Twitter
Linkedin
YouTube
Instagram
Facebook
Feed

Advancing the Conversation of Jesus

Get your Daily Encouragement with the 180

The 180 is a daily devotional for you to make your day simply about Jesus! It is a short 3 minute devotional that you can read or listen to the audio version. Please feel free to comment and tell us how you are applying this in your life!

JESUS’ DISCIPLES ARE LOVERS

When Jesus was asked the question, “What is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus answered this question very uniquely. He couldn’t give just one commandment, but felt the need to share two-a kind of two in one!

On three occasions Jesus shared this same “greatest” commandment. Let’s take a look at each one. The first is in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

The second is in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

The third is in the 22nd chapter of Matthew: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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

Jesus makes it so simple. Love God and love your neighbor and you’ll be doing the will of God with great assurance! When you love, you’re acting like God. Jesus’ disciples don’t just talk about love; they are lovers!

 

timtmmons-audio

EVANGELISM OR DISCIPLESHIP?

One of the early and frequent topics in graduate school was to compare and contrast evangelism and discipleship. We viewed evangelism as the open door of converting a person and discipleship was the follow-up work after a person was converted.

I spent much of my spiritual life grappling with the issue of evangelism. For quite some time, I was filled with guilt over not sharing the Gospel enough or not having many results to my evangelistic efforts. It was not until many years later that I discovered that Jesus never commanded his disciples to evangelize anyone. The two primary commands of Jesus that are relevant here are “make disciples of all nations” and “bear witness of me” or “you shall be witnesses of me” in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the remotest part of the world.

Because we have misunderstood this, we have come to embrace evangelism as a prominent teaching and practice that is expected of all followers of Jesus.

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

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

You introduce people to Jesus more by being like Jesus than by talking about him. So, don’t spend your time strategizing how to evangelize the world; spend your time thinking in terms of making disciples of the whole world, beginning with yourself. This is precisely why we frequently articulate our vision to be advancing the conversation of Jesus.

 

timtmmons-audio

A NEW JESUS CURRICULUM FOR SMALL GROUPS

A curriculum is a progressive course of study. There are 3 specific instances where a progressive course of study is mentioned around Jesus:

1-Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, had a progressive course of study in mind as he shared with the men: Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:13-32)

2-Jesus may have had an informal, progressive course of study in mind, when he said to “make disciples by going, baptizing, and by teaching them to observe all I commanded you.”(Matthew 28:19-20)

3-Jesus spent 40 days teaching his early disciples: To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1) In the same way Jesus taught the two disciples on the Emmaus Road in a systematic way, it seems to us what he felt was most important for them to understand about the Kingdom was a progressive course of study that took several days. It was a “boot camp!”

The real need we know to be true is three-fold: 1) Too many friends love Jesus and can parrot back the “right” answers to key questions, but may not have inhaled the transformation of Jesus yet. Without transformation there is no discipleship.

2) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of small groups that continue to meet without any progressive course of study. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know there is so much more to embrace about Jesus and the Kingdom. There are even more potential groups that either haven’t started to meet or began and faded away, because they don’t know what to do. It’s not enough to have information in hand; there is a great need to provide ways to advance the conversation of Jesus. We believe disciples must not only know Jesus and his teachings, but must be conversant with what they know. To be conversant is evidence that they have embraced Jesus for themselves.

3) In order to respond to the mandate of Jesus to make disciples of all nations, we are convinced the small group strategy is best. Small group is the most effective vehicle for transformation and discipleship.

Wherever we go, we advance the conversation of Jesus and leave small groups behind to continue the Jesus movement. We encourage you to do the same, wherever you go. In the past, we have left the groups excited, but without any track to run on. NOW, Tamrat and I have completed the new Jesus curriculum, THE WAY Volume I: PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION. You will soon see how to get your hands on this new tool. Use it in a group you’re presently in or start a new group. Jesus commands us to make disciples; now let’s be about doing it!

 

timtmmons-audio

DISCIPLESHIP, THE JESUS WAY

Jesus and Jesus only is “THE WAY”; not Christianity, not the Church, not any attractive teacher or mentor. Jesus, just Jesus!

To be a disciple or follower of Jesus is to come to know Jesus personally-to embrace him and his teachings into your life in such a way that Jesus becomes your lens for seeing life and living your life on purpose. So, in this way, it’s not that you know a lot about Jesus, but that you know him personally.

Instead of making discipleship about making better Christians, adding new members to your Church or religious group, or the passing on of information, Jesus had a better idea and practiced it. If we are to follow in his steps, it’s most advisable that we make disciples his way.

Jesus’ way of making disciples from the beginning was by the use of small groups. We must do the same. There are four vital factors about these small groups that produce genuine followers of Jesus-disciples.

FIRST: Each small group must focus on the centrality of Jesus. The content of the group revolves around Jesus-his words and his actions. This is why Jesus requires that anyone who wants to enter the Kingdom must hear his words and act on them.

SECOND: Each small group must practice interactive conversation of Jesus within the group. We learn best by interactive conversation with other followers. Interact about your experience, strength, and hope each has found in Jesus.

THIRD: Each small group becomes a covenant group with Jesus and with one another. The last supper Jesus ate with his early disciples was to secure the covenant relationship he wanted with them and with one another.

FOURTH: Each small group had one end game-transformation! Whenever Jesus encountered a person, he was changed-a transformation of the heart.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) In the small group setting, each participant humbles himself and becomes as a child. Jesus does his transforming work within this context. Only Jesus can change or convert a person’s heart.

This was not a one-time occurrence; this transformational encounter with Jesus is still happening today. “Where two or three gather in the name of Jesus, he will show up in their midst.” This revolutionary transformation happens in the power of the few. And, do you know what is so terrific about all this? The Jesus revolution is still on and you can participate in it!

 

timtmmons-audio

DISCIPLESHIP FACTOR IN CHANGING THE WORLD

According to Jesus, the answer for changing the world is not an organized religious system nor is it a particular outline of teachings. Jesus mandated one way for changing the world-to make disciples or followers of Jesus in all nations. The process of discipleship makes the presence of Jesus possible in every nation of the world and is the best possibility for peace and reconciliation everywhere.

If discipleship is so vital to changing the world, then why is it so rare among those who claim to follow Jesus. Here are 4 observations: 1. There is a need to be deprogrammed from what we’ve been taught. Most people, who have grown up in a religious setting, have been programmed wrongly. Most believe the process of discipleship is about passing on information. Therefore, to me, the process of discipleship was always performed in the classroom-the better the information taught, the better the disciple. If we are going to make disciples, we must stop this kind of thinking.

2. Discipleship is caught, not taught. The process of discipleship takes lots of time. Jesus’ process of discipleship was to take his disciples on a variety of field trips-outside the classroom. This allows a follower to observe, discuss and ask questions along the way.

3. Discipleship is not one person teaching and a group listening. Participators, not spectators, are required for the process of discipleship to be effective. Jesus warned us not to call anyone “teacher” or “rabbi” or “father” or “leader”, because of this misunderstanding. When followers come together, they gather to hear from one teacher-Jesus. Jesus is heard and absorbed within the conversation of a little group.

4. Discipleship always takes more time than you think you have. In my opinion, this discourages more people away from the process of discipleship. It takes so much time! It’s so much easier to teach a class or to have a person read something, commit them to memorizing bible verses, or be able to mimic the basic beliefs within your fellowship. Discipleship happens when Jesus followers spend an extensive amount of time in interactive conversation about their personal experience, strength, and hope they are finding in Jesus. Discipleship can’t happen in a Church service, at an annual event, in a weekend seminar, or online. This is the primary reason why discipleship is so rare and why followers of Jesus are unable to change the world.

The discipleship factor is the missing link, even within the popular small group movement around the world. Most small group materials produced today have one of three underlying purposes: (1) To make people better Christians. (2) To add members to your Church. (3) To pass on good information. Jesus had a better idea! We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

 

timtmmons-audio

THE KINGDOM FACTOR IN CHANGING THE WORLD

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably. Even though Jesus teaches so little on the church (mentions it twice), he spends lots of time teaching about the Kingdom. Today the Kingdom concept has escaped our notice, even though Jesus places so much emphasis on it.

It’s not that the Kingdom has been rejected, but reduced. In general we reduce the Kingdom of God to our particular flavor of the faith we have embraced. There’s a sense that what we have embraced is the right way and therefore we must carry our particular form of faith and system of beliefs to the rest of the world. The Kingdom is so much greater than the particular faith or system you have embraced. Jesus is referring to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the Catholics or protestants or the Moslems or the Buddhists.

The way Jesus teaches it, the Kingdom is greater than anything that has ever existed on earth. Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom is near, here and within reach now, and there seems to be a time in the future when the Kingdom will be fully experienced on earth.

NOW, take the same three characteristics of Jesus and apply them to the Kingdom-where the King is.

FIRST: The character of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the only moral authority with any kind of power to change society. The Church is not capable of it. The Church changes from time to time. Sometimes it is effective and sometimes it’s not. Leaders are morally good and leaders become morally flawed. So, at any given time, the Church will not be able to deliver a moral authority to the community. The Kingdom is constant. It’s power and effectiveness depend upon its leader-Jesus. Therefore living in the Kingdom and inviting others to share in it is the only solution to transforming a broken culture.

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

THIRD: God’s presence may be felt. Where better to discover a personal relationship with the God of gods than where He lives in His Kingdom. Follow King Jesus and you’ll discover the Kingdom; embrace the Kingdom lifestyle and you’ll discover the King. The Kingdom is the only thing Jesus calls the gospel-the good news. When you are more conversant with the Kingdom, you will come to know that this is not only the good news; it is the BEST NEWS ever!

timtmmons-audio

THE JESUS FACTOR IN CHANGING THE WORLD

I am on a mission to change the world. I can’t do it alone and neither can you, however I’ve embraced a plan that I’m convinced will work, as it has worked before. And, as I’ve been sharing this plan everywhere I go, I’m becoming more and more convinced, it’s time!

