Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Beatitudes Are Woven Together Like a Tapestry

Each Beatitude is powerful standing alone, but together they are a wonder: Matt 5:3-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In his introduction, Spurgeon points out that the character traits pointed to in the Beatitudes are placed in an order from the least to the greatest.  Then each attribute is accompanied by a specific blessing.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The blessing in this case, as with all the others, is totally appropriate. The poor will be blessed with a very special inheritance, the Kingdom of Heaven.

But as the character traits ascend, there is not any greater blessing, but merely an appropriate one. In fact, the 8th blessing is the same as the first.

Then Spurgeon makes the point that each Beatitude opens the door to the next, and that each looks to the previous. For now, lets just look at the first one.

We will discuss Spurgeon's analysis of what "poor in spirit" means in detail later, but for now the basic description would be someone who realized their sinfulness. We are poor in spirit prior to coming to know Jesus, and then we see the gift of forgiveness He is offering. We repent and then mourn that we have been such an offense to the Lord. Then this process continues throughout my life as a Christ follower.

If I am poor in spirit and recognize it, then I will certainly repent. When I repent I should be deeply sorry and upset that I have sinned against God, and likely some individual, as well. Therefore I will mourn. And because God is gracious, He will comfort me in my time of dealing with my past sin.  The interconnection continues throughout the Beatitudes, and my new understanding gives me a sense of awe and wonder beyond any previous understanding of this sermon.

"The stones are laid one upon another in fair colors and polished after the similitude of a palace," Spurgeon explains poetically. He continues, "and yet each one is perfect within itself, and contains within itself a priceless and complete blessing."

Each of the blessings is in the present tense, which should give occasion for praise and thanksgiving. We are not told that our awareness of our sin, decision to repent, and sincere mourning will result in blessings sometime later or in Heaven. In each case the verse begins with "Blessed are." The use of "will" that follows doesn't change the timing of the blessing. Only in verse 11 are we promised future rewards in heaven because we have born up under persecution visited upon us because of Jesus.

So when I recognize on a continuing basis that I am still a wretched sinner, grieving my Holy Father in heaven, that fact alone results in my inheriting the kingdom of heaven. We know how much God hates sin and appreciates repentance.  The first words of the New Testament uttered by both John the Baptist and Jesus were "Repent."  He rewards our acquiescence with an incomprehensible reward.

Thus, each blessing that is promised is a perfect fit to the underlying character trait. If I am poor, I inherit. If I mourn, I am comforted. If I become humble I gain the whole earth. If I hunger after righteousness, I will be filled.  If I am merciful to others I obtain mercy from God and others.

But at the same time they are paradoxical, as is so much of what Jesus presents both here in this sermon, and throughout his ministry. Joy out of persecution? Blessedness out of poverty? Humility leading to power? Blessings from mourning and forgiving others.

In verses 10 - 12 we even see Jesus confirming twice that the hatred that men will show for the saints (true disciples) who possesses these traits will result in happiness. And the world will not understand.

Have you seen these interconnections between the Beatitudes before? Have you seen the power of the language which is equally offering a completely new ethic, but which at the same time is appropriate and paradoxical? As we delve more deeply into these verses, the power will become even more evident, and may unwrap for you some of the other mysteries of the Christian faith dealing with trust, abiding, and what it really means to carry your own cross.

This is the third posting in a series on the Beatitudes based on the sermons of Charles Spurgeon. The plan is to eventually compile this series into a book. If you would like to take advantage of this free look behind the scenes of the creation of a book, be sure to subscribe to the blog.  You may also want to go back and read the past two posts linked below.

The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them

Beatitudes Don't Tell Us How to Be Saved - They Describe the Saved

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them

The Beatitudes are intended to change EVERYTHING

When Jesus gave His sermon on the mount, those who heard it were "amazed." They were amazed because the content of that sermon was more radical than anything uttered before or since. The life that Jesus offered to those on that hillside was beyond what anyone could have conceived. Today this sermon is counted as the most important ever spoken, and yet today's finest minds, inside and outside the church, still don't appear to get the potential for change that Jesus laid out for them.

Like most who have spent their life, or most of it, in church, I have heard many sermons on the Beatitudes. Maybe more than most, I have also read numerous books that tackled the hope and opportunity that these simple sayings portended. Many of these teachings were quite beautiful and helpful in forming my Christian life. If you take your Christianity seriously, you probably think you have a pretty good idea of what Jesus was talking about that day. I certainly felt that way until late 2013.

The story begins almost a decade ago. I started a small group for the purpose of reading the Bible straight through in great detail. Members came and went over the years. On some evenings I had only two others sharing their thoughts about the verses we were covering. But we kept moving along and in the Fall of 2013 we finished the Old Testament and moved on to the New Testament.

During almost all of those nine years I had relied on Thru the Bible by J. Vernon McGee as my primary reference. I love Dr. McGee, and had previously read the entire 5 years of Bible exposition he shares on radio even today, many decades after his passing.

As we got into the Beatitudes, however, I was unsettled by his analysis. I felt that others had done it better, and that he was far too eager to make these passages about end times rather than now. I did agree with him on one thing; many Christians have taken the Beatitudes to be the "10 Commandments" of the New Testament, and have missed out entirely on the blessing of grace that Jesus came to proclaim.

