy TV lives, and yet have IRS exempt status. It turns out that the scam he was caught up in was he and a bunch of friends started their own 'house churches’ and would use this as a tax dodge. The IRS caught up with them and fined them for back taxes. In the rant the man sort of admitted that they weren’t really ‘a church’ but at least they weren’t using there status to connive people out of money [like the churches- in his mind]. Do we as believers have a responsibility to examine our selves and how we approach ‘wealth and luxury’ and re-tool our lives/ministries back to the Jesus mandate? I recently had a bill from one of the news papers that I run the blog ad in; it was an unexpected bill that really was a mistake from the papers billing dept. But I did have some past months that they forgot to automatically deduct from my checking. So anyway as I was discussing the situation [thru emails] I finally worked out a deal, but also explained to the paper that I’m not trying to be a cheapskate, but that I pay for all of this stuff from my retirement check and do not take offerings [or accept money in any way]. I also do not use any ministry stuff in any way to gain a financial benefit [I do not deduct my giving from my taxes]. It seems as if when they realized where I was coming from that their attitude changed somewhat. The point being Jesus wants us to approach the kingdom thru a different lens, seeing things differently. How would you feel if you saw Billy Graham on TV doing some teaching on the end time transfer of wealth and heard him justifying his Rolex watch or something to that effect? It would seem to not fit the man’s message; I would hope that we could claim that too.

(1369) Been reading Hebrews 11 ‘by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things we see were not made from things that appear’ in keeping with the last few posts, it seems that God himself has said we will eventually get stuck at a point of irreducible complexity- or at least we will get to a point where the actual act of God creating the physical realm will be ‘unseen’ by physical means [Physics]. Any way I wanted to mention Moses, Hebrews says that by faith his parents hid him for 3 months, by faith he forsook the pleasures/riches of being a son of pharaoh, by faith he kept the Passover and sprinkling of blood, etc… Often times Moses and the story of the children of Israel fleeing Egypt is seen thru a materialistic lens- ‘look, God gave them all the riches of Egypt on their way out, a Divine transfer of wealth’ actually God simply made the Egyptians reimburse them for all their years of free slave labor, we call that evening the playing field [reparations]. The point I want to make is Moses made a conscious decision, by faith, to not walk the path of the highly successful ‘jet setter’ he rejected a lifestyle that would have elevated him to the top of society and instead chose to ‘suffer affliction with the people of God’. Hebrews 11 also speaks of those who ‘by faith’ were tortured, not accepting deliverance- that is in today’s church world we very rarely view successful faith thru this lens- we actually give the impression of Jobs friends ‘surely Job, you must be messing up in some way, look at the hell your going thru’ but the scriptures teach us there are definite times where the cost of faith will be making the decision to not take the bait, to make the decision to make less money- or to attain less status; these are very real choices that the bible tells us about over and over again. If we were told ‘look, I am going to give you a book by some revolutionary, in it he will give you the keys to greatness and being a true follower’ and then you received a New Testament, and you start reading it for the 1st time- you would be inundated with a message and calling that says over and over again ‘unless you forsake all, you can’t follow me’ ‘whoever loves this life, can’t be my disciple’ ‘unless you take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of me ‘you can’t serve God and money ‘it’s harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle’ I mean you would be hard pressed to walk away from the New testament with a message of wealth and luxury! Moses, by faith, chose to forsake a life of luxury and success, he chose ‘affliction’ for the sake of a higher calling- I want to challenge you guys today [especially all our Pastor/leader readers] have you been influenced too much by the modern 'health/wealth’ message? Has the busyness of ministry and the pressures of life ‘choked these words that they have become unfruitful’ [Jesus parable of the sower]. Remember, Jesus said the enemy comes to steal the words of Jesus; he tries to cause us to forget, to ‘not see’ the actual things that Jesus said. Don’t feel guilty if this is you, just rethink what I shared in this post and by Gods grace make the adjustments- God is challenging many ministries at this season, there are good men who mean well, but lots of ministry that is focused on extreme wealth and needing millions to accomplish the mission, these are going to be challenged in the economically challenging days ahead. But if your ministry/mission is seen the thru lens of the great revolutionary [Jesus] you will do well. Hey, sometimes faith is the act of walking away from the status and limelight, sometimes it’s ‘forsaking the riches of Egypt’ and embracing some affliction.

(1358) LOTS OF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE GIVEN ANYTHING TO SEE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING AND TO HEAR WHAT YOU ARE HEARING, BUT THEY NEVER HAD THE CHANCE- Jesus to his men- Message bible. This week we had the passing of the famed author J.D. Salinger. He wrote the famous Catcher in the Rye and around 3-4 other books. He dropped out of sight in 1965 and gave 1 interview thru out the years [1980]. Though he was considered a great writer [by some] he chose to ‘not write’ [or at least publish- some think we will find a hidden trove of his books]. He hated publishing and rejected the limelight and success. But in a strange way this added to his mystique and eventually his book would become standard reading in many high schools. In essence ‘many people would have loved to see what he was able to see/write, but never had the chance’. As I am reading thru the gospels right now it’s interesting to see ‘the Jesus model’- his men are arguing over who will be ‘the greatest’ as he is getting ready for the Cross! Come on guys, the time is short and you still haven’t learned? He asks them ‘who is greater, the one who serves or the one who is being served’? In their minds the one who is being served, the owner/master has achieved the greatness and success and notoriety. But then Jesus does the unthinkable [for a king] he takes a towel and washes the disciples feet, he tells them that he that becomes the least- walks away from the fame and recognition- this one is the greatest. Truly Jesus was the ‘small seed, the least of all seeds. But when he was planted he became the greatest tree in the earth’ He practiced what he preached. Who knows, maybe Salinger would have never gained the recognition of being a great author if he sought to be a great author. Either way he fulfilled the mystery of an enigma, he ran from the glory and it chased him till the end.

(1356) LET THE NATIONS BE GATHERED TOGETHER AND THE PEOPLE BE ASSEMBLED- In the gospels Jesus uses the imagery of a table to describe the kingdom ‘They shall come from the north and south and east and west and sit at my table in my kingdom’. Psalms says ‘thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies’ God has a way of ‘setting the table’ if you will. Now the church has been divided over the use of the gospels versus the epistles [letters of Paul]. Historically Protestants have focused more on the epistles, specifically Galatians, Romans- and the Catholic/Orthodox include much of the gospels in their services. When we leave out either we get into trouble. A strong focus on the gospels without the epistles can lead to a legalistic righteousness- trying to simply live up to the moral law type of a thing, without a good understanding of the Spirit empowered life. But too much of a focus on the epistles without a high regard for the gospels can lead to a view of Christianity that sees ‘right doctrine’ as being more important than ‘right acting’ [orthopraxy]. So for sure we need both. One of the other interesting things we see in the gospels is the ‘kingdom’ in action versus an ecclesiology focused on ‘church meetings’. For instance we read of Jesus sending out the disciples and telling them ‘go, preach, heal, do good- and whatever city/place rejects you then wipe off the dust of that place when you leave’ Ouch! Yet at the same time you find the crowds drawn to Jesus everywhere he goes. Sort of like a message/lifestyle that goes out into society to impact it, but not a whole lotta ‘come to my church’ type stuff. In American Christianity we see too much focus on ‘come to/support this ministry’ type of a thing, and not enough ‘shaking the dust off our ‘- that is doing the will of God and then being able to walk away. In John’s gospel John the Baptist [not the author] says ‘he must increase and I MUST decrease’ there really isn’t much of a choice. I want to challenge you today, are you [especially Pastors/ministers] spending too much time trying to raise support for ‘the church’? Do you primarily see your responsibility as filling up a meeting room? Reorient your life around the action seen in the gospels, impact people and give them leadership, but then be able to decrease, to let them see you ‘less and less’ as time goes by- and be willing to walk away from some things, not walk away from responsible leadership, but from things that center too much on our individual personas. Just because people want to hear us speak in person, or just because the crowds get bigger, this is not automatically a signal for building a bigger building! We need to re-look at lots of things, let the people be gathered together and the nations be assembled [i.e. be available to impact groups] but don’t be obsessed with forcing people to gather [come to church type of a focus].

(1355) ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly [it’s not your fault!] but by the will of him who subjected it in hope’- Paul addressing the church at Rome. A year or so ago I read a story on a famous underground author, Hunter Thompson, who committed suicide. Supposedly he was suffering from some type of sickness and simply left the world behind; he had ‘no hope’. It reminded me of the famous author Ernest Hemingway; he too shared the same fate. Both of these men rejected God. In the above passage of scripture Paul is speaking about the redemption of the whole creation. God was the one who ‘subjected it to futility’. When speaking about the story of David and his men a few posts back, Jesus said ‘have you never read what David did’ and he was talking about the story of king David eating the  ceremonial bread and giving it to his men- it says ‘he ate, and gave to them who were with him’. At the last meal Jesus takes the bread and wine and says ‘this is my body which is broken for you’ a type of the sacrificial death of Jesus. He too ate, like David. How could Jesus also be a partaker of his own ‘bread’ [Cross]? Paul said that he was ‘filling up in his body the sufferings of Christ’ there is an aspect of suffering that the people of God go thru, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. These sufferings glorify God and in a sense ‘Jesus too receives glory from the broken bread’ [us!] The Hunter Thompsons and Hemingway’s of the world see futility and to them there is no future hope of redemption, they chose to ‘not hope’. Paul said the sufferings of this present time were not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in/thru us. James said ‘count it all joy when you fall into various trials and tests’. Remember, the creation is subjected to futility, not willingly, but by Gods purpose- don’t blame yourself for ‘the futility’.

(1353) THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS WERE UNTIL JOHN, SINCE ‘THAT TIME’ THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS PREACHED- When teaching Galatians we got into the ‘Kairos’ season- that is a time period when God said ‘the old dispensation has fulfilled its purpose and the new time has come’. In the above heading Jesus says it’s a ‘kingdom time’. One of the good things about the New Perspective teaching is they bring out Gods greater world purpose for the whole creation [Romans 8]. It is easy for believers to see their entire Christian lives thru the lens of individual salvation, while this is certainly an important subject, if this becomes the main focus of the believer he can become myopic and miss the greater intention of God- the ‘since that time the kingdom of God’ intention. When Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana, what exactly was he trying to show us? Do you find it strange that there just happened to be all these water containers sitting around? The Jewish religion was very familiar with the idea of ‘washings/baptism’ the temple system was surrounded by these baths and pools and in the gospels we see people linking water with ceremonial cleansing. No one said of John ‘what in the heck is he doing baptizing people in the Jordan’ they were familiar with the rite. Now Jesus doesn’t pick any old water buckets lying around, he is using the symbol of ‘old law’ cleansing, he’s saying ‘look, I just turned your water [old way of getting clean] into wine [my Blood which will replace/fulfill the old system]’. The significance of what he did was heavy. The appearing of Jesus in the 1st century and his death, burial and resurrection [ascension too] enacted a major change from old testament economy into a new kingdom age, the water served its purpose, but the new wine has come- party on.

(1351) EVERYONE LOVES A POPULIST! [well not everyone] I was reading the story of Jesus and his men, how they picked the corn [grain] on the Sabbath and the religious leaders [those darn conservatives!] found fault. Jesus defends himself and his men by telling them ‘have you never read what David did in the days when he was fleeing from Saul- the days of Abiathar the priest’? The story is found in 1st Samuel and it shows David going into ‘the house of God’ and eating the hallowed bread with his men. Jesus says ‘see, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’. The moral of the story is David [and Jesus ‘the son of David’] had the right as Priests of God in this new Divine Davidic line [of Judah] to eat and to give to those who follow them as well. John wrote ‘he has made us kings and priests to God and his father’ [Revelation]. David and Jesus were populists in a sense, fighting the current of the big institutions [religion/Saul and the kingdom] and the common people were behind them. This week the president made a shift in this direction, he’s been on the stump and preaching against the big banks and wall street fat cats. When campaigning with Coaxley he was railing against these enemies, even though Brown was riding a pickup! Okay, what’s up with this? The president also just released his plan to limit the banks from getting too big ‘to fail’. The reason we bailed out the banks [not very populist] was because there was this general fear that if the banks failed [and wall street] that there could be a global economic crisis like the great depression. Maybe so? But by bailing the big banks and companies out we also tried to regulate them and put limits on what they can pay out in bonuses and compensation. The banks caught on and quickly paid the money back with interest, the companies that were unable to pay the govt. off simply lost their CEO’S [A.I.G.]. So that got the monkey off their back and they made record profits and payments to their people. Obama really had no control over them anymore, or did he? He then began to go after them with a special tax that would only apply to them, and to try and prevent them from passing the cost off to consumers [too much micro management for sure]. And then he put a limit on their size, how big they could get. Warren Buffet, a strong supporter of the president, and also one of the richest men in the world loved Obama, after all Obama bailed out the banks and wall street. One of the big banks bailed out was Goldman Sachs, a bank that Buffet sunk 5 BILLION dollars into as an investment. One of the main banks that Obama is targeting is Goldman Sachs; Buffet seems to be having second thoughts. The stock of these banks will suffer, and no one in their right mind will buy these stocks for a while. Should the govt. be doing this? Tim Geithner [treasury secretary] and Ben Bernanke [fed. Chairman] think not, but Paul Volcker [another former fed. Chairman] thinks we should. So for the past year Obama listened to Geithner, and now he’s shifted to Volcker. The govt. does have the right, in my view, to tell big banks ‘if you expect us to insure your deposits- FDIC- then we have the right to prevent you from getting too big and risking people’s money in hedge funds’. The govt. could also tell them ‘no more bailouts, get as big as you want but let the buyer beware’ [the stock investors]. It would be like telling McDonalds ‘sell as many burgers as you want, but if you get into trouble we won’t help’. So it’s really a matter of opinion between how much ‘free market’ or regulation you want. The problem is the president has chosen to demonize these big banks and wall street companies in a way that’s simply a political populist message. It gives him an enemy to target while getting the message off of failed health care. He’s trying to tap into the same populist anger that led to the victory of the Republicans in Mass. But it affects the average person too- the stock market went down 500 hundred points in a couple of days because of this, many 401ks are held by average people. Then when giving an interview to ABC he explained the reason why the Republicans won in Mass, he said ‘the people are upset with Washington, not just the last year, but the last 8 years’ I knew the Bush card would be played in some way. But to say ‘the people are so mad at Bush that they replaced one of the longest held Democratic senate seats with a Republican’ is quite delusional. Okay, we all like an underdog, the David’s who are on the run and fleeing from Saul, but if you aren’t careful it can do more harm than good, it can adversely affect the ‘average Joe’ in a way that you never counted on.

(1347) IF WE KILL THE SON, THEN THE INHERITANCE WILL BE OURS! Many years ago while working at the fire dept. we had a new chief come in and the city commissioners let it be known that they weren’t happy with the way the last chief kept them informed, they wanted a more detailed update of the emergencies we had. Sure enough we had a train derailment and this was the chance for the ‘new boss’ to prove himself. The problem was the incident itself was not a major thing, we had to wait for the company’s private haz-mat crew to get there, but it was more of a stand- by situation. But most of the night was spent detailing every single thing; times, who you called, what step you did next- it was overkill of the emergency for the purpose of proving to the commissioners that ‘the new boss was better than the old one’. This week the White House put out a very detailed play by play accounting of the president’s response to Haiti, I mean it covered 4 days of intense detail. Many of the president’s people have made the rounds on the talk shows and have emphasized the fact that ‘this president is not like the last one, he acts fast to help’ type of a thing. If you listen to the ‘noise’ from these politicos there is no doubt that ‘all the president’s men’ got together and made a political decision to play this incident for all its worth. Now I am not saying they truly don’t want to help [just like my train emergency] but you can tell that they also are making the argument that ‘Obama acts fast, not like Bush’. If they simply did their job and didn’t say anything about Bush, then I would feel differently. Why would they be so crass? Many people voted for the president because they had such high hopes of change, hopes beyond all reason. Because the president did not have a long past record, and the fact that the media did not vet the man, this created an atmosphere where you could project your own image onto the man, and this then created a ‘candidate’ that was all things to all people. The first year has gone so bad that they are looking for anything to turn things around. Now the opposing side are like the care-takers in the parable of the vineyard. Jesus said the owner of the vineyard leased out the land to some guys and when he sent his workers to get the harvest they abused them. Finally the landowner sent the son, and they said ‘if we take this premier one down, surely the inheritance will be ours’. So the Republicans have decided to ‘take down the heir’. Now, I am sure there are good people on both sides of the aisle that have good motives, but this seems to be the game right now. I remember during the campaign that ‘news’ got out that Obama voted to push the gay agenda for young school children in the schools of Illinois, the gay and lesbian groups were part of his constituency [fine] and he represented their cause. The problem was when this leaked out he said he was only supporting the awareness of young children being molested by older people, that he did not support legislation that promoted the gay agenda to kids. The media backed him up and played this story line. They lied over and over again about this. The fact was Obama did back up much more than he admitted, and those he accused of being liars were telling the truth. Okay, he’s not the first to lie, I got ya. But he recently appointed the first ‘transgender’ person to his administration; the wonderful looking picture of ‘the woman’ with her hair all made up and the makeup and all looked like a woman, but it was a man. Okay, I am not here to make fun, these people are obviously struggling with some emotional/psychological problems, but to appoint them to open positions means you do support the ‘gay’ agenda much more than you previously admitted. Fine, if that’s your position then say so, don’t tell everyone you simply were trying to warn underage kids about molestation. Last but not least the president has advised people to go to the white house web site to support the Haiti situation; are there any comparisons between Bush and Obama that might be deemed political on this site? Yes, there is wording that says Obama will act fast on disasters, not like the mistakes of the previous administration. If your gonna play non stop politics, then don’t use the tragedy in Haiti IN ANY WAY to do it. You should not tell people to go to a web site, purely as a matter of helping with a tragedy, and have anything on the site like this- you are playing politics with people’s lives when you do this type of stuff, period [he should send them to the Red Cross or the many other good groups for this, or make sure you are not making political statements on the site].

(1346) In Luke’s gospel the parable of the pounds [money] has the master giving 1 pound to each servant and when he returns he takes the 1 pound from the brother who hid it and gives it to the other guy who made 10 more pounds with the first pound. Moral of the story, don’t squander your capital! One of the most influential works on human government was Plato’s ‘Republic’ Plato lived 4 centuries before Christ and in the famous work he has Socrates [his mentor] having a dialogue and discussing the elements needed for ordering a just society. The leaders must be educated and put the good of the people/community above their own personal desires. Leaders should be statesman and not politicians. As I was watching the news over the weekend they are still debating health care and both sides have stooped so low as to use the Haiti tragedy for political gain. On one of the Sunday shows, the person representing Bush was trying to be non partisan and praised Obama for his actions. Then the Democrat had the gall to contrast the quick response of Obama with the poor response of Bush to Katrina, these guys are never going to learn. Why are the Democrats willing to be the first party in history to push thru major legislation in secret meetings against the majority public opinion? They have calculated the cost, politically, of not passing something and have come to the conclusion that it would be better politically to pass something and take the heat, than to not pass something. Bill Clinton and others have openly said this, they have been found out on more than one occasion to have made this crass political choice. So in the minds of many of them it’s not a matter of telling many American workers ‘you are going to pay an extra 40 % tax on your health ins.’ and then tell the other worker, doing the same job ‘you do not have to pay the tax because you are a union member and we need your votes’ this is not statesmanship, this is political expediency- do whatever it takes to get your side to win, even at the expense of the public. President Obama [who I just finished praying for, and his family!] had lots of political capital at the beginning of the year, much more than any other president in recent history; but he took the ‘1 pound’ and squandered it, he blew it by making these terrible political calculations. As this new year begins it seems as if he really hasn’t made much out the ‘pound’ that was given him at the start. It looks like the voting public is about to say ‘take from him the pound and give it to someone else’.

(1345) BUT BEFORE FAITH CAME, WE WERE KEPT UNDER THE LAW,SHUT UP UNTO THE FAITH THAT WOULD AFTERWARDS BE REVEALED- Galatians 3:23 Over the years I have grown in my understanding of ‘church/ministry’ and have come to see that God requires of us to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly’- that is we often begin the Christian life [especially minister/pastor] with a bunch of noble goals and dreams and we become fixated on the finances and buildings and all the outward stuff that we think is needed to ‘reach the world’. All well meaning men with noble goals, but often times the whole thing devolves into ‘if these parishioners would be obedient and tithe 10 % of their income we could do great things’ and behind the scenes there begins to be an accusatory spirit by the leaders/pastors towards ‘these rebels’. As someone who does not receive offerings or money I have been freed from this whole scenario. Now, how does ‘faith come/ be revealed’? In contrast to the above picture, God will often speak to us and use us when we do not have the cart before the horse- when our time and efforts are not always consumed with building ‘our ministry’ or getting the funds needed for what we think is Gods purpose. In the parable of the great supper, Jesus says a man prepared this great meal/table and he sent his servant out at suppertime to call the guests, and out of the first 3 groups he goes to, 2 out of  3 couldn’t make it because they purchased stuff [land, livestock] then the master gets mad and sends him to the poor, blind and maimed [do justice] and there is still room so he is told to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. The point I want to make is those who were preoccupied with stuff missed the true riches, it’s not that they meant to be rebellious; it’s just the nature of the beast. I want to encourage all of our leaders to re-focus as the New Year begins, sure- you are going to have to deal with practical things [money, etc.] but don’t become so consumed with ‘the ministry’ that this becomes the driving factor of your life. I have had ‘minister friends’ who were always talking about, or trying to ‘build up the work’ some times when we would interact [run into each other] if I had a homeless guy they couldn’t wait until I would ‘lose’ the brother so we could talk ministry. I know they mean well, but they are so consumed with ‘the stuff’ they couldn’t see the true riches; they were missing the ‘great supper’ and didn’t even realize it. ‘In as much as you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me’.

(1302) Isaiah 58- This is one of the chapters that I quote from a lot when praying. God rebukes his people because they were fasting and practicing religious functions but were neglecting the ‘weightier matters of the law’. They forgot about the poor, doing justice and showing mercy, the same themes you hear in Jesus teaching. But God does say if his people will return to acts of charity, to lifestyles of humility and not trying to ‘get their voices to be heard’ [seeking fame and promotion] then he will exalt them, he will allow their ‘light to rise in obscurity’ [great influence with little personal fanfare and glorying over men]. We will be like ‘a well watered garden and a spring of water whose waters fail not’ God will cause us to ‘ride upon the high places of the earth’ [positions of influence]. This chapter is a great chapter, but it comes with some strong correction- if we heed the warnings the blessings will follow, but sometimes we keep looking for the blessing and never receive the correction, this my friends will never work.

(1291)  I LOVE THAT COW! 2ND KINGS 23:28-37 Pharaoh, king of Egypt, sets up one of the sons of Josiah as a puppet king and gives him a new name. The people pay taxes to this new king and to Pharaoh, but their dominator does not totally dismantle their self rule. I have mentioned this before; that one of the primary ways one kingdom would take over another was to allow them the freedom to run things on their own, but let them pay tribute to their new ‘world order’. In the New Testament you see the kingdom of God grow this way, Jesus and the disciples were making followers of the king. But they did not see this as a means to make people totally co-dependent to the point where they did everything for them. In modern church planting scenarios we see ‘church planting’ as setting up places where people will meet. Providing a regular weekly preaching service. The ‘church/corporate entity’ will meet the needs of the people and the people in turn will ‘pay tithes to the storehouse’ we really have a very limited idea of church planting. It would be more effective if we led people to this new kingdom of God, but didn’t make them so dependent on a particular system, let them grow and govern themselves under the reality of them being servants of the king, this style allows people to experience God in a greater way. Okay, as I have been reading some of the parables of Jesus from the message bible, the one on the treasure hidden in a field spoke to me. The message bible says the kingdom is like a person accidently stumbling across a buried treasure in a field, when he realizes what he’s got he sells everything else and buys the field. At the risk of being crude this reminds me of a joke form the King of Queens, Arthur [Jerry Stiller] is dating Doug’s aunt [Doug- Kevin James] and Doug doesn’t like it. And obviously they are sleeping together and all. So Arthur falls in love with the aunt and informs Doug that he is going to propose marriage to her; Doug is furious. Arthur tells Doug ‘I know you’re wondering why I want to buy the cow if I’m getting the milk for free, well I love that cow, that’s why!’ Arthur was willing to give up everything for ‘the cow’. In essence he wanted to commit to the new found treasure, in a way this is what happens to people when they find the kingdom, you don’t have to set up systems to make people loyal to the kingdom [modern concepts on church membership that have all sorts of ways of trying to instill loyalty into people] when people realize the true value of the kingdom they are willing to give up everything in their pursuit. They will continue to function in society, you don’t have to go build places for these people to meet, let them meet wherever they were meeting before they were brought to the kingdom [homes, etc.] Just do your best to present the kingdom to them in its truest form, let them see the true riches that come with the kingdom. Don’t worry about gaining their loyalty, once they see the treasure they will sell all for it.