On a weekly basis, I meet with a group of Millennial high school students and several times a week I’m working with college students or young professionals who are under the age of 36. This generation wants to change the world. What’s amazing to me is that they believe they can!

When I was their age, we had a slight thought from time to time about converting the entire town of Blanchester, Ohio to be like us Baptists. But I never really believed it and I certainly had no thought of changing the world.

Then this real person, Jesus, apprehended my heart and head. He had a plan and carried it out, one person at a time. Now, in this new age of travel and digital communication, I’ve come to realize that Jesus’ plan can actually work today in homes, in neighborhoods, in communities, in companies, and in nations.

The plan revolves around Jesus and the Kingdom. Jesus and the Kingdom offer the only possible solution to transforming the culture. Let’s examine the Jesus factor today and we’ll check out the Kingdom factor tomorrow.

There are three things about Jesus that are most attractive and most effective in changing any society:

FIRST: His character is incomparable. There is no one who ever lived who has ever surpassed the character standard that Jesus set. He set the bar so high that He is revered in every culture of the world. Jesus raises the highest bar ever on the planet with respect to character. No one surpasses Him!

SECOND: His teachings offer meaning and fulfillment. If you follow the teachings and principles of Jesus, you will know fulfillment and meaning in your life. Who isn’t able to gain something positive out of the principle of forgiveness or loving your enemies or giving rather than receiving? Religious and cultural leaders from all over the world continually use the principles of Jesus to write their books and teach their seminars. There is nothing that surpasses them!

THIRD: As you follow in Jesus’ steps, you may find God. If God were to take on human flesh and live among us on this earth, he would most certainly say the things that Jesus said and do the things that Jesus did.

Jesus doesn’t pass on information; he embodies what he teaches. When properly introduced, Jesus is absolutely irresistible!

timtmmons-audio

GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM

Today we come to an interesting scene that begins with a question from the disciples: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1)

The answer Jesus gives is set forth in four parts: FIRST: Jesus pulls in a child and declares that no one will enter the kingdom of heaven without becoming like a child. He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-3)

SECOND: Jesus gets to the question of the disciples more directly and says that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven has the humility of a child.Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)

THIRD: Jesus announces the blessing to those who receive one child such as this that they also are receiving Jesus personally. “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:5)

FOURTH: Jesus warns of the curse upon those who cause one of these little ones to stumble. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

NOTE that there are basically two conditions to enter the Kingdom. Unless you are converted is the underlying theme here: Converted means to have a change of mind-a change of mind toward Jesus. Unless you become like children-humble, innocent, respectful and most of all, a teachable, tender heart, you cannot be converted in your heart and enter the Kingdom.

So, who are these “children” Jesus is referring to? I see three “children” that may fit what Jesus had in mind:

1. Actual, real young children who are easily influenced. It’s clear to most that the most strategic time to mark a person indelibly is in the younger season of life.

  1. Young believers who are very new in their faith. They are easily influenced and distracted away from what’s foundational and most important.
  1. People who are already turned off with spiritual things, due to the many man-made add-ons, yet are searching for something spiritually authentic.

This is a serious issue for Jesus. Your actions and reactions must be pulled into check. Your life isn’t just about you. There are many looking on and following you in your attitudes and actions. You may be the only expression of Jesus some people will ever see with the possibility of a genuine encounter with Jesus. So, it’s important to pay attention to who you are and what you do.

timtmmons-audio

BE THE CHURCH IN A BIGGER WAY

NOTE that Jesus says that he will build his church. That’s the only kind of church that will not be overpowered. So if Jesus is building the church, what does he want us who follow him to do? Let’s get it straight: HE BUILDS THE CHURCH; WE ARE TO BE THE CHURCH. Jesus never intended for the institution of the Church to be the main thing for his followers to gather around; he meant for the church to be the growing movement that gathers around him and other followers. This is why he only mentions “church” on two occasions.

ONE MORE THING: What is this “church” that Jesus says he will build? The Greek term is ekklesia. It literally means those who are “called out” for a reason. This could refer to a city council, an assembly or a gathering of any kind. So, this term is a very common term and has no great spiritual significance at all.

When Jesus speaks of “building” his “church”, he is speaking of a gathering of those who are followers of Jesus. The revolutionary movement of Jesus is being built-energized-by Jesus himself. Nothing can stop this movement. Don’t you see that this kind of movement is the Kingdom movement.

NOTE that those who are actively expressing this confession of being followers of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God are given the “keys of the Kingdom” to bind things on earth. And, those things that are bound on earth are also bound in heaven. This is the essence of the Kingdom teaching. There is no separation between the earth and the heavens. Why?

The Kingdom of heaven is all about living life on earth in its widest context. The Pharisees loosed and bound things on the earth and placed them in a restrictive box. Their underlying theme is exclusivism as many teach today. Their emphasis was the letter of the law, adding rule after rule. Jesus is all-inclusive and into the spirit of the law. This is why they were so frustrated with Jesus and his Kingdom teachings. It’s the presence of God in and through us right here, right now. Here’s how it works: Confess that Jesus is God’s deliverer for planet earth and he wants to set up his Kingdom right here among us RIGHT NOW.

So, when it comes to the church of Jesus, do your best to do church in a bigger way. Don’t just go to church; be the church! Do your best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be the church (assembly or gathering) in the freedom and movement of the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t get any better than that and it doesn’t get any bigger than that!

timtmmons-audio

WHO IS JESUS, REALLY?

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.””But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:13-17)

Years ago when working on university campuses, we made it our goal to do whatever we could to make Jesus the issue on the campus. We did this by speaking to the needs of the students and then relating Jesus as the solution to those needs. This was the atmosphere during the times of Jesus in the 1st Century. He was the issue that everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion about him.

Jesus asked “What are people saying out there?” Then, turns the corner and asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter came through with the answer: “You are God’s Messiah, the Son of the living God!” Just when Peter was about to take credit for this observation, Jesus points out that his Father gave him that insight.

Then Jesus makes a curious statement: “You are Peter (little rock) and upon this rock (big ledge) I will build my church.” He refers to some sort of huge rock or ledge upon which Jesus will build his church. Here are the most common options: (1) He is speaking of Peter as the foundation of the church. This would place a man as the foundation of the church. (2) He is speaking of the words Peter spoke-the confession of who indeed Jesus is-the Messiah, the Son of the living God. This would set in place words and theology as the governing foundation and force of the church of Jesus.

The problem with these two explanations is that they are based upon man’s leadership and man-made theological structures of Jesus’ words. (3)He is speaking of the actual, living expression of Peter about the truth of who Jesus is. It’s the beauty of people from a variety of cultures and status who are given by the Father the revelation, the power and the courage to profess that they are followers of Messiah Jesus, the Son of the living God.

This is the foundation of the church of Jesus. It’s built around the transformation, only God can perform. No flesh and blood is able to convert anyone. Only God, Himself, reveals who Jesus really is. No amount of preaching, altar calls, or conversion attempts can work. So simple and yet so powerful!

timtmmons-audio

PARABLES OF THE NET & THE SCRIBE

We come now to the last two of the eight parables in Matthew 13. The first of these is THE PARABLE OF THE NET: “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13 47-50)

Whatever else the net means it seems that again Jesus wants to make certain that we understand that there will be a sorting and he will be in charge of that procedure. We don’t have to do any sorting whatsoever. In fact, we believe it’s clear that you and we cannot do anything with respect to the ultimate results of who are the wicked and who are the righteous.
NOTE the term “wicked” that Jesus seems to use frequently. He isn’t speaking of a vile, despicable person, but it seems that “wicked” is used of those who do not hear or welcome the words of Jesus and do not practice them.

The primary issue here for me is that the parable of the net teaches us that there will be an accounting at the end. Also, NOTE that everyone will be caught in the net for the final accounting.

Next, we come to a parable that has been so easily overlooked. I’ve never even noticed it until recently. It is THE PARABLE OF THE SCRIBE:”Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)

NOTE Jesus is referring to a person who is a teacher of the law-one who knows the law well. Then, this one who is conversant with the law is taught the message of the Kingdom of heaven. A person in this position is like the owner of a house who is able to share with his guests new things (things of the Kingdom) as well as the old things (the Law). In fact, what we’re discovering is that walking with Jesus in the Kingdom lifestyle brings something new and fresh every day. Personally, my learning curve isn’t a curve anymore; it’s perpendicular! It’s the most thrilling adventure ever! So, do everything you can do to come along on this journey with Jesus. You won’t be disappointed at all.

timtmmons-audio

PARABLES OF THE TREASURE & PEARL

This is one of the most fascinating observations about how people actually receive the message of the Kingdom. Jesus offers two ways through two parables.

FIRST: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

SECOND: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

THE FIRST IS BY SURPRISE: Here is a person, not particularly looking for it, yet finds a treasure hidden in a field. He is overjoyed with his discovery. He hides it again. Then sells all that he has to buy the land where it is!

THE SECOND IS BY SEARCHING: Here is a merchant who has been searching for fine pearls. He finds a fine pearl of great value. Then goes, sells all that he has to buy this valuable pearl!

Do you know people who are like these two? The one who by surprise discovers the Kingdom treasures-the one who never would have imagined being ‘caught dead’ sitting among a group of Jesus followers. This person, along with many onlookers, is quite surprised that he found such a valuable thing.

OR the one who by searching out truth or the meaning of life or whatever, finds himself delighted to have found a satisfaction that no one can take away, so he sold everything he had in order to buy it.