In any case, I started doing an internet study on the Beatitudes. In the course of this study I found the most amazing sermons I have ever heard preached. The content was stimulating at every level, from visceral to intellectual, and from emotional to practical. But as a special additional blessing, the writing was just beautiful. I described it to friends as like listening to a picture. I was so amazed that I listened to all eight sermons four times. It may not surprise you to hear that these sermons were the work of Charles Spurgeon.

Of course, they didn't have recording equipment in the 1860's, so we don't have his voice. However, the sermons were transcribed at the time, and a reader has read these sermons very beautifully on YouTube videos available at

I encourage you to go listen to the Spurgeon sermons first hand. In addition, for some time I have been feeling led  to write a modern version of these sermons as a small book so that I might share the wealth of Spurgeon's fabulous interpretation of Jesus' words. As with my last book, I am going to write this new book on this blog, and when completed make it into a final manuscript available to buy. Please subscribe to the blog if you want to be kept updated on each new chapter.

In the meantime, please consider reading my just released book God Called - He Needs Your Decision! which is available on Amazon,
and as you read this, may also be available in all the other normal channels. You can read the introduction above or you can see some of the reviews here.

Tell others! Tweet this:   The as You've Never Heard Them Based on Charles Spurgeon Sermons

The first chapter of The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them, begins here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Beatitudes Don't Tell Us How to Be Saved - They Describe the Saved

Part 1 - Charles Spurgeon on the Beatitudes

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them.
Matthew 5:1-2 

As the first of the sermons opens, Spurgeon reminds us that the Sermon on the Mount is being delivered by the person, Jesus, who best knows who are blessed and who are cursed. The prophets before Him like Isaiah and Jeremiah, had heard from God and reported to the Jews about certain peoples and cities that were blessed or cursed. In the New Testament we are going to hear from the Son of God just what a blessed person should be doing. He will answer the question: How will you know a Christian when you see one?

Before we can get to those descriptions however, it is critical to warn against seeing these seven points of light as the things you must do to be saved. There is only one way to be saved, and that is through making a decision to accept the free gift of salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Your part in this is only the repenting of your past sins and the decision to follow a new way of life; to put your trust and faith in Jesus, not in the world. You can't work your way into heaven, even if you were to spend the rest of your life trying to live out the beatitudes as best you knew how.

The Beatitudes are not a set of works you need to do after salvation to make God happy. God wants to make you happy. He knows that when you worship Him or do as He says that you will be Blessed (Happy). The Beatitudes are a prescription to a sick human soul as to how you will be blessed (happy and joyful) when you abide in Jesus and are instructed by the Holy Spirit. Those who do exhibit the characteristics of the Beatitudes will also exhibit Christ. "You will know them by their fruits."

The other night in a small group Bible study I attend, the subject turned to pleasing and displeasing God. Many agreed that they commonly felt that they "needed" to spend more time in the Bible, praying, praising, or doing good deeds in order to please God. These mature Christians, including yours truly, knew better, but still had difficulty with the ideas that our love of God should result in doing that which pleases Him, not pressure or a sense of obligation or to meet His "expectations."

Certainly God desires us to obey Him, be intimate with Him, and love Him, but He isn't keeping a checklist of your daily Christian habits to determine how much He is going to bless you, or to determine if you are saved. He already knows your heart on the latter matter. And your blessings flow consequentially out of your fruitfulness.

The opposite issue was more difficult. When we sin, we clearly grieve the heart of the Father, regardless of the fact that the sin is already covered by the blood of Jesus. But once again, whether or not we repent won't have anything to do with our ticket into eternity with Jesus. Our repenting will, however, bless us immeasurably. And to the extent that we sin, there may and likely will be some negative consequences growing out of that sin. God doesn't need to strike you with lightening, give you a disease, or mess up your life. Those consequences are built in to the act.

Jesus prepares to deliver the Sermon on the Mount

Spurgeon sets the stage for the delivery of the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us that Jesus "beheld the multitude," and that this was the perfect time to give such a sermon. Spurgeon says that our hearts should be moved to pity when considering the multitude, just as Jesus was when crying over Jerusalem. This crowd, like the crowd around you on any given day, is much to be pitied. For they are damned to an eternity without God, even as they are currently damned to life on earth without Him as Master.

Do you pity the crowd or stand in judgement of the crowd? If they are not saved they have no expectation of understanding the gravity of their actions. Therefore we should not judge them. But we should be sorrowful about their condition, as we would for a little girl lost in a supermarket looking for her mom.

The sermon was likely being given to a chosen group of disciples, not the entire multitude, though fair minded individuals could come to different conclusions on this. Many of the multitude who would later hear what Jesus said from the disciples, were a long way from being saved. But even this early use of the word disciples may be better understood as students or learners, rather than as those having made a decision to be true disciples of Jesus. Later we will see that some of the multitude and some of the disciples fell away.

The opening word of the sermon is blessed or happy. Spurgeon points to the end of the Old Testament and the final words being about cursings.

 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.(emphasis added)

Malachi 4:5-6

Now in the New Testament, Jesus is teaching, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." Mark 1:15b (King James). And the gospel He says we should believe is about salvation and blessing: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17

So we have nine Beatitudes, nine ways that we can be assured of being blessed, and we know that Jesus desires that we be blessed. It is His mission, because He loves us. 

I think we often lose sight of this idea that God said from Genesis forward that He wants His people to have the best possible life. The way to that best is through obedience. We pray a prayer of thanks after we are blessed, but we should be expectant that our prayers will be answered, our needs filled, and our days blessed if we are obedient.