(1290) YES, I DID IT AGAIN! I have a confession to make, yes I’m gonna come clean- last night I committed an act that I vow never to do again every time I engage in it- I channel surfed the religious stations. It’s not totally my fault, I woke up at around 12:20 and I am trying not to get up until at least 2-2:30. For a few years [yes years!] I was getting up every night and praying most of the night. After that time passed I stuck with getting up early, usually try to lay down till around 3, then the clocks went back an hour and I’m all messed up. So that’s why I channel surfed, I caught a few good teaching shows but then surfed and saw the ones that are so outrageous that the viewing public usually watches as a joke. One brother was quoting Zechariah [Old Testament book] and using a verse about a plumb line [measuring rod, line- a type of judgment and God bringing his people into alignment. I had a friend who wrote an entire book on these passages from Zechariah] and the brother was teaching how the plumb line represented a 7 fold return on money and church members and all types of stuff- I mean he was teaching stuff that when the true plumb line shows up, these are the things that need to be corrected by the plumb line! Then I surfed a few prosperity guys, and I finally settled on the Catholic station, they were doing a documentary on a catholic nun who started a ministry to the Italian immigrants coming to N.Y. and how she helped them and stuff. It was peaceful enough to leave on. So as I opened the bible to Matthew 13 to share some stuff, I saw the verse in chapter 12 ‘the men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment day with this generation [group] and shall condemn them, for they repented when Jonah preached and yet a greater than Jonah is here’ it seemed to fit. Okay this week I read some from Matthew 13, from the message bible, it really spoke to me. A few entries back I shared how I tore out the ignition from my classic 66 Mustang and had to get some parts, well I wound up ordering them on line and it took 2 days to figure out a minor detail, it’s sort of a trick you do to get the ignition cylinder to fit into the ignition switch- a secret locking pin and all, any way I thought ‘geez, I am spending too much time stuck at this place’. But when I wrote the entry I shared a little about going to auto parts stores and all, and then I read one of Jesus’ parables ‘the kingdom is like a general store owner, he knows how to get just the right part at the right time- either a new or old part’ I liked that. Sometimes we [leaders/pastors] go thru stages where we grasp hold of some ‘new part’ and we spend years stuck at that spot, it’s not so much that the part is bad, or wrong, but it’s just ‘a part’. You might go thru a stage where you find out biblical principles of finances, that’s fine- but don’t go and change the whole bible into a money manual! Or the house church movement. Good part, but people still need to grasp justification by faith and the other  ‘old parts’. A good auto parts store will get you the right part, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s the latest technology [any part for a 66 mustang is not new] what matters is for it to be the part that works for you- sometimes we need the old parts!

(1205) THE LAMBS TABLE-  Jesus has the meal with his men, he tells them because they have stuck it out with him thru the temptations he is appointing to them a kingdom just like his Father did with him. They will rule [exercise authority] over the 12 tribes and ‘sit with him at his table’. A few verses earlier Jesus said ‘the hand of him who will betray me is at the table’. I want you to see that ‘the table’ is a reference to the communion of the saints that Jesus brings into existence by the breaking of his Body and shedding of his Blood. Jesus was more than likely telling the disciples ‘because you guys have stuck it out, you will be the first tier of leaders in my new kingdom [the church] and will sit at my table in this kingdom [a type of the communion table]’. Now, he just gave them a lesson on what it means to exercise authority in his kingdom. He told them the world exercises authority over people by being in charge of them, ruling over them. But Jesus says he is among them as one who serves, that authority in the kingdom means you will serve others and give of your life for others. Truly the apostles will go on to found the great church of Jesus Christ thru much difficulty and suffering, none of them held the honor of a 4th century bishop in Constantine’s Rome. So the picture of them having authority at the table in his kingdom can very well mean the church. Now, I do not discount a real [literal] future application to stuff like this. I know I have riled up all my dispensationalist friends over these last few years, and I fret every day because of this! [Not] But I do realize that many good Christians read these verses and do not apply them in this way, that’s fine. My job is to show the other points of view and allow believers to come to their own conclusions. I like the Catholic scholar Scott Hahn, I don’t agree with everything he says, but I like his teaching on the book of Revelation and the ‘Lambs Supper’. Scott sees the prophetic significance of the kingdom and the church meeting around the communion table thru these images. It’s a glorifying of the Lamb type of a view, as opposed to seeing the anti- christ on every page. I disagree with Scott’s application of these truths when he applies them only to the Catholic faith. I like the idea of seeing ‘the lambs Supper’ as a glorious view of the communion of the saints of all ages, I would just give it the broader application of applying to all the saints, not only Catholic ones. Jesus told his men that they continued with him in his time of trial, because of this they would have authority in his church. I think this is a lesson for us all.

(1198) GET OFF THE TRACKS! Jesus said the stone that the builders rejected became the head of the corner, the chief cornerstone. Whoever falls on the stone will break, but whoever the stone falls on, watch out, you will be ground into dust! Jesus said this in the context of Israel rejecting him as the Messiah. Christians are notorious for making the main thing a side issue, and then making side issues the main thing. In the history of Christianity there have been numerous times when the Lord used people to encourage radical change in the church. Right before the 16th century Reformation you had a sort of pre reform movement. The English scholar/clergyman John Wycliffe headed up a strong teaching ministry out of England [14-15th centuries]. He had such a strong influence on the population that during the Catholic repression of his movement many people died all over the country. Wycliffe taught the basic New Testament doctrine of the mystical church, he had said that the true church consists of all the spiritual children of God, whether they are part of the institutional church or not. He did not claim that there were no believers in the Catholic Church, but he resisted the idea that God had placed the sole authority on the earth within her. He rejected the Petrine doctrine of the Pope. His books were eventually condemned and he died for his position. Then you had John Huss, the Bohemian reformer [modern day Czech Republic] who also headed up a strong movement in his land, he was a student of the writings of Wycliffe and many local Bohemians supported him. He too would eventually be killed for his position. A few years ago the Catholic Church officially did an investigation into their treatment of Huss, they apologized for the mistakes made and recognized that Huss accepted the Pauline idea of the mystical church versus the Papal system. I found it interesting that the church acknowledged that there was a difference between the two. These men were fire starters who’s ‘fires’ would burn right up until the present day. Jesus said when you live in a time of significance, a time when God is doing real reform. You can respond in a few different ways; you can resist the thing the Lord is doing and hurt your purpose and destiny, in effect you can ‘fall on the rock and be broken’. You can fight the thing God is doing [the main stone] and suffer for it. Or you can find yourself sitting on the tracks, not realizing that the thing ‘the stone’ [prophetic voices] is targeting are the actual things you are doing! When that happens the best option is to get off the tracks, these reformers have a tendency to not slow down.

(1194) HELP THE POOR AND YOU WILL GET TEN CITIES- It’s Sunday morning right now, around 4:40 a.m., just finished around an hour and a half prayer time. I want to mention that there are regular prayer times when I pray a specific intercession thing, and also just times where I talk without any particular structure. I have noticed that the structure really helps a lot, when you’re done praying your focus is much stronger, just a hint to all you Pastors/leaders. Now, I was going to do Zacchaeus [Luke 19] but think I will just hit a few things. Notice in the story that when he repents, he ‘gives half of his goods to the poor’. Also in our last post I mentioned how the rich ruler was told to ‘sell his goods and distribute to the poor’. Ever wonder why these guys don’t feel lead to run down to the temple and put in a tithe? We have a habit of reading the bible thru a certain lens, that lens ‘colors’ everything else. Now, when Jesus gives the story of the guys who were given so much money [pounds] and then when he returns he asks ‘what did you gain’ you’ll notice that the 10 pounds [around $450.00 dollars] gained the same amount, good, this guy gets ‘10 cities’. The guy with 5 pounds [around $250.00 dollars] gets 5 cities and the guy who hid the pound in the ground loses out. As I was reading this story, I realized that the money I spend every month on ministry stuff is between ‘5-10’ pounds. That covers all of the stuff I do, yet when praying this morning I realized that we are regularly preaching/reaching a whole region of Texas [at least 10 cities] plus the New Jersey area, and of course thru radio, blog and paper ads we have contacts all over the world. What! How can you have a ‘10 city outreach’ [large region] with only ten pounds? Don’t you know we need millions to reach the world? There goes that stinkin thinkin again. Jesus said ‘the things that are impossible with men [like reaching a large region with 10 pounds] are possible with God’. I want to challenge you today [especially you leaders] have you fallen into a mindset that sees money as the solution to the problem? Do you see ‘faithfulness to God’ thru the lens of giving money to ‘the church’? How often do you regularly, personally meet the needs of others out of your own pocket? When we obey the Lord in giving to the poor [not thru the church budget, but personally] then God will increase your parameters. As I was doing the Sunday morning prayer thing a little while ago, I walk around the yard and prayer over regions. I have around a 5 foot section of railroad track set up in my yard, these are real parts of track and piling that I picked up over a year period when they were tearing up all the old tracks and putting new ones in. They are a composite road of all the cities that I used to drive thru on my way to work. When I pray in the yard and see the tracks it reminds me of the Lord increasing our parameter. I used to personally drive by the tracks in Kingsville when picking people ‘up for church’ now we reach all the cities on a regular basis, the ‘10 cites’ if you will. Be faithful in the little and God will give you 10 cities.

(1193) The rich ruler asks Jesus ‘what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life’? Jesus responds ‘you know the commandments, do these and you will live’. The man says I have kept them since I was a kid, Jesus says there is still one thing lacking ‘go, sell all that you have, give it to the poor. And come and follow me, you will have treasure in heaven’. As you continue thru the chapter [Luke 18] you see that Jesus then gives the famous ‘it is easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to make it to heaven’. The disciples wonder ‘who then can be saved’ and they also tell Jesus they forsook all in this life to follow him, Jesus says they will be rewarded both now and in the future for their sacrifice. Now, I explained this section of scripture many times over the years, the camel quote and what Jesus was telling Peter about ‘getting more in this life and later as well’ either read the short book ‘house of prayer or den of thieves’ [on this site] or go thru the ‘prosperity gospel/word of faith’ section on this blog for an explanation. I just want to hit on one angle today, over the years it has become popular to make a charge against the historic church that when they made vows of poverty and did stuff like that, that they were simply being deceived out of the truth of wealth and the devil tricked them into ‘forsaking all to follow him’. Many preachers who have made this charge are well meaning men who have been wrongly influenced by the prosperity/materialistic gospel without realizing it. In this story Jesus clearly challenges the rich person to sell his goods, give to the poor and follow him. If this type of teaching was limited to this one story, then I could see where people might be taking it out of context, but this theme of choosing Christ over the material pursuits of life is woven all throughout the New Testament. You find it in the writing of the epistles, the book of Acts, the Revelation of John. I mean this is a central theme of scripture. To charge that the people in church history who have actually felt that Jesus wanted them to ‘sell all and follow him’ to say that they were being tricked into doing this by ‘church tradition’ simply is not true. Many believers have made these choices because of what they read in the bible, many of them went on to found great worldwide movements [some of the famous Monastic movements were started this way] and their lives truly were a fulfilling of this type of teaching. In essence they left the pursuit of material wealth and founded movements that continue today for the cause of Christ. I do realize why many well meaning Pastors have overlooked this, but this still does not excuse the fact that a majority of the New Testament speaks against the pursuit of wealth versus the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t a Bishop, or Pope, or Reformer or Orthodox priest who told the man ‘sell all you have and give it to the poor’ it was Jesus himself! I think it’s time we stop accusing the saints of old who have made this same decision because of the words of Christ, they were not acting out of ignorance or tradition. It is our modern day ignorance that often is the problem.

(1191) THANK GOD I’M NOT LIKE YOU! - Jesus said 2 men went up to the church house [temple] to pray; one was a tax collector [a despised class in the 1st century, they collected taxes for the Roman govt. from their own people [Jews] they were seen as sell outs] the other man was a Pharisee, those who were deemed more holy than everyone else. You know, the whole aura of the room would change when these guys showed up [the preacher/pastor is here, watch what you say type of a thing] the Pharisee prayed ‘I thank you God that I am not like other men, adulterers, liars and even like this low class neighbor of mine, this tax collector’ he saw his religious life as a means to self betterment. Something that made him a cut above the rest. He tithed, fasted and attended the temple meetings. Now the tax collector was struggling with guilt, the weight of all the years of being hated and despised, sure he pretended it was just part of the job, but it affected him. He even feels unwanted at the temple, I mean this Pharisee is using him in his sermon illustration for heavens sake! He does not even feel worthy enough to look into the eyes of other people, fearing he might see someone that he has had shady dealings with in his extortion type job. He simply says ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ Jesus said this man went back home accepted in Gods eyes, the religious leader did not. This week [8-09] the congress went on break, they are back home in their districts and getting an earful, angry constituents chewing them out. The conservative media says these folks are mom and pop types, just innocent citizens expressing themselves. The liberal media say they are republican plants who are part of the K street lobbying conspiracy to thwart health care by the corrupt insurance profiteers! Probably a little truth to both views. The problem is our country has about 20-25 % who are uninsured [around 40-50 million people] the rest of the population has insurance, when the liberal media portrays the country as being willing to sacrifice their present system [whether it’s broken or not] and to have a possible increase in taxes, when the media says the 80 % of the insured really do want to do this for the 20 %, they are not being realistic. I want universal health care, I don’t have insurance right now and I need it! But the reality is most Americans are not willing to make more sacrifices for a group of uninsured people who for whatever reason have not been able to get insurance. Many seniors are worried that their Medicare will be affected, it surely will. Right now about half the country wants it, about half say leave the thing alone. Our society measures ‘winners’ by the success that they have attained, one of the scoreboards is how well you are doing compared to the next guy ‘I thank thee that I am insured, been responsible, done what I was supposed to do. I give tithes/taxes of all that I possess, fasted [been frugal] but look at this other 20 %, they are reaping what they sowed, sure they don’t have health care, but why couldn’t they have done the responsible thing and gotten it like me? Now you’re asking me to sacrifice for them’ the main reason why people are against it is not because the conservative lobbyists have tricked grandma to go to the town hall meeting and scream, the reason is people will only go so far to ‘help the other guy’ when you tell people that they should be willing to make all types of sacrifices for the betterment of the whole, this usually does not work. Some people are saying ‘hey, I don’t even have a job and you’re asking me to agree to support one of the biggest expenditures in U.S. history’. There are many reasons why people are disgruntled, as of today I think the president is not going to pass reform. Maybe some type of a private co-op thing, but not  reform with a public option [like Medicare]. When society digresses to a point where one group is pitted against the other, ugly things happen. Both sides [liberal/conservative] have misrepresented stuff, have used racial/class distinctions to fight the other side, no group has clean hands in this stuff. The church/people of God should function with a higher morality, speak with a clear voice and not misrepresent issues or people. I believe that overall, we should have true health care reform. I realize there are many pros and cons to the debate, but as a principle, we should strive to provide care for all Americans whether or no they can afford it. This principle is noble, it doesn’t help when both sides brand the other as the real enemy, look at the issue, take a principled stand and let the chips fall where they may.

(1190) In Luke 18 Jesus gives the story of the woman who keeps hounding the judge for vengeance, the judge is not a good man. He does not fear God or care about man, yet he finally avenges the woman because of her consistent pleading. Jesus says we should learn the principle of consistent prayer thru this story. At the end of this chapter a blind man comes to Jesus and begs for mercy, Jesus asks ‘what do you want me to do’? The man says ‘restore my sight’ Jesus did. Some times we as believers overlook the obvious, we plan and scheme and strategize, we come up with bible formulas to make stuff happen, often times we forget to simply ask. Now, sometimes we have to wait for a while before we see results, but it is during these waiting periods that God enlarges us. I like studying Cosmology [universe] and science, one of the major breakthroughs in science occurred in the last century with Hubbell’s discovery of the expanding universe. Some have a limited idea of what this means; for instance if you took a game board and placed a bunch of stars and planets on the board, you could move the planets and stars away from the earth and it would give the appearance that the earth is the center of the universe, how else could everything be moving away from one point, unless that point were the center? Well this really isn’t what is meant by the expanding universe, a better model would be like taking a balloon and placing a bunch of stars and planets on the balloon, as the balloon inflates the stars and planets all move away from all the other points at the same time. The stars and planets are not actually moving; they are simply part of an expanding universe. So in this model the earth would not necessarily be at the center, because the expanding universe creates an environment where all things are expanding at once. Okay, I don’t know if you got it or not, the point I want to make is during times of waiting and asking and trusting, God ‘expands our universe’ if you will, he doesn’t just bring us along further down the road [distance] but he ‘enlarges our steps under us’ [Psalms] The bible says a mans gift makes ‘room’ for him. Jesus said he was going away to prepare a place for us, that in his Fathers house there were many rooms/mansions. We often read this as meaning Jesus is building us a spot in heaven. A better reading would be that Jesus was leaving the disciples so that they would ‘move into the room/place’ that God had for them [on the planet]. His leaving would allow the Spirit to come and then they would function in the capacity that God had for them. Sort of like saying ‘I am leaving to prepare a place for your gifts and abilities to function, they will only function by me leaving and creating space for you to function in by my absence’ got it? So the bible says a mans gift makes room/space for him, it expands your field of operation. The gifts are described as precious stones, in whatever way it turns it prospers. This speaks of a multifaceted gem, a diamond that you can observe from many different angles. During times of waiting God allows us to grow, not just in size, but depth. The bible says ‘God stretches out the heavens’ this is a good description of the expanding universe, given centuries before science knew about it. God also taught us that we would grow and expand during seasons of waiting and trusting, I think he knew what he was talking about.

(1188) Right after Jesus gives the parable of the wise steward [Luke 16] he launches into the parable of the rich man and Lazarus [yes, I know some think it not a parable! I explained this before] it’s like Jesus was hitting the subject of riches and poverty thru the whole chapter. In verse 14 the bible says the Pharisees, who were covetous, were there. We often don’t think of them as covetous, Jesus says they esteemed the things of men highly while those things that men value are an abomination in Gods eyes. They valued their image/status a lot, how others viewed them. Often times people seek wealth and fame for these reasons, thus they coveted money for the wrong reasons. Jesus also speaks of John the Baptist ‘the law and the prophets were until John; since John came on the scene the Kingdom is being declared’. John was a transitional figure, the people of Jesus day knew lots about the law and prophets, they were sticklers when it came to ‘bible facts’ but John came on the scene and turned the tables upside down. He was a different sort of preacher, that’s for sure! With the preaching of John [and Jesus] all of a sudden there was this whole new context to put everything else in. The didactic teaching of the Old Testament was not being seen in context. Jesus himself will show his men all the things that were written about him in the law and prophets. In the end of this chapter Jesus tells the rich man that if his brothers don’t hear ‘the law and the prophets’ then they will not listen, even if one rises from the dead. Jesus was showing us that it’s possible to know bible facts, without really grasping the reality of God. I just read an interesting article in Christianity Today magazine [8-09] it showed how the countries of Latin America were being inundated with a very limited preaching of the prosperity gospel. How the country is flooded with ‘Christian TV’ and how many uneducated preachers have gotten a hold of the principle of ‘sow money into my ministry and God will bless you’ yet many of these ministries have no real preaching of the gospel. Jesus rebuked the lifestyle of the Pharisees because of their underlying sin of covetousness, they knew how to quote scripture and function as religious leaders of the community, yet they weren’t really listening to the one whom scripture testified of [Him]!

(1187) CASH FOR CLUNKERS- In Luke 16 we have the parable of the steward who wasted his master’s money. Jesus says there was this employee who was reported to have swindled his boss. The boss calls him on the carpet and the employee gets busted. He thinks ‘geez, I am going to lose my job [you know, the recession and all] what will I do for cash?’ [Oh, I don’t know. What about taking whatever you can find?] He says ‘I can’t dig [why not?] to beg I am ashamed [now we are running out of options] I know, I’ll contact all my bosses debtors and reduce their bills’. He takes option number 3 and gets in good with the guys who owed his boss money. Notice, this option really didn’t produce wealth, it simply lost it. Right now our country is doing the ‘cash for clunkers’ program, you can take your old gas guzzler in and the govt. pays the dealer $4,500 dollars for the car. The dealer then destroys it. The idea is the govt. is getting the polluters off the road while the dealers are doing business. You know how many of these clunkers could put my buddies to work? Guys trying to buy clunkers for a few hundred, these so called clunkers that are being traded in are pretty good vehicles. If you simply gave them to unemployed people who really needed them this would help them and the economy. How many junk yards could have done business with the parts? I realize the reason for destroying them is for environmental concerns, but we are having major unemployment right now, this deal doesn’t help them. So the steward wrote off some value. Then at the end the Lord commends the guy for being wise, doing what he had to do. The parable ends with the famous verse ‘you cannot serve God and money, if you try and do both you will wind up hating one and loving the other’ note to you readers, if this verse just offended you, in a small sense you are ‘hating one of them’ right now. I like Jesus forward preaching, you never left the sermon wondering what his point was. In life we all do what we need to at times, this employee cut off two viable options right at the start [work, beg] make sure the reason you seem to have no options isn’t because your standards are too high. I get a kick out of some of my buddies who wont work for a ‘measly 7 dollars an hour’ but have no problem dumpster diving for a left over pizza! Sometimes we are the problem. And sometimes we are ‘unprofitable’ because we are too caught up in the material pursuits of life. Jesus does say those who were not faithful in temporary riches [money] would be unfaithful in the true riches [spiritual wealth]. I know there are many ideas on what this means, but one way we become faithful in natural wealth is by not letting it consume us, by not being too preoccupied with the obtaining of the stuff. These are the main points of Jesus in these stories; we seem to miss the main points a little too much.

(1186) PARABLE FROM A PARABLE-  I woke up this morning and was praying for ‘my sons’ [this refers to all the people we are reaching out to] I had a dream and after thinking about it I felt the Lord wanted me to pray this. Then I opened Luke 15 and read ‘a certain man had 2 sons’ and figured I’d better do it. In Luke 15 we have the parable of the prodigal son, a younger son [inexperience] approaches his dad and requests too much money to soon [economic stimulus- 800 billion, possible health care cost- 1 trillion. You get the point] and the son goes into a far country and wastes the money [it could have had a better effect if spent properly, i.e.; I like Nancy Pelosi, but I heard her defend the Democratic plan for the economy as green jobs, energy reform and insurance reform, while these are noble things, they are not things that drive our economy] so after the son wastes his money, he repents and says ‘I will go back to my dad and admit I blew it, I will tell him I am no longer worthy to be called his son [doubting his legitimacy, citizenship!] and will work as a hired servant’. The father receives the son back, makes a huge feast [media adulation] and all is well. Oh wait, the older brother [more experienced conservative type, he knew all along that this younger inexperienced person would blow it, he’s just waiting for others to see it too] the older brother comes close to the house and hears all the ruckus ‘what’s going on’ he asks. They tell him your younger brother is home and your dad thru him this big bash. He gets mad, he says he has been doing right all these years, faithfully serving in a conservative way, he never wasted the people’s money! And now, after all this waste, this younger guy is getting all the credit for things. He’s being treated in a way that I have never been! Being appreciated and all. The older brother refuses to rejoice as well, he really doesn’t want the young brother to succeed. I believe many people who voted for ‘the young son’ thought he would be more main stream than he actually turned out. Some fiscal conservatives thought he would be a pragmatic type, who could talk to both sides and come down in the middle. The truth is he has turned out much more liberal than expected by the moderate group who voted for him. I am not saying this is bad in itself, but this is political reality. Now, there are some major things that can go either way right now, and I fear that some of the more conservative ‘brothers’ really don’t want the younger brother to make it. Just like they did to the last president [the Dem's to Bush]. The point is we do need to root for the success of the younger brother, even if his wasteful spending lead to ‘a famine in the land’ we need to allow room for rejoicing once again, and the possibility of things going well for all parties involved. It’s only natural for the older group to feel animosity towards the younger brother, he was treated with great bias by the media, they truly did a disservice to the country by not fairly presenting both sides. Too much adulation, I heard a recording of two reporters at one of the appearances of Obama during his campaign. On the air they were having a conversation about Obama’s I.Q. it went like this ‘What do you think his I.Q. is? I don’t know, but it must be one of the highest I.Q.’s of any president ever. Do you have any idea what the number is? No, but I have a feeling it’s really high’ now, lets be honest, when the opponents hear this stuff, they develop a natural animosity to the man. The older brother heard the tremendous noise from the party, a party he really didn’t deserve. And this caused him to not want to side with the younger man. The father finally says ‘look, you are all in this together, you could have partaken of the inheritance all along, just like your brother is doing now’ the father turned the conversation from ‘us versus them’ to one of ‘we are all the same family’ I think we need to heed this parable.

