Friday, April 26, 2013


What if we treated worry as a sin? Would that change the way we respond whenever we felt ourselves starting to worry about something? Would we quickly repent of that and re-submit ourselves to Christ?

Well, I hope you’re sitting down because worry is a sin. That is, if you define a sin as disobedience to Jesus, anyway. Because Jesus clearly commanded us not to worry, and he told us that if we would seek first the Kingdom of God that all of the things we’re worrying about would be handled for us.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” (Matt. 6:25)

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:31-33)

I think most of us treat worry as something we’re better off not doing, but I think few of us put worry in the same category as lust, or slander, or stealing. Most of us treat worry as a bad habit, or an occasional mood swing, but according to Jesus our worry betrays our lack of faith in God to handle our needs.

If we treated worry like we treated lust or lying, we’d feel guilty whenever we caught ourselves doing it. We’d feel the need to confess that sin to God and to ask Him to help us resist that temptation.

Trusting God allows us to enjoy the freedom of living in the now. It sets us free from being chained down to all the “what ifs” and fears that rule our minds and corrupt our joy.

So, the next time to feel tempted to worry, repent of that sin and confess it quickly to God. Surrender your fears to Him and re-affirm your trust of God’s love for you and His perfect ability to take care of everything in your life.

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH #6: God Wants Us To Love Our Enemies

In our previous installment of this series we talked about how hard it is for Christians to believe that God really loves filthy sinners like killers and rapists and terrorists.

This article examines a very closely related truth which Christians equally struggle with; the idea that God really wants us to love our enemies too.

Because we can't accept that God would love evil people, it just follows that we can't believe that God would expect us to love them either. Of course, the truth is that God really does love evil people and that means that He really does expect us to do the same.

Even if we can accept this teaching in general, or in theory, it is much more challenging to actually take the step of loving our enemies or sincerely pray for these people to receive forgiveness or mercy or grace.

So, when we see the face of a terrorist or a murderer on the news our first impulse is not to stop and pray for that person to be saved and healed and forgiven. But that is what we should do if we are truly followers of Jesus.

Jesus commanded us specifically and in no uncertain terms to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who hate us. If we are to treat people who directly harm us and hate us like this, how much more should we love and bless those who have harmed others? Especially since the basis for these actions is found in the character of God. In other words, Jesus appeals to the loving and forgiving nature of God as our model for showing this same kind of love and mercy.

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:44-45)

One of the main reasons that we find it so hard to love our enemies, I believe, is that we're more influenced by our human nature than by our spiritual nature. We also make the mistake of thinking that loving our enemies is equal to approving of their behaviors, but that's not the case. We can show love to people and extend mercy to them without accepting their actions. For example, my wife and I routinely help and serve people who are homeless. Many of them are addicted to heroin or meth. Do we approve of their drug use? Or their prostitution? Of course not. But that doesn't prevent us from showing them love and mercy and extending the grace of God to them.

If we really hope to be ambassadors of Christ to a world full of imperfect people, we must admit that we are among the imperfect, and then we must allow God to fill us with His perfect love for others, especially those who (in our opinion) do not deserve it.

If we stop and think we'll realize that none of us deserves the love and mercy of God, but we all need it very, very much.


Monday, April 22, 2013

UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH #5 - God Really Does Love The Filthiest Sinner

For some reason there are Christians who find it difficult, even impossible, to accept the idea that God really does love terrorists and rapists and murderers. Even though they all quote scriptures like "For God so loved the world..." and "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" and many other verses, the idea of actually believing that God loves those evil people is too much to bear.

When we say that God's love is unconditional, that's exactly what it means. He loves us because He is love, not because of anything we have done to deserve that love. God's love for us is not based on our goodness, in fact it's in spite of our lack of goodness. His love is unmerited. His grace is lavished upon the filthy. That's what makes it "Amazing Grace". Because if we were basically good people then His grace would only be "Nice" it wouldn't be "Amazing."

The truth is that if God can't love Osama Bin Laden, or Hitler, or the Umpire who blew that call in the World Series, then He can't love you and me. We're all sinners. We all deserve punishment. We all sent Jesus to that cross. And what did Jesus say to those who nailed him there? He forgave them. He forgave us all.

Granted, not everyone has received that love and mercy. But if those of us who have received His mercy and amazing grace do not extend it to those who have yet to taste of it, then how else will they ever see it? If those of us who have been forgiven don't love those who don't deserve it, then how will they ever know His unconditional love?

See, it's not just that God loves those filthy sinners, it's that you and I are also commanded to love them too.

