Christian Training Center InternationalPosts

What are we working for? What makes a difference?

What are we working for? What makes a difference?

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The backdrop to this is the feeding of the five thousand. It is a truly stunning miracle. Jesus was moved not to allow the crowd to go hungry. Jesus took care of their physical needs since they couldn’t afford to take them out for a meal. They were very impressed.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” ~Jesus | John 6:26-27

I saw Jesus last night …

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I saw Jesus last night. Of course, it was not the Jesus I was expecting. He was delivering the “Jesus Manifesto” (aka The Sermon on the Mount).

This was stunning. Jesus was smiling most of the time and did not speak in a sterilized monotone. He was serious but he interacted spontaneously with those who were following Him. This is not a sermon delivered from behind a pulpit. This had no stage lighting. There was no microphone. There wasn’t a worship leader with a slick band playing.

How do we sum up the law and the prophets of the Old Testament?

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Jesus is beginning to wrap up his Manifesto (aka the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7). Jesus now lays out for us the summary of all summaries. Jesus says “this is the Law and the Prophets”. Jesus gives it to us at the highest level. This is what is known as the “30,000 foot view”. It is also traditionally known as the “Golden Rule”.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” ~ Jesus

 Source: Matthew 7:12-14 (ESV)

How not to pray like a hypocrite.


And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” ~Jesus

Source: Matthew 6:5-6 (ESV)

Read more on Hypocrisy – What it is, why it is evil and hated by Jesus here.

Prayer essential in our relationship with God. One of the pillars in the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7) is prayer.  Prayer is not what we think. Jesus lays out what prayer is all about in the Kingdom of God where Jesus is in charge. Jesus draws a distinction between hypocrites who love to pray and those who pray because they love.

How can we be delivered from evil and the evil one?

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Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” ~Jesus 

Source: Matthew 6:13 (ESV)

Jesus taught us to pray. Jesus gave us the template. The prayer is a part of the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5-7). This is the core of what I need to say to God. One of the pillars is to ask God to deliver us from evil (or as most translators agree) the evil one.

How does Jesus think we should give?

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Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ~Jesus 

Source: Matthew 6:2-4 (ESV)

There are a number of challenges here for us to pay attention to in this section of the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5-7). Jesus changes how we think and act on giving when we listen to Him directly.

This is a good thing since I have spent most of my career raising money for charitable causes. Yikes!

What is adultery? Is lust the same as adultery?

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You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Source: Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

The Jesus Manifesto is radical. Jesus changes the way things work in the new covenant (aka contract, agreement or testament). There are 6 references to “You have heard it said” where Jesus takes things to a higher level.

This one is about adultery. No longer can I feel righteous because I haven’t committed the physical act of adultery. I have been lustful which Jesus now says is the same as adultery.


Why should we ask God?

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Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Source: Matthew 7:7-11 (ESV)

Jesus continues the lessons from His Manifest (Matthew 5-7)

God, my heavenly Father, is more than ready. God is not a grumpy old man who doesn’t care. God is our example of what love is all about. If it is in my best interests, God will do it.

God is in a good mood. God is like our parents. God wants the best for us. I’ve always given my kids what I could. You are the same way. This rings true and we know what it means.

What does gentleness look like?

Jesus is a kind, loving King. Jesus is not angry with me. Jesus wants me to be kind and gentle. His goal for me is for me to love.

“Happy (aka Blessed) are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” ~Jesus | Source: Matthew 5:5

What sort of gentleness is it, on account of those who have it, are pronounced happy? It seems important to note that in the manifesto ‘the meek’ come between those who mourn over sin and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The particular form of meekness which the Messiah requires in his disciples will surely have something to do with this sequence. This meekness denotes a humble and gentle attitude to others which is determined by a true estimate of ourselves. It is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight. Remember the “Jesus Prayer” — “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

What is Godly sorrow all about? Why should I mourn?

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Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. I like to think of Matthew 5 to 7 as his manifesto of what the Kingdom life is all about. This is the second of what is known as the Beatitudes. The Greek word for blessed is μακάριος (transliteration – makarios) It literally means happy or more than happy.

Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  | Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

Who is the Judge?

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Should I judge others? Jesus is clear in the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5-7). I have plenty of my own issues. I should look in the mirror and focus on how I miss God’s goal (aka sin). And, there is plenty to focus on there. The list is quite long.