(1185) THE SHEEP AND THE COIN- Once again Jesus stirs up the crowd, as his teaching ministry flourishes he gains a listening audience of tax collectors and sinners. Basically he’s speaking the language of the people. It’s interesting to note that around 70 % of the Old Testament quotes of Jesus found in the New Testament are taken from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. This translation was a collaboration of 70 scholars [so the tradition goes] and was the Greek cultural version of the Old Testament that was popular in the Greek speaking world, it was also seen as an ‘impure’ version among the religious leaders of Judaism, it was not the most pure Hebrew text that the orthodox used. But Jesus was attempting to speak to the common people as much as possible and he wasn’t the type of preacher to engage in these long debates over the most pure text of scripture! So anyway he gives the stories of a man who lost 1 sheep out of 99 and goes and finds it; also the woman who lost 1 coin out of 10 and she too seeks for it. Jesus says that’s what he’s doing when he receives these so called low class people; he’s seeking the ones who are lost. He says when they find the lost sheep/coin they bring it home and call their neighbors and friends and rejoice with them. Jesus did put a priority on spiritual riches versus natural stuff, to seek the lost and save them was valuable in his eyes, to live your life based on class issues was not valuable. The religious leaders despised these down and out folk, they wouldn’t stoop so low as to actually befriend them. That was the real accusation they made against Jesus, he was ‘their friend’ this just irked the religious leadership terribly! It’s too easy for well meaning Christian leaders to live their lives in an environment where most of your time and thought is spent in public speaking, running the 501 c3 operation of ‘ the church’ and mingling with the elite crowd as much as possible. The lifestyle of Jesus was a total repudiation of this professional ministerial class, they were building their careers while Jesus was out looking for sheep.

(1183) I HATE YOU! Felt like this was a prophetic word to all of my critics [KIDDING!] Jesus said unless we hated our families and lives we could not be a true disciple. Over the years I have seen the church go thru stages; one of the areas of popular teaching is the entire field of family life. Now to be sure the bible speaks about family life, husbands loving wives and bringing up their children in the fear of God. But I want to give you another side, while I don’t believe Jesus was speaking of ‘hate’ in a way that means anger, but I do believe the people of God have at times made ‘family things’ an idol. I remember years ago when first coming to Texas, I had a good friend who made the second trip back to Texas with me. He had a hard time [as I] in trying to make it as young kids in a strange new world [you know, cowboys and stuff shooting regularly in the streets- or Bush and his cronies running rough shod over the population as Cheney acts as an oil czar!] At one point my friend, who was now married and had kids, was having a hard time making it. We were both in our mid 20’s with families and kids. I had just started our church and he was an original member. My focus was on doing Gods work and branching out in outreach to as many people as possible. I was working at the Fire Dept. and doing my best to ‘run the church’. My friend told me one day he decided to leave Texas and take his family back to New Jersey, it was rough on him to be sure. At one point I could sense he was missing his natural family back home, he was raised by his Cuban grandmother [she used to make us some great Cuban food!] and he expressed a feeling of ‘wow, I can’t wait until I get back home and grandma can make us good food again’. While his love for his natural family back in Jersey was fine, yet he based his decision on past family affinities, as opposed to current situations. I felt he made a mistake in going back. Jesus challenged us to put his kingdom first, even ahead of well meaning family things, things that can be hindrances at times. When I first started helping street people and addicts, I had some people say ‘gee, why don’t you help your natural family and not worry about all these other people’ some thought I was rich and spending lots of money on these friends. Then when they found out I was simply doing it on a fire fighters salary [now a retirement check] they kind of had the feeling ‘gee, the guy doesn’t make that much, he shouldn’t be spending the little he has on these bums’. You know, you can’t win for losing! Jesus wants us to do what he says, sure he also wants us to be responsible people as well, good family lives and well adjusted kids. But as in any area of life, we need to keep the proper balance, there will be times when you will need to make a choice between what’s better for you and your family situation, or moving ahead by faith in the Kingdom. My buddy went back to eat some good Cuban food, but I fear he might have missed out on the real supper the Lord had for him in Texas.

(1182) I JUST GOT MARRIED AND AM NOT ALLOWED TO COME- Ouch!  In Luke 14 Jesus gives the parable of the great supper; he says a man makes this great feast and sends out his servant to tell the intended guests ‘all things are ready NOW, it’s supper time’ [not breakfast time! Supper time is a time of completion, Galatians says the fullness of the times were already present in the 1st century]. So the servant goes and tells the people ‘come’. But the people make excuses, one says ‘I have bought some land and need to go see it’ [his lucrative real estate business was too important] another said ‘I have bought some ox and need to go try them out’ and the last guy said ‘I just got married, I can’t come’. It’s been said in the annals of famous repeated jokes from previous Pastors/Teachers that this was the only brother who had a legitimate excuse [sorry about this]. So the servant comes back to the man and says ‘I invited all the intended guests [1st century Israel] and they couldn’t come’ and the master gets mad and sends the servant back out to gather all the poor and lame and outcasts of society, and they come. But the original guests are left out. This parable, like all the others, must be seen in context. Obviously Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel and telling them that as a nation their time has come, he is their Messiah and the supper is ready. In New Testament thought [as opposed to the multitude of various theologies that people espouse] the appearing of the Messiah in the first century was the defining moment in all of human history. The national rejection of Jesus by Israel did not postpone Gods intended Kingdom work. The other guests that came to the table were all the Gentile nations who benefited by the rejection of Israel [book of Romans]. The supper time indicates that Jesus initial presenting of himself to Israel was not a sort of evangelistic call to get saved [though that was a small part of it] but it was Gods plan for the ages being fulfilled, it was a passing away of a former age [law- Old Testament economy] and a bringing into existence of a new way, the Blood of Jesus and his New Covenant. This new way was presented as ‘a full course meal’ so to speak. It was there in its fullness and would be inaugurated by the Messiah, whether Israel wanted it or not. So when we read the epistles in the New Testament we read a story of God bringing in many Gentile nations, the non Jews are now considered citizens of God’s kingdom and fellow partakers of all the Divine blessings that were restricted to Israel under the first covenant [Ephesians]. When we read the New Testament it is important to read it thru the proper lens [this being one of the pairs of glasses!] when you do it this way it allows you to see the truth of many other things. It puts the proper perspective on things. We as Christians are not waiting for a Kingdom that has been postponed for 2 thousand years, but we are already partaking of the benefits of ‘the supper’. Sure, there will be a great future day when the King returns, that’s true. But we are already living in the Kingdom at this time. In essence we are the eternal generation that Jesus spoke about when he said ‘some of you will not die until all these things are fulfilled’. If you see this ‘some of you’ as the church age, the people of God from day 1 until now. Then truly some of our brothers and sisters have gone on to be with the Lord, but there are still some of us hanging out on the planet; but whether we are alive or not when Jesus returns, I know for sure that ‘this generation’ [the church] will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled [note- I am not saying this is the only way to read these verses, but I think there is much truth to some of the way I just taught it]

(1181) Well we had a good day at the river yesterday, we went to San Antonio [New Braunfels] and rode the river in the inner tubes. I actually pray regularly for this area, stuff like ‘your people will rise up and overflow the river banks and flow into Judah’ ‘you will be like fountains dispersed abroad, like rivers of waters in the streets’ [bible verses] so it was cool floating down a river with hundreds of people who you regularly pray for. On the ride back I also noticed some famous churches along the highway, basically good people, charismatic type personalities who I used to catch on TV [I haven’t watched shows like that in a few years now, not because their bad or wicked, but too disconnected from the historic context of Christianity- a simple success gospel with no real attachment to the historic church]. So it was fun. Okay in Luke Jesus says when you have a dinner [B.B.Q.] invite the poor and down and out, don’t invite the rich and well to do [man, he is so hard on the affluent!] because if you invite people with the mindset of ‘reaping a harvest’ now, you forfeit a true reward. Jesus says the reward you get will be at the resurrection [no material mindset here, no money thing in the here and now] this is Luke 14 by the way. It’s a mystery to me how so many well meaning streams of Christianity can completely by pass this central mode of Jesus teaching. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote in his epistle ‘when you favor the rich in your assembly and treat them better than the poor you are doing wrong’ [James 2- by the way this is the only reference in the New Testament that speaks of an assembly that can be translated as a place to meet. The context of James is Jewish believers, he obviously is referring to meeting at the synagogue. That probably would have been a better translation. The term for church, Ecclesia, never refers to a building]. So James obviously picked up this mantra from Jesus, you know, the whole negativity on the rich type preaching! Well today we see how Jesus wants us to approach our service to him, when we love our neighbor we are to act and show kindness and spend money [hey, brisket isn’t cheap!] and do it all with a mindset that says ‘no, I am not doing all this so I can get some type of financial reward in the here and now, Jesus will reward me at the resurrection’ I like this stuff, you might not like it, but I love it.

(1180) FRIEND, GO UP HIGHER- its 5 a.m. right now, just finished around an hour prayer time. In a few hours I will be heading to San Antonio for the day. My daughter’s birthday is today [7-25 Bethany, the oldest is 24]. Her boyfriend of a few years proposed to her last night. We will be riding the inner tubes at one of the rivers and hitting the good spots, river walk and stuff like that. San Antonio is one of our outreach cities; it will be a prayer time as well for me. In Luke 14 Jesus says when you get invited to a wedding don’t take [seek] a place of honor and recognition, but take the humble seat. Because if you go ‘for the glory’ the person who invited you will have to tell you ‘I’m sorry, but this seat is reserved for someone else, but you can sit here in the back’ and the man will have been humbled on purpose, as opposed to having done it himself. This theme is pretty consistent in the teaching of Jesus, he was instilling the mindset that greatness in Gods kingdom would not be measured by worldly standards. Religion in Jesus day developed along the lines of class warfare, you had the leaders hold a special place over the people. God’s people were already under Roman dominion, they felt like they were always having to answer ‘to the man’ being on their guard for stepping on the wrong toes. And religious Judaism fell into this same mindset. The leaders primarily saw their role as being in charge of people, that is they derived joy out of knowing they were a special chosen group, better than the average laymen. In essence the leaders were always going for the best seat in the house. Now Jesus comes along, he really rebukes them all thru out his ministry, he’s been taking the outcasts of society and elevating them to a position that really offended the clergy! At the same time he’s been telling the elite class ‘you belong down here, in the back of the room’. Ouch! He was really changing the mindset of authority and leadership in a major way. Leadership was not to take a pre imminent role among the group, they were to be servant leaders. Jesus tells those who take the low road ‘friend, go up higher’. It’s funny, Jesus will exalt and use the lowly in a great way, it’s just they aren’t in it for the fame.

(1177) I would like to talk on a few things today to be honest, I just heard a good radio debate on evolution and it gets me in the mood to argue; but I am still in Luke and want to hit some stuff. Jesus said he came to set a fire on the earth, that he would cause divisions in homes and among ‘families’ [even church families]. His radical kingdom passion had people lining up on opposite sides. Mother and father against son and daughter, stuff like that. I have found that most revolutionaries get this type of response, it comes with the territory. You find some who hear and think ‘wow, this is the best teaching I have ever heard’ and others who say ‘look, he’s stirring the waters too much’ Jesus was that type of a preacher. Okay, let’s do the science thing; the debate I just heard was good, the presenters of the Christian show did a good job airing it, yet they were a little confused on thinking that Intelligent Design and Creationism were the same thing, they are not. Lets talk a little on the Scientific Method, during the enlightenment of the 18th century you had the method develop called ‘the analytical method’ this added to the scientific method and stated that you had 2 sides to examining and learning stuff- the inductive side [gathering of facts/data] and the deductive side [coming to some basic conclusions based on the facts]. The biggest problem with modern science in my view [if I can be so bold] is it’s inability to rightfully use the second part of this method, that is there comes a time where any scientific endeavor has to capitulate to the overwhelming inductive data and come to some basic set of beliefs. You can’t go on ad infinitum looking for missing facts to prove your conclusion. That would be getting the method backwards. So for example if you are looking to prove that a living cell can come into existence ‘by chance’ without any real cause, then you look at as many examples of living things and try and trace a point where something popped into life without a prior cause. After a few hundred years of doing this, science has gathered tons of real evidence that show us that this never happens. Now, if your theory on evolution NEEDS this to happen, and you continue to promote that this ACTUALLY HAS HAPPENED, you are basically taking the scientific data and coming to a false conclusion, you have deduced an idea that is not consistent with the facts. Now, you can argue that there still is the slight possibility that new data will arise to back up your theory, possible. But the point is you can’t promote your theory [evolution] over other theories [creationism or intelligent design] and say yours is science while the opponents is not. This just is not true. The field of intelligent design is loaded with scientific facts that lead to the conclusion that there was intelligence behind the created order. They have the science to back up their theory, evolution does not! [Darwinian macro view] So anyway Jesus said he was going to set fire on the earth, he was starting a revolution that would get out of control, I think it’s time for us to start some fires.

(1173) I have a few things that I need to hit on today. First, recently there has been some criticism of the freedom to blog. Some have said that because blogging is so accessible, that for that very reason those who blog are not credible. I would like to point out that any venue of ‘speaking’ whether it be Pulpit, TV, Radio, whatever- has both good and bad aspects to it. Around a month or so ago the lord spoke to me from Romans [I think 13?] ‘The powers that be are ordained of God’ while it is true that anyone can do anything [blogging, public speaking, etc.] it is not true that anyone/everyone is doing it by Gods grace. So to be sure, anyone can blog, but if God is giving anyone a voice of influence, be assured that he alone [God!] has the power to ‘ordain powers’ or set up those who have authoritative voices in the community. Number 2, I want to comment on the book ‘scandal of the evangelical mind’ by Mark Noll, but I still have a few chapters left. But let me say I want all of our ‘followers’ to read it, especially you pastors and leaders. I recently checked my email [something I only do every few weeks, or once a month! I got away from the distraction that it can cause] and I had a few church planting networks contact us. I am glad we have some readers who are actively planting churches. One of the things Noll brings out in his book is the lack of good intellectual learning available to the average evangelical Christian. I like Noll, don’t agree with every thing he says, but I do agree with him on this. To all of our leaders/church groups that follow us, make an honest effort to buy, borrow or READ BLOGS that have good in depth teaching. You are a product of what you read. If the majority of your Christian experience is simply listening to modern success type preaching, then you and the people you lead will suffer for it. Now, lets do Luke 12; Jesus gives the famous story from the birds and flowers, he is rebuking the natural instinct of man to find security and interest in the pursuit of material wealth. He says the birds do not invest, they have no storehouses or barns, yet God feeds them. The flowers don’t struggle and toil, yet they look great. Then Jesus says he doesn’t want us preoccupied with the material pursuits of life. He says the unbelievers allow their lives to be consumed with this stuff and we should not be like that. Okay, Jesus is not teaching financial irresponsibility, but he is telling us not to allow wealth building to become an adventure that consumes our thoughts and time. When I first became a Christian I had the ‘disconnection’ that Jesus spoke about here. For many years I passed up chances to make wealth and stuff like that. Then after a period of listening to a lot of off balance teaching that focused a lot on money, I got into the money thing. Investing, real estate, the whole 9 yards. It wasn’t that awful, but I did notice that I spent lots of time thinking about investing, buying books and tapes on the subject; catching all the business and investing shows on TV. I did it all. Then I went thru a period of time where I walked away from the whole deal. It took time to sell the rentals and all, but I realized that for me it was a distraction, it affected the way I viewed God’s kingdom and work. Most of the money teachers/preachers had a feeling of disdain towards the verses like this. I realized that the overall environment of the financial/wealth building focus was something Jesus was against. Being consumed with the stuff. So today, where are you at personally? If you’re a Pastor, do you do this? Has your teaching become affected too much by personal success and wealth? Are you simply a believer who wants to sell out for the gospel? After I retired I stopped balancing my checkbook, put my investment money in a fixed interest savings, and really backed off of the regular overactive concern about wealth. Of course I still check my account on line a few times a month, making sure the automatic bills are being paid, checking up on my direct deposit from my retirement. But that’s all; I have no other schemes or ‘fishing lines’ out there trying to bring in some type of financial harvest. That’s a simple return to basic responsibility without spending an inordinate amount of time thinking ‘money thoughts’ all day long. Jesus said the world was consumed with this stuff, are you?

(1171) Just read the story where a brother asks Jesus to help him with his finances; he asks ‘tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’. Jesus says ‘man, who made you think I was about money stuff’? Then he gives a famous verse ‘beware of covetousness, for a mans life consists not in the abundance of the things that he owns’. It’s strange, but this is one of the first verses I memorized as a Christian, there was no particular reason for me to have focused on it, but now all these years later it seems to have been prophetic, being a major part of our teaching is based on this verse. Jesus then gives the parable of the rich man who tore down his barns and built greater ones to store his goods, Jesus puts these words in his mouth ‘I will say to myself, soul you have many goods for many years down the road. I can now find comfort in my wealth and enjoy the coming years’ Jesus says the man died that night. He then warns the rich to be rich towards God, and not to find a sense of security by the size of their 401 k. I remember seeing a commercial on investing, it shows a woman discussing her wealth and she says ‘I feel so safe’ about her wealth. She was expressing the feeling of security that comes from investments. It caught perfectly the warning of Jesus, covetousness has effected the church because we have allowed our financial empires to give us a sense of peace and security, contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus warned us to beware of this type of mindset, if it wasn’t a real danger that people would fall into, he wouldn’t have told us to beware!

(1169) let’s finish up Luke 11. Jesus is invited to dinner again at a Pharisees house, you think the brothers would have learned not to do this by now! So as Jesus eats he doesn’t wash his hands first, the Pharisee ‘thinks within himself’ wow, this is the proof I was looking for, he’s not the one! Of course Jesus knows his heart and rebukes him for being  more concerned with outward religion/cleansing than the heart. Jesus tells him ‘did not he that made the outer things [material world] also make the heart/soul of a man’? He was rebuking him for having a sense of ceremonial cleanness, a view of ‘being clean’ that was legalistic, but Jesus said God was more concerned about our inner actions and thoughts. Now, he does connect the ‘right heart’ with a particular act of worship. He says ‘give alms [do charity] with all that you have and this is what cleanness is about’. The same rebuke the prophet Isaiah gave to Israel of old, he said ‘this is not the type of fast God wants, to do outward acts of casting yourself down and rending your garments, but God wants you to loose the chains of those who are suffering, to set the oppressed free’ the same type of idea that is expressed when Jesus quotes Isaiah in the synagogue and says ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me for opening blind eyes, preaching the gospel to the poor’ the anointing of Jesus, God’s religious way of ordaining people, was to do justice and show mercy. Jesus rebuked this Pharisee because he lost the original intent of Gods law and digressed into this religious mindset that was looking to find fault, that was obsessed with outward standards of holiness [they washed their hands obsessively! It wasn’t just a one time deal before a meal, this ‘washing’ became a religious obsession with them, this is the mindset Jesus is rebuking]. Jesus corrected this mistaken view and showed him what was really important, to do charity, justice, mercy and good deeds, this is the new testament sacrifice of the believer [along with praise- Peter] and Jesus said when you  do charity, this is what makes you ‘ceremonially clean’ in the eyes of God.

(1168) Jesus told the Jews that they were seeking a sign and they would get no sign except the sign of the prophet Jonah. He was speaking of his death and resurrection [I explained this in the ‘Messianic, Jewish, Gentile’ section under the John Hagee comments]. Jesus also warned us about the things we see, accept as models for the way we live as individuals and as a society. He talked about the eye being the gateway to the body, what we ‘look at’ informs the way we live. Whenever I hear of these reports of a 5 year old accidentally shooting someone, I think to myself how in the world do these kids know what to do with a gun? They obviously were informed to some degree by ‘what they saw’ whether it be a cartoon or whatever. The point being what we see gives us information that can be acted upon. Now I am not saying that every person who sees a shooting will commit murder! But you get the point. What ‘we see’ as a society also effects the way we live. Right now the senate is grilling Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonja Sotomayor. She is the first Hispanic women to be nominated to the court. I really have nothing against her to be honest, but she has made statements saying she believed that the fact that she is Hispanic and a woman, that that would help her to come to better conclusions that white men. Maybe so? The main point is if you had a white women say that her ‘whiteness’ would help her make a better decision that a Black/Hispanic woman, she would be thrown out as a racist. But we allow minorities to make statements that are at their heart racist in nature, because it’s cool to be on the side of the minority. So we ‘see’ how this is wrong, basically a double standard, yet we allow it because it’s trendy. Now, I know I lose readers when I talk about this stuff, but frankly I could care less. I do not believe this woman is a racist, and I think she should get on the court. But we need to stop allowing double standards like this to slip by. Of course she just got overturned by the Supreme Court for her ruling in the Boston firefighter’s case. The fire dept. gave a promotional test, around 16 White firefighters passed and 1 Hispanic, no Blacks passed. So the city simply thru out the test. This stuff is blatantly racist at its very core, every body knows this! Things like this fuel these white skinhead groups; this makes other ethnic groups mad at Blacks. When you allow certain racial prejudices to exist in society, it affects the ‘whole body’. Jesus said we function according to the models that we are given, according to the things we see others do. When young kids see the blatant acceptance of racist actions as acceptable, they will grow up with the same frame of mind. I realize that many people who use this lens for their worldview are good people, I also realize that because of past sins against minorities that we do need to try and make up for these sins as best as we can. If institutional racism has kept minorities out of the colleges and other professions, then lets do our best to right these wrongs, but you cant right them by discriminating against the white grandchildren of those who might have been part of this institutional racism, it simply breeds future generations of racist thoughts and ideas. If the ‘light’ [the things that inform us as a people] that be in us is dark, then the whole body [society] will be affected in a negative way.