"If you love those who love you," Jesus said, "What credit is that to you? Don't the pagans do that?"

We are called to love our enemies, and to pray for those who do evil, and to show mercy and grace and compassion to those who don't deserve it, because we don't deserve it either.

Jesus shared a parable about this once. He told a story about a man who was forgiven a massive debt and then went out and demanded payment from another person for a very small amount. When the Master who had forgiven the large debt heard this, he called the man back into court and said, "I showed you great mercy, and yet you were unwilling to forgive someone even a small debt? Because of this I will throw you into prison and you will not get out again until you have payed me back every penny you owe." (See Matt. 18:21-25)

See, if we really believe that we are sinners saved by grace, then we need to love and forgive others in the same way. Not just those who insult and injure us, but also those who harm others.

Just listen to what the worst sinner of all has said about this:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” – Paul the Apostle, (1 Tim. 1:14-16)

So, God really does love the filthiest of all sinners. We need to learn to accept this unbelievable truth, because if we can't accept that, then we're lying to ourselves about our own condition. We believe that we are better than everyone else if we can't accept that the worst of all sinners is the one who looks back at us in the mirror each morning. Either God's love is unconditional or it's not. What do you really believe?

"One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as "those evil people" or "those poor people who need our help." Nor must we search for signs of "loveworthiness." Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.” – Philip Yancy; “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”



Friday, April 12, 2013


Now that we’ve defined the problem with discipleship in the church today, let’s think about how to actually make disciples in obedience to Jesus.

First of all, if being a disciple is actually just being a Christian, then discipleship isn’t something you can learn in a class or a course of study that you’ll graduate from after you go through the workbook. It’s not a program, it’s a life that must be lived.

Discipleship to Jesus is simply following Him daily. So, obviously, you’ll have to start with knowing what it was that Jesus taught. That means reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John. It means taking the words of Jesus seriously. It means trusting Him daily to teach you Himself about how to love and forgive and serve and everything else.

So, if we hope to make disciples as Jesus commanded, then we first must become followers of Jesus ourselves. Then we can help others learn how to follow Jesus too.

The next thing we must learn to do, and then learn to teach others how to do, is to listen for the voice of Jesus in our daily life. This means spending time in prayer, and not just talking to God about what we want or need, but also listening for His voice. Jesus said that his sheep could hear his voice. If we are his sheep we will hear his voice and over time we will learn to discern what he is saying to us.

Discipleship is a long process. It will take you the rest of your life. You will not graduate from discipleship training, ever. Discipleship is your life in Christ which starts today and carries on into eternity.

Most importantly, do not ask people to follow you. Instead, teach them to follow Jesus. You can't save anyone, nor are you capable of changing their hearts, or leading them where Jesus wants to take them. Neil Cole shared an insightful testimony of his days as a young lifeguard here in California. He said he learned not to try to save drowning people himself. If you let them cling to you then you'll both drown. Instead, he learned to hand them the life preserver ring and stay at arms length away from them. Eventually they would stop struggling and allow the life ring to keep them afloat. Then you could pull them safely to shore. Teaching people to cling to Jesus for life is no different. If you let them cling to you, they will become dependent on you. If you let them cling to Jesus, they'll thrive.

As you might guess, this isn’t something you accomplish through a class. It’s something you accomplish by walking alongside Jesus daily, and if you hope to disciple others, then you must be willing to walk alongside those people for the long haul, too. This means being there for them when they have questions, or face challenges, or make mistakes, or when they learn from their mistakes or get it right and need someone to share the joy. But, again, make sure to show them how to depend on Jesus, and not on you.

Truthfully, this is better accomplished in community. In other words, the church family should all work together to encourage the new disciples whenever they gather. They should also disciple one another as often as possible. Why? Because we all need to be discipled. We all need encouragement when we feel weak. We all need comfort when we screw up. We all need wisdom when we are confused about what to do next. We all need one another, and we all need to continually refer one another back to Jesus.

That’s one of the main functions of the ekklesia – to make, inspire, encourage, and train disciples to cling to Jesus.  It’s often expressed as the “one anothers” in the New Testament.

Belief alone is not enough. Demons believe. But disciples obey, and trust, and love Jesus with all of their heart and they daily take up their cross to follow Him into the Kingdom way of life.

So, what are you waiting for? Start following Jesus today, and help others to follow Him as well. That’s called making disciples. It couldn’t be more simple than that.


