Motivated #likeJesus

Behavior is important.  Motives matter more.  Motives reveal the heart.

In teaching His disciples on giving, prayer, and fasting, Jesus makes this point emphatically.

“If you lend to those of whom you hope to receive back, what credit do you have?”

“Whenever you give donations, do not sound a trumpet…”

“And when you pray, do not… stand in the corners of the city square, so that (you) may be seen by men…”

“And when you fast, do not be… sad in appearance…”

Doing spiritual things for recognition and praise reveals a prideful heart.

I’ve joked (and I’ve heard others do the same) that we shouldn’t praise people for doing good things or they’ll “lose their reward in heaven.”  While joking, I think there can be a false belief that we only will get our “reward in heaven” if we don’t receive any reward here on earth.

This comes from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words here.  Jesus says the Pharisees who pray loudly or give publicly have “received their reward in full.”  I think our mistake is in thinking that the reward they have received is truly a reward.  Yes, they got what they wanted.  They were noticed.  But this reward wasn’t from God.  It was an empty reward.

Jesus isn’t saying that we shouldn’t praise others or graciously receive praise from others.   He’s saying our motive for acting shouldn’t be to receive that praise.

Jesus had just said, “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father Who is in Heaven.”

I love how The Merged Gospels translate this.

“But when giving donations, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your donation may be in secret, and your Father Himself Who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

We’ll be rewarded “openly!”  Maybe the reward is blessing… maybe it comes in the form of gratitude or praise from others… and maybe it’s a growing, deepening faith that causes our light to shine brightly before men.

Getting noticed doesn’t cause us to lose our reward.  Wanting to get noticed, if our hope is to shine the light back on God, doesn’t cause us to lose our reward.  Wanting to get noticed so WE get noticed…  there’s no reward from God to be found there.


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Unstoppable #likeJesus

Did Jesus ever refuse to heal someone who asked to be healed?  Was Jesus ever unable to heal someone who asked to be healed?

We read in Matthew 12:15 and Mark 3:7-8, which The Merged Gospels places right before the selection of the Twelve, that “a great crowd from Galilee, and also from Judea followed Him.  And from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the region of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing, and they came to Him, and He healed them all.”

Those last four words jumped off the page at me.


Then after selecting the Twelve, we read of the Sermon on the Level Place on the Mount.

“And there was a great crowd of His disciples, and a great multitude of the people from Judea, and Jerusalem, and the seaside Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him, and to be healed of their sicknesses.  And those harassed by unclean spirits were healed.  And all the crowds were seeking to touch Him, because power was going out from Him, and He was healing all.”  Luke 6:17-19

Again, those last four words jump off the page at me.


At least in these encounters, everyone that came to Jesus who was sick, lame or afflicted by demons was healed.


The last time I checked in the dictionary, “ALL” means ALL…  not some…  not many… not most… but ALL.  In these situations, 100% of those who came to Jesus needing to be healed received the miracle they needed from God.

All they had to do was come.  All they had to do was ask.  If they were mute and couldn’t speak, then coming WAS asking.

So, did Jesus ever refuse to heal someone, or was He ever unable to heal someone who asked?  I’m going to be looking more closely for that as I read through the Gospels each month.

We do know that He was not able to perform miracles in His hometown, Nazareth, because of their unbelief.  At times, I’ve thought they didn’t have enough faith…  that Jesus requires a measure of faith on our part to be able to heal us or others.

But I think it’s even simpler than that.  I think their unbelief simply meant that they didn’t come.  They didn’t ask.  If they would have come and asked, Jesus would have healed and delivered them.

Come.  Ask.  Believe. 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Choosing #likeJesus

I have a confession to make.

I’ve always viewed Jesus’ selection of the Twelve like a kids’ kick ball game at recess.  I guess a more modern version of this would be The Bachelor.  Who gets the rose?  Who doesn’t?

A bunch of Jesus’ followers are gathered around Him, and Jesus scans the crowd as He begins to pick His team.  With this mental picture, it always left me wondering, how did those who didn’t get picked feel?  No one likes to be left standing on the sideline.

In harmonizing Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16, The Merged Gospels paints a different picture for me.  A picture that makes more sense…

“He called to Himself His disciples, whom He wanted, and they went away to Him.”