(1166) yesterday I was finishing up Last Days Madness, by Gary Demar, and the book by Mark Noll showed up at my door [the scandal of the evangelical mind] I got thru the first 50 pages and really like it a lot. I do realize these books are dated, they’ve been around for a while, but I have been trying to catch up on the classics that I have never read before. Lots of my library has scholarly stuff, but most of the books were purchased at half price books, or ordered from Amazon, so I tend to miss some of the classics. I just read Luke 11, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. I like Luke’s version of it ‘give us bread day by day’ the daily bread request. Then Jesus goes right into the story of the guy whose friend shows up at his door, he realizes that he doesn’t have enough bread for his friend so he goes to another friend at midnight and asks for help. The other friend is in bed, but because of his friend’s boldness and persistence he gives him bread. James says we have not because we ask not, then he says sometimes we have not because we are asking out of selfishness, to simply get stuff to feed our lusts. Did James contradict Jesus? Did Jesus teach that we get whatever we want? I do find it interesting that Jesus gave us the story about the friend right after the Lords Prayer. In the Lords Prayer we ask ‘give us enough bread for today’ and then Jesus shows us what type of ‘bread asking’ this is. Asking for another! Basically when we recognize that we don’t have the wherewithal to meet the needs of others, we go to God and say ‘lord, I know these friends of mine are looking to me for answers, I really don’t have what it takes to be honest about it, but if you can give me some bread/life for them I will do my best to share it with them’. I like that, Jesus gives the bread to those who recognize that they are insufficient, they know they don’t have the ‘intellectual gravitas’ to cut it! When I was reading yesterday, I also grabbed one of my church histories off the shelf and started thru it. I like re-reading the good stuff, there are too many facts in these books to read them only once and think that’s enough. So as I’m reading thru I realize that it’s a very good read, you know, one of those books that reads easily. I was reading Karl Barth's history on 19th century Protestant Theology and it was a tough read. He was teaching on Immanuel Kant and it was rough, maybe because it’s an English translation of the Swiss theologian? Kant is tough enough on his own, but reading him thru a translation of Barth might be a little too much. So anyway I felt good about myself when reading Bruce Shelley’s church history, I mean it was easy, I thought ‘yeah, maybe I can hack these intellectuals, look, this read is child’s play’ I then flipped to the title to see the exact wording, it’s ‘church history in plain language’ which in layman’s terms means ‘history for dummies’ oh well a good dose of humility does the soul some good. Jesus said those who recognize that they don’t have ‘the bread’ for their friends on the journey are in good shape, they know to go to ‘other friends’ and ask for help, they’re not too proud to realize they don’t have all the answers. I think we need more of this in today’s church world. We all need to receive from one another. I like Nolls book, he shows the need for the intellectual wing of the church to receive from the ‘non intellectual’ wing. But he also takes the evangelical church to task for its neglect of the Life of the Mind. Hopefully I’ll share more in the coming posts. But for today this is all ‘the bread’ I have, thank God we all know where to go for some more! [I also ordered Brian Mclaren’s Generous Orthodoxy, but the order messed up. I will try and review it in the next month or so, it’s important for the emergent critique]

(1165) Just read the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is confronted by a lawyer. He asks Jesus what good thing he must do to have eternal life. Jesus asks him ‘what do you read in the law, how do you see it’? We all come to the table with glasses on, we have preconceived prejudices that taint the way we view scripture. Jesus was asking the man what pair of glasses he used. The man tells him ‘well, the law says we are to love God with all that is in us; our hearts and souls and minds, and love our neighbor as ourselves’. Wow, you got it right man! What an intellect, you sure showed us how smart you are. One more thing Jesus, who is my neighbor? Ah, he couldn’t leave well enough alone. So Jesus says there was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, on the journey he gets mugged. The robbers beat him, strip him and leave him on the road ‘half dead’. Sure enough a priest and Levite pass by, they probably are on their way [or coming from] some great religious conference, you know, the type where we all get to show off our knowledge and skill, sort of like what the lawyer was just doing. When they see the man they pass him up. Were they thinking how they might use the poor victim in their next sermon? Maybe they will go home to their religious communities and bring the need before them and start some type of mission to the ‘road to Jericho’ homeless? Either way they certainly never thought about actually acting themselves! What, are you kidding me? I am a priest/Levite; my calling is to engage in the teaching/preaching of what God wants, to build a life/ministry around telling others what they should do. I am not responsible for this poor slob, he is reaping what he sowed. But Jesus says a Samaritan [a half breed, low class mutt!] passed by and saw him. He stopped, helped him and brought him to a place to stay. He took money out of his own pocket [not some church budget] and paid the hotel owner and told him ‘if the cost is more, when I get back I’ll cover it’. Wow, all the religion and ministry and preaching in the world didn’t help this man, but a simple act of true compassion reached him. Jesus asks the lawyer ‘which one of these do you suppose treated the man like a good neighbor’? The lawyer says the Samaritan. Great, you answered right again! You do seem to have all the correct answers to these questions. Now, go and do likewise. The problem with most of us is we really don’t want to act ourselves, we want to take this story, and maybe use it in a sermon [like now!] or think about the spiritual lessons of how if you don’t serve God you will wind up like the poor man. But we very rarely read the new testament and think we are required to do these things. There are many people within the vicinity of your home that are in some way like this poor man, they are surrounded by religious institutions [priest/Levite] that mean well, most of them have some type of charitable outreach that tries to meet the need. But the man needed someone to pro actively get involved with him, someone who would simply act like Jesus acted. Not keeping a record of how much he already tithed to the church this past week, but someone who would reach into his own pocket and cover the cost, no questions asked. The lawyer already knew the answers to Jesus questions, he knew what was right. The only thing he lacked was the doing of the things he knew in his heart were the right things to do. He knew that to truly love God was to also love his fellow man, Jesus helped him to see what he needed to do.

(1160) In Luke 8 Jesus gives the parable of the sower, in the parable the last group are the good ground that the seed takes root in and bears fruit with patience. In psalms one David says that the good tree planted by the water source brings forth fruit in its season/time. Both of these teachings show us that God’s kingdom, though explosive in nature [starts really small, gets really big!] works along the lines of patient, steadfast plodding. Faithfulness is needed because it takes time for the root system to develop and get to a point of consistent fruit bearing. When I moved to Corpus around 17 years ago, I bought a small grapefruit tree. It was about a foot high, now it’s a huge tree that always produces fruit. I have fruit all year long. Right now it’s got around 50 ripe grapefruits, and around fifty new ones ripening. I have had friends tell me that it’s not natural to have them produce all year like this. Maybe so? The point is it took a long time and lots of watering for the first few years. But now I hardly ever mess with it, just prune it every now and then. Jesus also taught that the things which grow fast [the seed on the rock] don’t have enough time to develop strong roots. They shoot up and are not around for the long term. This doesn’t mean every big ministry has no roots! But it warns us to be careful when things grow big fast, make sure there is some strong root connections to under gird the tree [good ministry relationships with other stable people!]. I like the parables of Jesus, they make a lot of sense and are not long, drawn-out sermons that nobody ever remembers! The psalmist said the tree planted by the water brings forth fruit that lasts, it is a mainstay for those who come back year after year looking for fruit. It is no good to have a tree that has great tasting fruit, but dies in a few years. It’s better to have fruit that might not be as flashy, but can sustain you for life.

(1159) Just read the story where the prostitute pours expensive perfume on Jesus. A Pharisee named Simon invites Jesus to dinner, the woman comes and does this act of worship, she wipes his feet with her hair, she cries and worships him. The Pharisee thinks to himself ‘wow, if he were a prophet he would have known what type of woman this is’. The problem? He did know. Simon simply assumed that a true prophet would not receive a wicked woman. So Jesus does one of those things where he tells a simple story that even a child could understand, he says ‘Simon, there were these 2 guys that owed money to a lender, one owed much more than the other. The lender forgave them both, which one do you think would be more grateful’? Simon, not realizing that he’s on the hook, says ‘O, I don’t know, I guess the one who owed more’. Caught ya! Jesus says that’s why this woman is so extravagant towards Jesus, she was forgiven more than Simon. A few things, it is becoming popular today to teach that all religions mean well, they want to worship ‘the God of Abraham’ and we should be open and accepting of them. First, this woman worshipped Jesus. She was accepted because of her willingness to love and know him. Paul told the religious folk at Mars hill ‘I will reveal to you the unknown God that you have this altar set up for’ [Acts 17]. In all of our pluralism, we need to bring people to the Cross! Two, Simon simply misjudged Jesus. He figured if a prophet was really a prophet, he would act a certain way. Simon was simply wrong. If you look at this woman’s conversion, most evangelicals would say ‘she didn’t get saved’. I mean Jesus does put some liberal spin on it. The woman loved much, so she is forgiven much. What! Where are all the steps that end in a sinner’s prayer! You know according to that standard none of the apostles made it either [you find none of them asking Jesus into their hearts!] The point being we want people to come to Jesus, to know him and accept him as the messiah. Too often Christians can be a little technical in all the aspects of conversion while overlooking the main thing. The apostle John will write ‘those that do good are of God, and those that do evil are not’ Wow. Of course John also taught that those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh are antichrist. So the basic belief in Jesus as Gods Son, the deity of Christ, is a foundation of the faith. But John’s test is not what type of conversion prayer you prayed, but a changed life. Simon invited Jesus to dinner, he was a Pharisee who was willing to give Jesus a chance. But he was too quick to come to a judgment about him. Over the years I have had friends who might get challenged in some area of reformation, something that God is doing to change things. Often they will say ‘O, I know about that belief. I have had friends try and tell me that before’ but they respond in a way that says ‘Yes, I have heard it and judged it and rejected it’. Too quick to think that God can’t be in it. Yes, John also told us to test the spirits, because every thing out there is not from God. But make sure you are not rejecting a prophet because you think he’s hanging out with the wrong crowd!

(1125) if you have been paying attention, you’ll notice that I have been reading thru Matthew these last few weeks. Let’s finish this sporatic thing with Jesus final command ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to every one, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all the things I taught you, I will always be with you, all power is now given to me, I authorize you to go’ [my paraphrase] I wanted to hit on the command of Jesus for us to teach the nations the things he taught us. Over the years you will notice that one of my pet peeves has been the emphasis the modern church puts on the command to tithe found in Malachi, yet the many commands of Jesus about giving to the poor, helping out the down and out; these commands of Jesus seem to take second place in the tier of importance for the average church goer. In a sense we [leaders] have failed to actually teach the nations the things Jesus taught us! We have taught the nations good stuff from Malachi, boy do they have a grasp on Paul! And oh yes, John writes with such love and compassion, doesn’t he? I don’t want to be crude, I understand that as Evangelicals we believe all of Gods word [Malachi, Paul, etc.] the point I am making is all of these writings have to be seen thru the primary ‘constitution’ of Jesus and his gospel. The Old Testament says we should execute homosexuals, kids who curse their parents and women caught cheating! Now, most of us realize that these commands are no longer valid in a literal way [I hope you understand!] So as believers we need to view all of the words of scripture thru the ethos [values] of Jesus. How did he respond when the Pharisees brought the woman taken in adultery to him? They even said ‘Moses in the law said she should be stoned, what do you say’? He forgives the woman, does not condone her sin, and lets the religious leaders know that they were in no position to judge this woman. As the church embarks on the next millennium, we need to re focus our efforts and instructions on the life and purpose of Jesus. I am not advocating rejecting Paul’s teachings [as some advocate!] or doing away with the Old Testament [as others also advocate] but I am saying we need to take seriously the great commission that Jesus gave us. Are we really teaching people the actual things that Jesus made the priority? I know he told the religious leaders ‘you tithe and stuff, but have overlooked the heavier matters of the law; yes, you should have tithed [telling this to Jews under the law sitting in ‘Moses seat’ not to Gentile believers!] and also have shown mercy and love and compassion’ even the law put the emphasis on these things! Lets try and re balance some things these next few years, lets look seriously at the things that Jesus actually taught [the red letters!] and see if these are the same things we are focusing on. He doesn’t say a whole lot about the ‘just war’ doctrine, he seems like he’s always rebuking the wealthy folk! Let’s see the things he actually taught, and then teach those things! Got it?

(1120) Was reading the parables of the ten virgins and 5 talents [money]. The key to all the parables is reading them in the historical context in which Jesus gave them; The Jews are a nation that were entrusted with great riches [oil, talents] and they will be held responsible for how well they ‘spread the wealth’ so to speak [ spiritual truth, not money!] I also saw some practical stuff as well, all ten virgins had lamps [the capability to communicate, shine] but only the wise ones made preparation for the long haul, they ‘stored up’ oil in their vessels, the others were just winging it. We too often approach ministry with the mindset of ‘Lord, give me a pulpit and auditorium [church building] to speak, and I’ll be faithful’ the problem with this mindset is it is very limited in its capacity to ‘store oil’. Usually the well meaning weekly speaker [Pastor] shows up on Sunday with his lamp and does his best to tell you what he felt like God was saying in the past week; well meaning, but very limited. The wise virgins told them ‘go buy some oil from those who have it for sale’. Over the years I have ‘bought oil’ tons of books and teaching aids that allowed me to store up some stuff. Thru writing and radio I have had the privilege to share a storehouse of stuff that has been accumulated over many years, I am not simply trying to come up with ‘a message’. The Lord also gave 5 pieces of money to one guy, 2 to another and 1 to the last. As he reckons with them some turned out a profit, the last one buried the money in the ground. Those who put their gifts to work and gained more were rewarded, those who didn’t suffered punishment. Wisdom allows you to put the gifts and abilities God has given you to work. Establish systems that are not dependant on you actually having to be there all the time! I know we think ‘the weekly pulpit’ is Gods ordained way, after all we read how God uses the ‘preaching of the Cross to save the lost’ or ‘how can they hear without a preacher’ [Corinthians, Romans] yet we forget that we are READING these things! Paul had enough discipline to pen this stuff down and circulate the letters to the early communities of believers. Paul understood that it was necessary to write in order to have long lasting influence. We live in a day where it is much easier to write and communicate to the whole world [like this blog!] yet we don’t usually use the tool effectively. Many church web sites are simply ways to advertise their meetings. If I had the cure for cancer, I mean I knew exactly what you needed to do to get cured; and then I started a website that could reach the world with the cure, and if you went to my site and read 'please show up Sunday at such and such location and I will personally tell you what the cure is’ you would think I was nuts! For heavens sake, if you have something worth saying, then say it! God has given us ‘lamps and talents’ to complete the mission, only the wise ones utilized what God gave them to the full potential, are you a wise one?

(1119) yesterday I took a ride to Mathis [a small town in the area] my daughter and her boyfriend invited me to do a BBQ at the lake. As I drove thru town [it was Sunday] I noticed all the church buildings, some had 20-30 cars, others just a few. It was obvious that the city didn’t need any more places for believers to sit on Sunday! Jesus said ‘who is a faithful AND wise servant whom his Lord makes ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season, when the Lord comes he will make him ruler over all his goods’. Recently the church suffered a loss, a very famous church leader passed away. The loss was two-fold, though this man was influential in fostering unity and was helpful in civil rights and other social justice issues, he was surrounded by scandal most of his life. I used to watch him on TV and did enjoy his ministry, but he was plagued with accusations of sexual impropriety. The straw that broke the camels back was the current pastor of this huge mega church [cathedral that’s worth 25 million dollars!] was thought to have been the nephew of the famous pastor, it was found out that he was actually his son, the ‘father’ was really his uncle, tragic indeed. The building is now on the market and the son now preaches ‘the gospel of inclusion’ [a message that accepts all religions as from God]. I remember one time hearing the famous pastor speak on tithing, he actually taught that those who did not tithe were violating Gods covenant and would not be saved! Much more radical than the normal fare. I thought how sad, the 25 million dollar facility was paid for by many innocent believers who were told if they did not put 10% of their money in the basket, they would go to hell. Now all the money will simply fall into the system of a real estate deal. Jesus said the servants who were wise and faithful would be given charge over all his masters goods, is it wise for Gods people to continue building facilities all over the world, at the cost of billions of dollars? Is it wise for any small [or large] city to see ‘church’ thru a lens that has all these buildings sitting empty on any given Sunday? Many good men start their service to the Lord this way, the church meeting thing, I started this way myself. Over time God adds wisdom to ‘our faithfulness’ he shows us smarter ways to apply our efforts. There are currently worldwide church planting movements who pay no salaries, own no buildings, take no tithes, yet they are literally reaching the world. This should cause us to re-think some things. Is it proper to tell Gods people they will be under a curse if they don’t tithe to the old system? Especially when the ‘new system’ [not really new, it was Paul’s system in the book of Acts] does the whole thing for free! Jesus said the servants are to distribute the meat in due season, faithfully and with wisdom. Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 ‘feed the flock of God over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’ he is talking to church leaders here, he tells them [the elders!] ‘All the time I was with you [around 3 years] I did not take offerings from you, I did not allow you to fund me or ‘my ministry’ I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who were with me. I did this to give you [leaders!] an example, so you too would see your ministry thru this voluntary lens, not as some type of career!’ [my paraphrase]. Its makes you wonder how ministers can read the bible and not see this stuff! I want to encourage all my Pastor/leader friends who do frequent this site, seek the Lord for wisdom to go along with faithfulness, examine the way you present Gods word to people, don’t say to them ‘I am appealing for money because this is Gods plan’ Paul didn’t think it was Gods plan [in the salary, building way- he did in other ways] Sometimes God gives us time to step back and sharpen the ax, you might feel like it’s your responsibility to keep hacking away at the tree [faithfulness] but wisdom allows you to step back and sharpen the ax, sure it means you might go a week or month or year without the familiar habit of hacking away, but after you sharpen the ax you will accomplish much more.

(1117) Was just reading the chapter where Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their love of fame and recognition, they loved to be known and recognized. They loved places of honor. It’s the same chapter where Jesus tells his leaders ‘it shall no be this way with you guys’. He is trying to instill a new mindset in this fledging church. The New Testament speaks of godly leadership, but it warns against authoritarian leadership [see 3rd John- Diotrophes] Jesus tells his men ‘he that humbles himself [on purpose!] will be the greatest, have the most effect’. Would you be willing to live a life where you purposely removed your image and persona from those who wanted to exalt you? To purposefully not allow others to become too enamored with your gifts and abilities? Jesus says ‘among you guys, let none of you be called master, rabbi [leader, the main one] for you are all equal’. How do we reconcile this with the obvious portions of scripture that speak about leaders? A careful study of the New Testament will show a type of leadership that was not the predominant voice of any believing community [local church]. Though you see Paul traveling to different regions and having no problem telling them ‘listen to my instruction’ yet you don’t see any office where one person is the main functioning person in the community. Because of lots of reasons we do this in today’s ‘church world’ environment, but it was not this way at the start. I find it interesting that Jesus taught his men about true leadership in the same chapter where he rebuked those who loved the glory of being a successful leader [there is a difference between being fulfilled as a godly leader, and deriving great joy from the recognition of fame and success!] I see Jesus frustration with the religious leaders; he calls them vipers, hypocrites, fools! I know we have a tendency to read these words in King James English, and not realize what he is saying. It would be like basically saying ‘what a bunch of idiots you guys are! You have come to religious understandings that don't even make sense’ they developed an idea that said the gift on he altar was special, but the altar that sanctified the gift wasn’t [they were technical hairsplitters!] Jesus says ‘what's greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies/makes the gift what it is’? Well, I guess the altar? All leaders and gifted people face the temptation to exalt the gift to a place of honor that God never intended. All we have and accomplish in life is simply a gift that comes thru Christ’s Cross [the altar that sanctifies the gift] when we put the Cross first, ahead of the things it can give us, then we will do well.

(1115) I have been driving around the past few days with a package of materials that I needed to send off to my buddy in prison. I kept putting it off, then I got a message on my cell from his brother in Kingsville, he wants to know if I can send his bother a bible too. So I will stick a bible in the package in a little while, it saved me the extra mailing. Just read the parable of the vineyard owner who leases out his land to caretakers. When the owner sends his servants for the produce, they beat the brothers up! The owner sends his son [Jesus] and they say ‘here’s the son, if we kill him we can have the inheritance [worldly wealth] to ourselves’. I have seen ‘an evil done under the sun’ it’s virtually impossible to preach a materialistic gospel with the Jesus of the New Testament in it. I mean he rails time and again against wealth ‘what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his soul’ I can go on forever quoting him. But some have ‘killed the son’ [eliminated his true image] from the vineyard, and now they can cease upon the inheritance! OUCH! [By ‘eliminate’ I mean they have refashioned his image and message and have presented him in a different light than what the scripture portrays]. I have been reading a little on the church fathers, these are the brothers during the post apostolic period up until around the 4th century. Many Anglicans/Protestants have converted back to Catholicism because of the reading of these men. These church leaders shared a sort of general view of conversion and Christian living. Evangelicals often have difficulty reading them, they don’t teach a strong ‘one time’ ask Jesus into your heart type conversion, more along the lines of ‘believe the gospel, obey Gods commands, get baptized in water and become a member of the church universal’. I love studying the brothers! Cyprian, the 3rd century bishop from Carthage, North Africa was embroiled in the ‘lapsed’ controversy. During one of persecutions many of the believers forsook Christ and burned incense to the cult of the emperor. After the persecution ceased, some wanted back in to the church. Those who did not reject Christ said ‘no way, you guys walked away, it’s all over’. But Cyprian would say that Jesus told Peter that even if your brother sins seventy times seven, you are to forgive. Cyprian erred on the side of mercy [a good way to err!] he would ultimately be killed in the year 259 for the faith. Though these church fathers were not doctrinally perfect, and they also weren’t the only expression of the Christian church in the first few centuries, yet they supply a wealth of knowledge and experience that we can all learn from, these are ‘part of the vineyard’ if you will. When you have a broad range of reading and study from all the various Christian communions, then it’s easy to spot the false, these might try to ‘kill the son’ but wisdom won’t allow it.

(1113) just read the parable of the vineyard owner who goes out and hires workers at different times of the day. The ones he hires early in the day agree to a ‘penny’ a day. Thru out the day he brings more workers in and agrees to pay them the same. When time comes to pay them, he calls the workers who only worked a few hours and pays them the Penney. Now the guys who worked all day are thinking ‘Geez, he probably will pay us more than the original agreement, surely he wouldn’t pay these guys the same as us, we worked all day for heavens sake!’ But when it was their turn he paid them the same. Now, these guys got mad, why? Simply out of their own view of ‘fairness’ they were mad that the land owner made these other ‘less worthy’ workers equal to them. The guys who worked all day were not cheated, they got what the boss told them they would get, they were simply mad that the boss treated the less worthy guys the same. This story speaks to the mindset of the first century Jew with regards to their offence at Jesus acceptance of the Gentile nations. What offended the Jew was they felt like Jesus should not have been so willing and accepting of those who came in ‘at the last hour’ so to speak. The Jews went thru hell for many years, suffered as Gods people, stuck up for Gods name and honor. They were waiting for the day that God was going to teach these pagan nations a thing or two! Instead God treats them as equal partners! This offence would cause them to reject their Messiah, Paul speaks about this in Romans. God will work thru the jealousy that the Jews are feeling over his receiving of the Gentiles and this will eventually bring the Jews in, God ways are higher than ours. When I first read the story earlier I felt like it spoke to my situation as well. After I moved to Corpus from Kingsville, I had some of our old buddies feel bad ‘hey, John is now spending all his time with these homeless bums!’ They wouldn’t say it like that, but they did say things like ‘don’t forget about us!’ One of my buddies from Kingsville was the son of one of the heroin addicts that was part of the first-generation of guys I worked with [not the same family I mentioned the other day, we had a few families of addicts/convicts that made up the core ‘membership’ of our church] But it was funny, I would go and pick up the son [he was only a couple of years younger than me, I was in about the same age group as the sons, though the fathers were my friends] and the aunt would tell me ‘Emits in the back room brother John, go get him for church’ the whole family would come to our meetings. I would knock on the door and tell Emit ‘brother Emit lets go. I hope you guys are not in their smoking pot!’ [I was just kidding, or prophesying?] Years later Emit would tell me he was in their with his buddies getting high, and they would be in shock ‘who the hell is banging on the door!’ and ditch the pot! I would loved to have seen their faces! Emits dad would raid my fridge when he came to our garage meetings. We rented a building at first [an old hospital- just a conference room area] but eventually moved the meetings to my garage, I fixed it up nice, it looked good. As soon as Emit senior would arrive, he’d go into the house and raid the fridge! I eventually would hide the good stuff before church. These are the brothers that have expressed to me the feelings of ‘hey, we were with you from the beginning, these Corpus guys came in at the end, why are you making them equal to us’? Because they never raided my fridge! KIDDING! People go thru various stages in life, in the past I have struggled with letting go of some of the old ministry patterns, still wanting to travel to the old towns and help. I had to recognize that certain things were meant for only a season, they will hopefully bear fruit for a long time, but my active involvement was only for a season. They said to the vineyard owner ‘you are making these others equal with us’ and it offended them, but Jesus wasn’t dismissing his first group [Jews] he was simply helping others get in on it while there was still time left.

(1108) got up early today, did one of those 2-5am prayer things, happens every now and then. Here in my office I can see my old sea bag from the Navy, I still have it! I remember getting it around 30 years ago in Great Lakes IL. My boot camp city, I actually live right next to the base in Corpus Christi, the spot where they kicked me out 20 something years ago! Though I was stationed in Kingsville, I attended my ‘captains mast’ [court thing] in Corpus. It reminds me of a funny story, one of the guys went to his hearing and the judge says ‘salute’ so he puts his hand up and salutes, then the judge says ‘to’ which means put your hand down. Instead, he saluted with the second hand! [two- get it?] and we are the guys protecting you! Okay, I was thinking of sharing the verse where Jesus says ‘every scribe taught about the kingdom brings forth both new and old things from his treasure [teaching]’. Over the years I have noticed the different dynamics at work amongst various strains of Christianity. The danger with the strong independent churches is you can go thru stages where you are never taught ‘things new and old’. I used to read the prophetic type sites [Elijah list] but haven’t been there in quite a while. There is a tendency for various groups to overdose on one particular slant and to never ‘bring forth the old’ [sound, stable teaching on the scripture and foundational truths of Christianity]. You can spend years feeding at the trough of well meaning ‘prophets’ but the message never seems to move on, how many thousand of words about ‘rebuke the spirit of poverty’ ‘this is the year of increase’ ‘now is a season of suddenlies’ I mean all well meaning people, but the poor saints are overdosing on stuff that might be simple repetition of what people feel like saying! We need both new and old [sound doctrine]. The same can be said of the prosperity groups, or any other Christian group that has no real connection to historic Christianity. A good Pastor may get a hold of the truth of prosperity, then you might spend a few years simply talking about finances, every thing will be seen thru that lens. New Christians entering that environment may never learn the reality of justification by faith, or other foundational truths [things old!] that are vital for a strong walk with the Lord. So anyway I felt the Lord simply wanted to challenge us to bring forth both new and old. It’s okay if people focus on different areas for a short season, but avoid spending all your time and energy in one doctrinal ‘room’ we all need both new and old stuff to stay healthy.