The first seven of the Beatitudes are about character, the kind of character that will grow like ripe fruit on the vine of our faithfulness. The last two are a benediction that deals with blessings that will arise when the excellent character of the Christ followers who have just been described in the first seven has "provoked the hostility of the wicked." Many will feel threatened if you actually look and act the way the Beatitudes describe. Some of those will revile you, persecute you, and worse. But, paradoxically, you will be blessed through and because of your persecution.

The seven Beatitudes describe a person of perfect character, and each of these is remarkable by itself. If Jesus had only come to tell His followers to be peacemakers, that would have been revolutionary. But there was to be so much more that would upset the social order of the day, not just among the pagans, but even among the Jews. As revolutionary as these seven ideals were then, they still amaze us today...or should.

Are you amazed by the Beatitudes? Possibly you appreciate them, but are not amazed. Maybe you have been taught that the poor refers to poor people, and that mourning is referring to a time when you've lost a loved one. Maybe your thinking that peacemakers are those who try to broker peace in the family or at work. I think you will be amazed to hear what Spurgeon says about these things. 
Spurgeon insists that we take the Beatitudes as a whole, however. He describes them as a ladder of light, where each step on the ladder requires having stepped already on the previous rung. He sees them as ascending; each one rising above the other. Going from being poor in spirit to being pure in heart would seem to be a very large leap without steps in between.

He also points out that while the character aspects are moving ever upward, the requirement for humility and sacrifice becomes greater. So just at a moment when the Christian might be feeling proud of his own meekness, he is faced with the reality that this pride must be put under the blood. Rather their self esteem is put aside, reduced, eliminated enough to take on the humblest tasks. We must die to self in order to truly love others.

Jesus showed this so memorably when He washed the feet of the disciples. This was a job for a slave, not a leader, a rabbi, a prophet, a king. We commonly assume that our position in life through titles, accomplishments, wealth, status, or merely having gotten to a certain age, bestows us with certain entitlements. We shouldn't need to do this lowly task any longer, and others should look up to us and be willing to serve. Jesus in His actions and in this sermon throw out that canard.

Spurgeon goes on to explain that each of the Beatitudes depends on the previous ones. This was one of the biggest eye-openers for me. We will address that in the next post.  

Again, please subscribe to this blog if you would like to be alerted to the next post in the series or of other posts on related subjects.

You may wish to go back to an earlier post that served as in introduction to this series:

The Beatitudes as You've Never Heard Them

Tell others.  Tweet this     Beatitudes Don't Tell Us How to Be Saved - They Describe the Saved. Charles Spurgeon


Christianity's Biggest Challenge Is Not the Unbeliever

Do you really believe what this Book says?

 Convincing Christians to Believe Jesus Is Harder than Winning Converts

For almost a decade I've been teaching a Bible study called "From Genesis to Revelation." In the course of those years I developed a thematic statement designed to encourage those in the class, but which was really my own issue. "If we really believed what is in this Book, we would live our lives very differently."

The further we went in the reading, finishing the Old Testaments and entering the New, my own faith grew and grew. It wasn't my first time through the Bible. Far from it. But the slow line by line reading of the Bible over so many years, including preparing a lesson each week, was impacting me. Do I still have issues of belief and trust regarding the Bible and God? Sure, but fewer than I did a decade or even a year ago. 

But this much became clear to me. The vast majority of folks who call themselves Christian probably are not. They aren't doing any of the most basic requirements of being a Christian. For many the emphasis seems to be on trying to be nicer or sinning less. These are excellent goals, but have little to do with the Gospel.

In a way, it reminds me of talking with atheists, agnostics, or folks who claim they aren't Christians. You lay out simple, but profound truths that are going to impact their life in a major way for the better, and then give them the hope of heaven. But they will argue with you about evolution or how come there are so many religions or denominations.  They will bring up the problem of evil, suffering, or say things like "I wish I had that kind of faith."

Compare that to conversations you might have with someone who has stated they were saved. "I feel at peace about living with my girlfriend." "Why shouldn't homosexuals who are Christians be able to enjoy loving one another?" "I just can't get into reading my Bible." There is no way I can afford to tithe." "I would go to church, but there are hypocrites there and all those Christians are judgemental.

You can point out that the Jesus they say they are following has clearly laid out the ways you are to live in order to have the best possible life on earth and earn the most crowns in heaven. You might even go so far as to suggest that if they aren't actively dealing with known sin, seeking a closer and more intimate life with Jesus, and producing fruit they may not be heading to heaven. But many are just as hard-hearted as those who make no claim of knowing Jesus.

If we believe Jesus, then we need to repent and ask the Holy Spirit to provide us with the strength and wisdom we need to be nice and sin less, but also to spread the gospel and change the world. But just as God left it up to us to accept His free gift of salvation, He has also left it up to us to decide to be true disciples. We have choices every day whether to follow Jesus, obey His words, carry His cross, and have the discipline to work out our salvation.

Most, almost all, Christians make daily decisions to seek comfort rather than sacrifice, prefer being liked rather than being holy, consuming worldly input rather than Biblical, and striving for personal gain rather than praying for Kingdom increases.

Don't you want the most that life has to offer? Are you satisfied with your current spiritual condition? Don't you desire to serve Jesus in such a way that He will say "Well done thou good and faithful servant" when you join him in eternity? The alternative is "Go away from here. I never knew you."