NOTE both have the same response. They each sell all they have and buy their new-found treasure! Now this has nothing to do with purchasing or performing well enough to gain a place in the Kingdom. However, it has everything to do with the comparable value of being with the King in the Kingdom rather than rocking along, living a life that is routine and predictable with all of the traditional comforts of life-all without the King and outside the realm of His Kingdom.

So, how do you value your relationship with the King and His Kingdom? Is it the most valuable, priceless, place to be, ever? Or, is it a convenient place to visit from time to time? This is the difference between being a spectator and a participant!

timtmmons-audio

PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN

The 4th parable in Matthew 13 is about the leaven.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)

This parable illustrates that the Kingdom of God will be irreversible. Nothing and no one can stop it from spreading-not communism, fascism, racism, religiosity, cults, false religions or any religious system. You see, when the Kingdom spreads it supersedes all sorts of movements and organizations. This is why to follow Jesus most effectively, we must be Kingdom people first and foremost. To be anything else is to be so much less! This is why your allegiance to a denomination or to a local church (a localized assembly in the name of Jesus) over the Kingdom is foolishness and will be proven to be so.

When you meet King Jesus personally, you must sign off as king of your personal Kingdom and submit to your new King-Jesus. We then move into 3 natural, action steps:

First: Seek his kingdom and his righteousness (Jesus, himself) before and above all others! You are now in partnership with Jesus.

Second: Share in his kingdom with all of the other kids of the kingdom! You are now in fellowship with all other followers of Jesus.

Third: Spread his kingdom everywhere by the sowing of seed-being salt & light where you are! You are now into discipleship of those Jesus brings your way.

I like to call these three steps the three “ships” in the night-partnership, fellowship and discipleship. Focus yourself on each one of these and you will be enjoying the blessings of the Kingdom.

You know what’s interesting? The movement of the Kingdom is going on, no matter what you think, say or do. Our primary responsibility is to see where Jesus is at work and go there. The movement of Jesus and the Kingdom is already in motion. The question is whether or not you will join it or start your own. Remember, it’s irreversible! It cannot be stopped.

timtmmons-audio

PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

So far we know that the primary activity of the Kingdom is the sowing of the message of Jesus, which is the gospel of the Kingdom. We also know that there will be genuine believers and imitation believers in the kingdom. AND NOW, the kingdom is described by another image-the mustard seed.

The 3rd of the 8 parables here in Matthew 13 is the parable of the mustard seed:He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds of all-almost as small as a grain of pepper. When this seed grows, it grows into a large garden plant or a small tree. This is what is going to happen now in the kingdom. The kingdom of God is going to experience incredible growth!

The kingdom is a completely different thing. The kingdom of God or the kingdom of Jesus is where the King resides, where the King’s presence is. The kingdom is invisible. You certainly don’t expect a massive growth, but it occurs silently and covertly and it is the real thing. The kingdom can penetrate any culture and supersedes any organization, no matter how large or active it may be.

By the way, this is why throughout the book of the Acts of Jesus, there is a constant emphasis and demonstration of two themes-the person of Jesus and the kingdom of God. There is no talk of planting or building the church. Jesus did say, “I will build My church!” What he wants from us is to BE THE CHURCH OF JESUS and to be the church of Jesus is to participate daily with the King, with the King’s kids and to embrace the principles and teachings of the King and his Kingdom as a lifestyle. Jesus’ idea was not to gather or recruit spectators; Jesus’ idea is for participators!

So you can join a Church built by man or join the Kingdom of God, which is the church (assembly or gathering) Jesus is building! You see, you basically can dilute yourself by taking a side-trip of distraction or remain focused on the good news of the Kingdom. Jesus chose the Kingdom over any other gathering or assembly. What will you do?

 

timtmmons-audio

PARABLE OF THE WEEDS

Now, Jesus’ second parable makes an observation and gives a caution:Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30)

THE OBSERVATION? When you are doing the work of sowing, you will likely find tares that are sown along side the wheat. Tares are empty wheat pods-chaff without wheat kernels-false wheat that looks like wheat, but isn’t. He applies this observation in that the genuine wheat are those who believe in the Gospel and the tares or weeds are those who look good, but are not genuine followers of Jesus. They are all together in the same field and it may be difficult to tell the difference.

THE CAUTION? The servants want to gather up the tares out of the wheat field-to separate the wheat from the weeds. But the owner quickly responds, “Allow both to grow together until the harvest.”

The reason being that if you attempt to pull out the weeds from the wheat, you are likely to uproot the genuine wheat along with the weeds. In other words, it is none of your business who is IN and who is OUT. Only Jesus knows for sure! And, if we try to separate the genuine followers of Jesus from those who seem to be but are not, then we will most likely damage the genuine wheat in the process.

By the way, this is a favorite pastime of many spiritual leaders and it must be stopped! Jesus wants us to sow the seed and he will take care of the results. It’s that simple, yet I find it most difficult for a control-freak like me. I want to help Jesus out a bit. BUT I must discipline myself to stick to sowing the seed of the Kingdom in the lives of everyone I meet-from the bank-teller to the toll-booth clerk and to your fiercest competitor. Sow the seed of the Kingdom everywhere you go. That’s the one thing you are responsible to do in this life before Jesus returns. Just what are you busy doing, if it’s not sowing the seed of the Kingdom? What could possibly be more important than this?

timtmmons-audio

 

THE PRIMARY ACTION OF THE KINGDOM

Jesus refers to the seed sown in three ways (Matthew 13; Luke 8): The seed is the“word of God.” The seed is the “message of the Kingdom.” The seed is the“sons of the Kingdom.”

Jesus seems to view the seed sown in and through the sons of the Kingdom as the word of God and the message of God’s Kingdom. This is what his primary message was as he taught throughout the villages and synagogues. Therefore, the word of God-the message of the Kingdom-is the active presence of God, working within, among and through the followers of Jesus in the form of a seed.

This seed has tremendous spiritual power within those who are followers of Jesus-to be productive-to be fruitful. It is able to produce amazing levels of fruit. To be fruitful is to enjoy the peace, joy, love and grace of Jesus for yourself and if you as a follower show up, you can bring that same fruit for those in need.

Its effect on you and through you is determined by your response to the seed. It’s all a matter of responsiveness. Note that you are not responsible to bring forth the fruit, but the power of the seed will produce the fruit, if planted in the good soil. I’ve come to realize that these soils are dynamic in our lives. I have been each of these soils at one time or another. Can you see this in your life as well?

Out of all of the eight parables recorded in Matthew 13 only one parable has an action step to it. There is one primary activity within the Kingdom Jesus came to establish. It’s right here in the parable of the soils. The primary activity of the Kingdom is the constant sowing of the seed of the Good News of the Kingdom.

Please note: the primary activity is not trying to get people to go to heaven. It is not trying to convert people to join a certain religion. It is not trying to get people to join your religious organization. The primary activity is the sowing of seed-introducing the word of God, the Good News of the Kingdom, which is present and alive within and among the followers of Jesus. The primary activity is introducing people to the person of Jesus-without all the religious baggage.

In my thinking, this sowing activity is how we are to be making disciples. Sowing seed is be actively involved in advancing the conversation of Jesus. It’s re-presenting Jesus, when those around you are in need of healing and love. So, the primary activity of living in the Kingdom is to sow the seed of the Good News of Jesus walking and talking it as you go.

timtmmons-audio

HEARING AND DOING

Hearing Jesus and doing what he says is a dominant theme of Jesus throughout his teachings. So, how do you know when you are listening to Jesus and his promptings? How do you know whether you are clearly hearing the words of Jesus or not?

Here are a few things I know Jesus will never ever communicate to you:

  • Jesus will never communicate to you any message that is self-destructive. He is on your side, not against you!
  • Jesus will never communicate to you to hate someone or to hold back from forgiveness. He’s about loving everyone, especially your enemies.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you that it’s most important to be a Christian or any other cultural religious system.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you that you are better than any one else.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you that you or your group is better than any other group.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you how to talk with your loved ones who have already died.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you that your primary practice is to go to Church. He wants you to be the church!
  • Jesus will never communicate to you to gossip against another person.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you to do your best to convert the world.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you to shun or condemn sinners.
  • Jesus will never communicate to you to show off your religiosity.

If you think you’re hearing this kind of thing from Jesus, then either you have some wires crossed, got a batch of bad salsa, or are listening to the wrong voices.

I can share these observations confidently, because Jesus never did these things before. Why would Jesus change his tune and communicate these things today? If you are hearing from Jesus, you will be motivated to walk, talk, think, and love like Jesus. Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.”So, are you hearing the voice of Jesus or are you hearing another voice and calling it Jesus?

timtmmons-audio

 

THE POWER OF A SEED

As Jesus makes the shift into teaching by way of parables, he lays a foundation for understanding the Kingdom principles for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Several helpful factors stand out: The most powerful element of the Kingdom lifestyle exists in a seed, and a very small one at that. Therefore the power of the Kingdom is not what is readily seen. It’s invisible, imperceptible and yet indelible in its markings on those who follow after Jesus and those they touch.

The second most important element of this Kingdom lifestyle is that it requires each follower to prepare his or her heart to receive the seed in order to establish its root, develop a shoot and bear fruit. Even as I say that, I realize that preparation of the heart may be more what you don’t do, than what you do.

–       That you don’t allow the trials and troubles, which come against you to distract you away from having a receptive heart-that is leaning into the ways of Jesus and the Kingdom.

–       That you don’t get caught up in worrying about your life and your world.

–       That you don’t allow the riches of this world to deceive you into thinking they are more important than walking in the ways of Jesus and the Kingdom lifestyle.

If you don’t do these things, you will be able to keep your soil good and receptive to the seed of the word of God-the message of the Kingdom.

He plants a seed in the soil of your heart. Then he waits. Knowing that in time the seed will germinate, take root, and eventually transform you. From the inside out! Note that every one of these soils heard the Good News message. What made the difference was what they did, once they heard this powerful message-the message that is in the seed.