(1106) been reading some of the parables, I have already covered them in the past and don’t really want to do them again. But do want to share a few thoughts; recently I have struggled with regretting certain words and things that I have said; the book of James says ‘in many ways we all offend others, if we learn not to offend with our words we are mature’ so anyway mistakes were made. But as I read the parables of the sower [planter of seeds] and the man who planted seed in the ground [2 separate parables n Matthew 13] I liked the idea that only 1/4th of what you ever say  makes it! I know I’m taking it out of context, but it spoke to me. The birds eat some seeds [words we plant] thorns and weeds kill others, and the cares of the world creep in and people forget/forgive the past. In the parable of the guy who planted good seed, while he slept an enemy came and planted tares [weeds]. His men come and say ‘do you want us to go and root up the weeds’? And the owner says no, let them grow together until the harvest; because if you try and undo the mistakes you might affect some of the good stuff as well! Sort of like some of the people we offend have also learned some good things as well, and if you try too hard to make things right the end result could be worse. So I felt the lord spoke to me thru these things. Of course Jesus explains the parable to the guys, he tells them the field is the world [not the church!] and in the world you have good seeds/plants [Gods people] and bad seed [unbelievers]. I find it interesting that the servants wanted to tear out the weeds so they wouldn’t effect the good plants [they were members of the Moral Majority- you know the whole culture war thing!] But the owner [God-Jesus] says ‘leave them alone!’ let them both grow together until the harvest. Leave them alone! Don’t you understand if we allow gay marriage it will be the ruin of society!! Jesus says ‘leave them be’. At the end of the world [age] he will send forth his messengers [angels- or some translate ‘messengers’ as us! Christians] and they will separate the good stuff from the bad, he says the angels will ‘remove the bad weeds from my Fathers kingdom’ and the good stuff gets to say. What, a reverse Rapture? Yup. We see a redemptive purpose for the planet in these teachings, Jesus doesn’t take away the church and let the world [earth] go to hell in a hand basket, he takes away the bad stuff and calls the world his father’s kingdom! I guess he was one of those progressive types, always worrying about the environment and stuff? All kidding aside, God has a plan and purpose for society and the world, it is redemptive in nature [Romans 8] we need to avoid the ‘culture warrior’ mindset that is always looking to pull the weeds out of society, they wont hurt you! Jesus said so. And as we ‘re-think’ our purpose and place in the world, lets also hope that the bad seeds we have planted will soon be forgotten.

(1105) Isaiah says ‘before you call/ask I will answer’. Have you ever had your prayers answered before you called? Here in my office I have these maps all over the place; Texas maps, U.S. ones and world maps. I recently felt like I should pray for the Lord to expand us on the world map. I picked India and simply began praying for India. I mark off the countries/nations when they contact me and I can see the progress as time goes by. I mean I was believing for India! ‘Lord, let me mark off the country, I know I will mark it soon!’ Then as I was updating the ‘Texas/global’ section of the blog, I realized that I have had India on there all along. They contacted me a while back and I simply forgot! They were on the blog, but not on the maps. So now I marked them on the map, they weren’t there before, I trusted they would be there soon, does this qualify for an answer to prayer? Yes. God said he would answer before we ask, he simply gave me the exact answer to this payer before I asked, strange isn’t it? Jesus tells his disciples ‘you guys are seeing and hearing things that many prophets and holy men have desired to see and hear, have not’. As Jesus was teaching the terms used to describe the responses from the people are ‘astonished at this teaching’ ‘where did he get this wisdom from’ ‘he teaches as one who has authority, not like the regular preachers’ it was obvious that when you heard him there was something more gong on then just the dispensing of  knowledge. Jesus was fulfilling a divine destiny that would impact the world, those listening were just experiencing the tail end of the great drama, he wasn’t doing these things to gain a audience for heavens sake! He was simply fulfilling destiny; the audience came along for the ride. Scripture says ‘the people who sat in darkness saw great light’ the confluence of events in Jesus’ life allowed people who would normally be in no position to hear good teaching, to hear it.  These people would benefit directly from the destiny of Jesus. In 1st century Rome there was a profession called ‘rhetoric’ if you lived in an influential cosmopolitan city [Rome, Corinth, etc.] you had the benefit of availing yourself of higher learning. Sort of like saying ‘I went to M.I.T.’ or Harvard, but in the lower class areas of Jesus ministry these things were not readily available. The Old Testament prophets said that ‘those who sat in darkness [these areas that had no real opportunity for improvement] would see great light’. God permitted the ministry of Jesus to bring ‘higher education’ to those who normally would not be able to access it. Jesus said ‘many prophets and holy men wish they were seeing the things that you are now seeing, but have never seen them’. God reveals things ‘to babes’ the humble class, so they might confound the wise! [Corinthians]

(1096) THE FINAL DAY these past few weeks we have looked at the circumstances surrounding Jesus and his friends, their struggles and weaknesses. Thought it fitting to do one from the perspective of Jesus himself. Theologians have questioned how much Jesus himself knew of his own purpose and destiny. When he was 5 years old did he fully comprehend the things that awaited him? Of course not, but at the age of 12 he most certainly was seeing the ‘writing on the wall’. His own mother Mary was told early on ‘this child will effect many, nations and people groups will stand or fall based on his life’ oh, and one more thing Mary ‘a sword will pierce thru your own heart also’. Did she reveal this to her son? Did she embrace the fact that she too would experience terrible loss over her involvement in the life of Jesus? The bible says she ‘pondered these things in her heart’ she basically realized that a little more was going on than meets the eye, this strange experience, prophets and religious experiences that are intruding into her average life. Seeming to see future things about her son, things that he wasn’t fully aware of at the time. Oh well, file it away until another day. As Jesus grows in wisdom and stature he begins to grasp more fully the day that awaits him, he sees the prophetic things that surround him, things that were unexplainable, except for the fact that God was showing him what must happen next. Is he wondering somewhat? He goes out to his cousin John at the age of 30, John says ‘behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ he tells Jesus ‘I am not worthy to fulfill this task, I am not worthy to even untie your shoes!’ Now steady John, I know this seems to be going too far, you being the one prophesied by Malachi, the ‘Elijah to come’ but I have to deal with a much heavier matter, you said it right when you just called me ‘Gods Lamb’ I will fulfill my destiny in a way that my closest friends don’t understand yet. Some of them are very close to me, ‘swords’ will pierce thru their hearts. They do not fully see the bigger purpose, their attachment to me was meant for a higher purpose, my father knew that to get their attention they would need to be involved with me in some way, then when my destiny is complete, they will forever have been effected. John baptizes his cousin and from the sky a voice says ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. Jesus knew the course by now, too many signs for all of this to be some type of coincidence. But what about my friends father? My disciples, people who have become emotionally attached in some way? The recent discussions over the DaVinci code and stuff like that have caused many to wonder about Jesus’ ‘love life’. Was Mary [the female follower] possibly more than a friend? [By the way, the answer is NO!] But people have asked. The Catholic Church has changed it’s stance on the traditional belief that Mary Magdalene was the same woman that Jesus cast 7 unclean spirits out of, the prostitute. But whether she was that Mary or not, we don’t know. But surely she must have been affected by this whole scenario. This person who accepted her fully, he truly did love her, but not in the way normal people would define it, but yet in a greater way! It’s hard to explain, he knew her brief attachment to him would end with a sword piercing thru her soul as well. But what could he do? This was part of the destiny he now fully understood, his friends can’t really see it all yet, they are being drawn into this drama by events that seemed to be an accident, Jesus knew better. As the tragic day draws near, though it will end great in the victory of mans redemption, yet tragic in the sense that he could not really live a normal life with his good friends ‘attending the school reunion’ are you kidding! I am about to fulfill a destiny that will impact the world! No time for that sort of stuff. Now we have already covered the emotions of Judas, Peter and others. Is Mary [the disciple] thinking ‘who knows, maybe Jesus will marry me? After all it is a custom for many of the religious leaders of the day’ was she hoping for more than his destiny would allow? He realizes that he has brought these friends along for a ride that they didn’t fully see yet, but when it’s all over it will have turned out all right, but for now they will sacrifice the normal pleasures of life. Jesus has now spent 33 years contemplating the big day, he now fully grasps what it’s all about, no more possibility of persuading him to not go thru with it. Sure, his friends will try ‘God forbid that you even have the thought of going to Jerusalem to die! Why are you even having these thoughts’? Peter felt responsible in some way to help his friend out, to intervene in any way he could. Jesus was determined; there was no stopping him now. Oh well, let the chips fall, we did all we could do. He begins to agonize over the actual event itself, wondering if there might be some other way. Mary [his mother and the disciple] was surely praying for it, they hoped with all of their hearts for another end, they have prayed and asked God ‘please help him, we love him so much, please let him live!’ Jesus is very tired now, it’s been quite a long road to this point, he now fully grasps what’s going to happen, he hoped he could have handled it a little better. He doesn’t want to show weakness right now, but he is fully man and fully God. The man says ‘Father, I know we have come to this predetermined place. My mother heard about it from the prophet at my birth, I realize that I have come for a much greater purpose, but PLEASE, PLEASE listen to me, if it’s possible, let me not go thru with this. If there is another way, please lets do it that way’. He knows deep down inside that he shouldn’t be asking this, he prepared himself mentally for this day for quite some time now, but a big part of ‘this day’ would be his struggle, his inner turmoil. His friends will one day read what went on behind the scenes, they will get a glimpse of the intensity of the struggle; they will see why he seemed so intense at times, things that they didn’t really know about, but the agony was part of the whole story. He will sweat drops of blood; the turmoil seems too much to bear. Sure, those around him would taste part of it, but they would have no idea how much it was effecting him, he was the target. He comes back to his disciples, they are sleeping! ‘Didn’t I ask you to pray? I really need you guys right now, please don’t give up on me now!’ they were dumbfounded ‘why is he so upset?’ they weren’t seeing it from his perspective. ‘It is enough, I am now going to be given to sinful men, they will do to me as they will’. Jesus once said ‘when the salt looses it’s flavor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under men's feet’. The three year ministry of Jesus had lots of flavor, many who followed his calling were really blessed, I mean no one could teach like him! Plus he really did do a of lot good, lives were touched for ever, but things are now wrapping up with him, his friends didn’t turn out as good as he had hoped, they are denying him left and right! The flavor is being lost, he is about to be cast out and trodden under men’s feet! His long awaited for day has arrived, the day he looked forward to ‘for this purpose was I born!’ he would say, but yet he was in agony, you could almost taste it! So here we go Jesus, the time has come, any last words ‘You will see me coming in the power and glory of my fathers kingdom, do what you have to do’. Wow, we never had a final statement like that! They scourge him, a brutal act of whipping a person until his flesh falls off of his bones, ‘some king’ quick lets cover his face with this bag ‘Whack’ they beat the hell out of him ‘prophesy now Jesus, who hit you’. Well let’s nail the prophet to the tree. He is suspended between heaven and earth, he looks down. His mother is there, his poor mom. She somehow knew this day was coming, she hoped it could have been avoided, but it’s here. She remembers the prophecy from years ago ‘a sword will go thru your soul Mary’ the sword has penetrated. The other Mary now knows ‘it will never be! I had hoped that maybe this person who loved me more than anyone would be mine alone’ but he was given to the world, Mary will never be the same. Jesus is determined, it’s gone too far now, his friends are tasting death themselves. He mentally knew what the Cross would entail, being forsaken by God for the sins of men. A feeling of ‘forsaken-ness’ that no other person would ever be able to comprehend, though he intellectually knew it, yet he still had never really tasted it. No man ever has. What’s it feel like Jesus, if your who you said you were, come down and we will believe. They put a sponge on a stick with  ‘vinegar and gall’ actually an act of mercy from his executioners, they had experience with others who have died this way, right at around this point they all drink the gall, it was a painkiller of sorts, helps you thru the pain- Mick Jaggers ‘mothers little helper’. He refuses ‘no, I'll drink in the pain’ seems a little self destructive? He cries something that is misunderstood, they think he’s calling for Elijah, but his words are garbled, he is unrecognizable for heavens sake, a truly tortured man! He was once again calling to his God. It all seems too much, weigh too much intensity for such a short life. He had his struggles, don’t get me wrong, HE NEVER SINNED, but did go thru stuff. We heard lots of rumors about him, but now this day, this tragic day has arrived. Of course we know it was really a great victory, but tell that to the pitiful figure on the Cross as he screams ‘Oh my God, why have you forsaken me like this’ and dies.

(1093) woke up too early today, around 1 a.m. The first sound I heard was Dick Van Dyke singing ‘put on a happy face’ from some classic movie on the AMC channel. I never really listened to the words before, but he sings ‘don’t use the word tragic/tragedy in your vocabulary’ I must admit I have been using those words a bit too much. It sounded like a Joel Osteen sermon in stereo for heavens sake! I guess the Lord knew I wouldn’t have received it from a prosperity preacher. But how could I brush off Van Dyke? I know ‘who does Van Dyke think he is! Mr. big shot, big screen actor who stooped so low that he made the Dick Van Dyke show, no REAL actor would do a TV series’ yea, that makes me feel better. I was at the homeless hangout the other day [will be there today as well] now there are also a bunch of gang kids who hang out there, in Corpus we have somewhat of a gang problem, kids shooting every week and all, deaths every so often. I was walking with one of the homeless brothers passed a few of them, I mean you can tell by the way they look, I could never wear my pants half way down my backside! What the heck kind of cool look is that, I think it makes you look like an idiot! Well anyway one of them said something as we walked passed,  I of course had to stop and give them one of those ‘are you talking to me’ type looks, to be honest I think the kid got a little scared, just being honest. Okay, I never listen to myself on the radio [maybe 5 times total in 13 years] and the other day I put the station on, seeing who’s new in the area and all. Sure enough I hear this brother, can’t really recognize the voice, but he sounds pretty good. It took me a minute to realize it was me! I quickly turned it off. Remember the Jeff Foxworthy thing? You might be going thru some stuff if you hear yourself on the radio and don’t know it’s you. Thought it fit in good here. My wife got an email from an old friend, she lives in Germany with her ‘new’ husband. We were friends with the lady years ago, I was friends with her first husband. She was the secretary at a Baptist church and yes, she ran off with the Pastor! She divorced my friend and married the Pastor. He left his family and they have been together for around 10 years now. I know people are human, they fall into stuff [I really know!] But I can’t see how the ex pastor can try and get things right and stay in the marriage, over the years I have had ups and owns, yes even times where me and my wife were separated but after getting things right, any side relationships had to go! I mean even stuff like ‘maybe God is in this’ being said by the other person [talking years ago by the way!] wouldn’t even register in my mind! I don’t know how pastors/ex pastors can continue in these types of relationships, God forgives, but the relationships just can’t go on like that. And I am not judging, been there done that, just when things are over you have to do your best to make things right. Just read ‘blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God. Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy’ I have learned in my life that there are times where I can ‘see’ God. Days when I know if I stay on course I will hear him, I am the type that if I backslid into drugs and bought a bunch of stuff, that I would not be able to keep the stuff overnight, I would have to throw it out. Or if I woke up and thought ‘later on I will mess up, but for now let me do the prayer/teaching thing’ I wouldn’t be able to do it. Now, if later on wound up being bad, that’s another story, but to actually premeditate the thing doesn’t happen with me, I know I ‘cant see God’ when not truly desiring a pure heart! Now, I have had Christian friends who could do stuff like that, i.e.; staying in the new marriage after leaving your former family, I know I could never do this. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are divorced people who move on with their lives and God forgives them, but the above situation is much worse than that. God says ‘if you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you’ to live with the conscious, ongoing acceptance of sin in your life will cut you off from the presence of God! Blessed are the pure [not perfect!] in heart, for these are the ones who get to see God.

(1092) wasn’t too sure which way to go? Was thinking of the verse ‘for this reason have I brought you to this PLACE [of mourning] so you could see and understand and meditate on the things I am showing you and then you can speak it to my people’ [have no idea where this verse is!] Then started reading Jesus great Sermon on the Mount; he starts [Matt. 5] ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek’ these are the ones who will inherit the earth. Just finished an early prayer time, it’s strange but when you pray regularly for nations and regions, in some cosmic sense you are ‘dwelling in the nations’, I mean you can see/sense yourself inheriting the earth! Yesterday I was going to get with the homeless brothers, but I had to run some errands with my daughter so I changed plans. I wound up driving to the gulf, where I live I am surrounded by bays, oceans [Gulf of Mexico] and all sorts of streams. So I spent a few hours under a bridge where you can listen to the cars driving overhead, right next to this channel. My truck radio went out a few weeks back, good! I would have probably had the news on and would have missed an opportunity to meditate. I was thinking about how I always have had the next project, mission, ‘thing to accomplish’ on my mind. I was too consumed with accomplishing some task. No matter what stage of my life, there always seemed to be the never ending thought of ‘what’s next’ and all the baggage that’s comes with it; ‘what will it take to accomplish it, what’s the ten [5] year outlook, who are the key people who will be involved’ [remember- don’t associate with people who will kill your vision!] Jesus is talking to his disciples and he says ‘blessed are those who struggle with stuff, who mourn [go thru deep valleys] these are the ones who inherit’ Jesus style of ministry is so radically different than ours. He had no need to make it to Rome, he was content to give himself away for ‘the least of these’. He invested in people who seemed worthless, people that you would disassociate from ‘look Jesus, we caught this woman in adultery, in the very act!’ [I guess they were voyeurs?] and how does he respond? ‘I don’t condemn you, go and sin no more’ he doesn’t whitewash the offense, chalk it up to some religious system of morality that man has inflicted upon society [Freud’s theory] but he plainly says ‘yes, you have been found out. You have sinned, like every one else on the planet, you have sinned’ this was no secret, she couldn’t hide anymore. Her dark secret has now been exposed, the lifestyle she has struggled with is now in the open for all to see! Not only that, but the long awaited for Messiah, the one who was foretold by the prophets, the holiest man to ever walk the planet! He too has seen my humanity, my utter failure to live up to the moral code. My story is forever recorded in the gospels for heavens sake! [Well, she didn’t now that] All the efforts to cover up, to bide a little time until she could get her act together have now been crushed. Her day of mourning has now arrived. Jesus tells her ‘I do not condemn you, don’t do this again’ Wow! Blessed are those that mourn.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT Gandhi said ‘if Christians lived what they claimed to believe, they would change the world’. He said this in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. He believed and practiced the principles of Jesus in his fight for justice, he saw the law of ‘non resistance’ as taught by Jesus to be key to changing the hearts and minds of men and government. Though Gandhi was not Christian, yet we could learn from the example he left us by changing society thru the deeds of Jesus! Over the next few weeks I will cover ‘glimpses’ from the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

Jesus said people went out of their way to hear the Wisdom of Solomon, but a greater than Solomon was here. As we just covered a few weeks in Proverbs, I find it ‘prophetic’ that I accidentally stumbled into the Sermon on the Mount. Of course I knew where it was! But I ‘happened’ to fall upon it and felt the Lord wanted us to do it. The reason it is important to understand that Jesus had greater wisdom than Solomon is because it is a common hobby among Evangelicals/Protestants to ‘search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life [success, fame, fortune- the things that we feel will cause our ‘image/legacy’ to continue!] and these scriptures testify of me’. We often approach scripture with the mindset of ‘let’s find all the wonderful promises and ‘keys’ to success. Let’s look from Genesis to Revelation and find all the stories of men who became rich, of people who had the techniques down. Let’s exhaust scripture to get what we want out of it’. And Jesus comes along and says ‘all the wisdom in scripture, all the ‘Solomon portions’ if you will, are really good verses. I put them there! But I am come as one greater than ‘Solomon’ [all the wonderful success techniques you could ever find- confession, meditation, sowing ‘seed’, etc.] In me you will find life’ [all the answers to your questions]. When Jesus told Peter ‘upon this rock I will build my church’ he wasn’t just telling Peter that the church would be made up of success principles and at the end of the service you would tag his name on to it. He was telling Peter ‘I actually am the foundation stone of this building, all who see and confess me are the living stones’ this meant giving priority to Jesus and his teachings over and above all the great ideas we could ever come up with. Today we build the church on motivational stuff. We can go week after week to the ‘Sunday services’ of the American church and find the same stuff you would hear on the real estate infomercials if you stayed home and watched TV. Jesus is going to show us what it means for him to be the ‘rock on which he builds his church’ a re focusing on him and his purpose as the chief priority of the Kingdom.

‘BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT…BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN…BLESSED ARE THE MEEK’. Jesus right off the bat challenges our present mindset of those who are ‘blessed/successful’. A few years ago I read a great book by John Eldridge ‘Wild at Heart’. John dealt with the idea of the church ‘emasculating’ its male members! He showed how God put in men [and boys] this adventurous nature. And when the traditional church said to men ‘die to yourself, lay your goals down’ that men were being told something contrary to scripture. Is this true? I agreed with most of the book, John seems to be a ‘quasi theologian’ [you can pick this up from some of the statements peppered thru out the book- I guess its just something with these Johns!] But I think part of the book missed what Jesus is teaching us. Paul and Peter and all the followers of Jesus had degrees of success and fortune in their careers. Paul’s career was focused on ‘being in ministry’ he will tell us how he excelled above his peers in the theology of his day. Yet when Jesus called these guys to his Kingdom, they really did lay down there adventurous lives for another calling. Now, was this new calling more adventurous? You bet! But not in the way the American church seems to portray it. Peter and Paul lost a degree of wealth and success that never really came back to them in this life. Though today [after their deaths!] they are famous and respected, yet these things escaped them as they walked the planet! Jesus tells us there is an aspect to being ‘poor in spirit, mourning and being meek’ that causes us to experience his Kingdom. Don’t by pass these characteristics as you pursue Gods purpose for your life. Many flee their place of destiny when they taste failure. They don’t want to face their peers. Often they don’t realize that this feeling comes from a pride and religious arrogance that is rooted in the gentile idea of leadership. You have 2 choices when facing this type of obstacle. You can pack up and go somewhere else and apply all the same principles of success at ‘the new place/church’. Or you can swallow some crow and taste ‘poverty, meekness and mourning’. And you will be surprised at the outcome! Solomon did say ‘before a fall man is proud, but honor comes after humility’.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘blessed are they which hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled’ who were those hungering for righteousness in the crowd of hearers? You had 2 groups of people. Those who thought they were already righteous, the religious crowd. And you had the underclass, the ones who were told their whole lives ‘you will never make the grade. You are some sort of illegal alien from the promises of God’. It was to this group that Jesus was the best thing that ever happened to them. The adulteress couldn’t believe that the Messiah, the main leader of the so called religious class. The one who they were all waiting for. The harlots thought for sure when the main one would show up. Well he would surely judge and condemn them. They ‘hungered’ for that which they were told they could never have. To their surprise Jesus would say ‘neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more’. Jesus would say these are those who love much because they were forgiven of much. Jesus called them blessed! ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’. How do you get mercy? Do you ask Jesus for it? Do you memorize and confess ‘mercy verses’? Do you tithe for it? Jesus said the way you get it is by GIVNG IT AWAY! The principle of the ‘golden rule’ which comes later. Be merciful. Mete it out. The Pharisees were always praying and fasting and attending ‘Sabbath services’ and yet passed over the more important matters. They saw their religion as fulfilling some type of job title. Jesus wants compassion and action, he wants social justice! Yes, preach the gospel while doing it. But DO IT! ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. How do we live up to this one! It’s not what you think. God says in Psalms it is the contrite person, the broken person. The one like King David, who when confronted by the prophet about his sin. Most kings would have killed the prophet. David said ‘you are right, I have sinned’. Very rare response for someone in power. God said David was a man after his own HEART. David had a pure HEART. Willing to admit his sin and not try to live up to some image to impress men. He took it like a man. What if David kept trying to hide it? Live with the secret of his failure. Worrying about the next ‘prophet’ who would confront him? Then he would not have been able to ‘see God’. We all have sinned. If you choose to do it, God will forgive you again and again. But you will feel a manifest loss of his real presence! Be assured, the day you choose sin, you forfeit all that the Lord wanted to reveal to you in that day. Yes, his mercies are new every morning. But why waste a whole day?

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake. Blessed are you when men shall talk about you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake’. Jesus causes us to rethink the response. He takes from us the normal idea of ‘going thru undeserved suffering’ and tells us it’s a good thing! He shows us that persecution is a tool that God permits for the benefit of his children. When you view it from this standpoint you can rejoice because you are in good company ‘for so persecuted they the prophets which were BEFORE YOU’. In essence ‘this is not some new thing you are going thru’. Peter says ‘when you go thru fiery trials, don’t think it strange. Like you are being singled out. But rejoice, realizing that the SAME stuff is happening to your brothers thru out the world’ [actually worse stuff!] The enemy’s strategy is to tell you ‘wow, look at all the stuff people are saying about you! They are even talking about your family. Look how God is rewarding you for following him. If I were you I would walk away right now before it gets worse’. The enemy wants you to view undeserved difficulty thru this lens. If he can get you to believe the lie, then his plan for the difficulty will prevail. Joseph told his brothers ‘what you meant for evil, God meant for good’. Joseph was mature enough in his understanding to see that it was the intended harm that his brothers meant to do, that allowed him to be in a position of actually fulfilling the destiny God gave him thru his dreams! Seeing the big picture allowed him to overcome the natural bitterness that comes when people unjustly use you. Here Jesus tells us that when you go thru UNJUST CRITICISM there is a real blessing that you can obtain that comes no other way. Look at it this way and you will be able to rise to the top and use your influence to actually bless those who come against you!