If you want to change direction, that is repent, and get on a path to being all that you can be as a God Called - He Needs Your Decision! This new book is designed specifically to help any born again Christian to increase their belief and faith. It takes you wherever you are today and empowers you to move to the next step, and then the next, until you are fully surrendered.
follower of Jesus, you might want to pick up

Once upon a time, someone helped you to see that the Gospel was real, that Jesus was the Messiah, that God loved you, and that you needed to repent and be born again. Today, I'm hoping I can be that person who helps you to see that all of those things are true, and so is everything that the Bible says.  And since all those things are true, you should get serious about what the Bible directs you to do. Otherwise, your first decision seems utterly useless.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lukewarm Christian Is an Oxymoron

Love God more than anything else including life itself. 

Sorry if this insults you. If you are not passionate about your Christian walk, you may not be on your way to eternal life with Jesus. 

Jesus said to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:16 

So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Does that passage leave room for interpretation. Is Jesus being hyperbolic here. I don't think so. He is actually just repeating himself.  See Matthew 7:19

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Does that sound like it leaves room for "Don't worry, you can still get into heaven if you are nice to your family and friends? Fruit mean acts, deeds, discipling others, staying in the Word, being sacrificial in your love of God and others, and so much more. 

There are many, many more such verses that I can site. But you probably already know them. These two should be enough to make the point. 

Where does this leave you?!

I think I can say that you are somewhere on the spectrum between cold and hot. And I would maintain that where ever you are on that continuum, you are at a decision point. Will you become more devoted, more passionate, more intentional, more disciplined, or will you stay right where you are?

I've written a book that others tell me has already moved them toward becoming true disciples, taking up their cross, giving up their worldly interests, and surrendering to God's call on their life. 

God Called - He Needs Your Decision is available on Amazon and depending on when you read this may also be available through other outlets.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

God Needs Your Decision


God Needs Your Decision to Follow Jesus

Then God needs your decision to:
  • Trust Him
  • Listen to Him
  • Obey Him
  • Repent of known sin
  • Read His word
  • Love Him
  • Love others
  • Become a disciple
  • Disciple others
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Intercede for others in prayer
  • Go for us
  • Be fruitful
  • Tell others about Jesus
  • Be prepared to defend the faith
  • Hate your mother, father, sister and brother
  • Give up everything
  • Carry your cross
  • Go to church
  • Fellowship with believers
  • Be humble
  • Be meek
  • Seek after righteousness
  • Be a peacemakeer
  • Be pure of heart
  • Seek the kingdom first
  • Be submissive to your spouse
  • Love your wife like Jesus loves the church
  • Revere and respect your husband
  • Be slow to anger
  • Show kindness
  • Love your enemy
  • Forgive those who have wronged you
  • Forgive yourself
  • Be merciful
  • Have patience 
  • Fast as necessary
  • Pray without ceasing
  • Learn your Master's voice
  • Have grace
  • Be thankful
  • Tithe
  • Give over and above the tithe
  • Give cheerfully
  • Serve others
  • Consider others to be better than you
  • Finish strong
  • Worship Him
  • Praise Him
  • Seek that His will be done
  • Pray for wisdom
  • Pray for strength
  • Do everything as unto God
  • Cast out idols
  • Put God first
  • Not judge others
  • Avoid temptation
  • Pray against the evil one
I'm hoping you didn't just scan down this list and think either, "I'm okay," or "How can I possible do this?"

You aren't okay. And you don't have to do those things. You need to make a choice, a decision, to be about doing those things. You need to desire to be the kind of Christ follower who is in the process of becoming like Jesus. You need to pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you and guide you to be that person.

It will take a lifetime of devotion and a huge amount of faith, but God has promised us that we can do all things through Him.

If this post touches your heart at all, and makes you think maybe it is time to up your game in the most important relationship you have or will ever have, spend a few hours reading God Called - He Needs Your Decision! In this book you will be provided with one path, one approach to getting to surrender, holiness, and being a true disciple. 

Do you know someone who should read the book? Please gift the a copy. Does your church have a bookstore.  Please suggest they carry the book. Go to for current information on pricing. For bulk purchases, please send me an email at

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Number 1 Question Christians Want to Know. What Is God's Will for My Life?

God's will for your life is clear from Genesis to Revelation

When you Google "God's will for my life," you get 170,000,000 results. I didn't have time to read them all, but you can be sure there are plenty of differing opinions about the answer.  I don't presume to know any more than the next person about the subject, but I'm going to tackle this issue from the broadest sense for this post. Then, in another post, I'll come at it from the narrow perspective.

God's will for your life is the same as it is for my life and for every other Christian. It is the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. If there was ever a case of folks missing the forest for the trees, this is it. When you finish, please let me know if you think I've completely missed something in the comments section that follows.

1.  God wants you to have the best possible life on earth.

Once you get your arms around this, it is life changing. Other religions have gods who punish them or do deals with them or they must do crazy actions to please their god. While our God punishes unbelievers, there is no time where believers are punished. We may do crazy things in an attempt to please God, but He never requires or suggests we do so.  Quite the opposite. And we can't negotiate with God.

The Bible says:

Deuteronomy 4:40
Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.

1 Kings 11:38
If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.

Isaiah 3:10
Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

Exodus 15:26
He said, "If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you."

Jeremiah 7:23
but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.

For the New Testament you need go no further than the most famous sermon of all time, the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells us who will be blessed. And blessings will flow to those who are humble, repentant, meek, seeking righteousness, and pure.