What I envision when reading this is that rather than Jesus calling out names to have the Twelve step forward from the crowd, He instead goes to them and calls them to be with Him.

Maybe Jesus goes from one to another privately and invites them to join Him at a certain location on the mount?  Maybe they’re in groups, like the “fishing gang” from Capernaum (Peter, Andrew, James, John, and possibly Philip and Nathanael), and Jesus speaks to the whole group to invite them?  Maybe Jesus tells a few to gather the others to meet Him?

Luke’s account has always stood out to me. “He called His disciples and chose from them twelve.”  That sounds like the kick ball scenario, right?

But what does Mark say?  “And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those whom He desired, and they came to Him.”  That sounds like Jesus telling them personally to meet Him at a certain location, right?

I like this new mental picture.  It feels more relational.  It feels more deliberate.  It feels more natural.

Jesus spent the night praying before selecting and gathering the Twelve.  I also always thought that Jesus was asking the Father WHO to pick.  This was a big decision.  He wanted to get it right.  He was asking the Father for wisdom and direction.  But this too is me imposing on the text what I want to see, or what I’ve heard others say.

Nowhere does it say Jesus asked for wisdom and direction as to whom to choose.  As I think on this, I ask myself, “Wouldn’t it make sense that Jesus already knew whom He would pick?  Hadn’t these disciples been with Him for a while?  Didn’t He already know them?  Hadn’t He already had an opportunity to see their character, passion, dedication and faithfulness?

So now I have a new mental picture for this night of prayer.  John 17.  I picture Jesus spending the night praying for those whom He would select.  He’s lifting them up before the Father.  He’s interceding for them.  He knows how difficult this road will be.  He knows they will be tested.  So He prays.

Seeing Jesus’ night of prayer this way also feels right.  It’s relational.  It’s intentional.  It’s missional.

Are these new mental pictures right?  I don’t know.  But I do think they’re a strong alternative to how I’ve always read these accounts.

What do you think?  What was Jesus praying about that night?  How did Jesus go about selecting the Twelve?  What leadership lessons can we learn from how Jesus approached this critical task?


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Eager to Learn #likeJesus

Amazing!  With each new Harmony I read, month after month, I notice things I have never noticed before.  A regular reading of the gospels would have me focusing on the obvious action, the major themes.  I find myself noticing different things now.  Sub-plots.  Characters.  Words.  Phrases.  Recurring themes.  Connections.  I’m loving it!

In Gary Crossland’s The Merged Gospels, he translates from the Greek in a much more literal, word for word format.  Where others translate words, but rearrange them and maybe add a word to make the sentence flow in English, Crossland puts these added words in ( ) so you know they’ve been added.  It helps me to see how sometimes translation also involves interpretation.

In my reading today, here’s something I noticed.  Crossland translates John 1:41, regarding Andrew’s encounter with Jesus, “This one first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!”

The NIV translates this, “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon…”

So what difference does this make?  I’ve always took the NIV to mean “immediately Andrew went to find his brother Simon.”

Now, reading Crossland’s translation without the word “thing” being added to make the reading smoother, I can see it possibly meaning “Andrew went to find his brother Simon first…  and then told so and so second, and then this one third.”

How does this change my reading of this account?  Well, it makes sense that if Andrew was excited about meeting the Messiah, he would want to tell Peter first.  But it also makes sense that he wouldn’t stop there.  He’d tell anyone he could, especially his friends who were nearby.

Could it be that he (and possibly John and then Peter) told Philip about Jesus that night?  The next day, Philip responded to Jesus invitation to “Follow Me” and told his friend Nathaniel, “we have found the one that Moses wrote about.”  How did Philip know Jesus was the “one that Moses wrote about?”  Either Jesus explained it to him, or his friends from Galilee, fellow disciples of John the Baptist, explained it to him.

Another small thing I took note of today.  Crossland translates John 4:54 (after the healing of the nobleman’s son), “This again was a second sign Jesus did coming out of Judea to Galilee.”  I’ve always read this as meaning this was the second miracle that Jesus performed, with the first being when He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  But then reading that Jesus performed many signs while He was in Jerusalem for the Passover, I took it to mean this was the second “recorded” miracle Jesus performed.