TENT STORY- A few weeks back I bought a tent for one of my homeless friends. Nice tent, it cost 70.oo bucks. About a week later he told me he put it up and right at the end of setting it up he noticed it had a factory defect. A part was too short! As I asked him ‘are you sure’. He reassured me he has put up many tents, he was sure. I told him I didn’t have the receipt any more [I am terrible at this!] but we can return it in a few days. As I have been teaching the Sermon on the Mount and praying for my friends I prayed one morning ‘Lord, give our people divine revelation. Show them things thru prophetic dreams’. Sure enough later that day I got with the guys. The ‘tent man’ tells me ‘you know, the strangest thing happened. I had a dream the other night that I set up the tent. I dreamt that it worked’. When he woke up he felt like it was a prophetic dream. He usually will not go thru the 2 hour procedure of setting it up all over again! It is quite a large tent! But he tried and told me when he got to the last step he couldn’t believe the defect was gone. He told me ‘I know for sure the defect was real. There is no way I was simply mistaken’. I felt this was an answer to the prayer! I told him I was just praying for the Lord to reveal stuff to us thru dreams and stuff. He says ‘I have been dreaming about the sermon on the mount also’! GEEZ! NOTE; the reason I got with the ‘tent guy’ was his employer was moving back to San Antonio and he had to get his stuff out of his bosses house. Lots of stuff! I used my truck to help him get it. About mid way thru putting all his stuff in the truck I told him ‘hey, if you have much more, you will be in danger of violating the verse that says ‘lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth’. As we got back to the ‘tent area’ we unloaded a lot of stuff at his camp. I put a few big things in my garage [he had a desk, microwave and air conditioner!] As we were leaving a guy across the street stops us. He walks up with this ‘Corpus Christi Police’ shirt. He is acting tough. I must admit this is a weakness of mine. When someone acts tough I feel like I have to put them in their place. I know its wrong but I am just being honest. This guy looks like a throwback to the Vietnam era. Long hair in a pony tail and all. My hair is just as long, no pony tail! He starts questioning me as we are leaving in my truck. My 2 homeless friends are used to getting harassed by the cops. So they are being timid. The guy starts acting like he is a cop. I read his shirt and under ‘Corpus Police’ it has ‘citizens association’ basically fake cops. Now I must admit I have a history with ‘fake guys’. I love the volunteer fire dept. I worked with these guys for years. One of the problems was they had the same Fire Dept. Tee shirts that we wore. These guys would wear them all over town acting like paid guys! We would get calls at the fire house ‘one of your guys spotted a violation at my club’ or stuff like that. We would later find out that ‘our guys’ were the volunteers in our shirts! So I have a 25 year history with this stuff. Finally I tell the fake cop ‘hey, I am helping out some homeless guys. That’s why we were in the area’ I also let him know he is a fake cop, and shouldn’t be wearing the shirt presenting himself as the ‘real thing’. I told him I worked as a paid Fire Fighter for 25 years and told him ‘we have had problems with guys like you for years’. Now my buddies are real quiet. You could tell this guy didn’t want to back down. I finally pulled over and as I was getting out my buddies are like ‘no, lets just leave’. I got out and the guy backed down. I didn’t threaten him, but I let him know he is a fake cop trying to pass himself off as the real thing. Well I finally left. The guys said ‘he changed his tune after you got out’. I knew the guys were used to getting harassed. I did tell them ‘now I have to go home and finish writing on the Sermon on the Mount’. They knew where I was going with it, I realize I did not practice the principles of Jesus in this scenario. But wanted to ‘fess up’. My homeless buddy does tell me later on that he kinda feels guilty that I have spent a lot of money and stuff helping him these past few weeks. I tell him ‘don’t feel guilty brother. I had to make some minor adjustments. I told my kids ‘try not to eat too much this week, we are short on cash’ He laughed! [He knew I was kidding].

SERMON ON THE MOUNT-  ‘Ye are the salt of the earth, if the salt loses its flavor, what good is it’ ‘ye are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hid’ ‘Let your light shine before men THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS and glorify God’. The message bible says ‘you bring out the flavor of the earth, the God colors’. Sort of like our lives actually cause others to think and react to God. There have been many times when I was just hanging out with some lost guys. And somehow someone will say ‘he’s a preacher’ [I hate this language!] but without me saying a word, they will start talking about the Lord! It’s like the ‘God colors’ are already there, as we interact with society we ‘bring them out’. Here Jesus says he wants the world to see our good works. Is he contradicting what he will say in chapter 6? ‘Do not your good deeds to be seen of men’. The distinction is motivation. Jesus said the religious leaders were performing. They sincerely saw their function in ministry as a way to build status and image in society. They did not know they were wrong! I remember years ago I would go to the jails and preach. Many of these guys became my best friends over the years. I had hundreds of letters from brothers asking questions and stuff over the years. Great testimonies. I met a believer who started going to the jails also. One day in a church service they read one of the first letters they received. They seemed to make a very big deal about it. Announcing and reading stuff that was ‘normal fare’. I thought ‘geez, I have read hundreds of these letters before’. I realized to this person the fact that they received a letter from someone in jail was a way to promote their ministry. I think Jesus is making this type of distinction here. He wants our ‘good works’, not ministry performance, to be ‘seen of men’. I want to throw in some context here. The ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘city on a hill’ can most certainly speak of us as Gods people. But like I taught in Hebrews I also want you to see the Jewish context. As Jesus is calling the disciples to himself he is bringing a ‘remnant of Israel’ to himself. He can also be addressing Israel in ‘microcosm’. Saying ‘you guys are salt and light, if you miss out on me you will lose the main ingredient. What good is ‘unsalty salt’? It is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under men’s feet’. Has the Nation of Israel been ‘trodden under men’s feet’? They have been despised and mistreated for millennia! Jesus will tell Israel ‘I am the main ingredient, the CHIEF cornerstone, if you miss me you’ve missed it all’.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- I believe this section may be the most ‘theologically’ important part. ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I have not come to destroy but TO FULFIL’ . I have heard this explained ‘see Jesus himself stressed the importance of the law, therefore we should exalt the law as believers’ [Reformed brothers sometimes hold this view]. Or ‘Jesus only did away with the ceremonial law, all the traditions and stuff that rose up along with the law. He never did away with the moral law, the 10 commandments’. Those who hold this view will teach that all the references by Paul about ‘the law being nailed to the Cross’ [Colossians] or ‘if there had been a law given that could have given life than righteousness would have been by the law. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness had been by the law, then Christ died in vain!’ [Galatians, Romans]. Or better yet ‘The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. But now that the fullness has come, there is no longer a need for a schoolmaster’ [Galatians]. Those who see this as ‘ceremonial law’ say these references are not about the 10 commandments, the ‘moral law’. Hebrew says ‘the law was a shadow of the things, not the real image. Now that the real thing is here [Christ] the shadows are getting old and fading away’. Now, all these references are without a doubt speaking of the ‘whole law’, not just ‘the ceremonial law’. The New testament flatly teaches that believers are not under the law. And when it says ‘the law’ it really means ‘the law’! Yet Paul will teach ‘does this mean we go out and kill, steal, commit adultery’? NO! he says now that we are new creatures we have the law of love working in us and we don’t do these things. But there is no doubt he teaches the law having no ‘control’ in the sense that we wake up every day and think ‘now, today my life must be regulated by the rules’. This was a type of legalism that Paul would spend most of his time fighting against in the New Testament. So lets get back to Jesus words ‘for truly I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED’. This verse is not saying ‘the law will never pass away’. It is saying ‘it will remain in force, it will continue to stand as the ‘standard’ of righteousness that will forever be a reminder of mans total inability to live up to God standards. It will even be the ‘the strength of sin’ in a sense [Paul-Romans] that as man looks to the perfect law and character of God, as seen in the law, he will forever be reminded of his utter inability to be righteous in and of himself’. But then, WHEN ALL IS FULFILLED [thru the perfect life of Jesus and his death and resurrection!] then it will ‘pass away’. It will cease to be a means of condemnation by which sinful man can never live up to it. Now Paul will teach ‘is the law sin, God forbid’. In no way am I saying [or Jesus!] that the passing away of the law means man no longer has to live right! Jesus is saying that when he finishes his work on earth, all ‘new creatures in Christ’ will be fulfilling the law by the new Christ nature that is within them. Sinful man will still be under the condemnation of the law, the only way it ‘passes away’ for them is to ‘get in Christ’. You are either under the law [condemnation] or in grace, there is no middle ground! Be assured Jesus said ‘except your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you will not enter heaven’. His wasn’t telling the people ‘try harder’. He was saying the standard is so high, no man can do it thru his own works. It will take the divine work of redemption to pull it off. A righteousness equal to the very nature of God. An ‘imputed righteousness’. So in a nutshell Jesus hits on the whole underlying theme of the New Testament, justification by Faith. He in no way is saying ‘see, the law exists along side redemption in the life of the believer’. That my friends would be pure legalism!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of being judged’ Jesus will show us that one of the major causes of ‘being in a state of condemnation’ is anger and un forgiveness. He will say ‘if you bring your gift to the altar and then remember that your brother has something against you, leave the gift and be reconciled with your brother first’. It’s easy to have ‘aught against your brother’. I took my computer to my ‘computer guy’ the other day. He’s a good friend and wiz at computers. When you master something, it’s hard to be patient with others who have not ‘mastered it’. So as my friend is helping me he will say ‘OK, Press this or do this function’ and as I try it, it doesn’t work. He gets flustered and says ‘you know what we call that’? I say ‘no’. He says ‘Picnic’ which is short for ‘problem in chair, not in computer’. So he does the ‘control, alt, delete’ thing and sure enough it didn’t work for him either! Then he realizes he needed to type something in. I do kid with him. I tell him ‘Gary, I have advanced a lot in the last year with computers’ as he is directing me to ‘uninstall’ a program. I tell him ‘I know how to get to the spot to uninstall stuff’ [I really do!]. So I tell him I have one problem, as I do this and that [going thru all the functions to get to the spot] I come to a screen that says ‘install’ or ‘remove’ programs. I tell him ‘I have been hitting the ‘install’ icon, and for some reason it doesn’t remove the program? The only way I could describe the look on his face is ‘disdain, loathsome, utter contempt’. He did know I was kidding! One of the underlying themes thru out the whole Sermon on the Mount is how to relate to others. Don’t fight back, don’t get even, don’t remember faults. This is what makes the Christian life so hard. In and of ourselves these principles go against out nature. Jesus said earlier ‘you must be MORE RIGHTEOUS’ than the so called righteous religious leaders! The only way we can carry out these mandates is thru the Cross and Spirit. Identifying with Jesus in both his death and resurrection and allowing the Spirit of God to do it thru us. There is no way to get around it, we must forgive and not be ‘angry against our brother without cause’. You say ‘well, I have a reason to be angry’. Paul will later teach we are to forgive all, just as Christ forgave us. If you are a believer, you have been given free forgiveness that you don’t deserve. Because of this Jesus requires us to forgive others. We have no cause to be angry with our brother!

‘Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are ‘in the way’ with him’. Look at this principle. Jesus puts it right before he speaks on divorce. Divorce court is the single most contributor to personal bankruptcy. How many times do we see litigation and ‘getting even’ as the primary motivator for going to court? I heard of a guy who sold his house and vehicles for 50 dollars [or some outrageous value] just so his ex wouldn’t get it. Paul says ‘why harm your brother, or own family member. No man ever yet hated his own flesh’! Jesus said your wife was your own flesh. Two have become one. Why sue yourself! As you read further Jesus says ‘if someone takes you to court for your shirt, give him your coat too’! The law of non resistance. This next one is good also ‘if you are compelled to go 1 mile, go 2’! I have heard that in Jesus day the Roman Empire had mile markers all over the place. When a Roman soldier compelled you to carry his pack, you by law were required to carry it. But only 1 mile. Sure enough the legalistic Pharisees figured out a way to just do the bare minimum. So you had these mile markers all over the place. Well after the mile is up, these new Jesus followers said ‘let’s go for one more’. What! Are you outta your mind! The first mile is like the first covenant. The law had you under its grasp. That first mile was like ‘I will do this requirement, but I will be cursing under my breath the whole way’. Now mile 2 was different. Your were still doing all the same requirements of law, but you didn’t have to! The ‘law keeper’ was still watching [soldier] but the terms were turned around. It’s almost like you were in charge now. He couldn’t tell you anything. He almost felt guilty! As a matter of fact after the second mile was completed he was almost your friend! When you are in the second mile [under grace] you still do the moral requirements of the law, but you don’t have the soldier forcing you at the point of a gun [law mentality].

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Whoever is angry is guilty of murder’ ‘he that lusts after a woman is like committing adultery in his heart’. WOW! Is Jesus saying the consequences are the same? No. If you kill someone you will pay back much more in terms of societal justice. But God sees the root of it before it ever happens, he knows all men are possible candidates for murder. It starts in the heart. I remember during the O.J. trial that people were saying ‘How can you think that someone could do such a thing’? The fact was someone did do such a thing! Whether or not you think O.J. did it, the fact is someone did it! The point is we have a tendency to look at horrible crimes and think ‘surely I am not capable of that’ God sees the heart. Now, in covering the ‘lust verse’ I want to also do the ‘don’t divorce’ verse. Jesus says ‘whoever divorces and marries another is committing adultery’ and also ‘causing the person who you divorced to commit adultery’. First, Jesus says it starts with lust. I know men say ‘You don’t know how much I had to put up with’ and on and on. These guys make their decisions based on what they see from Hollywood. They believe the lie that they see on the screen. All doesn’t end up well. You didn’t divorce over other issues. You more than likely started an emotional relationship that lead to a physical one. All the devastating results of broken homes and broken families come along with this. Can God forgive divorce? Yes, but be warned ahead of time that it is very destructive! ‘If your eye offend thee, pluck it out. Your right hand, chop it off’ Jesus is saying ‘do you see the thing that’s leading you in the wrong direction? Is what you’re looking at and doing causing you to fall?’ Then by all means make the necessary adjustments now. Proverbs says a wise man sees the danger ahead and turns before getting there. A fool goes straight ahead and runs into trouble. One way to bypass the devastating results of sin and its drastic consequences is to operate in the wisdom of God and remove the offence. Does Jesus want you to ‘chop your hand off’? There was a famous church father, Origen. He took this verse literally and ‘self castrated’ himself to avoid sexual temptation. Now that’s what I call reading the bible literally [and painfully!] Jesus isn’t saying that! But he is saying avoid the areas of danger. A fool does not know what’s causing him to stumble, he keeps stumbling because he is not removing the stumbling block. He keeps tripping over the same thing. A wise man will move the thing that’s causing him to stumble. Is the wise man ‘above the temptation to stumble? Inherently more moral than the fool’ No, he simply sees his area of weakness and avoids the pitfall!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Give to him that asks of thee, and to him that would borrow from thee turn not thou away’ well, we could spend a lot of time here. Those of you who have read this site for a while know I have a ‘pet peeve’ about believers feeling that if they don’t ‘tithe to the storehouse on Sunday’ [may God deliver us from small paradigms!] they will be under a ‘curse’ but seem to give little or no heed to the actual teachings from Jesus and Paul on the primacy of ‘giving to those in need’. I just finished a study in Proverbs. If you replace all the verses on ‘giving to the poor’ with ‘tithing to the church building’ you could then deem tithing as important. If you replaced the portions of scripture where Jesus actually links GOING TO HEAVEN OR HELL based on our treatment of the poor. If you took those verses and said ‘at the judgment I will say to some ‘go into eternal judgment’ and to others ‘enter into your reward’. And then they said ‘why Lord’ and he said ‘in as much as you did not tithe to the church on Sunday’ then you would have a point about teaching the importance of ‘tithing’. But the fact is Jesus does link all these things to ‘giving to the poor’. Over 90 percent of all teaching thru out scripture deals with this. Even in Israel's economy they had principles of ‘leaving the corners of your farm land un reaped for the poor’. Over and over again is this theme preached. But even today, some of you just read the verse I began with and thought ‘I wonder how this will relate to me’. It relates to you BY TAKING IT SERIOUSLY! By reorganizing your priorities around the actual words of Jesus! By doing this actual thing. I know believers are still going to give priority to the Malachi verse ‘you have robbed God by not tithing to the storehouse’. If they could just see that the ‘storehouse’ in the New Testament are people, not ‘church buildings’ then we would have made some headway, but traditions in the minds of those who are always ‘fighting tradition’ are too hard to pull down!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘When you pray…When you do good deeds….When you fast….be not like the hypocrites’! WOW! Jesus said hypocrites pray, fast and do good deeds! Who’d a thunk it? I took some guys to the grocery store yesterday. Should I tell this story? Jesus said ‘don’t sound the trumpet before you when you do something good’. Let me tell it and try to defend myself. I took a new brother and he asked if I would by him some stuff. I was more than glad. The other brothers know I pay for this stuff out of pocket. The new guys think I run some type of ministry that brings in cash! So sometimes they get a little carried away like some church is paying for it. I don’t mind, I buy the stuff any way. The older brothers get mad that some new guy might take advantage. I told these older brothers ‘go ahead, get what you need’. They wanted a few things [avocadoes, razors for shaving, etc.] They saw the price and said ‘no, that’s too much’. I told them don’t worry about it. They felt guilty cause the new guy did pick up lots of stuff. My buddy says ‘some people are selfish, they only care about what they can get from people’. I tell him ‘I know. The Lord has given me this gift of spotting selfishness in others. I can discern others faults. Along with this gift he has also revealed to me that I possess a strong gift of personal humility!’ [They know me enough by now to tell when I am setting them up like this! I am kidding of course!] Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for doing things just for the glory of men. Paul would use examples of what God was doing thru him to edify others. Jesus in the previous chapter said ‘let you light shine so men would see your good works’ [not ministry performance!]. The whole point is, if God is using you as an example to teach others, it’s alright to write about, or teach others by example. But if the primary motivation behind the ‘praying, fasting, good deeds’ is so people can pat you on the back, well then you already got your reward. The reward of self glory and creating an image in the sight of others. Note also that Jesus said ‘when you do these things’ it really isn’t an option! You don't leave the ‘alms deeds’ to the ‘charity mission that the ‘church’ runs’. You personally do it yourself! Jesus also leaves out something. He doesn’t say ‘when you attend Sabbath services’. He kinda thinks this one isn’t as important as the others! Wow. We find a verse here and there ‘forsake not the assembling of ourselves together’ [Hebrews] and we exalt it in the minds of believers to the point where the actual things that Jesus taught as priority take second place! We need to re prioritize our lives around the teachings of Jesus! Become ‘Red Letter’ Christians once again!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up treasure in heaven [why?], because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’. Well, here we are again! Over the years as I have rebuked the prosperity messages abuses, I stumble across a verse and it ‘re opens’ the wounds! Not in a bad way, but in a way that causes believers who have overlooked the main body of Jesus teaching in this area, to re examine their ideas. Once again the message of Jesus goes against the grain of the modern success gospel. He isn’t teaching ‘don’t have an emergency account’ or don’t save up. He is challenging the single most important obstacle to the gospel. MAMMON! Jesus says ‘the world [unbelievers] spend their whole thought life obsessing over finances’ [the Gentiles are always thinking about these things!]. You see commercials on ‘I am 70 years old, my wife is 67. Our biggest fear is if one of us should die, who will pay the bills’? Their biggest fear, according to Jesus, should be ‘If one of us dies, we will stand before God and give an account of our lives. We will spend the next trillion, billion, gazillion years in heaven or hell’ who gives a ‘rip’ about the bills! Our society seems to magnify the insignificant and trivialize the significant! Jesus taught being responsible. He taught the principle of counting the cost and looking ahead. He also taught his followers to be warned against the deception of riches. Yes he warned about money and materialistic living. The church today needs to re tool her message back to the agenda of Jesus Christ!