Simple, straightforward.  God wants us to do things that will be of benefit to our own bodies, to our own emotional health, and to our own souls. These same actions will be the best possible for the community as well. God's will for us clearly starts with our living a blessed life on earth.

Knowing that God's will is that you have a blessed life should cause you to get much more serious about following His commands. Let me ask you, do you ever drink Drano? Do you have a taster check out the canned peas before you eat them? You trust the instructions and the makers of these products. We humans don't trust our maker that way.

2.  God wants us to love Him and love others

You knew that! In combination with God's desire that you live the best possible life, the greatest commandments must lead to that blessed life if you follow them. God's commands are not for the purpose of helping Him out or making Him happy. They are a love letter written to you so that you will do well. 

What are you doing about learning how to love God? Is it part of your plan for today? This week? This year? Do you know what it means to love others? What are you doing to become better at that?

So it is God's specific will for your life that you follow the two Greatest Commandments.

3.  God wants you to be a disciple

Do you think that becoming a disciple is optional? Do you know what it takes to become a disciple? Can you list the items Jesus said it would take to be a true disciple? Jesus spent the greatest portion of His time of ministry taking 12 men and making them into disciples. If He saw it as being that much of a priority, my guess is that His will for your life is that you become a disciple.

That would mean:
  • Obeying Jesus
  • Taking up your cross and following Him
  • Giving up everything, even family 

4.  Jesus highest priority for us is that we make disciples

Once again, I'm suggesting that there is no mystery to God's will for us.  Jesus has given us many specific directions for ways that we can be fruitful in this life. But we all agree that one of those items stands above the others. We call it the Great Commission.

Most Christian I talk to are very confused by what the great commission says. It does not say go and make converts. It does not say go and convince people to try church. It says make disciples. You can't be a disciple until you have decided to accept the gift of the Gospel and follow Jesus as Lord. That is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. We are called upon to tell others, and that is certainly a high priority. But the highest priority is to make disciples. To be more specific, we need to help those who are already professing Christ to do those three things above. If they are failing to do those three things or desiring and making decisions designed to move towards those things, they are not true disciples and they are likely not saved.

You therefore can know God's will. He wants you to help folks that are slipping away from the hope of heaven. In many cases they are slipping away because no one nurtured their growth after being planted. You see, thousands come to Christ every week, but as we pointed out in this post, maybe only 10% of folks who accept Jesus are headed for heaven. Not my words, but the words of J. Vernon McGee.

God's will for your life? Have a blessed life, love God and others, be a disciple, make disciples.
If you do these things, I maintain that God's very specific will for your personal life will be made known. You won't have to ask, because you'll be too busy doing it. And because you have been faithful in these things, He will be chasing you down for new assignments.

Did I leave anything out?

ps My new book, God Called - He Needs Your Decision! speaks specifically to these issues, and gives a pathway to becoming a true disciple. Check it out at Amazon

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Only 10% Who Accept Christ Are Going to Heaven

How many are headed to heaven? How can you make a difference?

Some church leaders think even a smaller percent are true disciples

The venerable J Vernon McGee makes the point that of those who come forward on any given Sunday to accept Jesus Christ as Lord, only 10% were genuine conversions. McGee points out that in his discussions with other church leaders at the time (1970's?), the number might even be smaller, even as low as 3%.  His point was made during his exposition on the parable of the sowers in Matthew 13.

We all know the story. Some seed (Word of God) fell by the wayside and was taken away by birds (demons).  Some fell on a rocky place with little soil, sprung up fast, then withered and died under the scorching sun. Some young plants were overtaken by thorns and choked out. And some on fertile soil that prospered and bore much fruit.

Whenever I hear a sermon preached on this passage or read it during my quiet time, I admit to taking an inventory. I deeply desire to go to heaven. I look forward to meeting Jesus and Old Testament saints and others who will be there. I'm so curious to see what the next great chapter looks like. Am I saved? Do I have a deep certainty that Jesus will say "Well done, thy good and faithful servant," on my arrival, and not, "I never knew you."

Certainly you must take that same inventory of your spiritual life from time-to-time. Am I fruitful. Do I show evidence of having Jesus in me. Do I have a personal relationship with Him. Am I pursuing holiness. Am I surrendered. Am I doing the work of making disciples (helping saved Christians to become true disciples).

J Vernon McGee and others say that only those seeds which took root in fertile soil are heaven bound. He and others say that the parable teaches that this would be 25%. I don't think the parable says that at all. It merely says some.

On the first day of law school, the dean will say, "look to your right and to your left. In 3 years two of you will no longer be here."  If you look to your right and to your left, is it possible that 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 of those on your right and left won't be part of your praise team in heaven?

Commonly, this type of "lesson" would end with an admonition that you get your disciplines in order, get on your knees and repent, get back to church, improve your prayer life, read the Bible more, and so on. All of those are good ideas. But I think those works will grow out of the right heart. What is a right heart:
  • Love God
  • Love Others
  • Give Up Everything
  • Die to Self
  • Take Up Your Cross
  • Obey Jesus
  • Go and Make Disciples
Seven simple concepts. Seven ways to live that will GUARANTEE the most blessed life on earth and a place in heaven. Each and every one of those seven requires something from you. That something is a decision. The decision to accept Jesus is only the first decision you will make as a new Christian or as an old, mature Christian. These are decisions you will make, then need to remake every day. To make those decisions you will need faith. The kind of faith that moves mountains. And the faith comes from asking the Holy Spirit to help you.