What does it take to be fruitful? This is obviously the point of planting seeds in the first place. Maybe the clearest answer to this question is found in Jesus’ teaching that he is the vine and those who follow him are the branches that are connected to the vine. What does a branch have to do to be fruitful? Nothing! The branch must make like a branch and remain or abide or hang on to the vine and the vine will produce the fruit through the branches.

To me, this is absolutely amazing! How is it going with you?

timtmmons-audio

 

PARABLES…THIS IS A NEW SERIES ON PARABLES

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

After the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus as God’s Messiah, Jesus shifts his method of teaching. Jesus begins speaking in parables. Parables are the simplest of narratives: they sketch a setting, describe an action and its result; they often involve a character facing a particular moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences of that choice. In the Biblical sense, a parable is simply “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”

The disciples quickly notice the difference and ask Jesus why he is doing this. His answer was twofold: First, he is using parables in order to conceal the truth of God from those who aren’t interested. This is an act of grace on his part to not heap up more condemnation upon those who are actively rejecting him. Second, he is using parables to reveal truth to those who are interested. NOTE that what is most important to Jesus is that you and I be interested. Well, are you? 

SEEDS ON THE GOOD SOIL

 The fourth soil Jesus describes as a measurement of man’s receptivity to the message of the Good News is the GOOD SOIL. “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Finally, we get to the soil that readily receives the seed that is planted. This person is said to be the good soil. Although there are other descriptors of the good soil in Mark and Luke, here in Matthew the word for good is “kalos” rather than “agathos”. Both have the ideas of being honest, whole, good in character and moral, “kalos” is the term that is more attractive and seen by God. The term “agathos” has more of a social dimension to it-good to others.

As with all of the other soils, each one heard the word, yet this is the only one who hears and understands it. They are the only ones who hear the word and put it together. It makes total sense to them. They get it!

Jesus speaks of the good soil-the person who is completely receptive to the seed and prepared for growth. This is truly the person Jesus is always looking for-those with ears to hear and eyes to see. This is the only soil where the seed takes root, produces a shoot, and becomes fruitful. And the fruitfulness is amazing! Some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty-that’s 100 times, 60 times, and 30 times the seed that was sown!

In a very real sense, the make-up of the “good soil” consists of three progressive levels of people. First-the interested. All God requires is that a person be interested. God will do the rest! So, when we’re searching for good soil, we’relooking for the interested. Being interested is not enough.

Second-the believers. The progression is for the interested to be interested enough to believe. I used to think this was enough, until Jesus apprehended my heart a few years ago. Being a believer is not enough. False teachers are believers and even demons are believers. Being a believer is not enough.

Third-the followers. Jesus is looking for the interested and wants them to be interested enough to believe. However, Jesus mostly invites people to believe-tobelieve enough to follow in his footsteps. This is the ultimate for the good soil-to be followers-to be disciples of Jesus. This is why Jesus’ mandate to all followers is to make disciples (followers) of all nations.

timtmmons-audio

SEEDS AMONG THE THORNS

The third kind of soil Jesus describes is where the seed is sown AMONG THE THORNS. “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

There seems to be a root and a beginning shoot, but no fruit! Again, the person representing this kind of soil hears the word, but encounters two very real difficulties. The first is the worry of the world. This has the idea of caring so much about what others think or just how you compare to the rest of the world. This worry or care becomes a major distraction. Living this way requires a constant upkeep to keep up! This constant upkeep and cautiousness makes this person feel divided in his soul. This is a perfect passage from which to launch a discussion on living between two kingdoms-the manmade kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. Talk about pressure!

The second difficulty encountered by the seed that is sown among the thorns is the deceitfulness of wealth or riches. The nature of the term “deceitfulness” is uncertainty. The deceit comes in the thought that this wealth or riches is the answer to my life’s success and fulfillment. But the very nature of trusting in your riches or wealth is the classic experience of buying into the “over promise-under deliver” lie.

Now note what the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches actually do to the seed that is planted among the thorns. The power of the seed-the root and the shoot-is choked to the point of becoming unfruitful. The term “choke” means to strangle completely-smothered. It has the same sense of being drowned or crowded out.

Both difficulties force you to lose your focus. Following Jesus requires single-mindedness. So many things we do and feel in this world divide our hearts and diminish any focus on Jesus.

Do you ever feel this kind of imbalance, caused by the pressure to keep up? It’s the proverbial rat race. Remember, even if you win in the rat race, you’re still a rat! Don’t be discouraged. Tomorrow’s 180 will give you hope and the days ahead will give you some handles on getting through the piles of life!

 

timtmmons-audio

SEEDS ON ROCKY PLACES

Growing up, I spent many hours planting a garden and even planting crops in a field on our farm. In both cases, the planting was to be done intentionally and in a straight line, in the furrow plowed for planting. Scattering the seeds, indiscriminately and widely, was the planting process in the time of Jesus, therefore the seeds landed everywhere! Jesus chooses four kinds of soil upon which the seeds fell to paint a picture of how receptive people are. The first one was ‘beside the road’. In this case, there was no fruit, because there was no shoot of life that came out of the ground, because there was no root established. Today, we examine the second one—the ‘rocky places’.

Jesus says, “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Matthew 13:20-21)

In the case of the seeds sown on the rocky places, the man hears the word and immediately is excited about what he has heard. The problem is that there is a shoot that springs up, but it is only temporary, because there is no root established on the rocky soil. And, of course, no fruit will develop at all.

Note what comes against this person. First, there is affliction. This term means to experience pressure—to be crowded out with troubles. Second, when this affliction comes it is accompanied by persecution that arises because of the word. The term “persecution” has the literal idea of running errands, being in pursuit. In this case, there is the feeling that the person is being pursued, most likely by verbal comments and questions, accusations and attacks. This adds greatly to the pressure the person is feeling and seems to keep on building up against him.

The end result is that this person—this little plant—immediately falls away. The idea of falling away means to be tripped up or trapped. This is an entrapment caused by the overwhelming nature of the affliction and persecution. When you see others who are overcome by this kind of pressure-cooker, be patient with them, showing the love of Jesus.

The only ways to fight this kind of affliction and persecution for yourself is to do all you can do to keep Jesus as your primary focus. As you focus and hang on to Jesus as your best friend, he becomes the dynamic focal point to bring balance to your life—spiritually, emotionally and physically. When Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing”, did he really mean it? If Jesus means this, then why would you not want to include him in any struggle or issue you face? Do you want to help others who are entrapped in the rocky places? Then, begin with yourself admitting the same struggle in your life and demonstrate that if it weren’t for finding balance in Jesus, then you would have no balance at all!

 

timtmmons-audio

SEEDS BESIDE THE ROAD

 

Jesus describes four kinds of soils that measure how well a person hears the message of the Kingdom. The soils seem to represent the hearts and minds of people, each one measured by the receptivity of the seeds that have been sowed. Let’s check it out:

And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

Let’s examine the first soil—the soil beside the road. Jesus says, “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” (Matthew 13:18-19)

The person with the heart like this soil is not ready to receive any seed. He’s not prepared for it, not looking for it, and seeds may seem out of place to him. So, he hears the word of the Kingdom and does not understand it. The term “understand” used by Jesus literally means to put it together. What they hear, they are not able to put it together in order to make sense to them or to motivate them to want to hear more.

Should we not plant any further seed in this soil? I think the answer is that we don’t know the soil or the heart of another person. The planting that is done is indiscriminate and totally random and widespread. Have you known anyone to be so hardened like the soil beside the road and then at a later date, become receptive? I see this all the time. Therefore, keep on planting the seed of the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom. Keep on advancing the conversation. No conversion tactics or preaching; just conversation with loving compassion. Or, maybe you could do something really shocking, like loving them by listening to their interests and their needs without saying a word. 

 

timtmmons-audio

PARABLES

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,

“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

After the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus as God’s Messiah, Jesus shifts his method of teaching. Jesus begins speaking in parables. Parables are the simplest of narratives: they sketch a setting, describe an action and its result; they often involve a character facing a particular moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences of that choice. In the Biblical sense, a parable is simply “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”

The disciples quickly notice the difference and ask Jesus why he is doing this. His answer was twofold: First, he is using parables in order to conceal the truth of God from those who aren’t interested. This is an act of grace on his part to not heap up more condemnation upon those who are actively rejecting him. Second, he is using parables to reveal truth to those who are interested. NOTE that what is most important to Jesus is that you and I be interested. Well, are you?

 

timtmmons-audio

JESUS’ FAMILY

While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever, does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

For whatever reason Mary and the brothers of Jesus showed up and interrupted his speech to the crowds. Jesus took this opportunity to turn the situation into a most amazing teaching moment.

This is one of those moments in Jesus’ ministry that sizzles with intensity, drama, and significance. Jesus words would clearly be hurtful to his physical family that was already struggling to know how to understand his ministry. Also, these words would be freeing and empowering to those who had always felt left out of the political order, pushed aside by the religious elite and disenfranchised by the social structure of their day. Jesus was promising that his family would be determined by faith and obedience—not blood, not genealogy, not politics, not power, and not money. That offer still stands today and the promise is just as true for us as it was for those who first heard Jesus’ words.

So, we who trust Jesus and follow him (do the will of My Father) are family to him. We are the brothers and sisters of Jesus! Now wait just a minute! That means then that we are also related to one another. You see, this was the shock the disciples faced in the Upper Room experience when Jesus said that he had a new commandment for them that they should love one another as he loved them. The disciples had eagerly signed on to love and be loved by Jesus, the Messiah, but to love one another was altogether different! The disciples must have felt in their hearts, “Jesus, do you mean that I must love this former tax-collector, these fishing industry execs and workers, this one who not only puts his foot in his mouth but changes feet while talking, this doubter who can’t seem to make up his mind, this radical zealot who is filled with such anger toward the government, these brothers who are so impatient that they are continually bringing up suggestions for God to strike others with lightning, these New Testament ‘nobodies’? You want me to love them?”