The NIV translates it, “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.”  The comma in the sentence always caused me to not really see “come from Judea to Galilee.”  But reading it without the comma, and with the phrase “coming out of” instead of “come from” helps me to see it, I believe, more accurately.

I believe what John is saying here is that this is the second miracle Jesus performed outside of Judea/Jerusalem, both of which were performed in Galilee.  Both times Jesus was in Cana.  So… two miracles outside of Judea, many miracles performed Passover week inside Jerusalem.

While neither of these is life changing or have great “devotional” value, I’m still loving how the Spirit is teaching me, helping me to see scripture more clearly.

And from a practical standpoint, the idea that Andrew didn’t just tell Peter, but likely immediately told others about Jesus also, is a great reminder to be sharing the Good News everywhere we go.


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Helped by an Angel #likeJesus

There are two phrases I seldom give much thought to in Jesus’ wilderness temptation account:

“The devil… departed from Him until an opportune time.”

“The angels came and ministered to Him.”

The phrase “opportune time” makes me ask…

Throughout His three and a half years of ministry, did Satan come back and tempt Jesus multiple times, or was the opportune time the cross?

When Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan,” is He only speaking metaphorically to Peter, or is Satan actually present and trying to temp Jesus to divert Him from His mission through the influence of a close friend?

Not all temptation is from Satan directly (our flesh invites it), but nevertheless we must be aware that sin knocks on our door at “an opportune time.”

The phrase “angels came and ministered to Him” makes me ask:

How did they minister to Jesus?

How many angels were there?

Did angels minister to Jesus throughout His life?

While we don’t know the specific answers to these questions, there is certainly plenty of speculation.

Many believe the angels ministered to Jesus at this time by bringing Him food.  He’s hungry. He’s in the desert where no food is available.  He can’t perform a miracle and create his own food, for He’s just resisted the temptation of turning stones into bread.  So knowing His need, the Father sends angels to attend to Jesus and bring Him food.

The Father sent manna from heaven to feed the children of Israel.  Is that the same food the angels brought Jesus?

We see the precedent for this in 1 Kings 19:5-8, where an angel attends to Elijah, waking him to serve him a meal.

So food… but could the angels have ministered to Jesus in other ways?  It would only take one angel to bring Him food.  John spoke of angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  Did they encourage and cheer Jesus on for resisting the Enemy?  Did they minister to Him emotionally or spiritually?

One critical thing here is that the angels show up AFTER Satan leaves.  Just as Jesus could have called down 10,000 angels to rescue Him from the cross, He also could have called on angelic armies to thwart the advances of the Enemy.  He faced temptation, not with the assistance of warring angels, but instead by depending upon the Holy Spirit (just like we must).

Do angels still minister today?  Do they minister to us?  It’s amazing to think about the unseen and how our Father provides for and protects us.  Oh, how great is the love the Father has lavished on us!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Respect #likeJesus

Joseph is one gospel character we don’t usually pay much attention to.  Because we don’t hear much about him during Jesus’ 3 1/2 years of public ministry, the assumption is that Joseph had already died.  This would be why, while on the cross, Jesus asked John to care for His mother Mary.  She must have been a widow at that time.

The Gospels don’t tell us much about Joseph, but what we do know about him as a man, as a husband, and as a father is rich.

Joseph’s Personal Character

We are told the Joseph was a righteous man.  He cared deeply for Mary and wanted to believe the best about her and protect her.

Joseph’s Spiritual Devotion

Joseph was a man who listened to and followed God’s direction.  God spoke to him through angels and dreams.  He doesn’t speak to me that way, but he did to Joseph.  And Joseph listened and obeyed.  Immediately.  We see this before Jesus is born when the angel tells Joseph that Mary will give birth.  We see this again when Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.  We see it yet again when an angel tells Joseph to return to Israel.

Joseph’s Enduring Legacy

You have to respect Joseph.  He was a man of God.  He was chosen by God to be Jesus’ earthly father.  And as a father, Joseph modeled manhood for his adopted son.  He modeled hard work, devotion to God and compassion for others.  It couldn’t have been easy being given the task of being the earthly father of the Son of God, but Joseph manned up and accepted the challenge.

Joseph listened to God, and as a result he provided for and protected his family.  Joseph obeyed God, and as a result he led his family well.