So where are you on this circle of life? You'll need to jump on somewhere. Will it start with being
more disciplined, or start with a tearful, face down period of repentance of having too little faith and being to consumed with the things of the world. Or will it start with loving someone you haven't been able to love, forgiving someone you haven't been able to forgive, or finally giving up some idol that has you prisoner.

Tell me your story in the discussion section below. Then you might want to check out the book I've written that goes deeper into this discussion about choices. God Called - He Needs Your Decision! is available at Amazon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Christian. Are You Interested in Finishing Strong?

Finish the race, and help someone else finish strong, too.

No matter how you've done up until this point in your life, you face a decision

Has your Christian walk been a straight line? Do you get up every day, enter into authentic devotionals, connect heart-to-heart with the God during prayer, read your Bible with your ears open to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Do you then go about your day loving God and others, giving others a picture of Jesus through your actions.

Or maybe you are currently way off the path, even a prodigal. Or maybe you are the prodigals brother, whose self righteousness may have been the point of the parable. Maybe you're faithful, but prideful. Maybe your dealing with an area of significant sin in your life that is interfering with your ability to serve Jesus in the way that you could.

Most of us are somewhere in between these extremes. And I don't know anyone whose Christian walk doesn't resemble a roller coaster more than a smooth sail on a flat lake.

From my reading of the scriptures, God doesn't seem to be too concerned about what you've done up until now. Resting on your laurels and giving yourself a high five for what was done in the good old days can't be found in scripture. Have your actions been recorded and will they produce rewards in heaven? Sure! Are those accomplishments something that have produced good consequences for you and others? Of course! But the Bible seems to make clear that we need to continue to be strong in the faith and available to God's calling, right up until He calls us home. If you disagree, please note your scripture reference in the comments.

On the other hand, you may have had some rough times recently. Did you steal, hurt someone, lie, have sex outside of marriage? Have you been lukewarm in your faith. Jesus says he would spit lukewarm water out of His mouth. Maybe you just feel far from God, and your prayer and devotional time is missing or meager. Maybe you aren't in church or fellowshipping with other believers. 

It is never too late. In the secular world there is a saying about tomorrow being the first day of the rest of your life. In the Bible we here the exact same thing very poetically:

Hebrews 12: 1 (NIV)” So let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us ”

1 Corinthians 9: 24 (NIV) ” Run in such away to win the prize." 

2 Timothy 4: 7 to 8 (NIV)” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, my coronation, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award unto me on that day “.

Have you finished the race? Some of us act that way at times. What might you still accomplish in the time you have left?

I once taught a class in goal setting. One of the men in the class came up to me afterwards and said, "Randy, I'm 66 years old. How can I set 10 year goals. I'll be dead in 10 years."

Eleven years later I spoke with him about that conversation. We both enjoyed a good laugh over it. What might he have done during that decade if he had chosen to ask God for some opportunities to serve and listened for direction. 
Go to Amazon

Would you do me a favor. Go over to and pick up a copy of my new book, God Called - He Needs Your Decision! You can get it in Kindle, and it might be available in print too by the time you read this. Look at the reviews. Most of them come from solid Christian soldiers who are hard at work for Jesus. But almost ever reviewer talks about change that took place in their life after reading the book. 

Buy it now at

I honestly don't care about the money. I have a business that pays for my needs. If you can't afford it, send me an email. I'll find a way to get it to you for free. Do you have someone in mind who needs a copy? Can you gift them a copy? If not, send me an email. We'll get a copy to them. My personal email is

The world badly needs a bunch of Christians to finish strong. The forces of evil are winning. We know the outcome, but we are still commanded to be faithful and hard at work until Jesus comes again. We need to be sowing the seed to the lost, then discipling those who accept the gift.

How else might you help in the effort to make disciples as commanded by Jesus. Let me know in the comments or by email. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Become a True Disciple, then Go and Make Disciples


Jesus was very clear about disciples. Is His church getting this right?

Oswald chambers said in My Utmost for His Highest for April 24:
“We have a commercialized view—we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right.  Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation.  Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them.  Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God.  One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit.  As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers.  God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that standard in others.” (emphasis added).
One goal in writing God Called - He Needs Your Decision was to provide a pathway, even a recipe, for moving from pew duster to disciple, from lukewarm to on fire, from prodigal to servant in the Father's house, or from mature dutiful soldier to fully surrendered child of God. From the early reports of those who've given me feedback, there is a unanimous chorus of conviction leading to change. See reviews here and here.

The other goal was to share with everyone that it is Okay to hear from God. Bill O'Reilly created shocked headlines when he declared that the Holy Spirit gives him the ideas for his books, including Killing Jesus. I have heard from the Holy Spirit on several occasions including through visions and the "still small voice." The experiences are documented in the book along with clear directions for how to discern truth when the experience is extraordinary. There is also a section on how to avoid allowing experiences like that from becoming idols. But, the bottom line is that we need to be open to hearing from God, even if through a donkey.

From God Called - He Needs Your Decision!