In the kingdom we are family members with all of the similarities, differences and peculiarities of family. Jesus wants us to act like it! This fits in so well with what we keep teaching about hanging out with one another-eating, praying, studying and fellowshipping together—AS FAMILY!

 

timtmmons-audio

SABBATH

 

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired, against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (12:8-21)

He first teaches the logic of doing some work on the Sabbath, if necessary, then he performs a miracle right in front of everyone! They had misapplied the Sabbath and turned it into a religious rule rather than a relational love-covenant with the Lord.

When you set aside a day for a Sabbath, you set up Jesus as your Lord!

What is a Sabbath? To the Jews it was an identifying mark that they ceased from all normal work for one day to focus on their God. It was to stop everything and focus on their God and their relationship with him. Although this was in the Law of Moses and we are no longer under that Law, the Sabbath doesn’t really go away! Under the Law of Moses you were in a “have-to” mode. Now, you are under the Law of Christ, which supersedes and embraces the Mosaic Law and you are in a “want-to” mode. We do everything we can to keep the Sabbath, not because we have to but because we want to. It’s the most wonderful day of rest—a time out that is much appreciated! Sabbath is for man to enjoy. Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!

Here are some ways to look at this Sabbath principle. 1. A SANCTUARY IN TIME! 2. A TIME TO DISCONNECT FROM THE RAT RACE OF LIFE-TO REST! 3. A TIME TO KEEP YOURSELF PLUGGED INTO GOD NO MATTER! 4. A TIME TO CULTIVATE JOY & HAPPINESS IN YOUR SOUL! 5. A TIME TO SEEK GOD’S WISDOM! 6. A TIME TO REFUEL YOUR GRATEFUL HEART! 7. A TIME TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR CORE VALUES! 8. A TIME TO GET IN SYNC WITH THE RHYTHM OF CREATION! 9. A TIME TO RECREATE! 10. A TIME TO ENJOY GOD’S SALVATION FOR YOU! 11. A TIME TO HANG OUT WITH JESUS! 12. A TIME TO MAKE JESUS YOUR LORD!

Check it out for yourself! Don’t make it religious. Remember God wants your heart (compassion) and your personal relationship with him (knowledge of Him) rather than your religiosities (sacrifices). And when you set aside a day of rest like this, you set up Jesus as your Lord. HE IS THE LORD OF THE SABBATH, so he can say what is right and wrong for that special day of rest. In fact, in a very real sense, Jesus is your Sabbath—he is your rest! Come apart for awhile or you’ll come apart! Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and the Lover of the sinners. He wants to be your Lord and Lover, too.

 

MURDER

Jesus moves through 6 specific teachings taught by the scribes and Pharisees and then gives his teaching on each one. Each teaching is prefaced by something like “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” The difference is very clear and deeply convicting.

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing’, shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool’, shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery, cursed garbage pit. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:21-24)

I don’t think anyone would be against this teaching that a murderer ought to be sent to court for some accountability. Jesus takes the entire matter deeper, saying that murder is not committed simply on the social level between people (externally), but murder goes deeper into the heart (internally).

Jesus says: 1st Degree Murder—Everyone who is angry at another brother. The root of murder is in the heart—anger! Now, you will have anger, but don’t hang on to it and allow it to fester. That will prove to be as destructive as the social act of murder.

2nd Degree Murder—Everyone who calls his brother “good-for-nothing”. The word, Raca, has to do with attacking one’s head, calling him stupid!

3rd Degree Murder—Everyone who calls another a “fool”, this term has to do with contempt for a person’s heart and character. Jesus covers the entire spectrum of anger!

Now listen to what Jesus says: Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you. In other words, Jesus says that even the high act of worshipping God must not take precedence over your relationships with others. This is a powerful point! Your relationships with one another is at the heart of God! Jesus sets out the procedure to follow. Leave your offering there—stop your worship or attention toward the Lord. Go to your brother—seek out this offended one. Be reconciled to him—as far as it depends upon you. You may not accomplish full reconciliation in return. Then come and present your offering—now you are ready to face the God of gods.

You may not have murdered someone in society (an outward act), but you are guilty of murder through one or more of the degrees of murder (an inward act). NOW ACT UPON IT. THE JESUS WAY!

 

timtmmons-audio

 

 

I CAME TO FULFILL

I see this passage as containing the key to the entire book of Matthew. This is the primary theme of what Matthew intended to communicate: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever, then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever, keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:12-19)

Jesus positions his teachings with the Mosaic Law. Jesus makes it clear that he does not nullify the Law in any way, but has come to fulfill it. To fulfill literally means to fill it full. Imagine an empty glass as the Law and filling up the glass with Jesus. The Law was the form and Jesus is the substance!

The Law of Moses spoke and illustrated Jesus throughout, then Jesus shows up to fill up the form set forth by that Law.

NOTE that Jesus in no way excludes the Jewish people and their Law of Moses, but only has difficulty with their application of it. In fact, Jesus presents Himself in an inclusive manner. He is always inclusive. Jesus unites. Everything and everyone else tends toward dividing. I don’t know many people like this, like Jesus.

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

NOTE that Jesus gives the requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven. Your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees. Wow! Is Jesus saying that we are to be more religious than these Jewish leaders? Not at all—just the opposite!

The scribes and Pharisees were some of the most religious people ever. Their religiosity was all about external matters—separation from sin and sinners and cleansing oneself. The Pharisees were known for: 1. Professing righteousness without possession of it! 2. Being hyper-critical, not hypocrites in the normal sense, but hair-splitters, nit-pickers, feather-pluckers! 3. Emphasizing the letter over the spirit of the Law—all truth and little grace! 4. Making absolutes out of non-absolutes—listing as many rules and regulations as possible! 5. Drawing the condemnation of men on righteous acts before God, such as praying, fasting, giving.

Jesus was not saying to outdo these super-religious people. He was saying that your righteousness must surpass their righteousness. I believe he is saying that your righteousness must go deeper—from the externals into the internals. Remember, God looks on the heart (internals) while man looks on the outward appearance (externals). Righteousness as Jesus teaches it is a matter of the heart!

 

timtmmons-audio

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Now for the second image—light. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

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

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

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

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

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

Nearly 40 years ago E. Stanley Jones, the great Methodist writer and missionary to India, was asked to name the number one problem in the church. His quick reply was `Irrelevance.’ Not that the church was inherently irrelevant, but that followers of Jesus were failing to show in concrete ways and to tell in cogent understandable terms how Jesus is relevant to all of life in the twentieth century.

So, how can this be done? Jesus offers two relevant roles for his followers to play out in the Kingdom—be salt to counteract the decay around you and be light to counteract the darkness in the world.

 

timtmmons-audio

 

 

SALT OF THE EARTH

Now that Jesus has described what it means to be a happy and blessed Kingdom dweller, he uses two dynamic terms to position us in this world—salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

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

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

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

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

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

 

timtmmons-audio

BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

Yesterday we examined the final snapshot of a Kingdom dweller: “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” NOTE what is promised for those who rejoice in persecution. Jesus says, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We saw that at the very beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The first snapshot and the last—poor in spirit and being persecuted for being like Jesus. It’s like all 8 beatitudes are wrapped up in a package—all describing what a citizen of the Kingdom looks like. What a picture this is! One more observation that comes to mind: When you compare the first snapshot—poor in spirit—with the last snapshot—being persecuted for being like Jesus, the progression is obvious. Everything in the Kingdom begins with having a right evaluation of yourself before God and others—poor in spirit. The ultimate aim is to be more and more like Jesus, so much so that your life and lifestyle stand out.

These 8 disciplines or attitudes are taken directly from the first seminar that Jesus gave on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee. They all begin with “Blessed” which means to be congratulated or to be filled with happiness. Take on these attitudes and make them your primary disciplines of life. Meditate on them and discover the great depth within them. They offer you the ingredients that will produce the most valuable and powerful emotional riches you could ever experience.

Note that every one of these beatitudes is different from your natural instincts. When you follow Jesus, you are walking to the beat of a different drummer. Keep in mind that Jesus is the drummer, the one who sets the beat of your life. I have spent most of my life meditating and referring back to these 8 dynamics. Make them yours. Go back to them often. Maybe even memorize them and ask God to emblazon them on your soul.

Now, living out the teachings of Jesus in the Kingdom is a different lifestyle—the Kingdom lifestyle, all unveiled by the King—Jesus. In a very real sense, these 8 snapshots make up a collage of Jesus himself. So, to embrace these for yourself is to embrace Jesus and his Kingdom personally. Don’t hesitate on this. There are many treasures and secrets of the Kingdom that will enable you to make the rest of your life, the best of your life!

 

timtmmons-audio

PERSECUTION

We come now to the last snapshot. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

To rejoice in persecution is to develop the big picture on all troubles—especially the stresses that others bring upon you. Life is full of stress and distress. Many of life’s stresses are circumstantial.

NOTE the reason for persecution. It’s that same word we saw earlier—righteousness. As you hunger and thirst for righteousness—being like Jesus (allowing him to live his life through you)—you will make people uncomfortable and they will pick away at you.

ALSO note the kinds of persecution mentioned here. It’s insults, falsely saying all kinds of evil against you, because of the Jesus and Kingdom lifestyle you are embracing. And when you note who it is who is doing the persecuting in the New Testament against the early followers of Jesus, you will quickly find that this kind of persecution comes from other religious people who are jealous and threatened.