SERMON NO THE MOUNT- Two things before we leave chapter 6. Jesus repeats ‘take no thought’ while dealing with mammon and the material things of life. We all know he didn’t mean ‘don’t be responsible’. But he did mean ‘take no thought’. He did tell us to watch out and be ware of the snare of money. I must say it plain like this because the contemporary church doesn’t believe this any more. The modern success gospel sees any teachings from Jesus against materialism as ‘that old tradition’. There minds are blinded from the fact that this theme of ‘material success versus spiritual riches’ is seen over and over again. Now, the Gnostics and the Docetists [early century Christian cults] taught a type of materialism that said ‘all material things are evil’. The reformers of the 16th century would later correct this [as well as the catholic brothers thru out the centuries! Augustine in particular] the church would show that the bible and tradition do not hold to this wrong view of material things. Matter itself is not inherently evil. The word ‘flesh’ in our English bibles sometimes gives the wrong idea. ‘I know that in me is no good thing, that is in my flesh’ yet Paul would also say ‘present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to the Lord’. So the ‘flesh’ that has no good thing in it is not saying the natural body [material thing] but the sinful nature [carnal-flesh] is absent from any self righteousness. So as the church would correct the false teaching of material things being evil, she would later fall into the snare of seeking material things! It’s like going from one extreme to another. So here Jesus says ‘take no thought’ don’t be consumed with always thinking and meditating and confessing and going to church with the obsession of ‘bringing in my harvest/changing my world’. This inward focus causes us to lose the character of Jesus in giving ourselves away. In forsaking all to gain a true eternal reward. Have you been ‘taking thought’ about these things all the time? Does ministry to you mean ‘finances, buildings, staff, etc..’? All OK things in their proper order, but if you have become consumed with the resources, where it takes up the majority of your thought life, then you are ‘taking thought’ contrary to Jesus commands!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Judge not, that you be not judged. Why do you see the little fault in your brothers eye, yet you do not see the log in yours! Or how will you say to your brother ‘let me help you get the speck out’? If you yourself aren’t seeing clearly, then how can you see well enough to assist him? First get the thing out of your eye, then you will see straight enough to help him’. These are all my own paraphrase by the way. Who were the main ‘judgers’ of Jesus day? We all know! The Pharisees. Even unbelievers use this term to describe a hypocrite! How did they get tagged with this universal description? They saw Jesus and his followers as ‘illegitimate’. No matter how many good things he did. Raising the dead, tremendous teaching ministry. True self sacrifice. Demonstrating the kingdom in word and deed. Yet they came to a universal judgment of him and his movement as false. Why? They saw Jesus and hid disciples as ‘un orthodox’. Not going by the ordinances and standards of their religious protocol. They were convinced in their minds that he was wrong, and they made sure others knew it! There was one problem. He was right and they were wrong. It is almost impossible for religious leaders to ever arrive at this conclusion! Some eventually did. Both Nicodemus and the later believers at Jerusalem had a group of Pharisees ‘which believed’. Yet these same brothers would give Paul hell for his gospel to the gentiles! But today, after 2 thousand years. The exact judgment they passed on Jesus ‘you are illegitimate’ has been forever branded on them! Now is Jesus saying ‘don’t judge’ in the way the world thinks? How many times have you heard an unbeliever use this as an excuse? Sort of like ‘no one can say adultery is wrong, Jesus said ‘don’t judge’. Jesus isn’t saying you can not correct or reprove. He is saying what Paul would write to the Galatians ‘see someone in a fault, you who are spiritual [those who have removed their own log!] restore him in meekness’. Jesus is saying you can correct, but do it in love and with the true heart of God. Seeking to restore the ones you reprove. Leaving room for them to repent and be restored to usefulness again. Even Paul will say if you rebuke false prophets sharply, they can repent! Jesus said ‘first cast out the log in your eye, THEN you will be well enough to help others’. The wounds from a friend [correction] are better than the kisses of someone who is just flattering you!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall open. Everyone who asks receives, seeks will find…’ I want to credit Brother Hagin/Copeland and the prosperity/word of faith movement for showing us that Jesus doesn’t say ‘ask. And sometimes the answer is ‘no’ sometimes ‘yes’. They did show the truth that in these verses Jesus isn’t saying ‘you always get an answer, sometimes you receive, sometimes not’. They brought out the importance of trusting Jesus to do what he said. The Word is his will, like John Osteen [Joel’s dad] would say ‘this is my bible I can do and have what it says’. The problem comes in when we use these things contrary to the rest of the teachings of Jesus, like say for instance IN THE VERSES SURROUNDING THIS TEXT! James will teach ‘the reason you ask and DON’T RECEIVE [Wow, even James didn’t know this secret formula of always receiving!] is because you ask out of selfishness, wanting to consume things out of lust and covetousness’. So here we see the importance of asking in faith and trusting Gods promises. But we also balance this with Jesus will for us to live above the materialistic pursuits of the flesh. Jesus will meet our needs and even give us material blessings to make us happy. He says ‘if natural fathers give their kids good things, how much more your heavenly father’. God will give you nice stuff, just don’t go overboard with it. I have seen good Pastors actually go down this path and teach their people things that would be considered real heresy. Stuff like ‘Jesus died so you can be rich’ [in money]. Or ‘Jesus wore an expensive coat, owned a fabulous house and preached a message of ‘follow me and you will be rich’. These Pastors have fallen into the warning Paul gave Timothy [1st Timothy chapter 6] they began to teach that gain was godliness, Paul said to ‘turn away from them’. So here we see the good promise of a good God who will give us good things, just stay on course while believing him for good things!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER THAT YE WOULD THAT MEN SHOULD DO TO YOU, DO YE EVEN SO TO THEM: FOR THIS IS THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS’ this might be the most important single verse in these 3 chapters. Was Jesus opening up a Pandora’s Box here? How did he know people would choose right? He didn’t say ‘treat others according to the ten commandments’. He said ‘treat them the way you want to be treated’. Jesus taught the concept of natural law here. If you remember a few years back when Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court. One of the main questions he was asked was whether or not he believed in ‘natural law’. Natural law is the idea that there exists in man this ‘moral compass’ of right and wrong. Paul teaches this in Romans. The fact that all men have a basic idea on how they want to be treated shows you that there is more to man than simple flesh! He has within him this God-given conscience that deep down inside knows what’s right or wrong. The reason senator Joe Biden made such an issue out of it when questioning Thomas, was because those who believe in natural law do see an inherent right to life. The abortion issue. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion, the court found a ‘constitutional right to a woman’s privacy’. Many lawyers, even liberal pro abortion ones, believe this decision is wrong based on faulty law. It would be like saying slavery is acceptable because there is an inherent ‘right to private property’. While there is a right to private property, the problem with this reasoning is OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT PRIVATE PROPERTY! So even if you believed in a so called ‘right to privacy’ how in the world do you extend that right to include the murder of another human being! All human rights derive from the basic right to life. If human govt. deprives people of the inherent right to life, then you might as well forget about any other so called rights. Some say ‘well, abortion is established law’. So was the racist law of not allowing Blacks to vote! I don’t care ‘how established’ a law is, if it allows for the destruction of biological human life, it’s flawed. Frances Beckwith just released a book on this [1-08] and he shows the legal justification for overturning Roe V Wade. So Jesus was confident enough in ‘natural law’, the basic belief that inherent in man is the concept of right and wrong, that he said ‘do unto others as you want done to you’. He knew men had a basic idea of fairness and justice. Even kids on the playground will shout ‘that’s not fair’. No matter how hard man tries to deny the reality of natural law, its there!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS’ ‘you will know them by their fruits, what they produce. They come to you as wolves in sheep’s clothing’. In Ezekiel the ‘shepherds’ are rebuked because they come to devour the sheep. They see the sheep as a means for self aggrandizement. Here Jesus says ‘they are wearing sheepskins!’ They view ministry and pastoring/shepherding as a means to become wealthy and prosperous! Shall I continue? Let’s also take a broader view. In the history of Christianity you have had Christian cults that were ‘false’ by virtue of the fact that they denied the basic truths of Christianity. In the bible, 1st John deals with ‘those who deny that Jesus has come in the flesh are anti-christ’. John was targeting the early Gnostic/Docetist sects who said Jesus was a ‘phantom’. He appeared to be ‘real flesh’ but wasn’t. John deals with them as ‘anti christ’ because of their denial of the incarnation. Jesus was truly man and truly God. On a broader scale you have the religion of Islam. Arab [Muslim] people are good people! ‘Why brother how can you say that’? Easy, they were created in the image of God! Allah didn’t make them, Muhammad didn’t create them! They were created by Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Now, have they been led astray? Yes. As hard as it is to say this in today’s pluralistic society, they have been MIS LED. What about Jewish people? Good people! We should love and pray for them, not at the expense of Arabs [Muslims] but in concert for their salvation. Ultimately all religions except for Christianity produce ‘bad fruit’. Why? Because all religions outside of Christ are man centered. You try to self reform thru law. This produces death. Christianity offers a free redemption thru the Blood of Christ. You don’t ‘self reform’. Grace produces the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus does say in this passage ‘narrow and straight is the way to life’. Yes, it sounds narrow minded to proclaim Jesus as the only way. Christians in America have crossed the line in ethnic/religious views. They have wrongfully sided with militaristic views of defending one nation’s military against another’s. Do we as believers have the right to support our countries military actions against radical Islam? Yes. As Christians should we advocate the annihilation of Muslim people because of their religious beliefs? NO! Too many American Christians seem to have not made this distinction. I believe Christians and Muslims and Jews should all work together as much as possible. Respect each others different beliefs. But also advocate for why we believe that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Jesus truly is the answer!

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But he that doeth the will of my Father’. In John’s gospel Jesus says “this is the will of him that sent me, that you would believe on him who God has sent”. So Jesus isn’t saying ‘you get saved by your works’. But he is showing us that the Evangelical altar call is no guarantee! To be fair, the rise of the ‘altar call/sinners prayer’ was a well intended tool for evangelism. But carried to the extreme it seemed to teach whoever says this prayer [Lord, Lord?] will enter into the Kingdom of heaven. It created a strange type of soteriology that said ‘you might have believed in the gospel. You might have been baptized and joined the church. You might have a vibrant faith life and ascended the ranks of church leadership [Pastor, Priest or Pope!] You might have led a changed life thru your Christian faith. But if you don’t remember when you said the sinner’s prayer, and if when you did say it. If all the preceding ‘stages’ were not ideal [first you fully realized your lost state, then you went to the meeting, then the altar!] Then you are lost! This strange idea taught a type of salvation that was dependant on what you prayed and how you prayed it. The problem with this is Jesus does make it very plain that you very well might know the exact day you prayed the thing, and still be lost! The point is the New testament [1st John] as well as Jesus himself always point to ‘those who have actually done righteous deeds’ as being the outward sign of having been made righteous! John says ‘by this we know we are born of God. He that doeth righteousness is of God, he that doeth evil is not’. Jesus says ‘those that have done good will be raised to the resurrection of life, evil to the resurrection of judgment’. Now, I do not believe these statements are saying ‘you are saved by works’ but they most certainly show you what the life of the believer will look like compared to the life of the unbeliever! So for whole groups of Christians to teach a type of ‘salvation’ that is reassured by the saying of ‘Lord, Lord’. For these brothers to then almost teach a theology that says ‘and after you prayed this formula, if you lived the next 50 years as an old bubba who cheated on his wife. Had a few drinks with the boys, never really had any true faith. But you go to heaven any way because you were just backslidden’ Yikes! I think these brothers need to re read this verse! So The New Testament shows us the end result. The goal of justification by faith is the outcome of actually being made just! Or actually doing right things. Now, there can be some controversy here. One of the main issues surrounding the Reformation had to do with the Catholic belief that ‘we are saved by grace. But this grace infuses us with righteousness and then the righteous works that we do ACTUALLY MERIT a degree of salvation’! [Believe me, it is much deeper than this, and both sides [Protestant/Catholic] have miss represented each others ideas at times]. I do not believe this type of ‘good works’ theology. I know there are many Christians who believe it [Orthodox, certain Pentecostal groups, etc] I hold to the Pauline formula in Ephesians  ‘by grace are you saved, not by works’ now, in context Paul is saying ‘the faith God gives you is not of works’. Paul isn’t saying there are no works included in what God is calling you to. He goes on to say ‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’. So the simple fact that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament actually make statements saying ‘those who have done good go to heaven, those who have done evil don’t’. This should steer us away from a doctrine of salvation that is heavily dependant on ‘what you said’.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘Many will SAY UNTO ME in that day “Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out devils and have done many good works” and I will say “depart from me, ye that work iniquity, for I never knew you”. I remember how we used this verse as fundamental Baptists to teach how all the Charismatics were going to hell! First, if this is what Jesus meant, then even those who ‘do good works’ [the whole context of the sermon on the Mount!] don’t make it! The point is there are those who see Christianity thru the lens of being familiar with Christian tradition and activity. Hey ‘I have been around the culture my whole life, surely I’m in’? Not necessarily. Also Jesus didn’t say they actually cast out the demons and prophesied, he said ‘they said they did it’. Who knows, maybe this group was fudging? I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit. I don’t believe that all the Charismatics have the definitions right! I was taught a whole view of ‘word of Knowledge, word of Wisdom’, gifts Paul defines in Corinthians. As being ‘knowing the past, or knowing the future’. It was a very limited perspective taught by Brother Hagin that seemed to miss the real intent of the gifts. So you can believe in the gifts, and really be seeing your own idea of what they mean. I also reject the cessationism of certain dispensational groups. The whole idea that the gifts passed away. The broad view of scripture [and church history!] show the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost to be an ongoing ‘life of the Spirit’ to be expressed thru the Church thru the Spirits Charisms. God never intended for this major event to be a temporary thing that would pass away. The majority of Christians believe in the gifts of the Spirit. Catholics [this only reaffirmed the anti gifts mindset in the fundamental circles. They would see the catholic churches embracing of the Charismatic movement as proof of the one world churches end time deception] Orthodox and Protestant churches for the most part accept the gifts of the Spirit. Some strains of Protestantism reject them. Well anyway Jesus is telling us don’t rely on ‘religious function- performance’ as a means of ‘getting into heaven’. We don’t want to fall into the error of ‘I was born and raised in ‘the church’ therefore I am Christian’. You might be Christian, but it’s because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and your faith in his Blood that saves you, not religion! Even Father Groeschel [a favorite Priest of mine on EWTN] will emphasize ‘we are saved thru Jesus Christ’ when asked by sincere Catholic callers to his show ‘how do I overcome guilt and sin’. The point is, we need to re focus people on the meaning and reality of Jesus death and resurrection as being the actual payment for mans sin. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I am surrounded by a Christian environment, so I must be one’. If you truly have trust in what Christ has done, then your are one. Even if you have ‘prophesied in his name, cast out devils and done many wonderful works’.

SERMON ON THE MOUNT- ‘whoever hears these sayings and DOES THEM is like a man who built his house on a rock. When the floods and storm came and beat on it, it fell not… whoever HEARS AND DOES NOT DO is like a man WHO BUILT and the storms caused it to fall’. Jesus doesn’t give the 3rd option ‘whoever doesn’t hear and doesn’t build’. In essence he is saying ‘all of you people who have heard this great sermon [Matt:5-7] have just increased your responsibility level. You can no longer say ‘well, we just won’t build!’ the cop out of today’s society. The entitlement mindset ‘I will find some way for the govt. to declare me mentally unstable [many of the homeless people get these types of checks! On the 3rd of every month I wondered why the soup kitchens were almost empty. I quickly found out they all were getting ‘ssi’ checks on this day. Most of these checks go right to drugs and drink. I actually had a friend slip up and tell me that his ‘disability’ was having an anger problem and cursing at his boss and getting fired. WOW! What a joke.] Here Jesus is saying ‘you already heard the requirements, something is already being built, whether you like it or not’! Notice the hearers still had ‘structures’ going up! It’s like the city on the hill and the candle on a candlestick verses that we mentioned earlier. Jesus said the city can not be hid. Once the King has given you the responsibility, you can’t opt out and say ‘I will act like I don’t know any better’ too late! I personally have had to play a role in this type of dynamic. I know many well meaning Pastors must think ‘gee, why did I have to luck out by starting a church in the Corpus area, right at the same time when some nut on the computer starts a revolution on organic church and is tearing down all the old structures of church. Why couldn’t I just have done church the old way and never have heard from this guy!’. Who knows? I do know that once the level of teaching goes forth, all the hearers become responsible in some way as to how they respond. In essence ‘those who hear and do… those who hear and don’t do’. ‘But what about my fellow Pastors who are excelling in other cities, they never dealt with all this reproof’ well, they are those who never heard [certain reproofs] and therefore don’t have the same responsibility level of response. The question is moot. You guys reading us have heard certain things and now have 2 responses. Either build on a rock [apply and put into practice all the principles you have heard] or build on sand [pretend you never heard the corrections and build on sand]. Jesus leaves only 2 options, which one will you take? NOTE; I realize there are many cities and regions that are maturing in the broader vision of Gods Kingdom and in seeing church in a more biblical way. But there are cities who are not currently being challenged in the same way. Good churches and Pastors carrying out the work of God in the old paradigm. Inviting people to ‘church’. Doing ‘potluck Sunday’ stuff like that. These are all good people who are truly serving God. But then you have other cities who begin seeing the limited ideas of ‘local church’ and realize that these old ideas have to be dealt with. This certainly causes a degree of upheaval to those still functioning the old way. So instead of thinking ‘I wish I were Pastoring in one of these other cities who never have to deal with all this reproof’ just recognize that the Lord has blessed our city [and those of you who read this stuff!] with a greater degree of instruction and we should take advantage of being on the ‘cutting edge’. [I don’t want to sound too proud, but I had to say this].

CONCLUDE SERMON ON THE MOUNT - Well, we have come a long way. Look at this interesting ending ‘When Jesus finished all these sayings, the people were astonished at his teaching. For he taught as someone who had authority [he knew what he was saying!] not like the regular preachers’. OUCH! Old brother Matthew couldn’t help it, he had to stick it to them! Why was Jesus teaching more powerful than the hired clergy? He was on a mission. His goal was to start a Kingdom revolution that would end in him facing Pilate and winning! Rome will look straight into the face of this radical and say ‘don’t you realize we have been pushing your buttons all along. You had the gall to call us ‘foxes’ [Herod] we have had you in our sights for a while. Now don’t you realize I have the authority to kill you like we did John!’ [The Baptist]. Jesus says ‘you have no authority except what my Father gave you. You are still a bunch of lying foxes! And oh yeah, I am the Son of God!’ WOW. He had authority. As you sum up the sermons message, you see the Jesus style. He embodies the stuff! I think the church needs to see the teachings of Jesus as the ‘constitution’ of the family. I have heard extreme teachings on both the Catholic [Orthodox] and Protestant [dispensational] sides of Christianity. Some Protestants teach the Sermon in a way that says ‘all this was before the Cross, and has no relevance today’ [bad stuff!] and the more liberal believers kind of say ‘Jesus wants us to be nice, and the Sermon should regulate us as opposed to harsh Paul’s epistles’ [too soft!] We should see the attitudes of the sermon as the goal of our faith. We should do the stuff Jesus told us to do! We do overlook the obvious at times. Now the ‘doing of it’ won’t save us. But if God has imputed his righteousness to you [if your are justified by faith] the ‘justification’ will eventually ‘slip out’. And you will look righteous! According to Jesus, ‘looking righteous’ is measured by these things. The religious leaders thought looking righteous was being religious and moral crusaders. Jesus set the proper criteria. God wants us to be like his Son. Don’t build up a record of ‘I went to 10 million church meetings, tithed for 50 years’ but never once did the things Jesus taught in this Sermon. This is the danger of strong Orthodoxy, you can have all the right answers and still be ‘hearers only’. Jesus warned against being ‘good hearers’. The doers are the ones building right! So I would encourage all of us to regularly read and give priority to the words of Jesus. Not at the expense of ‘all scripture’ [the emergent brothers kind of fudge on this at times!] but as the filter thru which all scripture should be seen from. Too many of us do not believe in the actual lifestyle that Jesus called us to. He was a fantastic preacher, because preaching was not his goal! He was leading a revolutionary movement! And like I said before, letters from a revolution have great authority.


(797)INTRODUCTION TO THE PARABLES- I was going to finish our study in Judges today, but I felt like sharing something else. Recently I have been reading the parables of Jesus out of my first King James Bible. Even though I give away lots of my books and stuff, yet I managed to hold on to this keepsake. Actually I did give it away and eventually got it back! That’s why I am writing this entry. If you read the first 50 or so entries [1-50!] from the section ‘Prophecies, Dreams, Visions part 1’ you will read the story of my journey to Texas as a young rebel and how after I became a believer I led one of my old buddies from Jersey to the Lord. This friend became a believer and we learned and grew as Christians. Eventually he would die of Aids. I had given him my first bible and years later got it back. As I read thru it I realized he made notes and stuff in it. Things like ‘ask John about this?’ and other interesting stuff. Of course this bible is special to me because it contains personal insights from my first convert to the Lord. So let me share a few things I recently read. He wrote ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ and ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are out of Gods will’. Hebrews says ‘though he is dead he yet speaketh’. I consider this a privilege of being part of a Christian communion that all believers belong to. We have brothers who are looking at us from heaven right now. We truly belong to a ‘communion of saints’. After all these years, for you to get something from this simple sharing of my brothers thoughts is part of the process of being in this communion. Look at the simplicity of these words ‘God will take care of you if you have faith’ ‘the presence of contrary winds does not mean you are not in Gods will’. As I finish our study in Judges I think I am going to share a few of Jesus parables. In these parables we see Jesus ethos of the Kingdom, the things he puts value on. These things are contrary to what we value, especially as we look at ‘modern ministry’. Jesus will teach the value of not being famous or recognized! The value of becoming ‘the least of all’. Things like the mustard seed being the least of all seeds, but when it is sown it becomes the greatest. We often see faith from this. While this does apply, we also see Jesus ‘the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying’ [John’s gospel] Jesus, who Isaiah prophesied ‘I am a WORM AND NO MAN’. The Son of God who would become the least of all ‘seeds’. Who actually experienced the accumulated ‘feelings of unworthiness and absolute condemnation’ that all the sins of the world could bring upon a person. He personally experienced the actual act of being forsaken and told by God ‘you are now a worm and no man’. You think ‘how could this be’ this was an aspect of bearing the sins of humanity on himself. Jesus will teach us the importance of being last, how it is of great value if in the eyes of man you look like a failure, but in the eyes of God you lived humbly. Jesus even values the words of people who lived sinful lives and failed often. He never condones sin, but he still values these ‘little ones’ [in the eyes of men] he will even use the words of one who died of aids.

(796)PARABLE OF TARES AND WHEAT- I just had a dream [about an hour ago] and I was with an old friend from New Jersey. We were both going to join the high school football team. I remember saying ‘wow, weren’t we doing this 25 years ago? Can you believe after all this time we are partnering again?’ Yesterday I spent a lot of time re reading the parables of Jesus. His mindset in the parables are so much different than ours. He says ‘The good seed that God planted grows up among the weeds that the enemy plants’ and they ask him ‘should we root out the bad tares?’ and he says ‘no, leave them alone. Let them grow together until the harvest [end of the age] and then the reapers [referring to the angels] will come forth and separate them’. Do we think like this? How many times has the ‘good wheat’ [believers] tried to root out the bad? We start movements that seem to tell the lost world ‘we don’t want you influencing our kids, we want your lifestyle as far away from us as possible’ in essence we try to ‘root them out’. Jesus said the field in this parable was the world. He told us to stop trying to pull the weeds out of society! Now, we are here as salt and light. We are supposed to have an effect on society. But the message and spirit that the lost world ‘feel’ from us should be one of reconciliation, not condemnation. We offer hope and forgiveness to the unbeliever. At the end of the day after all the sides are taken and the arguments are over. It’s up to us to be there for the unbeliever when his life and philosophy fail him. I just heard a testimony on how one of the most famous atheists of the last century, Anthony [Antony] Flew rejected his former belief and had to acknowledge the absolute scientific impossibility of all existing things having come from a point in time where no thing existed. Now, most unbelievers do not realize the total absurdity of holding on to a belief like this. Flew was considered one of the top intellectual atheists of the 20th century. He debated the best of them. But the simple reality of his false belief system finally was too much to bear. In his book explaining why he changed positions, he had to admit that the unbelievable intricacy of man. The complexity of human DNA. All of these complex systems that science has shown us over these last 25 years. They are proof of someone having to have a hand in designing the things. To believe that such unbelievable complexity could have arrived from NO THING is absolutely scientifically impossible! You can not get life and the universe and all other things from NO THING. He agreed. Jesus told us there would come a time at the end of the world where God would separate the good wheat from the bad. Until that time comes we need to let both grow together, some times what we thought were weeds turn out to be wheat.

(799)JESUS PARABLES- Well I already covered the ‘mustard seed’ in the introduction and spoke on the Tares and Wheat. I forgot to mention that we see a simple end times teaching from Jesus in these parables. Now I realize the many varied views on the subject of the parables and end time dispensationalism. Good Christians [I find myself having to say this a lot!] at times have taught a type of scenario where many of the sayings of Jesus about the end times seem to refer only to the Jewish people and they have ways of ‘watering down’ the many plain statements of Jesus about the final judgment. But notice how he says ‘at the end of the world the angels go forth and separate the good from the bad’. The ‘tares are taken away’ and the good wheat remains. In the parables you see both the believers and unbelievers together right up until the second coming. You don’t see a time where there are ‘no good wheat’ and the tares are saying ‘hey, where did all the good wheat go? Maybe the aliens took them’? [I know this sounds silly, but many believers espouse stuff like this!] So anyway we see the idea of Jesus people being present right up until the judgment. The ‘bad seed’ are taken away first, then the righteous shine forth in their fathers Kingdom. Also we see the value that Jesus places on ‘nothingness’ that is becoming least, giving up the pursuits of glory. He is not looking for ‘great faith and men of great stature’ he is looking for ‘the mustard seed mentality’. Now in the introduction I hit on the idea that Jesus himself embodies the mustard seed. He was truly ‘the least of all seeds’ and buried himself in the ground. He has become the greatest ‘tree’ in all the earth! The Christian church [his Body!] is the biggest worldwide movement today [I know Islam is trying hard to catch up]. Jesus ‘smallness’ allowed him to attain greatness. In Philippians Paul says Jesus emptied himself and became the lowest of all, and because of this the Father gave him a name above every name. Jesus taught this to the disciples when James and John were looking for advancement. Their mother requested that they would have high positions of authority in his Kingdom. Jesus would respond that authority and influence come from servant hood and ‘being least’. Jesus would say of John the Baptist ‘he is the greatest of the prophets, nevertheless he that is least in the kingdom is greater than John’. Some have taught this to mean John was the last of the Old Testament order of prophets, and therefore even the smallest ‘born again believer’ is better than John. But you could also take it as Jesus saying ‘John, you have a great calling. You opened the way for the Messiah. You truly are one of the greatest Prophets of all time. But I, the Messiah, am the least of all seeds to ever be in the earth. I have emptied myself more than any other person. I John, am greater than you’.