Disciples give up everything
These texts make it clear that to be a disciple one must:
·                 Obey everything that Jesus taught
·                 Hate his relatives (by comparison to his love for Christ)
·                 Carry Christ’s Cross
·                 Give up everything
That certainly leaves me out. What about you? On the other hand, I’m not certain that Jesus intended for us to have achieved all of those things before we can be disciples. I do believe he intends for to make a clear decision that we want to do these things, and that we will be available to do these things when called.
If we review the lives of both Old and New Testament saints, they did not give up everything every day or every week. Rather, they were available to give up whatever was necessary to respond to God’s call. They were learning how to do those four things.
Jesus spent three years training the Twelve virtually full time how to be disciples. One could argue that even our seminaries spend more time on theology and counseling than they do on developing disciples. In order to “create disciples” so that there will be enough workers to gather the abundant harvest, the church may need to become much more proactive about specifically doing the necessary work to equip willing followers to be disciples.  
 To be a disciple seems almost impossible, not to mention difficult. But we are promised blessings and that our yolk will be light. I pray that if you choose to read and act based on this short book, that your blessings will be inspirational and transformational for you and those you touch.

Friday, May 09, 2014

"Most of us (Christians) are not Disciples" - Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living


Chuch Swindoll

Do most in the church of Jesus Christ even know what it is to be a disciple?

I have been a huge fan of Insight for Living and Chuck Swindoll for as long as I can remember.  On May 8 and 9 the sermon turned to the issue of discipleship.  Since that is very near and dear to my heart, I made a special effort to tune in by computer and listen.  You can, too, at 

Here are some of the points which line up very nicely with the key themes of my recently released book, God Called - He Needs Your Decision! 

He first noted that a new Christian should not be thrust into leadership roles or even service too quickly.  He makes a comparison to a new baby and says that the baby Christian needs time to heal, learn, and spend time with Jesus prior to starting to serve. 

He also points out that the word discipleship is overused and under appreciated. I think he means that most who use the word use it incorrectly to refer to a process of seeking converts and trying to bring them to a point of accepting Jesus.  This is not discipleship.  Rather discipleship has two sides. 

First there is the process of being discipled or trained up in the ways of Jesus. Swindoll recommends that you ask two or three spiritually mature individuals to help you work out your faith. The goal is to reach a point where you have picked up your cross and followed Jesus, which includes giving up your possessions and your very life. 

At some point in this process you will be in a position to disciple others. You don’t have to be perfect to do so, but you have to be clear-eyed about you interests being God centered rather than earth centered.  One way you might know is if those around you clearly see that you’ve been “with Jesus.”

Swindoll told a variation on the story of the pearl of great price. He said that when the man asked the owner of the pearl what the price was, the trader said the price was not set. The man said he would pay whatever the price was. The trader said the cost would be everything. The trader showed him that this included his money, house, car, wife, kids . . . everything. The trader then said he would loan these things back to the man, but that he would have title, and could ask for them at any time. 

If you’d like to hear the entire message, please check it out at

On Becoming a Gardener in God's Garden

Night blooming jasmine

In my opinion, I have no gardening skills. As is common, God may have other ideas!

The joke in my house for many decades has been that I have a black thumb. Put me in charge of any plant and I can kill it for sure. Here in California we have a weed called the bougainvillea that is really beautiful, but still a weed. The legend about the bougainvillea is that once you have the plant in your yard it takes over. Not so for this great gardener. I have managed to kill even these.

I also really despise any type of yard work or gardening. I don't particularly like any type of physical labor, have no interest in digging around in the ground, and am not great at following instructions or following up on living things. I like to start projects and then let others keep them running while I go on to the next one.

When we purchased our home 25 years ago, one of the selling features we most liked was the great landscaping put in place by the previous owner. The back yard was particularly beautiful. But given neglect and a few months habitation by a golden retriever, and you have a not so great back yard.

About 18 months ago, at a time when I was getting back on my horse after some difficult years, I decided to try and fix two plants that were in huge trouble. One was a night blooming jasmine that had built a glorious crown of white flowers on top of our patio for a few years. Unfortunately the stems winding up the patio support were such a mess that something had to be done.

Then there was a white bougainvillea that I had hoped would blend in with a red one, but which was growing completely out of control. I bought some gloves (bougainvillea have nasty thorns) and id a bit of reading online. I called my sister-in-law with the green thumb for advice.  

The Jasmine growing back

I was told that I need to remove all the incredible beauty of the jasmine that was on top of the patio cover, and cut the plant right down to a few inches from the bottom. Even though the plant was giving a beautiful display on the outside, the core was not beautiful at all. Therefore, it needed to be pruned. Then we could start over. The jasmine survived the pruning, and is now about 2 - 3 foot high, and beginning its ascent up the patio support again.

In my personal life, I feel as though I had created a lot of very nice blooms, but that maybe there was some ugliness that needed to be pruned out. God has allowed me to spend the last 7+ years being pruned and rebuilding. This time I will be keeping a careful eye on those foundations to make sure they are not allowed to take away from the potential blossoms that God has in store.

Then there was the bougainvillea. In this case I bought some garden ties and I loosely guided the larger stems in ways that would create the best result. I watched the plant daily, changing those ties as needed to allow it room to express itself, while giving gentle guidance to other branches. Over the course of a year, the plant became very full and well shaped, but the blooms had stopped. Bougainvillea have several seasons per year, but even when completely out of season still have flowers if there is enough sun. I couldn't imagine why there wasn't the reward I was hoping for.