When Jesus, the Righteous One, came to explain the love of God to mankind, his simple message was to present himself and the gospel of the Kingdom. It didn’t contain a system of do’s and don’ts that normal religious groups do, so this made the religious people of the day uncomfortable enough to persecute him terribly to the point of putting him to death—to silence this simple one.

If you are simply walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting on Jesus to lead out in your life, you will face the same kind of criticism and backlash. Your simple faith will make others very uncomfortable—especially those who believe they have it all together, bolstered by their many theological and religious props. However, for those who are discontent, hurting, burdened down by all of the religiosities in the world, you will be a welcome sight—a bright light of hope.

You’ll need it to truly rejoice in the midst of this kind of persecution. Keep on hungering and thirsting for that inner, spiritual satisfaction for your soul by walking with Jesus and walking with others. Then, you can more fully rejoice in persecution. This will drive your detractors nuts. Enjoy it!

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

timtmmons-audio

 

PEACEMAKERS

We are continuing through the 8 snapshots Jesus offers concerning what a Kingdom dweller looks like. We have come to the seventh snapshot or beatitude. It is: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

To be a peacemaker is to develop peace within your sphere of influence wherever possible. It requires that you make peace where there is no peace. Search for trouble, distress, brokenness and those who are living in pieces. You don’t have to look too far. Listen to those around you. There is a great void out there—a great need to be understood. In fact, you probably won’t have to search, just listen and be aware. This is a strategic discipline that carries with it the dynamic message of the Gospel (Good News). This is Jesus—peace where there is no peace.

In order to restore peace, you must see the other person’s strengths. This proves that you are listening and truly understand. Seek answers for what’s best for this person. Do what you can do to promote peace making—love, trust, and forgiveness. The world around you is in such desperate need of experiencing inner peace. When I even casually mention forgiveness in a seminar session, I notice the light bulbs switching on throughout the audience. People are in great need for healing—for knowing inner peace.

NOTE this follows Merciful and Pure in Heart. The pre-requisite for being a peacemaker is your sense of being merciful and being a loyal friend (pure in heart). There is always within us the tendency to be a reactor to people and things rather than be proactive, which is what restoring peace requires. Either be a peacemaker and make people whole or remove yourself from this responsibility and leave the people around you in pieces. So, choose to restore peace as a proactive peacemaker.

ALSO NOTE the peacemaker will be called a son of God. This is what God does. He brings peace to the world at great cost to Himself. When you are a peacemaker, you are like your Father in heaven.

I like the simple prayer that says: “Dear Lord, as in the world I toil and through this world I flit. I pray make me a drop of oil and not a piece of grit!” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

 

timtmmons-audio

PURE IN HEART

The second 4 snapshots are about your heart relationship before God as you relate to others. Today we come to the sixth snapshot or beatitude. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

On the surface being “pure in heart” doesn’t appear to have much to do with others. But when you check it out as this term is used throughout the Scriptures, it’s clear that “pure in heart” is about being loyal, honest and trustworthy as a friend. In the Proverbs it says “the king’s friend is pure in heart.” Pure in heart is one who can be counted on at all times—a safe person to have on your team.

To relate as a friend is to develop relationships where there is trust and love! Where there is trust and love, there is affirmation. Don’t relate to others as friends for their approval. You don’t want to give anyone that much power. You only seek approval from your Creator—your Higher Power. With friends, you must seek affirmation.

Without reframing your weaknesses and your desperate need for God, you’ll fall short of being pure in heart. Without proper mourning you waste your sorrows and troubles, because without proper mourning there is no comfort and joy—no satisfaction. Without that satisfaction, you will find it very difficult to relate as a friend. And, without practicing being merciful, you will have nothing to offer a friend.

Everyone is in desperate need of the dynamic of friendship. Without a friendship you die. Life flows through it and death reigns without it. How are you doing in developing this discipline? Make sure to live your life with trusted and loving friends. A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you, when you’ve forgotten the words. But there’s one more dynamic I’d like to suggest. Turn your friends into “walking partners” as you walk your walk with Jesus. Learn to discuss and do things in the name of Jesus and in the spirit of his Kingdom in that relationship. This will deepen any friendship into a life partnership as you learn to do life together.

ONE MORE THING: The pure in heart are given a special reward for taking care of the heart. They will see God. Whatever else that means, it’s clear that God puts a high premium on your heart. Want to see God, then allow Him to own your heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

 

timtmmons-audio

MERICIFUL

The first 4 snapshots or beatitudes are about your relationship before God. They are quite personal—poor in spirit, mourning, meekness and hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The second 4 are internal qualities also before God regarding our relationship with others.

Now, let’s move on to the fifth snapshot or beatitude. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Being merciful is to reach out with compassion to everyone. This means to identify with others’ needs or plight in life in a compassionate way. Insert yourself into their shoes as best you can. Search for how you might best assist them. Initiate a positive effect toward the people in the world around you, even though they may not deserve it. That’s mercy!

NOTE, whatever energy you give out, you receive it back at that very moment. This is reciprocal in nature. It’s an interesting principle of life. When you give out something to another person, you receive it by the very act of giving it away. So, when you show mercy to someone, you feel this same mercy coming over you. When you show forgiveness to another, you feel this same sense of forgiveness right back at you. Reaching out with compassion is a source of healing for those you touch and for yourself, so that everyone gets better. Don’t forget, this is not just an action toward another person; it’s an attitude that is most natural and present within the Kingdom lifestyle.

In order to grasp what it means to be a person who shows mercy to everyone—even to lead with mercy, it’s vital to embrace the progressive nature of these snapshots. It’s nearly impossible to show compassion to another person, when you are filled with pride and haughtiness. SO, refocus on being poor in spirit where you can have a right evaluation of yourself before God. Mourn over that which keeps you from God. Count on the quiet, controlled confidence only God can produce. Then, by hungering and thirsting for walking consistently with God’s standard, Jesus, himself, you are now ready and able to show mercy to everyone you meet. When you have received this kind of grace from God, it’s much easier to give out mercy to others.

If you are so caught up in yourself, then you won’t find it easy to extend mercy to another person at most any level. So, beginning with a sincere acknowledgment of your desperate need for God, reach out to all those around you with sincere compassion. And, you will receive it right back in the process. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

 

timtmmons-audio

HUNGER & THIRST

We come now to the 4th snapshot of a happy, Kingdom dweller. The first three snapshots speak of where you lack—POOR IN SPIRIT, MOURN, & MEEKNESS. In some ways, they’re not very uplifting. This makes you ready for anything that will fill you up. This is precisely what the 4th snapshot will do. Check it out!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) NOTE the strong terms here—hunger and thirst, not simply desiring something or making it a high priority. This is desperation—the kind of desperation that has a full understanding of its need for God, a desperate kind of mourning and an attitude of meekness. At this point of desperation you are ready for hungering and thirsting for righteousness—for anything that is right and pure and good. It’s a refocusing of your heart to develop a passion for filling up the hole in your soul.

“Righteousness” is right living. It’s walking consistently with God’s standard. Jesus was the Righteous One Who walked most consistently with God’s standard. In a very real sense, there is no other standard in the world. God’s standard for living life is the only one you were created to follow. All other standards are not standards at all, but scattered attempts to live life without God. Many of these attempts are couched in what we know as RELIGION—religious systems of do’s and don’ts to attain some level of approval by God—to reach some heavenly state and to avoid going to hell.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness has nothing to do with a religious system. All religious persuasions are cultural in nature and each one can find its meaning and highest desires in the person of Jesus. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness rests in a personal relationship with the Righteous One—Jesus, himself.

NOTE what happens if you hunger and thirst this way: “for they who hunger and thirst for the Righteous One will be satisfied.” The term “satisfied” is used to describe the fattening up of cattle—to fill them up so that they have no more wants. Do you want to find satisfaction in your soul? Learn to practice hungering and thirsting for Jesus everyday!

It’s only when sensing your emptiness of the first three snapshots that you have access to spiritual fullness. These are the quiet cravings—the hungering and thirsting—for spiritual things, for the inner satisfaction of your soul! Hungering and thirsting is not simply making it a higher priority or something you feel you really ought to do, but to hunger and thirst as if this is a life-sustenance issue AND IT IS.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

 

timtmmons-audio

MEEKNESS

We have considered the first two snapshots of what a Kingdom dweller looks like—poor in spirit and mourning. Today we get to the third snapshot: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Meekness is about renewing your inner confidence. To renew your confidence means to develop a quiet, controlled strength. Remember, the right evaluation of yourself before God included your wickedness and your wonder. Mourning relates more to the wickedness or weakness factor. And, now meekness relates to the wonder factor. The quiet, controlled confidence comes from your Creator. His mark of wonder is upon you.

Once you see clearly who you really are, you are ready for growth. Then, if you are able to mourn over that which keeps you from growing, you actually graduate through this pile of problems. Now, you can’t remain under the pile of mourning; you must gain inner strength as you emerge from the pile.

If you just learn how to mourn and remain there, you will be content to wallow in your weaknesses. Many people seem to enjoy suffering like this. They find a new friend in depression or loss or a sickness. They find that people seem to care more for them when they’re wallowing in a problem, so they take that problem on as their identity, as sort of a badge of courage. Don’t wallow in your sorrows. Mourn them. Recognize them. See them for what they are. And grow through it!

To renew your confidence is to focus on the product of what you can learn in the midst of your struggles. “Gentle” is the word for meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It’s developing a quiet, controlled inner strength or confidence that can only come from God’s inside operation on your life. This is why we continue to speak of transformation or regeneration. It’s an inside job by Jesus, himself, in your life. You recognize your desperate need, you mourn over it, inviting the Lord to do his work in your life. He does his work in your heart and creates a wonderful inner confidence—an inner strength that empowers you to keep going and to start over, when necessary.