What is the importance of forgiveness? What does Jesus say about it?


Jesus is all about forgiveness. That is the reason God sent him to us. We need forgiveness and the good news is that we have received it.

Jesus calls us to forgive. That is clear.

Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands,

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in the Messiah God forgave you.

What does it mean to be the light of the world?

Light shines

Jesus makes a declaration about His followers in the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7).

We are the light of the world. I am the light of Jesus to those I know.

Our good works are to be seen and not hid.

That is the Way of Jesus, the anointed King. That is His declaration for us.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~Jesus | Matthew 5:14-16

Who is in charge of God’s country?

Taking God Seriously

Jesus is now at the core issue as He lays out His manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7). God has a country. It is a kingdom. Jesus is the Messiah and it’s King. Now that is some good news.

Jesus is clear about our mission. It is not to worry about “the things” of life. It is to totally dedicate ourselves to what Jesus, as the King of God’s country, wants us to do.

That is the main thing about the main thing.

What does it mean that Jesus taught with authority?

Jesus wrapped up His Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7). The teaching is over. What He has said is amazing. The crowds who hear it are astounded.

I am astounded as well. I am overwhelmed.

Jesus teaches with authority. He isn’t like the religious elites who rely on their Ph. D’s for their authority. Jesus has the authority directly from God. Religious elites have pedigrees from seminaries. Quite a contrast.

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their religious elitist leaders (aka scribes). | Matthew 7:28-29

What should our righteousness look like?

Heartfelt experience with Jesus

Jesus continues His manifesto (found in Matthew 5-7). There is a lot to learn here. Jesus is being clear, as He always is. This isn’t what I was thinking He would say.

Jesus begins this section by telling the disciples not for one moment to imagine that he had come to abolish the law and the prophets, i.e. the whole Old Testament or any part of it. The way in which Jesus phrases this negative statement suggests that some had indeed been thinking the very thought which he now contradicts.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

What does it mean to be the “salt of the earth”?

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The Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5-7) continues with Jesus laying out for us what we need to be like in this world. We need to be salt. We need to be salt that has not lost its taste.

The affirmation is straightforward: ‘You are the salt of the earth’. This means that, when each community is itself and is true to itself, the world decays like rotten fish or meat, while the community of faith, the bride of Jesus, can hinder its decay.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13

Why should we forgive others?

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Jesus continues the Manifesto. Jesus is teaching us how to pray. After the model prayer, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. It starts with me. I must forgive. I must show mercy.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. | Matthew 6:14-15

What are we working for? Money or God?

Bankrupt without love

What am I working for?

Jesus wants to know. Jesus has some commands for me on this.

I must act on what Jesus wants me to do. The Jesus Manifesto continues!

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” | Matthew 6:19-21

What is mercy? How can we show more of it?

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I want mercy in my life. Compassion is a wonderful gift from God. I am challenged by Jesus to replicate it in all of my relationships. I am to be a person of mercy. It will bring me happiness and mercy in my own life. Now that is some very good news.

“Happy (aka Blessed) are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” | Matthew 5:7

Who should I give to?

It is a challenge. I see the homeless. Do I give them some money? Won’t they just use it to buy drugs or booze? Why don’t they have a job, I think. I feel justified in not giving.

Jesus says ‘Yes’ it is your duty to give. It isn’t my job to judge why they are begging. God’s goal for me is to give. That is all I need to know.

What does Jesus think? This may run afoul of the “official stances” of the homeless social services organizations. They have great reasons for their logic. That isn’t what Jesus challenges us to do. I am going to follow Jesus.

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?

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Happy in Jesus

Happy (aka Blessed) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Jesus

Source: Matthew 5:3 (English Standard Version)

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? Poor in spirit means that you feel you have no moral riches and are in need.  You feel you need a ‘spiritual’ life. ‘Poor’ (πτωχός) used in this verse means ‘reduced to being a beggar’. Am I begging for a rich spiritual life?

First I need to recognize I need what I don’t have. To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge my spiritual poverty, indeed my spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For I have missed God’s goal (aka sin), under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgment of God.

I have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favour of heaven.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?

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Jesus continues with His radical Manifesto (Matthew 5-7). We all know what it is like to be hungry or thirsty. We can’t think of anything else until we take care of the hunger or thirst.