That very morning
In this process that God had allowed me to move through, I was feeling closer to Him than ever before, and my spiritual life was showing a lot of fruit. But there were still some really important relationships that had not been restored. Even after over a year of redirecting my paths and learning how to be disciplined in places where sin had resulted in out of control patterns, I was not seeing the hoped for flowering.

Then finally, a wise counselor was able to speak truth into my heart in an area that I would have never dreamed was an issue. This wise counselor explained that this issue was for me the most important aspect of my being that was getting in my way of the greatest potential joy.

I repented of my sin, and went to those who had been hurt most by it. As part of the conversation, we began to speak in metaphors. In trying to get results in others that I believed was in their best interest, I was too frustrated to allow it to happen in their or God's timing. This is the very reason why I had always failed as a gardener. But now, I had proven that I could tenderly nurture these two plants without insisting on my outcome. The outcome was up to the plants and God, not me.

The very next day, I looked out at my bougainvillea. The flowering had begun. It was as if God had given me a huge high five for finally getting the point. Meanwhile my Bible reading that morning had been the book of James. In James 5 verse 7, it says  Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.

While the context is related to the Lord's return, the lesson was still the same. Being patient with those in my life who are closest to me, and allowing them full freedom to bloom in their own way and time is a challenge for me. I have asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom and His direction in helping me to be an amazing gardener in His garden.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Almost Nothing About Book Marketing Is the Same as it was 20 Years Ago

God Called - He Needs Your Decision! Now on Kindle

I launch a book and learn new stuff

Last week I was excited to launch my 8th book over the course of 35 or so years. My long tenure has put me in the position of having now done almost everything possible in the book biz, except for a text book. I tried pretty hard to get When Friday Isn't Payday and the updated version Running a 21st Century Business into the classroom, but the hill was steep (like a cliff), and the reward wasn't worth it at the time.

But I have:

  • Sold books through a local small publisher into a niche market - bicycle retail stores
  • Sold a major book to a major publisher for wide distribution - business books noted above through Warner Business Books
  • Used a New York Literary Agent to sell a book. Same books
  • Used a smallish national publisher in the Christian market - A Generation Betrayed - Its Time to End the Sexual Revolution
  • Self published a niche book for $50 each
  • And now, I am self publishing a Christian market theology book on Kindle, Amazon print, and audio.
Did I miss anything?

If you are a Christian who wants to take your faith to the next level, please check out my new book: God Called - He Needs Your Decision!

So how does all of this tie into our business blog? Book selling is another business. And the marketing of books is very instructive for other types of business. After creating the product, which requires the better part of a year, and an investment in the mid four figures, you now need to let folks know you have a product they might want to buy. As with any product or service today that might be free (blogs, videos, website, FB, Twitter, radio interviews, TV, etc) or have a cost (print advertising, booth space, online ads, and sometimes the use of a publicist.)

Covers (packaging) were always a critical issue, but in a book store the customer might only see the spine. Spine art and color is even a science. Now, the book cover is critical and must be very bold in a thumbnail size so that the title and mood are clear and readable.

Like any business in today's market, but even more so, the potential for sales is driven by reviews. Getting folks to read it and review favorably prior to and during launch can make or break a book. Yes, you can have another round of promotions, months or even years into a book, assuming it doesn't have an expiration date (due to timeliness issues), but the initial launch is where you have the best chance to build excitement. I have participated in numerous grand openings, and I always suggest spending as much as possible to get that early visibility.

What about success rate? Generally, I would speculate that it is about the same as Amway. Most authors have no stomach for marketing or speaking, and the real money is made selling the book after giving a talk (which often includes an honorarium to boot). Most authors become very discouraged after the first book doesn't do well, and don't create that string of books in the same market that establish the author's brand and build audience.

I am somewhat of a freak in the business. I don't write for money. I do know how to market. I have written in 4 distinct genre's, and I have had 80% success in terms of either making money or helping folks with the message. I'm not sure I would recommend my approach, other than to go into the book business with no expectations of making money on the books...ever. Then recognize that the only hope of doing so is luck or very hard work. OH! Once again, it sounds just like any other small business.

4 New Christian Books Announced w/ Introductory Prices at 99¢ on Kindle

May 1, 2014

For Immediate Release
Lorilyn Roberts
Author Lorilyn Roberts

The John 3:16 Marketing Network connects Christian authors with readers.
Four Christian books to add to your vacation reading bucket list.

GAINESVILLE, May 1, 2014 - The John 3:16 Marketing Network launches four new books in May by Christian authors Randy Kirk, Laura Davis, Emma Right, and Lorilyn Roberts.

May book launch books

God Called - He Needs Your Decision! by Randy Kirk challenges Christians to go beyond being lukewarm, "lazy" disciples and answer God's call with renewed passion. Christian thriller Dead Dreams, written for teens by award-winning author Emma Right, embraces Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death." He Who Has an Ear: Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today by award-winning Laura J. Davis explores the 21st century church and God's message to the church in the latter days. Am I Okay, God? Devotionals from the Seventh Dimension by best-selling author Lorilyn Roberts addresses many hot topics teens face including bullying, self-esteem, salvation, and the end times, and exhorts young adults not to waste their salvation.

"The John 3:16 Marketing Network aims to reach readers with fresh, undiscovered talent from new and upcoming Christian authors," says Lorilyn Roberts, its founder. "With members from all over the world, we model the role of Jesus' disciples, sharing the Gospel through the written word to the uttermost reaches of the earth."

To learn more about these books, the authors, or the John 3:16 Marketing Network, please visit Christian Books.