"There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus' expense and have nothing more to do with him."  - Dallas Willard ("The Divine Conspiracy")

Thursday, April 11, 2013

HOW TO MAKE DISCIPLES: Part 1 – The Problem

Discipleship is a mystery to some Christians in the church today, but what’s even more confounding is the idea that being a Christian and deciding to become a disciple should be viewed as two separate things.

In other words, a disciple is a Christian and if you’re a Christian then you are already a disciple. As it says in Acts 11:26: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”

So, according to the New Testament, disciples are Christians. In fact, the default mode for all of those who follow Christ is classified as “disciple”, which just means “follower”.

If this is so, then how is it possible that Christians wouldn’t understand how to “go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that (Jesus) commanded”? It would seem that anyone who is a disciple should understand intuitively how to go and make others who are just like them, at least in terms of faith and practice.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that many Christians still don’t have any clue how to “make disciples”. How can this be?

I believe the main reason for this phenomenon is simple; Christians are largely concerned with making converts. In other words, it starts with the way we understand (or misunderstand) the Gospel and then flows into the way we evangelize.

Most Christians today understand the Gospel as simply saying a prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die. This isn’t the Gospel. It is a simplistic element of the larger doctrine of the Atonement, but it’s not the Gospel. The same problem would arise for example if we were to confuse the Gospel with the doctrine of the Incarnation, or any other doctrine. It’s not that those other doctrines are wrong, they’re not. It’s that we’ve mislabeled the Gospel message that Jesus came and died to preach and thereby lost the point of making disciples.

So, because we’ve misunderstood the Gospel as saying a prayer so we can avoid hell, our method of evangelism has involved asking people if they want a ticket out of damnation and handing it to them by getting them to repeat a prayer of salvation with their eyes closed or by raising their hand when no one is looking as if they are voting for their own eternal security.

Because of this unbiblical practice, there are thousands (perhaps millions) of people who have “prayed the prayer” and who consider themselves Christians although none of them have never made any decision to follow Jesus. This is quite sad.

See, Jesus would not consider someone a Christian if they did not decide to follow Him. Believing in him (whatever that means) is not enough if you do not continue onward to obey the teachings of Jesus.

As Jesus himself said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

“And why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

"If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

"You are my friends if you do what I command"- (John 15:14)

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." - (John 14:21)

I could go on and on. But I think you get the point. Jesus came and preached the Gospel (or “Good News”) of the Kingdom which was simply that the Kingdom of God had come to Earth and that by following Jesus you could enter this Kingdom here and now. This is why Jesus’ invitation was to “follow me” and those who did so were called “Disciples”.

If we continue to preach a message that only asks people to vote on their preferences for heaven or hell, then we will continue to fail our Lord Jesus when He commands us to “go and make disciples”.

How then should we evangelize? We should ask people if they are interested in following Jesus today. Why? Because Jesus is awesome. He is glorious. He is the only source of true, abundant life, peace and joy. Nothing else even comes close.

So, instead of asking people “If you were to die tonight would you be in heaven tomorrow?” we should ask, “If you were alive tomorrow, who would you follow and how would you live your life?”

Our invitation should be to ask people if they want to follow Jesus daily, the same way that we are trying to follow Him. If we’re not following Jesus daily, we will certainly have no idea how to teach others to do so.


"A notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles; the widely—accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to...salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures." - A.W. Tozer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH #4: God Really Lives Within Us

There is an incredible reality to be discovered in the Gospel. One that should revolutionize the life, boggle the mind, and transform the behavior of every single Christian who fully perceives it. However, the sad thing is that, while many Christians are aware of this reality in theory, they mostly live lives that effectively deny it on a daily basis.

The reality? Simply that God lives within every single person who has placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Messiah.

Think of it. God, the Creator of the Universe, the Great I Am, the Alpha and the Omega, actually lives within you. Not just when you’re praying. Not just when you’re at Church. Not just when you’re doing something Holy or Spiritual, but all the time.

If we really took this truth to heart, it would radically transform our daily routine. Unfortunately, we behave as if this essential element of the Gospel isn’t actually true. We behave as if it’s a metaphor, but not as if the very same presence of the Holy One that used to hover over the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish Temple is actually residing within our ribcage.

Now, I can go through a fairly extensive list of scriptures right now to prove this reality, but if you don’t already accept this as an actuality, it will only support this idea in theory, not enhance your reality.

As God Himself alluded early on, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?" (Isaiah 66:1)

When King David wanted to answer that question personally by building a house for God, he was told that God would be the one to build Himself an acceptable dwelling place. The one who would accomplish this was the promised Messiah.

