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I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will  ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:5-8

Most of my life, I have understood the fruit of the vine to be the good works we were created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Recently, someone suggested that it is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I am sure that both are true, as well as the interpretation I most recently heard.

Before I go there, I would like to recognize that an “either/or” perspective on Scripture limits our understanding. It also has a way of dividing the Body of Christ. I cannot tell you how many times a “both/and” approach has precipitated the Holy Spirit’s revelation and encouragement.

Now, let me direct your attention to the passage above. Read it carefully – particularly verses five and seven. Branches that bear fruit are those that abide in Christ. Those branches that thus abide, ask what they desire, and it is done for them. The fruit of the vine are the answers to our prayers.

Furthermore, we now understand that the measure of our abiding in Christ is answered prayer; and the fruit we bear are the answers to prayer that glorify the Father (v. 8). This leads us to two very important revelations. Read the rest of this entry »

Foundations are important in the kingdom of God; and they are important in the workplace. Christian leaders have been given position and influence in the workplace for God’s kingdom. Therefore, it can be said that foundations are doubly important for Workplace Leaders.

This matter of foundations is a concept of leadership that will help you connect with the Workplace Leaders in your spheres of influence. But first, it is important to speak from what you yourself know, believe and walk out in faith.

To that end, here are three foundational considerations; first for your own organization, and then for the leaders you are discipling.

Strong Foundations Take Time

Therefore thus says the Lord God

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,
A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;
Whoever believes will not act hastily.”
Isaiah 38:16

Foundation building should not be done hastily. Progress for progress sake can be disastrous. Don’t start on the superstructure until you are sure the foundation has been laid firmly on the Cornerstone. Inspect the foundation regularly. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowAs we come to the end of Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, we find ourselves back to the place where this series began – with a few challenging questions: If you don’t know the sayings of Jesus, how can you hear them? If you cannot hear them, how can you do them? If you do not do them, what will be the state of your house?

The desire of my heart is to give you a reference point for the hearing. I think I have done that. The rest is up to you, and the Lord. I hope you will receive the grace and faith He offers; that your house might stand in the storms of this life.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. Matthew 7:24-27

I have already shared my perspective on this passage in a previous article. So let me address a couple of related topics. First, while the subject of this saying is the “wise man”, we would be foolish to attempt to do it as individuals. There are no lone rangers in the body of Christ. Perhaps it would help to think of our houses as brownstones – tightly pressed together, helping each other to stand.

My second point is related to the first. This passage is not much different than the portion of Jesus’ commission that commands us to teach them to observe (or obey) all that He has commanded us – to do what He has said. Therefore, we understand that the Sermon on the Mount is critical to our making disciples.

Furthermore, the Greek for observe/obey means to “attend to carefully, take care of”. We are called to be faithful stewards of the sayings of Jesus. We are called to search out their mystery, and to share that mystery with others. In doing so, we strengthen our house and those houses around us; both now and forever more. The Sermon on the Mount is an inheritance we are to leave for our spiritual children.

The importance of these two points – our unity and our making disciples – cannot be overstated.  Our failure in these two critical areas is the failure of the Bride to make herself ready.  How could we neglect so great a salvation?

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob

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

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

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

General Message

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Sayings

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

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

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

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowIf you have been following along with this series, you have by now realized that the Sermon on the Mount is about more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Oh, it could be understood and taught that way, but Jesus is after more than checklist obedience. He came to save that which was lost, to build His church, and to commission disciples. He intends to lead us, make us and use us to make others.

Such a life requires more than passive or casual compliance. Disciples are disciplined; focused on the mission; and focused on one Master.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22-24

Every once in a while the translators get it wrong. Here in the NKJV, they have translated the Greek word haplous as “good”. Haplous is not translated as “good” anywhere else in the New Testament. It seems they chose “good” as the opposite of “bad”. This is understandable, but it does not do justice to the meaning of this saying.

The primary meaning of haplous is “simple, single”. The KJV uses “single”. On the surface, it does not make sense that the opposite of bad is single. However, in the context of the following verses it makes very good (no pun intended) sense.

Jesus chose His words carefully. An eye that is not singularly focused is bad. Therefore, we can understand this passage to be saying, “If your eye is not singularly focused, your whole body will be full of darkness.”

The Eye of Our Heart

It is important to recognize that this passage is not another disconnected thought. This eye that we must keep focused is the eye of our heart (see verse 21). Jesus is continuing to press the point about our treasures. Lay them up in heaven, and the eye of your heart be focused there. Makes sense, right?