(800)PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN- I guess we need to do a little more ‘teaching’ than I planned on. I am using the parables from Matthew’s gospel. Matthew uses ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ instead of ‘Kingdom of God’. I have heard different ideas on why Matthew said ‘heaven’ instead of ‘God’. The idea that I need to correct is that Matthew was speaking of something totally different than ‘The Kingdom of God’. This belief rose up among the 19th century Dispensationalists, it basically says ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ means the world of Christendom [all religions that make up Christianity] and the Kingdom of God is that future thing that happens some day. Well, both of these are not real good. Most of all you should reject the first idea. The simple reason is that the other Gospels have these same parables with the term ‘God’ in place of ‘Heaven’. For this interpretation to be true [the Christendom one] you would have to believe that Jesus spoke about an entirely different thing, at an entirely different time and setting in Matthews gospel. When believers interpret stuff like this, it is simply not in keeping with ANY of the previous ways believers saw these verses in 1800 years. Plus it seems odd that Matthew would be the only writer who recorded the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ parables while the other writers recorded the Kingdom of God ones. So for whatever reason you think Matthew said ‘Heaven’ and not ‘God’ you should at least understand that he was not speaking of different parables. Now ‘the Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened’. Most of the brothers who believe the ‘heaven-Christendom’ idea teach that Jesus was speaking of sin and wickedness invading the world of Christendom. They get this idea from the fact that leaven does describe sin in most [if not all?] of the other pictures of leaven in scripture. First, leaven [yeast] is something that God created. In and of itself it isn’t ‘wicked’. Second, Jesus can use any physical thing he wants to use in any way he wills to use it in his teachings, he is God after all! And third, I think it fitting that Jesus would take a term used to describe sin and turn it around and ‘redeem’ its use to describe righteousness. After all ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’. Now to the meaning. Jesus values ‘least ness’ in his teachings. He absolutely challenges the present idea of Christianity in many of the American churches. He time and again lets his followers know that they must die to their own agendas and ideas. They must put priority on eternal versus material riches. They must seek to become small and last in order to be first. In all of these teachings he also rewards those who follow his ideals with great influence. The things they do ‘will go far’. Their children will impact society [Genesis 12 and 15- Abrahams seed touching nations]. Jesus calls for carrying our cross daily, dying to our own desires and dreams so his purpose thru us can reach all nations. The ‘hiddeness’ of the yeast speaks of this aspect of kingdom living. You don’t take yeast and ‘spread it all over the outside of everything’ [modern ideas of ministry- ‘get our name out, have everyone know about us’. Hire an image consultant!] Jesus says ‘hide the yeast inside of stuff’ package the gift and talents in such a way that they will ‘secretly’ be in many places. You will hardly even know its there, it’s hidden! Then after a while the effect of the yeast will be so hard to stop you will have a revolution on your hands! ‘Who in the heck started this ball rolling?’ The effect will be great, the fame and recognition will be minimal. Now Jesus taught in all of the parables that his kingdom would be like this. It would be silly to apply the yeast here as wickedness taking over Christendom, he doesn’t use these explosive images to describe sin in his other parables. They speak of small things becoming large in righteous ways [note- the tares are an exception, they are the full harvest of unbelievers along with believers. But the kingdom images [seed and stuff] speak of the radical explosive nature of the kingdom of God in the earth]. So lets look for ways to ‘hide the leaven’ in stuff. Is the most effective way to either write a book? Start a blog? What do you think it is for you? I feel many talented Pastors limit their voice by spending the majority of their teaching efforts on preaching to a room full of people and never even recording [in writing or by voice] the teaching. Make it available in various forms. If you saw some great insights from your study time, why have it taught in a forum where only a limited amount of people will hear it one time? We read of Jesus and Paul and think that they taught a form of ‘local church’ that says ‘give priority to the Sunday pulpit’. Now Paul did say ‘how can they hear without a preacher’ [Romans]. But this applies to hearing Paul’s letters as they were ‘re read’ in the churches. We are right now reading the recorded parables of Jesus that millions upon millions of people read every year! Be wise in putting leaven [good leaven!] in places where it can multiply good things. NOTE- leaven represented sin during the Passover feast. That’s why they couldn’t have it in their meals. But it was permitted during Pentecost. Why? Pentecost would come to represent the outpouring of the Spirit and the intended growth of Christianity, at Pentecost God wanted a massive explosion. Leaven was allowed!

(801)TREASURE IN A FIELD- Jesus said the Kingdom is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man finds it, he hides it and goes and sells all that he has and buys the field. One of the main values of the kingdom is having a willingness to ‘sell all that you have’ make sacrifices and give priority to God’s purpose. In the history of Christianity you have had famous stories of people who felt like the Lord was requiring them to actually do this. They would take vows of poverty and forsake a life filled with the pursuits of things and self, and would make Gods calling number one. We need to be more in tune with this mindset than we are presently at. It is common to read all the statements from Jesus on forsaking all to follow him, and to say ‘well, in so and so’s case [rich man stories and stuff] money was his idol. But Jesus really isn’t talking about money, he is showing us that you can’t put other things ahead of God’. I think we are missing stuff when we do this. In many of these stories the reason Jesus says ‘he sells what he has’ or ‘leave your nets and follow me’ was because he was showing the natural tension that arises between living ‘our dream’ or fulfilling his purpose. A big part of ‘our dream’ is imbedded with ‘stuff’ ‘more stuff’ ‘more stuff than you could ever imagine’! Jesus taught a mindset that said ‘give and it will be given to you, pressed down shaken together and running over’ but along with this he teaches ‘the world is pre occupied with stuff [what should you wear and eat] and I don’t want my followers to be pre occupied with stuff’. The value of the Kingdom is so great, that Jesus said this man sold all that he had to purchase the true riches. Sometimes it is our unwillingness to ‘sell all that we have’ that keeps us from the true riches.

(804)A BUNCH OF PEARL HUNTERS! As long as I can remember I have been a ‘pearl hunter’. You too! I don’t mean literal pearls, but things that we fixate on. I would venture to say that all you male readers [most all] have been on the B.B. gun hunt at one time. I still remember seeing my buddies at grade school with the cherished pearl! [actually the pearl handles were nice] I eventually persuaded my dad to convince my mom that I would not shoot my eye out. It was not too longer after that I possessed the precious object. [To me it was like getting that special thing, even though hundreds of thousands of other boys were presently shooting birds, windows and all sorts of things on a daily global scale]. Then came the go-cart. I learned from this experience that if you can’t get your own hands on the coveted material object, that the next best thing is to become friends with the kid who has it! I made lots of new friends. I must have bought and sold 8-10 dirt bikes before the age of 16. I loved them. I also noticed something with these toys, the moment you fixate on a ‘new toy’ you lose interest in the old one. There seems to be a thing in man that says ‘I must acquire that special object that is so coveted, that it deserves to be on a pedestal by itself’. How dare that go–cart take up all that room in the garage, I need that space for the dirt bike! Jesus said ‘The Kingdom is like a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, when he finds one of great price, he sells everything [get that go cart out!] so he can purchase that one pearl’. There is just something that takes place when you stumble across the kingdom. It offers eternal life for free to everyone who believes. As you journey along the road you learn that the actual choice that you thought you made to ‘purchase the pearl’ was really pre ordained of God! In essence it is so secure that you didn’t even have the option of not purchasing it! How do you know when you have found it? Easy, you see all the other ‘toys’ as being not worthy to compete with it. You sell out because of its significance. I thank God that as men [40-60 years old] we grow out of that childish stage of wanting silly toys. Or do we? A few years back I was shopping at our local flea market [it’s named ‘the trade center’] and as I hit all the ‘men’ booths, Knives, Guns, Etc. [toy guns] I saw the booth that had the blow guns and crossbows. I of course had to stop there. You never know, maybe there was some responsible purchase to be made? They did have every imaginable blow gun to fit any future scenario. As I am asking the lady ‘how strong is this one’ [a small hand held crossbow] she says ‘well, my husband shoots the arrows thru a steel shed in our yard’. The lady had to be nearing 65 years old!

(805)A BIG NET- Jesus said the kingdom was like a net that was cast into the sea and caught all types of fish [people]. After it was full they pulled it to shore and put the good fish in baskets and thru the bad out. He explains that at the END OF THE WORLD the angels come forth and separate the wicked from the just and cast them into a fire, there will be ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’. Again we see the simple end time teaching of Jesus. Don’t overlook the truths in Jesus simple sayings! He was a master teacher not because he was one of those theological brains that you could never fully grasp, but because he communicated tremendous truths thru simple stories. For those who fight and argue over whether or not Jesus will ‘rapture’ all the believers away and then the unbelievers have a time by themselves on earth before the final judgment. All you need to do is look at Jesus sayings. He teaches again that both good and bad fish are on the shore together. The bad fish are the ones who are separated and removed, the good get to stay [new heavens and new earth]. Jesus says this happens at the ‘end of the world’. So you see the believers being here right up until the end. Now the main point is Jesus wants the message of the kingdom to go out into all the world. The fact that this net ‘catches’ all types of fish signifies the very broad casting of the message. All people have heard and been effected in some way by Christ’s message. This does not mean all make it into the new heaven and earth! Jesus shows that the full net is a time of full harvest. There comes a real future time of judgment. Jesus teaches the good will be spared, the bad will suffer. When we studied Acts we showed how judgment was part of the message. I had a discussion the other day with a well meaning person. They shared a belief like ‘well, it doesn’t matter what type of religion you are, God just wants us to treat others right’. They were sincere and asking me questions about the Lord. I simply shared the historic Christian belief that even though you have differing religions and different types of Christian churches, yet Christianity teaches that salvation comes exclusively thru Christ. There is coming a time when the bad fish get thrown out. Now God most certainly wants good fish [treating people right]. The way this is accomplished is thru faith in Christ. God ‘imputes’ righteousness to those who believe [not trying to become ‘good’ by their works!] and this imputed righteousness eventually makes them good [note- at the moment of belief you are completely good and righteous. The process of this being made evident, sanctification, is showing a real distinction between the ‘good versus bad fish’]. What about the bad fish? A famous preacher a few years back was branded as a heretic because he publicly came out and rejected the doctrine of hell. I sent him some stuff at the time [books]. He did attend Oral Roberts University and stirred up a lot of stuff. Many Pentecostals distanced themselves from him [rightfully so]. As I heard him speak [T.V.] about his reasons for rejecting the doctrine, I realized he suffered from a lack of historical thinking. Now I don’t want to be mean, but as he questioned his own beliefs he came to see for the first time that other Christian thinkers of the past also embraced a ‘no hell doctrine’. This seemed to confirm in his mind that the ‘no hell’ belief was an historic belief that traditional Christianity suppressed. If he had a rounded education from the start, he would have learned this early on. The fact that hell and other historic doctrines have been questioned and debated for centuries should have come as no surprise to him. But in his area of learning and the churches he was familiar with he never found any need to venture out into the world of theology and church history. And when he finally did venture out he saw these beliefs for the first time. He was also very inconsistent in his thinking. He shared how he found in the Hebrew and Greek languages that the bible says different stuff than in the English [true to some degree- some words for hell speak of the grave, others of judgment]. But this also is no real secret. Then the conversation jumped to ‘John the Apostle was delusional when he wrote Revelation’. Geez, you don’t have to reject the Canon of scripture to be a universalist! The point here is the historic Christian doctrine of eternal judgment comes from the basic themes of scripture. Sure, some have studied the various texts that speak of judgment and have come to differing ideas. But the historic belief is hell is a real place of eternal separation from the presence of God. The rejection of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for your sins, was buried and rose from the grave is the only sin that will send a person to hell. As much as we should love people of all religions, we also need to let them know there is coming a time where the bad fish get cast out of the net. NOTE- Jesus referred to hell as ‘a furnace of fire’ here. There are other descriptions of ‘hell fire’ in scripture. This is why hell has been historically seen as ‘a place of fire’.

(807)THE WEDDING SEAT- Jesus said when someone invites you to a wedding, don’t sit in the place of promotion/honor. But sit in a low place. If you seek power and position the man who invited you will come and say ‘please give up your place for this man’ and you will be humbled and lose significance. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he that humbles himself will be exalted. Once again Jesus contrasts the idea of ‘being all you can be’ ‘being the most motivated person in the room’. All natural tendencies that well meaning people fall into when they fail to follow the actual precepts that Jesus gave us for the Christian life. It’s only natural for up and coming ‘ministers’ or believers who feel called to ministry to begin to seek position and prominence. Now most of the time we don’t realize this is happening, it can be a tricky balance to keep. Sometimes it happens, not out of pride but insecurity. People want to be affirmed. If I feel like my position and success are indicators of God being pleased with me, or outward signs of Gods vindication ‘wow, wait until my enemies see me now!’ This can become a trap. The fundamental truth of our acceptance with God is proven by the death and resurrection of his Son. ‘God loved us and he gave his Son to prove this’. Now Jesus showed us the process of being a child of God. His ultimate act of emptying himself [Kenosis] would seem to be contrary to completing his mission. If you possessed all the attributes of God and were given a task of supreme importance [redeeming man] the last thing you would want to do is give up the position and power that you have. It seems contrary to fulfilling the mission! Jesus would ask ‘father, if this is the path to completing the mission, then so be it. But if there is any other way possible, besides me drinking the cup, show me’. It’s only natural for us to want to hold on to power and prestige, to go for ‘the chief seat’. Now in the parable Jesus said the man who invited you will come and say ‘give this man place’ [position]. When the Father exalted the Son and seated him at his right hand, it was after extreme humility. The man who Jesus takes by the hand and says ‘come, sit here in the front’ isn’t jumping up and down and saying ‘I was waiting for this my whole life. I knew if I waited my turn I would be exalted’. He is simply fulfilling the course that was his destiny. He already has learned the futility of trying to gain acceptance and honor from other men. He simply allows the master to move him from a place of insignificance to one of influence. This process is played out time and again in God’s kingdom. We rarely see the practical aspect of truly being Christ like. We think things like ‘God has great plans for me. I am the head and not the tail’ while these things are true, we often mistake the values of the world while seeking ‘headship’. Being the ‘head and not the tail’ means growing up into ‘him’ who is the head! [Jesus]. It is using his own kingdom values as a measuring rod. It means facing the most important decision of your life and saying ‘if you want me Father to give up my position and glory, if you tell me that this path is the one to fulfilling ‘my dreams’. Then even though it seems contrary to all that I see and understand, yet I will do it. Father, your will, not mine be done’.

(808)PLANT THOSE SEEDS! - Jesus uses the idea of seeds again. The kingdom is like casting seed into the ground. You plant it and go to bed and get up and live a consistent life, before you know it the seed grows. The earth brings forth fruit OF ITSELF. You ‘knoweth not how’ this is happening. Much of kingdom living is simply trusting in God to produce after you obey. Our natural minds say ‘well, it will take so much money and resource to do this. How in the world can we expect the ‘seed to grow’ unless we all become millionaires’ there goes that ‘stinkin thinkin’ again! Hey, the thing will grow while you are sleeping! Our natural talents and abilities [even to raise funds!] has nothing to do with it. Now, after the process of natural [supernatural] growth takes place, you then can harvest it. The seed goes thru growth stages. The blade, ear and ‘full corn’. Here in South Texas we have these beautiful wild flowers that grow every year. In the wild they grow great, but it’s hard to get them going in your yard! The reason is the flowers need to make it to ‘full growth stage’ and then the seedlings die and fall. If you mow them down before full seed stage they don’t reproduce. There are things in your life that God wants to bring to ‘full harvest stage’ [or dying stage!] A place where you don’t know or even care how the thing will grow, you simply cast the seed because you have learned if you ‘don’t cast it, you will be miserable’ in essence you are obeying out of sheer experience! [Paul- woe is me if I preach not the gospel]. Jesus said ‘I have given them the words that you gave me’ [John 17]. There are so many ‘seeds’ that you have been entrusted with. Some have more than others [30,60,100 fold]. God is not holding you accountable for the ‘size of the harvest’ he is holding you accountable for what you did with the handful of seeds he gave you. When Jesus returns he asks 'what did you do with the talent I gave you’? Some times we fail to plant out of fear ‘I need the land, then some equipment. How much money will it take to plant the first field?’ Just simply plant what you have right now! Jesus said ‘he knoweth not how it is growing, the earth brings forth fruit of itself’. Once you reach the ‘full harvest stage’ the thing looks like its dead [it is] but what do you know, next year you have a yard full of the stuff!

(809)GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? Jesus said when you have a feast, don’t invite your friends, neighbors or rich people. For they can benefit you in some way, you can get ‘repaid’. But instead invite the down and out, because they can’t repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection and return of Christ. Once again Jesus precepts are so contrary to the engrained mindset of ‘getting a reward’. We have an endemic problem in the American church. We do most everything with ‘repayment in mind’. We want it, we want it now and we want an overabundance of it! Heck, didn’t Jesus teach this? Well yes he did ‘give and it will be given unto you….’ Hebrews says ‘those who come after God must believe that he is and that he rewards us’. The point is a great body of Jesus teachings show us that this life and all it can afford are temporary riches. Paul said in 2nd Thessalonians chapter 1 that God will repay us at the appearing of Jesus. We need to re- tool our motivations for ‘ministry’ [service] and understand that our real reward is at the end [or beginning!]. Do we really live like this? Do we give and serve with the expectation of getting our rewards soon? Do we ‘sow seed’ [give money] with this very understanding as the primary motive for giving? Jesus said ‘when you do charitable deeds [note- he is not addressing this responsibility to the mission outreach of ‘the church’ or the barrio ministry!] do it with the mindset of not receiving a reward until I return’. Well brother, what’s the use of doing good stuff then? Well its service to our King, its part of counting the cost. It’s part of taking up our cross daily. Make no bones about it, there is an aspect of service to Jesus that says ‘we do not live for present rewards, but our lives show thru word and deed that there is an afterlife. We fully expect to be rewarded then’. I realize that we have focused and gone way overboard on the reality of God blessing us in this life. I understand why people do not like to hear this stuff. But the time has come for the American church to repent of our idolatry and get on board with the rest of the Body of Christ. Our brothers and sisters worldwide have learned to live [and die!] for the cause of Christ, and we can’t even hold a free B.B.Q!

(811)HE SPENT HIS MONEY ON PROSTITUTES AND GOD THREW HIM A PARTY! In Luke 15 we have the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. The chapter begins with the religious leaders becoming offended that Jesus was receiving sinners. This is the backdrop to why Jesus gives the story. He starts with 2 other brief parables of lost sheep and coins. The themes of these are ‘just like a man rejoices over finding something that was lost, so likewise God rejoices ‘throws a party’ when a sinner comes home’. This begins the story. Jesus says a man had 2 sons [Jew/Gentile] and one son said ‘Father, give me the inheritance that is rightfully mine’ [the immature son learned the truth of ‘requesting his inheritance’ –money, and getting it rightfully. This did not mean that he was mature or correct in doing what he did. Even though the father had prepared it for him, the son was preoccupied with getting it NOW!] The father divides the inheritance to both boys. The young son goes off and lives it up. He spends all his money and ends up eating pig food. He comes to his senses and says ‘I will return home, my father has servants living better than this! I will request a job from dad’. As the boy nears the house the father runs and grabs the boy. He tells his servants ‘go, kill the calf and let’s have a party!’ He puts a robe on him and gives him a ring. Now the older son [Israel- she has been struggling for centuries to try and please God. Sure she has failed, but heck these other nations weren’t even trying!] hears the uproar and says ‘what’s going on?’ They tell him ‘your brother returned and your father has thrown him a party’. He sulks in his room. The father asks what's wrong and the older son says ‘I have tried my best to live up to your standards [Law] and yet my younger brother spent all his money rebelling against you. Where was he when things got rough? I was here to give you a hand, not him! And as soon as he shows up you are overjoyed about it. What about me?’ Remember, Jesus is giving this story in response to the offence that the Jewish leaders had at the beginning of this chapter. The father says ‘son, you have always been with me [God made his covenant available to Israel for many years. Just because he was opening it up to the ‘sinning nations’ didn’t mean that he cared less about them]. The father tells the son ‘you have always had access to my covenant, this other son [gentile nations] went astray for many years. Don’t take it wrong that I am happy over his return. He was lost and now he’s home’. Jesus challenged the mindset of Israel in this parable. It was only natural for the nation of Israel to have been offended. Jesus even taught ‘offenses must happen’. But they were going to reject their Messiah because of this offense. They couldn’t believe how Jesus treated the outcasts ‘they wasted your money on harlots’! was the corporate cry of Israel. ‘How could you even think of eating with them’. Often times we get offended because God is merciful. Jesus gives other parables along these lines. The hired workers who worked all day felt like they got cheated when the master paid them all the same. In that parable Jesus has the master saying ‘are you mad because I did what I wanted with what was mine? I didn’t cheat you , I gave you what I agreed to pay you’ once again they were offended that Jesus was offering equal access to those who were deemed ‘less worthy’. Jesus did tell the older son ‘all that I have ever had has been made available, don’t let your offense keep you from enjoying the party’.

(812)NEW WINE NEEDS NEW BOTTLES- Jesus said no man takes a piece of new cloth and sews it onto old clothes. Or no one takes new wine and puts in into old wineskins. If you do the wineskins will break and the wine is lost. Jesus was a radical revolutionary, his message and Kingdom were one of tremendous change and transition. The New Testament calls this ‘the time of reformation’. In John chapter 3 he told Nicodemus ‘unless a man is born again he cant even see or begin to perceive this new thing’. We often seek for new understanding, trying to improve our lives and callings. Sincere people who are looking for innovation and trying to be on the ‘cutting edge’. One of the common mistakes we as believers make is we often approach ‘new ideas’ with ‘old structures’ in mind. Much of the stuff I have written on ‘local church’ fits into this category. Jesus is primarily teaching the reality of his New Covenant being one of complete transition and change. He knew that the old mindset of law and legalism would not be able to contain the New Covenant. The Spirit of God needs ‘new’ [born again] vessels to be poured into. Jesus also said those who have been ‘drinking the old wine’ have a natural tendency to resist change. They are comfortable with the traditions and form that have surrounded them for most of their lives. There is ‘special value’ on ‘wine that is old’. Jesus told the disciples ‘I have many things to teach you, but you are not able to hear them right now’ in essence ‘their old wine skin mentality’ couldn’t handle the new things. In all growth and maturing there also needs to be a basic understanding that it does no good whatsoever to change or introduce reformation to the degree that both the wine and the wineskins are lost. Jesus realized there were certain things that the disciples just couldn’t handle, and it would have been pointless to have ‘cast the pearls’ at that time. I want to challenge you, God often holds back the answer to a question or problem because he realizes we need to be re-positioned before we can receive it. He doesn’t simply communicate ‘new and deep revelation’ for the sake of making us smarter! He wants the people of God to come to maturity so he can be glorified in all the nations. New wine is good, in fact it is a necessity! But it does absolutely no good if it’s spilled all over the ground.

(819)THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS- Let’s try to get a few more parables in before we start the book of Romans. In Luke 16 we have the Rich Man and Lazarus. First, some say this is not a parable, but a true story. Why? Well in all the parables Jesus never uses proper names, here he uses the name ‘Lazarus’ so this cant be a parable! Let’s see, if this is a parable [which I believe it is] then Jesus does use proper names in parables! I realize that many well meaning believers hear things thru out their lives, we all want to do our best in life. We grasp on to certain things out of good intentions, it’s just we need to allow our minds to be ‘molded’ by Gods Word. Now Jesus says there was a rich man who had it made, he ‘fared sumptuously every day’ [he had more than enough all the time!] and a poor man at his gate [border]. The poor man begged for help and was desperate. The rich man, by law, had no responsibility to help. He didn’t! The poor man dies and goes to ‘Abrahams Bosom’ [I really don’t want to do the whole thing to be honest. I believe this is simply a figure of speech. He is in ‘Paradise- Heaven’ I know some have really built some doctrines from this parable]. The rich man dies and ends up in Hell. The rich man asks Father Abraham if he can send Lazarus to give him some water. Abraham replies he can’t, there is an impassible gulf between them. Plus the rich man was rewarded in life and now he is suffering. Lazarus suffered in life and is now rewarded. The rich man asks ‘well, at least send Lazarus back [raise him! –note, I do find it interesting that Jesus is the one ‘making up the names’ in this story. He picks the name ‘Lazarus’ a real name of one of his friends, Mary and Martha’s brother. Jesus also chooses to speak about him being ‘sent back’ [raised from the dead] in this story. Of course Jesus actually does raise Lazarus from the dead, and some Jews- i.e.; the rich mans ‘5 brothers’ still don’t believe!]. Jesus says let the 5 brothers hear  Moses and the Prophets [the law for Jews, Jesus showed here that eternal judgment was a foundation of the Old Testament law -Hebrews 6]. The rich man says ‘no, they will believe if one comes back from the dead’. Jesus says ‘if they don’t believe the testimony from scripture, they will not believe even if one comes back from the dead’! This could be one of the most prophetic statements Jesus ever made in a parable. This chapter [Luke 16] also has Jesus famous saying ‘you cannot serve God and Money’ and right after he says it the next verse says the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard him. Jesus once again is dealing with the responsibility that ‘wealthy people, nations’ have towards ‘poor neighbors’ [at your gate- border]. This was one of the fundamental violations of the religious development of Judaism. The Pharisees loved the technicality of scripture and religion, but they found ways to justify not ‘caring for their neighbors’ [or families- Corban!]. This parable warns the rich not to allow himself to become arrogant and uncompassionate. Even though Lazarus [Mexico- illegal aliens] did not have the legal right or power to get the food from the rich man, yet this did not excuse the rich man from the fundamental ‘take care of your neighbor’ ethos. He should have still treated his neighbor with respect and compassion. Though legally it was not required, yet ethically it was. And Jesus once again portrays material wealth in a negative light. Now, I didn’t say he condemned the rich man because he was rich! But he was held to a higher standard because ‘to whom much is given, much is required’. Paul and James will use this same mindset in their letters [Timothy and James]. They will warn the rich to not be ‘high minded’ but to be willing to ‘communicate’ [distribute what they have] to help others. You never see a teaching from the Apostles that says ‘seek to become wealthy so you can use your wealth to advance the Kingdom’. Sorry, it just isn’t there! The principle of God using wealth is found in scripture ‘The Lord gives you the power to get wealth so he can establish his covenant in the earth’ [Deuteronomy]. In context God is speaking to Israel as a nation and is telling them he is going to economically bless them for his purposes. But Paul will actually teach that ‘they that desire to become rich will fall into a snare’ 1st Timothy 6. The point is Jesus often used wealth in a negative way in his parables. His teachings affected the writings of the Apostles. They never praised wealth! [Also the earliest ‘Apostolic’ writings apart from scripture are called the Didache, if you want a real negative view of ‘filthy lucre’ read this!]













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