Grow for it, no matter how rough or how tough life can be. It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you that matters most.

The struggle here in renewing your confidence is to be diligent to find your inner strength in His work and not your own. Are you sensitive to God’s transformation in your heart? Are you aware of His continued work every day in and through you? This is the reason why you can experience meekness in your heart while the rest of the world around you is shaky and falling apart.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. Whatever losses the person of meekness may seem to be experiencing here on this earth, Jesus gives an assurance that the meek will inherit it all. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”

 

timtmmons-audio

 

MOURN

We started with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To be “poor in spirit” is to have a right evaluation of yourself before God. We come now to the second snapshot of a happy, Kingdom believer: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) Now wait a minute! Blessed are those who mourn? Are you kidding? How can mourning be a blessed experience or one that makes you happy? As you will easily see every one of these snapshots goes against what you might normally expect. Jesus and his Kingdom always move to the beat of a different drummer.

There are two sides to your nature-your wickedness/weaknesses and your wonder/strengths. The wonder factor says that you aren’t as bad as you could be, since you are created in the image of the God of gods. On the wickedness side, it’s important to realize that you are capable of doing almost anything, any time.

Mourning means to develop a sensitivity to that which keeps you from being and doing all that you were created to be and to do. Once you have a right evaluation of yourself before God, it’s natural to be sensitive to anything that might pull you down or pull you away from being and doing what’s right. It’s mourning over that which keeps you from Jesus and his Kingdom.

When you mourn, you must feel the pain. Moan and groan over it! Feel it! Don’t deny your feelings about it! The pain is for real, so really feel it! If you mourn properly, you’ll discover something of a surprise on the other end. You will find a sense of comfort and inner joy.

What is it that keeps you from walking with Jesus and living the Kingdom lifestyle? What keeps you drifting away from what you know you really want with respect to your faithfulness to him? List it out and actually MOURN over it. There’s something about identifying it and saying it that helps to push it out of your way.

NOTE one more thing within this snapshot. He says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Focus on that second part: “for they will be comforted.” You see, when you mourn over that which keeps you from God, Jesus says you will find an unusual comfort in the process. He will comfort you. This is what happened to the early disciples. Jesus was about to leave them. He told them they were going to mourn over his departure. Then right away he said that he was going to send a comforter to them. He was going to send to them his Spirit to comfort them and encourage them. So, try it out. Reframe your weaknesses so that you turn them into mourning. Then, the Spirit of Jesus will comfort you, Himself. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 

timtmmons-audio

 

 

 

POOR IN SPIRIT

When Jesus began teaching publicly, there was one question that was in the mind of everyone: Jesus, how does your teaching differ from what we’ve been taught? This is the question for every one of us today, no matter your cultural or religious background. Jesus sets out to answer this question in his first seminar. It’s recorded in Matthew 5-7. I’ve spent most of my life studying Jesus’ teachings contained in these three chapters. This Jesus manifesto is also a Kingdom manifesto at its best!

It all begins with the first of 8 snapshots: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” You are blessed if you have this quality of being poor in spirit. The term “poor in spirit” is a word that means that you must beg in order to live. You are that desperate! It’s having a right evaluation of yourself before God. He’s God and self-sufficient and I am not! It’s an expression of desperation without Him and vital dependence upon Him.

Jesus is speaking to a massive group of people who have been taught by some of the most haughty men who have spent their lives outlining what it means to be right or righteous before God and that system is really a performance system of attempting some level of perfection. Jesus begins at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Righteousness begins when you understand your total need for God-your spiritual poverty!

All of life begins right at this point. Possessing a right evaluation of yourself before self, God, and others is true humility-the exact opposite of the blindness of pride.

What I’ve learned is that it is through the pain of the miserable failures that I’ve grown the most. In the midst of that pain I have learned vital truths about me, God, and the others in my life. We are all broken and spiritually bankrupt! One of our main addictions is that we are stuck on ourselves-our self-centeredness-the big “I” for everything to revolve around.

NOTE ONE MORE THING: Those who are poor in spirit are the ones who will receive the kingdom of heaven. Only two of the 8 snapshots reference the Kingdom-the first and the last. The Kingdom belongs to those who know and admit their need for God. It all starts here. You see, it’s only when you come to the end of yourself (poor in spirit) that you finally realize that God is enough. So, reaffirm your poverty without God and you will become richer than you ever imagined.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom.”

 

 

timtmmons-audio

 

 

THE KINGDOM: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

The way Jesus teaches the Kingdom, it is greater than anything that has ever existed on earth. Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom is near-within reach-here and among us right now, and there seems to be a time in the future when the Kingdom will be more fully experienced on earth. Once you embrace the fact that the presence of the Kingdom is right here, right now, you can begin enjoying yourself as you live in the Kingdom right here, right now. Jesus calls it following him or doing the will of the Father or hearing his words and practicing them.

By hearing Jesus’ words and practicing them, you will find yourself caught up in the flow of the movement of the Kingdom of God or better yet, you will be caught up in the 21st Century Jesus movement. It’s a revolutionary movement, and Jesus is the one who leads it. So, see where Jesus is at work and get there as soon as possible. Walk with him. Watch him. Work with him. No matter your circumstances, you can practice the presence of the Kingdom and enjoy the presence of the King-Jesus-right here on planet earth, right now.

I think what Jesus is saying is that he has brought the Kingdom-the presence of God to earth. You see, where the King is, there is the Kingdom.

So, Jesus isn’t about the Church and Jesus isn’t about Christianity; Jesus is all about the Kingdom being among us right here today!

Jesus says his followers will do: “The works that I do and greater works than these he will do.” (John 14:12) How is this possible? Here it is! As you follow Jesus, he will urge you to pursue the Kingdom lifestyle and to practice the presence of Jesus through God’s indwelling Spirit. You can do that right now, today!

 

timtmmons-audio

 

ENTER THE KINGDOM: DIFFICULT FOR THE RICH  

The fifth reference Jesus makes concerning what it takes to enter the Kingdom of heaven has to do with the rich. Three of the Gospels record this one. The context for this Kingdom entrance principle is in relationship to a conversation Jesus had with a young, rich man. Let’s listen in to this conversation:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, ” ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

(NOTE that Jesus equates eternal life with entering life and then later in this passage he speaks of entering the Kingdom of God.)

The young man shockingly states: “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” By “perfect”, Jesus means to be complete and whole in your search for life.

Then, note the man’s final response to Jesus’ words: When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.Jesus knew the man’s heart and that he was holding on to his riches-his stuff-very tightly. In other words, his stuff had become his security, maybe even his god. For sure, his stuff had distracted this rich, young man away from filling up his heart with the ultimate desire to give it all up and follow Jesus.

Then, Jesus makes the following observation recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Matthew 19:23-24: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10; Luke 18)

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

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

 

timtmmons-audio

 

ENTER THE KINGDOM: DIFFICULT FOR SUPER-SPIRITUAL 

The fourth reference Jesus made concerning what it takes to enter or not enter the Kingdom of God has a couple of dimensions. Both of these dimensions here contain direct warnings toward the religious. The first dimension is in Matthew 21:32: Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

Beware of being so religious and self-righteous. Jesus became most disturbed and angry with those who didn’t see their need for God-those who thought they were right and righteous because of their beliefs and practices. In this dimension Jesus points out that those who see their need most are the ones who are actually entering the Kingdom right now ahead of the religious and the righteous. In fact, he is not just saying that the most despised tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom someday, but that they are entering right now!

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

Now Jesus points out that these religious leaders who are not entering the Kingdom are also stopping others to enter by shutting the door of the Kingdom of heaven in their faces. How is this done? I think it’s done by continually setting up certain restrictions and limitations on who can get in and who will not.

It boils down to this: 1. Those who don’t have it together will enter the Kingdom first. 2. Those who think they have it together through what they know/believe and what they do, may not enter the Kingdom at all. 3. And these religious “know-it-alls” tend to shut others out of the Kingdom, too.

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

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

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

The fourth reference Jesus made concerning what it takes to enter or not enter the Kingdom of God has a couple of dimensions. Both of these dimensions here contain direct warnings toward the religious. The first dimension is in Matthew 21:32: Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”

Beware of being so religious and self-righteous. Jesus became most disturbed and angry with those who didn’t see their need for God-those who thought they were right and righteous because of their beliefs and practices. In this dimension Jesus points out that those who see their need most are the ones who are actually entering the Kingdom right now ahead of the religious and the righteous. In fact, he is not just saying that the most despised tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom someday, but that they are entering right now!

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

Now Jesus points out that these religious leaders who are not entering the Kingdom are also stopping others to enter by shutting the door of the Kingdom of heaven in their faces. How is this done? I think it’s done by continually setting up certain restrictions and limitations on who can get in and who will not.

It boils down to this: 1. Those who don’t have it together will enter the Kingdom first. 2. Those who think they have it together through what they know/believe and what they do, may not enter the Kingdom at all. 3. And these religious “know-it-alls” tend to shut others out of the Kingdom, too.

Two things to beware of: FIRST: Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that your belief system or your behavior will get you into the Kingdom.
SECOND: Don’t divert others away from Jesus, because of your dogmatic belief system.

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

 

timtmmons-audio

 

ENTER THE KINGDOM: BECOME LIKE A CHILD

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

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

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

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

Becoming as a little child with Jesus means the following: 1. You don’t know everything. 2. All that you have been taught needs to be stripped away.

  1. You want to learn all you can about this new life with Jesus. 4. In order to learn more about the ABC’s of walking with Jesus, it’s most helpful to watch him carefully and mimic what you hear and see. 5. Learn to simply trust Jesus for your life-your strength, direction and future.

Adults think they know everything and have the ugly habit of trusting themselves. Children know they don’t know everything and therefore gladly develop the beautiful habit of simply trusting.