Furthermore, if you lay up on earth, your focus will be bad… and “your whole body will be full of darkness”. This is a serious and sobering warning; particularly for those that are attempting to hedge their bets by storing up in heaven and on earth. The metaphor is perfect: You simply cannot focus your eye, at the same time, on objects ten and one hundred feet away. Your bad eye will eventually give you a headache. Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowGive to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:42

Honestly, I have had more questions than answers about this verse. Does this include every person on every corner that is holding up a “please help” sign? What about the professional panhandlers I come across in downtown Atlanta? What if they are going to use it for drugs or some other addiction?

Do I donate every time every organization sends a request? Does this include candidates for political office, or just people in need? What if I run out of money; won’t I become a part of the problem? Is there not some other way to understand this saying of Jesus Christ? Did He really mean what He is saying here?

I have an opinion about the meaning of this saying; but does my opinion matter? Perhaps more important is what all these questions reveal. Am I looking for understanding; or for an excuse to move this verse to the “consider later” basket; and move on to something else?

It seems this verse is pivotal in our discussion and obedience to “these sayings of mine” in the Sermon on the Mount and beyond. There is this option of moving on to “easier” sayings, but if we start now, I guarantee most of the rest will go in the same direction; and habits are hard to break. Perhaps now is the time to face our fears and deal with the reality of our commitment to faith and obedience. Read the rest of this entry »

iStock_000005991593SmallGetting ahead in business requires more than working hard. One must work harder than the persons ahead of them; for those persons, being ahead, have both distance and resources as their advantage. This is the character of a carnal system.

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23

In the same way, many Christians work hard assuming hard work will automatically earn God’s blessing in their business or profession. As good as it sounds, this is the way of the world. The followers of Jesus Christ must remember that whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). God does not reward sin. He rewards the obedient work of faith.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the rhema (i.e., spoken word) of God (Romans 10:17). Before working hard to get ahead, be sure you know that you have God’s will for your work. BTW: It is not God’s will for you to neglect your intimacy with Him, your family and the body of Christ.

Workplace Ministry Tip:
As you would any strategic meeting, set aside time to meet with God; that you might come to understand the plan He has for you. Reckon the truth concerning success in the kingdom of God: God rewards the obedient work of faith. Work hard at the work He has willed for your life.

Contact me, at rob@inlightconsulting.com, if I can be of assistance.

Humbly yours and His forever,

Bible with Cross ShadowMost of Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount – you know, those saying that we are to do – are truly beyond our human ability. They are only accomplished by the life of Jesus Christ, Who is in us. However, there are some sayings that appear quite easy to obey; making it all the more amazing that we would chose to do something in complete opposition to what He has said. I truly don’t understand how we excuse ourselves.

Consider the matter of oath taking. Jesus said:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

It could not be more clear: Whatever is more than our “yes” and “no” is from the evil one. Why then do so many followers of Jesus Christ submit to the courts of this nation, put one hand on a Bible, raise the other, and swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Is this not taking an oath? Does it make it okay – or does it make it worse – that a Bible is used in this evil process?

These questions lead us to a deeper kingdom principle; something deeper than dos and don’ts. For those with eyes to see, this is a great example of the subtly of the evil one’s deception; leading to our conformity to the world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

We would be wise to examine ourselves in light of this discovery. Our minds may be less renewed than we presume. If we would so casually do something that is from the evil one, what other deceptions might there be in our minds? Just how conformed to the world are we?

Make no mistake about it: Deception is our enemies’ greatest weapon, particularly in these last days. We must remain suspicious of the way we think. We must be on guard against the wiles of the Devil.

God’s will in this matter of oath taking is good, acceptable and perfect. Jesus made it abundantly clear; and He gave us a very simple task/test for our doing “these sayings of Mine”. Let us renew our minds in this area, and in the many other sayings of our Lord and Savior.

God bless you with an awareness and diligence for rooting out the deception in your life.

Humbly Yours and Forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowThe deeper we go into the Sermon on the Mount, the more challenging it is becoming to focus on the simple “doings” that are required for our houses to stand. Or, it just may be that I am making it harder than it needs to be. Perhaps, as some have suggested, I think too much.

Perhaps I just need to write the article, and see where it leads us. Bear with me.

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19

“Do even the least of these commandments (the Law), and teach them.” Would you agree that is a simple and fair interpretation of this saying? It is simple, isn’t it?

Yet, it is not simple; at least, not for me – not the application of it. Why? Because I have been taught most of my life that the Law is totally optional; that it’s only purpose was to show us that we could not fulfill God’s requirement for righteousness in our own strength; that we needed the grace of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation.

We are saved by grace, through faith; and not by works of the Law. That is how I remember it. That is how I was taught. And that is what I still believe with all my heart. I am incapable of fulfilling the Law.

So, why did Jesus make this a point of His sermon? There must be something more here. It seems to me that, in this case, I did not think enough. I certainly did not search out the matter as I should. I allowed myself to believe that the Law was of consequence for the Israelites, only. Let me see if I can make sense of it; if only to clear up my own confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

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