But the problem is, when Jesus arrived there was already a very large Temple standing in the center of Jerusalem. So, what Temple did Jesus build? He built the acceptable house "not made with human hands" that is “made of living stones" - the Church.

And who is The Church? We are. Those who follow Jesus are the living temple of God.

This means that we are His resting place. We are house that God has built for Himself.

"I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15)

So, this is more than hyperbole. This is not a nice metaphor. This is reality. God abandoned the physical Jewish Temple in Jerusalem the very moment that Jesus fulfilled the promise by offering himself as the Lamb of God as the High Priest of God in the Temple of His Body when he died on the cross.

Next, God tore the veil in the Temple to emphasize that He would no longer reside behind that veil or hover over the Ark of the Covenant, as He foretold through the prophet Jeremiah:

"In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made." (Jeremiah 3:16)

Where would He reside from now on? Within the heart of every single member of the Body of Christ.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Over and over again in the New Testament, Jesus and the Apostles affirm the glorious truth – God has come to live in the hearts and lives of every man, woman and child who loves Him.

In fact, this is what the New Covenant (or New Testament) is all about!

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31:31)

And what was this New Covenant all about?

“This is the (new) covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

See how amazing this is? If you have surrendered your life to Christ, God is actually alive within you right now.

This means that you and I cannot ever escape God’s presence. He is with us this very moment. In fact, one of the names of the Messiah was “Emmanuel” which means “God with us” so it should come as no surprise really.

God’s greatest desire is to make His home in your heart. He wants His thoughts to be your thoughts. He wants your desires to be His desires. He wants to make you His Bride, which as Paul expresses is a “Profound Mystery” for the ages.

What’s sad is that we don’t really believe this is true. We read the words and we say “amen” at the concept, but in actual point of fact we just don’t buy it.

But just imagine for a moment if we did believe it. How would this awesome truth change your attitude, affect your behavior, influence your actions?

If you were fully convinced that every breath and heartbeat was inhabited with the actual Holy presence of the Creator of the Universe, you’d probably love people more, have more patience, treat people with more respect, trust God with your anxieties and fears more, and be more careful about the things you said out loud – and the things you muttered under your breath.

I’m not sure about you, but I think it would be a much better world if we all really believed that God was alive within us every moment of every day.

What do you think?


*NOTE: This article originally appeared in Yoke Magazine under the title: "An Incredible Reality" and was the inspiration for the series, “Unbelievable Truth” here on this blog.

Monday, April 01, 2013


On Saturday morning I woke up with the formula E=MC [squared] in my mind. I didn’t know why.

Since I couldn’t remember what “C” stood for, my wife pulled out our encyclopedia. We knew that “E” stood for “energy” and “M” stood for “mass”, but we didn’t realize that “C” stood for “the speed of light.”

I wondered if God was trying to say something to me about distance, or travelling far away, or maybe he was trying to say something about energy, or spiritual power? At any rate, I finished my breakfast and went about my day.

The next morning, around 3:00 a.m., I woke up thinking again about this formula. Specifically, I was thinking about how that equation described the process of releasing energy. For example, the relative distance between two atoms of uranium may seem very small to us, at the atomic level the distance is relatively equal to the distance between Earth and Pluto.

I also thought about how Uranium atoms were  very dense compared to other atoms, that they had mass or density about 70 times greater than atoms found in lead.

So, when two atoms of uranium, which are very dense, travel that long distance at the speed of light and collide together, the release of energy is massive. To us, their size is beyond microscopic, invisible really. Their distance apart is smaller than the width of a human hair; hardly measurable. But to those two atoms, the distance approaches infinity.

But what does any of this have to do with you and me? What does it mean? Around 3:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning, I suddenly realized something – this is the formula for self-destruction. It’s the formula for crucifixion.

Think about it this way: God, in the form of Jesus, leaves his throne in heaven and travels an infinite distance to the Earth. Jesus, “in whom all the fullness of the Godhead lives in bodily form”, collides with all of the sins in the entire universe upon the cross. 

Did you know the Hebrew word “Shekinah” which refers to the Glory of God also means “weight”?  So, when the full weight of God’s Glory collided with the awesome weight of our sins, it created the release of spiritual energy that was not unlike a massive atomic explosion.  

 That explosion darkened the sun. It shook the earth. It opened the graves of the dead at ground zero and brought some of them back to life again. It even ripped the veil in the temple - a three inch thick curtain - from top to bottom.  It even blew a hole in the fabric of this world big enough for mortal men to pass over into eternity on the other side.

When Jesus said, “It is finished!” there was an explosion in heaven that sent ripples throughout the universe.