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

 

timtmmons-audio

 

ENTER THE KINGDOM: DO THE FATHER’S WILL 

The second reference Jesus makes concerning entering the Kingdom is most powerful. It’s found at the close of his first seminar: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

The context is fascinating! In the next paragraph it’s clear what’s going on. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Jesus is referring to a group of apparent leaders or ministers who would naturally view themselves as believers, because of their actions. These “believers” are known for speaking in the name of Jesus, casting out demons in the name of Jesus and performing many miracles in Jesus’ name. NOTE that Jesus rejects these so-called “believers” and says he doesn’t even know them.

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

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

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

It’s clear that Jesus is saying “doing the will of the Father” is hearing Jesus’ words and practicing them. This is simply following Jesus! So, there is something more important and vital than being simply a “believer” in Jesus.

There is a belief factor in following Jesus. You must believe in Jesus enough to follow him-to hear his words and practice them.

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

 

timtmmons-audio

 

 

 

ENTER THE KINGDOM: HEART CHANGE

Although Christians have boiled everything down to believe and you’ll go to heaven and don’t believe and you’ll go to hell, Jesus’ concern seems to revolve more around entering or not entering the Kingdom of heaven. And, entering the Kingdom seems to be an immediate experience, since the presence of the Kingdom is a present reality according to Jesus.

This week I want to cover all of the times Jesus refers to what we must do to enter or not enter into the Kingdom. To enter the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God may be the closest thing Jesus ever says about “getting into heaven”. Each of these references provides significant insight into what Jesus counts as most important in order to get into the Kingdom.

The first reference is found in Jesus’ first seminar: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven(Matthew 5:20)The requirement here seems really tough. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for their religious displays of righteousness. Their emphasis was to look good-to look and act religious and holy-to be seen by others as righteous.

Instead of going the ways of the external, legalistic lists of the Pharisees, Jesus clearly says there must be an internal work in a person’s heart. Later Jesus says that no flesh and blood can bring about this kind of revelation and internal change of the heart, but God, Himself. This kind of heart surgery surpasses all other religious representations of righteousness.

God looks on the heart; man looks on the outward appearance. So, if you want to please God, then pay attention to your heart’s response to him. Jesus wants us to first be people of the heart where we are allowing him to relate to us in a most personal and private way. All external actions should naturally flow out of that transformed heart. To Jesus, nothing else matters-nothing is more important.

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

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

 

timtmmons-audio

 

ACTS 29

Jesus’ emphasis on proving himself genuine and teaching on the Kingdom catches on after Jesus ascended into Heaven. The book of the Acts of Jesus opens with this twofold message, when Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples in Acts 1. There are two more powerful expressions of this same dual theme in the Acts of Jesus.

Look at the work and teaching of Philip in Acts 8. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Messiah to them. When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, the Messiah, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:4-5, 12)

Now, look at Paul, who lived in Rome toward the end of his life: When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. And again Luke says Paul was preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus, the Messiah with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:23, 31)

There are 28 chapters in the Acts of Jesus. Many times I’ve asked audiences to turn in their bibles to Acts 29 and, of course, they can’t find it. The book of theActs of Jesus is so useful in illustrating how we as followers of Jesus can relate to him without his being right in front of us. It’s very practical and it’s clear that we can continue to experience the presence of Jesus through the indwelling Spirit. In my opinion, Acts 29 is a positive reality for us today! Acts 29 is our opportunity to continue practicing the presence of Jesus today and for the rest of our lives!

This is why I ask Jesus a question every morning. I say, “Jesus, what do you have for me to do today?” And several times throughout the day, I say, “OK, thanks for being with me so far and getting me through another day, so ‘What’s next?'”

My life purpose is shaped by the twofold message of the Acts of JesusI want to advance the conversation of Jesus and the Kingdom to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see in order to bring about transformation and reconciliation to our world.

There is no better topic for conversation than Jesus and the Kingdom of God. So, what are you talking about?

 

timtmmons-audio

 

JESUS’ LAST WORDS

One of the observations that blew my mind, when we were motivated to refocus on the life and teachings of Jesus, is that Jesus only mentioned the “church” on two occasions. On the other hand, Jesus taught about the Kingdom and its principles most often. Then, when you realize how Jesus opened his public teaching with specific reference to the Kingdom and that he ended his final teaching of his early disciples with an emphasis on the Kingdom, it’s clear what Jesus is all about. The conclusion that I came to was that Jesus is so much more about Kingdom living than I have ever taught or imagined.

We examined his first words yesterday.Now, let’s take a look at Jesus’ last words with his early disciples.

After the resurrection, Jesus gathered his early disciples together in Jerusalem. He had a three-fold purpose in mind. First-He presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days. Jesus felt the need to make certain that his disciples believed and were convinced that he was truly resurrected from the dead. NOTE he set aside 40 days to prove this to them.

Second-He also spent the 40 days speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Jesus felt the Kingdom was so important that he wanted to spend that last several days with his disciples teaching them more about it.

Third-Along with convincing his disciples about who he is and teaching them as much as he could about the Kingdom, Jesus had one more purpose in mind for his last meeting with his disciples. He wanted to be sure to make the handoff from his personal care of the disciples over to the care and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Here’s how it is written by Luke: Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,”He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The new comforter or helper, the Holy Spirit, had been promised by the Father and explained by Jesus. Jesus expanded on this promise and teaching they had already been given by saying, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:3-8)

Follow the King and you’ll discover the Kingdom; embrace the Kingdom lifestyle and you’ll discover the King. Once you embrace the person of Jesus and Kingdom, you’ll be given the empowerment to take the message of Jesus and the Kingdom to the world by the Spirit!

 

timtmmons-audio

JESUS’ FIRST WORDS

After Jesus was baptized by John, faced and successfully resisted the Evil one in the wilderness, Jesus was ready to begin his public ministry. His first words were: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus could have started with any subject, yet he chose to introduce the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is not out there somewhere other than here; it’s here! Jesus says it’s near, here, and within your reach!

An exceptional teacher of the Scriptures, David Guzik, observes: Repent was thefirst word of John the Baptist’s message (Matthew 3:1-2). Repent was the first word of Jesus’ message (Matthew 4:14 and Mark 1:14-15). Repent was the first word in the preaching ministry of the twelve disciples (Mark 6:12). Repent was thefirst word in the preaching instructions Jesus gave to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:46-47). Repent was the first word of exhortation in Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:38). Repent was the first word in the mouth of Paul through his ministry (Acts 26:19-20).

So, Jesus says: “Repent or change your mind about what you’re doing-wake up-for the Kingdom of heaven has come near, is here, and is within your reach.” His first word is “Repent”, which is so misunderstood! Repentance isn’t a word of feelings, to feel sorry about your sins. No! Repentance is about action-the action of changing your mind about the direction of your life. It has the added benefit of being a “wake-up call”! It’s too easy to be rocking along on planet earth, going along with the herd, embracing the earthly, physical, self-centered values that may be lofty, but temporary. WAKE UP! The Kingdom of God is now here among you and requires a drastic change of mind-a change of direction-in order to experience it! The Kingdom has a revolutionary, spiritual, set of principles and values that will make a positive difference in you and those you touch!

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4) Jesus’ primary activity to demonstrate this “good news” of the Kingdom was to meet the various needs of the people.Jesus’ message of the good news of the Kingdom was so attractive. They weren’t looking for a new Rabbi to come along and plant new synagogues in their villages. It’s still true today!

Why is it that our “gospel” (good news) message usually doesn’t include the Kingdom at all? If we want to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus, then we must pay attention to Jesus-his message and his methodology. How could we ever think that our ways might be better and more effective than his? So, let’s carefully and meaningfully respond to Jesus’ first word: REPENT! Change your mind, the direction and purpose of your life to embrace the Kingdom.

 

timtmmons-audio

THE SECRETS OF THE KINGDOM OR THE CHURCH?

As Jesus moved into his famous teaching method of parables or story telling, he refers to the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven. Secrets is translated from the term “mysteries” or “the secret plan of God”, which Jesus says, have been given to these early followers. By the way, only God can reveal these secrets through His Spirit. Those who are hungry for this knowledge will, as the disciples did, seek it out. The others, who don’t have a particular spiritual hunger, will not.

Let’s listen in on what Jesus said about secrets:“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” This is why he spoke to them in parables:“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

The essence of the secrets of the Kingdom is to be found in those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. At the end of Matthew 7 Jesus says this well in illustrating those who are doing the will of the Father, when he teaches about two foundations.“Those who hear my words and practice them” build on a rock foundation and“those who hear my words and don’t practice them” build on a sand foundation. NOTE Jesus isn’t speaking of the secrets of the Church, but the secrets of the Kingdom.

The differences between the Church and the Kingdom are many! You enter the Church by attendance and membership classes. You enter the Kingdom by following Jesus. The Church is limited in its local scope and reach; the Kingdom is unlimited and universal. The Church is visible; the Kingdom is invisible. You go to Church; the Kingdom goes wherever you go. The Church tends be an organization; the Kingdom tends to be a movement.

The Church is earthly; the Kingdom is more of a heaven-to-earth connection. Jesus never proclaimed the Church; Jesus continually proclaimed the Kingdom. He even called the Kingdom “the gospel of the Kingdom”, but never referred to the Church in this way.

The Church gathers and scatters; the Kingdom is always present with you. The Church may or may not grow, however the Kingdom is continually growing. Churches may shut down; the Kingdom cannot be shut down. The Church may or may not have God present; the Kingdom is God’s presence in us.

If you want to know the secrets of the Church, ask a Church growth expert or Church planter. If you want to know the secrets of the Kingdom, ask Jesus. He’ll say: Seek first the Kingdom of God with all your heart!

If you’re not seeking, do THE 180!

 

timtmmons-audio