It consumes us. Nothing else matters!

What about my spiritual hunger and thirst?

“Happy (aka Blessed) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” | Matthew 5:6 (ESV)

What are good works? Why does Jesus call us to do them?

Jesus clearly calls us to do good works! The purpose of our good works is to glorify the amazing and beautiful God. If it doesn’t do that, we’ve got the wrong motives and then we have the wrong outcomes.

Now that is a good word. Please receive it.

Goodness and good works are acts designed specifically to help others, which are characteristic of God. We can be good because God is good. And He is in a good mood.

Good works are not a “bad thing”. They won’t save me but that isn’t the point.

Is the Bible is a dangerous book to read, and is the church a dangerous society to join?

Jesus challenges us

Jesus is about to wrap His Manifesto (Matthew 5-7). There is one final parable to lay it all out. There is a contrast in the previous paragraph which was between ‘saying’ and ‘doing’. The contrast now is between ‘hearing’ and ‘doing’.

On the one hand, Jesus says, there is the person who hears these words of mine and does them (24), and on the other the person who hears these words of mine and does not do them (26).

May I be a person who hears and acts. May I be obedient. Jesus is commanding me to love. Will I?

Who would take a light and hide it? Yet, isn’t that what we do some days?

Jesus doesn’t want us to play a game of hide and go seek. Now think about it.

God is light. His goal for us is to be light-bearers. He wants us to tell everyone that He is the Master.

God has Good News. God’s government is here, right now. Jesus is in charge. Jesus is King. Jesus is our Master.

What is happiness? How can we be truly happy?

I am happy. Jesus promises me that I will be.

Happiness is a state of pleasure or joy experienced both by people and by God, but subject to change according to circumstances.

True happiness derives from a secure and settled knowledge of God and a rejoicing in his works and covenant faithfulness. God rejoices over his faithful people.

The word is μακάριος — makarios. It is usually translated as “blessed”. It is generally understood to mean happy in English. I’m going with that.

In the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7), He gives us a whole series of happiness prescriptions. They are powerful. From Matthew 5, Jesus starts the manifesto out with this.

  • “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
  • “Happy are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
  • “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
  • “Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
  • “Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
  • “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
  • “Happy are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
  • “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Happiness — It is for those who trust in God

  • Psalm 84:12  — O Master of hosts, How happy is the man who trusts in You!
  • Psalm 2:12  — Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How happy are all who take refuge in Him!
  • Psalm 34:8  — O taste and see that the Master is good; How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
  • Psalm 40:4  — How happy is the man who has made the Master his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
  • Psalm 146:5  — How happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Master his God,
  • Proverbs 16:20  — He who gives attention to the word will find good, And happy is he who trusts in the Master.
  • Jeremiah 17:7  — “Happy is the man who trusts in the Master And whose trust is the Master.”
  • Luke 1:45  — “And happy is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Master.”
  • John 20:29  — Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Happy are they who did not see, and yet believed.
  • Galatians 3:9  — So then those who are of faith are happy with Abraham, the believer.


Our Mission & Vision

Our programs are like an immersion into a new language – the language of living in Jesus.  The goal is fluency in the language of relationships.  Programs share a sequential vision, building an understanding of relationships and family culture.  The foundation is an encounter with Jesus.  This encounter is the means for both insight and vision.  Encountering Jesus leads a radical change in living and relationships

Our Vision is to see generations of leaders victoriously modeling Christ in their families and communities.

Our Mission is training believers to live a victorious life through biblical Truth, experiential discipleship, and family relationships. 


Life is:

1) Relationships

2) Personal Holiness

3) Biblical

4) Authentic

5) Relevant

Learn more here.

What does Jesus think about retaliation?

Jesus challenges us to not retaliate. It is in our core, when someone hurts us, to strike back.

Some, famously, brag about being a “counter-puncher”. 

That, is not the way of God. 

Jesus has a different way.

Don’t hit back at all. Just take it. Agree with your adversary.

God has a goal in mind for us. Jesus has higher standards for us than what the world expects.

Jesus expects us to be full of the love of God.

Love acts differently. Love is kind and patient. Love does not retaliate.

May I love like God. May I not be defensive and retaliate.

Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.” ~Jesus

Matthew 5:38 The Message (MSG)

Jesus challenges us
Jesus challenges us


Heroes Semester

CTCI’s Heroes Semester is a 10-week semester program focused on personal and spiritual development for young adults. While immersed in a way of life that emphasizes the Word of God, prayer, relationships, family, servanthood and personal discipline, you will be renewed, trained, and challenged to walk with God in a deeper way.

Learn more here.

CTCI’s Heroes Semester is a 10-week residential, “family style” living experience like no other! Emphasizing the biblical truths of relationships, family, servanthood, and personal discipline, young men and women are challenged to live a faith that reaches beyond the four walls of the church and affects everyday life.

“The Heroes Semester is taking place, and all that I can say is that the Lord is showing me Himself! Christ is mesmerizing me; He’s opening my heart to fall more in love with Him!”

CB -Tennessee (Participant)

Participants ages 18-26 come from all walks of life with one purpose – to go deeper with the Lord and seek Him for their lives and future. Each semester is filled with teaching, activities, and experiences designed to take you on the mountaintops with the Lord as well as train you to live a disciplined life in Christ in the plains and valleys.

Participants spend their days in study sessions, work duties, or on the unpredictable outdoor adventure. The evenings have a natural rhythm of group Bible studies, prayer & intercession, and recreational activities. Everyone pitches in with the usual chores that come with living life together. Electronics take a back seat in daily life, unplugging from usual habits helps to make space for new ones. Each day ends with a note of gratitude and lessons learned.

If you are ready to go deeper in relationships, devotion, and surrender to the Lord, then CTCI’s Heroes Semester could be the most purposeful 10 weeks of your life!

Learn more here.

God’s goal for us to grow up and live the Life of Jesus, doing everything His way.

Victory in JesusJesus challenges us to be the person God wants us to be. Jesus challenges us to grow up. Grow up! Yes, you heard that right.

Grow up!

It is not about us or our unique personalities. God has given us His identity.

Jesus only does what He hears and sees His Father saying and doing.We need to get outside of our “me identity”. It isn’t about who I am. It is all about who I am in God.

Jesus wants the same for us. We have a God created identity. We are a new creation in the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. We share that with Him through baptism.

God’s goal for us to live the Life of Jesus, doing everything His way. God’s goal for us is to grow up.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

~Jesus (Matthew 5:48 The Message)

Jesus is radical and demands that we live in a radical way.

Unconventional Wisdom

Unconventional Wisdom

In listening to Jesus, much of what He is saying goes against the grain of what I have thought brings happiness. It is the Jesus Manifesto.

Jesus is radical and demands that we live in a radical way. Jesus wants us to change our minds and act differently (aka repent). Jesus will accept nothing less.

God has a goal for us. Jesus takes care to summarize what some of God’s principles are.

Did Jesus finish it? Is it complete?

Complete the law and prophets

Complete the law and prophets Matthew 5:17

Jesus, God’s Son, shows how He completes what was started in the Old Covenant (Testament). Jesus is the completer in chief. He does it all. Nothing is left undone. Every goal accomplished. The mission of God is fulfilled.

Nothing, not a single thing, is left incomplete and undone.

Everything in the Old Covenant pointed to Jesus. He completed everything through His life and death for us. Having missed God’s goal for our life, His glorious resurrection and ascension brings the rule of Kingdom with God to our lives.

As He said on the cross, “It is finished”.

God loves us. He sent His son Jesus for us. Jesus reached the goal that God has in mind for all of us.

Jesus shows us the way.

“Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. ” ~Jesus (Matthew 5:17-18 The Message)

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How does God prove His love for us?

Radical Sayings of Jesus

God takes our salvation and relationship with Him seriously. We know that God loves us because He sent His Son to live and die for us. We miss God’s goal for our lives (aka sin) big time. We need Jesus.

Jesus set the standard for us. Check out Matthew 5 – 7  for a glimpse of how high the bar is set. It is traditionally called the Sermon on the Mount. I see it as the Jesus Manifesto for a radical new way of living.

It is only through Jesus and His redemption that we can live a holy and sanctified life.

Billy GrahamBilly Graham gets it right!

“God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’ ” ~Billy Graham



If you would like to donate to the Christian Training Center, please click here.


Check out our upcoming ministry programs for young adults and families. Please click here.