As a man, as a husband, as a father, I want to lead well.  Spirit of God, lead me.  I’m listening.


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Messengers #likeJesus

Where is God sending us?  Who is God sending us to?  What is God sending us to say?  When is God sending us?  We’re all being sent.  We’re all called to be messengers.

Today I begin reading through my fourth Harmony of the Gospels this year, The Merged Gospels by Gary Crossland.  I’m loving this harmony journey!

Gabriel, the angel, is a messenger of God.  The name Gabriel means “God is my strength!”  Since we are called to be messengers too, I’m struck by the thought, “What can I learn from an angel?”

Well, as it turns out, quite a bit 🙂

1. God shows up when His people pray!

Gabriel shows up when the people of God are praying.  Prayer invites the activity of God and emboldens the messenger of God.

2. God shows up when His messengers speak!

There is this curious phrase “the angel of the Lord, standing on the right side…”  What does this mean?  Metaphorically, we as messengers should stand (be strong, firm in our convictions) on the right side (that which is just, true, honorable).  But this isn’t just a metaphor.  The angel stood on the right side of the table.  The right side was the place of honor.  The right side was also the side of the table where the showbread was placed, which represented God’s presence.  When we show up as a messenger, God’s presence should be evident.

3. Messengers of God speak with God’s authority!

The angel speaks with authority.  “Fear not, Zecharias…”  Messengers of God must speak with clarity and authority.

4. Messengers of God speak directly!

Gabriel connected personally.  He called Zecharias by name.  The more personally we can connect, the more powerful the message becomes.

5. Messengers of God must spend time in His presence!

And where does Gabriel’s power and authority come from?  He says, “I am Gabriel.  I have been standing in the sight of God…”  When we stand in God’s presence, making it a priority to be alone with Him, we can then act with His power and authority.

6. Messengers of God speak when they’re sent!

Gabriel says “I was sent to speak to you, and to proclaim good news to you.”   Messengers are sent.  We don’t act on our own.  We don’t speak for ourselves.  It’s not our message we carry.  It’s His good news.

7. Messengers of God make an impact!

After being sent to Zecharias, Gabriel is then sent to Mary.  Gabriel has a message.  It’s meant to bring joy, to dispel fear, to inject grace and to inspire hope.  “Nothing will be impossible!”  Shouldn’t we as messengers of the Good News do the same thing… bring joy, dispel fear, inject grace and inspire hope?

Gabriel, a messenger of God.  May that title be given to you and me too.  May we be sent.  May we connect personally and proclaim powerfully.  May we bring hope.


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Cover to Cover #likeJesus

From cover to cover, the story of the Bible is the story of Jesus.  It’s all about Jesus!

John MacArthur completes his harmony of the gospels, One Perfect Life, with New Testament reflections on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Before weaving the four gospels together into a single narrative, MacArthur began with Old Testament reflections on Christ in Creation, the Fall of man, the giving of the Law and the Passover lamb, and then many prophecies on the coming of the Messiah.

Now after completing the harmonized narrative of the Gospels, MarArthur pulls together verses from Acts, the writings of Paul, Peter, James, Jude and the book of Revelation.  With these he focuses on the themes of The Centrality of Christ’s Death, The Victory of Christ’s Resurrection, The Wonder of Christ’s Ascended Glory, The Certainty of Christ’s Return, Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone, and finally Today is the Day of Salvation.

The only other theme I wish MacArthur would have included is Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

So, so many verses that I love here, but I get goosebumps whenever I read Revelation 19:11-16.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but He Himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written:


Whoa!  Love it!

I also love that MacArthur ends with the doxology from Jude 24-25, a fitting climax of worship and honor for who Jesus is and what He has done for us, as revealed in the gospels!

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.

The story of the Bible should in fact be the story of our lives.



To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Full Nets #likeJesus

After the Resurrection, Jesus sent word for the disciples to meet up with Him in Galilee.

In One Perfect Life, John MacArthur comments that word of this meeting spread and that is why 500 gathered to see and hear Jesus (1 Cor 15) after the Resurrection.  MacArthur believes this gathering was on the mountain where Jesus gave the Great Commission.

But before this, maybe because the disciples were back in Galilee wondering when they would see Jesus again, Simon Peter resorted to what was most familiar for him and took the others fishing with him.

