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The kingdom is like a mighty river, flowing over time. The river is a story – the story of God’s kingdom. It is the Kingdom River.

Like most mighty rivers, the Kingdom River has a deep channel; a channel that cuts through time, on the river’s way through eternity. The Kingdom River makes its own path. It determines, by its power, where it will flow.

In the channel of the Kingdom River, the current flows deep and with great power. It draws all of humanity to itself. But, the channel of the Kingdom River is a dangerous place. All who are swept up in it eventually drown.

The Kingdom River, as it is with most mighty rivers, also has its shallows and quiet pools; places where young and old first enter – where they find peace and comfort. In this part of the river, the waters rarely come up to your knees; and the strong current is rarely felt. Still, many are satisfied to stay there.

Regrettably, they are not aware of the dangers that are lurking nearby.

Removed from, but within view of the Kingdom River, is a broad road. Many are traveling down the broad road. Many – perhaps most – of those traveling on the broad road are irritated by the site of the river. They want nothing to do with it. They consider the people gathered at the river to be foolish and weak.

Many others, on the broad road, are comforted in knowing that the river is close. When they pause to look and consider the road, they feel drawn to come near. But that would require them to leave the broad road, and they are not ready for that. Perhaps some other day. In the end, they never make it to the river’s edge.

This is a sad tragedy, but not so much as that which unknowingly threatens the shallow and quiet pool dwellers.

Read the rest of this entry »

You are not making disciples if the disciples you think you are making are not, themselves, making disciples.

I have been communicating this word of encouragement for years now. Someone finally challenged me on it – his conviction being that making disciples is reserved for a select group of Christians, that have been given a select group of gifts.

As I understand it, his concern is that I am encouraging disciple makers to expect others to pursue areas of giftedness that God does not have for them. I highly respect this man’s opinion and concern; and recognize that others may share it.

Our conversation has caused me to reexamine my position. I hope you will consider the following.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission means a lot of different things to different people. Some haven’t thought much about it. Others have assumed that their teachers and preachers were experts in its meaning.

I don’t expect you will make that mistake with me. In fact, I strongly encourage you to consider the meaning for yourself. Does our Lord’s commission – given with all authority in heaven and on earth – apply to you (and to everyone you are discipling)? Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowJesus only spoke what the Father was speaking; and that with intentionality. In the Chapter Five Summary, we recognized that Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, in order to lay a foundation for our understanding of the normal Christian life – a life of being, and being made.

Only Jesus Christ can live the normal Christian life. We know that He has come to live that life in and through us. The first disciples did not have the advantage of that understanding; and still, they determined to trust and follow Him. For the modern disciple, this is a challenge and encouragement to embrace the truth: Jesus would only command that which the Father was willing and capable of doing (Philippians 2:13).

It is essential that we understand this from the beginning; for the sayings of Chapter Six are otherwise confusing and/or discouraging. Jesus made it clear from the beginning that our hope must not be in our self will and power. If you have not understood and embraced the sayings of Chapter Five, go back and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you through the renewing of your mind. Only then will you be prepared to hear and do the sayings of Chapter Six.

General Message

The overarching theme of Chapter Six is sacrifice. From giving up the praises of men and our right to hold them accountable, to forgoing earthly treasure and security for that which is eternal, Jesus’ sayings leave no doubt that we must sacrifice our earthly desires to participate in His plans. This, of course, should not surprise us.

… whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. … whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:27 and 33

As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:15

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

Sometimes we just have to hear the most obvious truths over and over again; because our minds have a sneaky way of passing over (or forgetting) them. Jesus’ walk on this earth, from start to finish, was one of sacrifice. He calls His disciples to follow Him. Where do we think that following will take us? Why would we expect it to look any different than what He experienced?

Specific Sayings

As you consider the following list of sayings found in Chapter Six, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance toward the ones that you should be working out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yes, that is the way we find the normal Christian life.

  1. Resist the Enemies’ Temptations
  2. Do Things God’s Way
  3. Learn to Pray
  4. Forgive Their Trespasses
  5. Fast to Please God
  6. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 1)
  7. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 2)
  8. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 3)
  9. Get Focused; Stay Focused
  10. Do Not Worry About Your Life

There are many sayings like these within and outside of the Sermon on the Mount. Most Christians know and give assent to their existence. Far less hear and do them with the necessary passion. We have been lovingly and justly warned: Waiting until the storm hits to begin hearing and doing the sayings of Jesus – even the hardest to hear and do – is to wait for our destruction. It is foolishness. Amen.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowMoreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  Matthew 6:16-18

It is interesting, revelatory and (at least for me) convicting that Jesus speaks of fasting in the same way He spoke of doing good and praying. In doing so, He is making it clear for us that fasting is to be a very important part of the normal Christian life. Fasting for worldly benefit carries the same consequences: Identification as a hypocrite, and loss of heavenly reward.

My conviction is not for being a hypocrite. It goes much deeper than that. Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. He assumed that His followers would fast; as much as they would do good and pray.

There was a time in my life when I fasted on a fairly regular basis. Then I stopped. I don’t remember when, but it was some time ago. I had a good reason for laying down this discipline. At the time, it had become a legalistic ritual. My motivations were wrong, so I quit.

I am sure that my plan was to correct my motivations and return to fasting; but it didn’t happen. I believe I know why, and I am not happy about it. Perhaps it will help you to know why I faltered. For me, what follows is a confession that I believe will gain the Father’s forgiveness and His deliverance from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). It will also make my house stronger.

Having recognized the fault in my motivation for fasting, I began searching the Scriptures for the right one. I learned that many Christians fasted for four primary reasons:

  1. To show humility and repentance;
  2. To seek God’s face more fully;
  3. To know God’s will; and,
  4. To demonstrate sincerity in something we desire from God.

As you can see, there is a strong connection between fasting and prayer. In a sense, fasting is an enabling discipline for the improvement of our prayer life; and, consequently, our relationship with our heavenly Father. Who wouldn’t want that? I was ready to get started.

Being the process-oriented person that I am, I just had to ask God the question, “So then, how would you have me fast?” The Father really likes it when His children ask Him these kinds of questions. His children don’t always like the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

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