This event looks and feels very similar to the event in Luke 5 near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  (Much like the two accounts that bookend Jesus’ ministry of Him chasing the money changers out from the temple,.)

In Luke 5, Jesus climbed in Peter’s boat after a night of fishing.  Peter had caught nothing.  Jesus told him to cast his net again.  After heeding Jesus’ advice, the catch was so large, both his and his partner’s boats were threatened with sinking.  Then Jesus told Peter, “From now on you will catch men!”

Then in John 21, we read that again the disciples had caught nothing.  Jesus called out from the shore and told them to cast their net on the other side.  Just like earlier, their nets were full.  It’s a large catch.  153 fish.

Why the specific number?  It certainly tells us that the writer, knowing a minute detail like this, was likely an eyewitness to the event.  A ministry friend has told me that at that time in history, there were 153 nations on the earth, so the catch represented to gospel going to the ends of the earth.  I love that!  (I’ve not been able to verify it though)

While back on shore after the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus asked Peter 3 times (mirroring his 3 denials), “Do you love me?”  Each time when Peter said “yes,” Jesus told him to “feed my sheep” or “feed my lambs.”

Just like the call in Luke 5 to “fish for men,” here Jesus was re-confirming Peter’s call to lead the church.

Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”   What does “more than these” mean?  Could Jesus be pointing to the pile of fish he’s just caught, and this is Jesus way of asking, “Peter, are you going to go back to what is comfortable, fishing, or are you going to finish what we’ve started and live out your call?”

A few simple reminders on evangelism from Luke 5 and John 21…

  • We can fish for a long time, catch nothing, and be ready to lay down our nets.  Don’t give up!
  • We’re more effective fishing when we listen to Jesus.  God’s Spirit will lead us to whom we should speak to, when we should speak, and what we should say.
  • Sometimes the time, place and circumstances don’t make sense, but Jesus says it’s time to drop our nets.   Just listen!
  • Sometimes successful evangelism is as simple as going to the “other side of the boat”  and being willing to try something different.
  • There is the potential for incredible fruit (nets breaking, boats sinking, 153 large fish) when we follow Jesus.  “The Harvest is Great!”

I want to be faithful to His call on my life.  I want to trust Jesus to fill the nets and overflow the boats in my life and ministry!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Unashamed #likeJesus

While Peter denied Jesus and most of the other disciples scattered at the crucifixion, others surprisingly demonstrated bold faith during Christ’s suffering.

Consider Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee.  In John 3, we see him come to Jesus “at night.”  He comes in secret.  He doesn’t want to be seen.  He has a reputation to protect.  He could get in trouble aligning himself with Jesus.

Jesus’ words, “You must be born again” and “For God so loved the world” must have reached Nicodemus’ heart.  He appeared to be a changed man.

John 7:51 records him asking the other Pharisees who are accusing and condemning Jesus, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

Then, after Jesus had been crucified, Nicodemus showed up again.  John makes sure to point out, “And Nicodemus, who first came to Jesus by night…”  This same Nicodemus, who came in secret, is now there in public “bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.”  At great personal cost, both to his reputation and to his bank account, Nicodemus stood up and stood out.

Another man, Joseph of Arimathea, was also there.  He iswasa rich man.  He was a prominent council member.  Did he do business in Jerusalem?  He too was well known and had a reputation to protect.

Of Joseph, we read that he “was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, a good and just man and a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews.”

“A disciple of Jesus, but secretly…”  Isn’t that an oxymoron?!  How can we follow Jesus secretly?  Believe in secret, maybe.  But a disciple, a follower, in secret?  Joseph must have been “busting at the seems” wanting to come out and let the world know.

And so it is that we find the secret disciple stepping out of the shadows.  “Coming and taking courage, this man went to Pilate and asked that he might take the body of Jesus.”

At great personal cost, both to his reputation with the Jews and to his own safety in approaching Pilate, not to mention giving his newly hewn family burial cave, Joseph stood up and stood out.

Joseph and Nicodemus each had something to lose, but they counted the cost, pushed all their chips to the center of the table, and went ALL IN for Jesus.

What a great example for us of the devotion, commitment and sacrifice of a Christ-follower.  Like Nicodemus and Joseph, each day I want to stand up and stand out for Jesus!


To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM