Thursday, August 17, 2017

Catch The Pattern

--> In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

One comes to take and to damage thereby; that’s the pattern. The other comes to give and repair; that’s Jesus’ pattern.

I want to remind you today simply that Jesus is not asking you to give Him your heart – He has given you His. Jesus is not asking you to give Him your life – He has given you His. That’s the pattern.

The rest of your days will be about exploring how good He is for you so He can do and give and repair more and more for you. That’s life by Jesus. You like life that comes from Him, right? And He likes giving and repairing. That’s what He’s like. That’s the pattern, and you’re set up for that.

If you’ve been hearing or giving yourself to a contrary pattern, no matter where it comes from, no matter how you hear it, there will be no life in it, and there will, consequently, be no repair. It’s not for you. It’s not from Jesus. One pattern is from this world—take and damage. The other is from Jesus—give and repair. That’s Him.

Catch the pattern. It will help you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lost in Lust

What’s the problem with lust?  Why is it such a big deal?  Evidently, it’s really bad to us since we are so strongly warned about it in Galatians 5:16-17, as well as in 1 John 2: 

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

I think that the lust we are warned about is the drive to find our identity—who we actually are—completed by a person, a position, or a possession because we don’t know or have forgotten our identity given to us by God.  We are the miracle-born sons of God.  Perfect.  Made by Him.  And the love of God reminds us of that all the time so, convinced about it, we live as He intended—by faith in Jesus.

If any other identity (husband, wife, businessman, ministry leader, etc.) becomes primary, then we are in trouble because we will stop being our true selves in the attempt to become something else, something that seems to work and get us what we want.

What cripples us is that we work to get our identity, that which says we are complete and right, another way than what God has revealed, and it’s the way of the lie:  “You are not complete, you are not good unless you can get him, get her, get that job, buy that car.”  Played out, lust says that you’ll be complete if you can keep getting what identifies you well, so become whatever is required to win your identity.  That is from the world around you—it’s not from the Father, and it’s not from the Spirit who lives in you.  The ones following after lust will be daily traumatized by wondering if they’re doing everything right.  In the inner trauma, love from the Father will be strangled, and they will act like it.

And the bigger problem?  They’re no longer themselves.  In their effort to complete their identity, they’ve become a slave to the lie that they don’t already have one.  They’re lost—not to God, but to themselves.  The wonder of the new creation escapes them, even while they are part of it.  What they are attempting to get is “passing away” each day, and must be recaptured and lost, recaptured and lost, again and again. 

That’s the ugliness of lust. 

However, those of us who believe that God has given us an identity worth cherishing, an identity that means He has made us exactly as He wants us, an identity in which are all the blessings of Christ, that belief is the will of God.  And that means eternal life—God’s life given to you and me. 

Stay there.  Keep getting that identity from God, and you won’t get lost in lust.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

I have important news for you:  you are not indebted to God.  You owe Him nothing.  He likes it that way, and works to keep you convinced of it. 

The attempt to “pay Him back” for all that He has done for you is an unintended rejection of His intention with you:  to prove how perfect He is toward everyone by His undeserved and lavish generosity with you. Parading you is how He gets credit.

So when people introduce obligation between you and God—“After all God has done for you, how can you not give your all for Him?”—not only are we robbed of the fullness and joy of God’s grace, but so is He.

The apostle Paul wrote that God “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15).

God went public!  How cool is it when we do too?  In other words, He has taken away everything against you, and He wants everyone to know all about it—heavenly rulers and authorities, as well.  Jesus took away not only your debt, but also the laws you broke which would have proved it.  There is no evidence of you ever being a law-breaker, of you ever being in trouble with Him, or of you ever owing God anything.  He did that at the cross!

God’s grace never creates debt; God’s grace always pays debt.  Knowing that is the perfect motivator for you, His new creation.  Maybe you’re feeling joy and freedom right now because I’m reminding you about how awesome He is toward you.  That’s how He sort of “comes alive” in you and to you—and to others.  So let’s not introduce anything that diminishes God’s triumphant grace parade.  You’re front and center, and He’s got you parading in front of an important audience.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your Place In God’s Parade”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/xghbA7u56cw.)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

You are not indebted to God.  Why not, and why is that important?  Spend 3 minutes with me to find out what fun God is having with you.  You’ll be glad you did.


Friday, August 04, 2017

We're Under Grace

I don’t know what you’re doing with your life as it involves others, but for the rest of my days I promise to keep everyone accountable to the grace of God.  Grace is for life—the length of it and the enjoyment of it.  Romans 6:14 reads, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

I know that the word “accountable” might be an odd word to put together with “grace,” but it comes as something of a response to the legalistic “accountability police”, who seem always to be prosecuting even Christians with the word.  “You’ll be held accountable for that,” they might say.  That always makes me shudder . . . and maybe want to vomit . . . on them.  Is that wrong? 

“Grace” doesn’t mean that nothing matters; grace means that Jesus matters.  He’s got us, and He’s given us all of His righteousness and holiness.  I’m going to hold you to that, because believing it, over and over again, is how you live by grace.  Jesus was successful for you two thousand years ago, and He is successful for you and with you today.  Believing that will have an effect because grace always works.  You’ll like it, and Christ in you will be in evidence.  Others will like that, too.

But keeping yourself in the crosshairs of your own gun—“I’ll be held accountable”—or turning it upon others—“You’ll be held accountable”—is not Christian living.  It may seem to help people by temporarily altering their behavior, but it actually hurts them by pushing them toward fleshly living.  Choosing your own behavioral righteousness over the gift of His will immerse you into foreign territory, where you will be unrecognizable to yourself.  In other words, you won’t work right.  And I don’t like that at all.  That’s why I don’t like the accountability police.
   
However, if grace is grace, then it’s for them, too.  So I’m going to hold them accountable to God’s grace. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

It is far better to tell Christians that they have been changed than it is to tell them to change.  Only then can they live by faith in what Jesus did, rather than by faith in what they must do.  That distinction is crucial!  Marveling at the change that took place for them and to them is the only way of hope for the uncertainty of their days in this world. 

Get that order out of order (which we all-too-often have), and life by works is the unavoidable result.  That won’t work.  Not for anybody.  It’s not supposed to.  Life is by faith that Jesus was successful for you and with you—that’s the gospel.  It’s fantastic news!  And that’s where the power of God is.

Stay there, and works will follow.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Where Is The Power of God?” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/w-AJGGrkU-U, or simply scroll down this blog page.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

Got 1.5 minutes?  A lot of us are worn out and wondering what we’ve done wrong to become so, . . . blah.  We’ve got a power-outage.  The solution is better than you think. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

More & Less

If we are going to live by the Holy Spirit (and, it seems to me, that is the way for a new creation), then we’ll need to think of love more as a person—Jesus—and less as a behavior. Otherwise, love easily becomes a burdensome imitation, a copycat, rather than the genuine article—the real deal—alive in us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life Around Home


Remember:  you are God’s temple, His sacred home.  You are not empty, you are not trashy, you are not messed up, you are not hopeless—you are where God lives.  Thinking about how He made that happen will re-attract you to Him, and He will make sure you know what life is like around home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stop Right There

In the darkness of the middle of the night, I was wielding a baseball bat and chasing burglars through unlit hallways and across a rooftop.  It was 1986, and another pastor and I lived in a church that had been burglarized earlier in the day.  Separated from my fellow pastor, I pursued several fleeing figures that I could barely see, hoping to get close enough to . . . I don’t know what.  Turning a faintly lit corner, I came face to face with a police officer, his gun drawn and pointing at my chest.  “Stop right there!” he commanded.  I did.  “Who are you?” he demanded.  Raising my hands and baseball bat above my head, I stammered, “I’m a pastor—Ralph Harris—and I live here.  My roommate must have called you.”

I have never forgotten the feeling of grave danger and of being out of control.  My life was on the line, unless and until I answered that question adequately and the truth made the difference.  It did.

I want you to stop, at least for a moment, and answer the question, “Who are you?”  However you answer that question will reveal what you think will save you because your life is on the line.

There is an awful lot that suggests an “awful you” or a “lesser you,” one that bears little resemblance to who you are because of how you’ve been made—or re-made by God.  And if you’re reading this, chances are good that you know what I’m talking about:  the new creation you.  I’m not talking about the businessman or businesswoman you, I’m not talking about the student you, the employee you, or the father, mother, son or daughter you.  Those are all tributary identities to the primary identity—to the source identity—to the “you” you truly are.  I’m talking about the you that is clean and holy and perfect, the Spirit-born you, an actual son of God, a light in this world, in whom the Kingdom of God dwells, God having seen to it, God having seen to you, through the new birth in Christ. 

I’m talking about that you.  And I simply want to remind you today that sometimes you’ve got to stop or be stopped (as it was with me) in order to think again about who you are because it can seemingly get lost in the things we do.  And if we have been made to live by faith in Christ (that He was who He said He was and who He says He is, perfect God toward man) and that you and I are who He says we are (perfect sons and daughters), then we’re going to have to answer that question, “Who are you?”  We’ll even have to ask it of ourselves so we can proceed in our days and live from the answer.  Only then can our tributary identities receive and be influenced from the source.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to ask that sort of question of myself all the time.  As perfectly united with God as I am, having Him now inside of me, when I wake in the morning sometimes it seems as though God and I did nothing together at all yesterday, or that He doesn’t even exist, which puts me in serious trouble.   I’ve lost my identity and am subject to the lesser ones of this world.  There’s a lot of grief and twistedness there.  But He does exist, and I am well with Him; it’s just that my thinking needs a repentance—a “WAKE UP!” call.

And then I am revived.  The Holy Spirit in me sees to me, takes care of me, and together we can do all things.  So can you when you’ve had your wake up call.  Maybe this, “Stop right there!” will serve that purpose.

But just in case:  “Who are you?”
 

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Happy Audience

Sometimes it occurs to me that I’ve got a bigger audience than I think. 

Whatever is tempting me, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer myself to God, now inside of me.  You’ve got to know that the angels rejoice whenever they see me doing that, not only because they know that recovery is beginning and that I believe that Christ is inside of me (I’m living by faith), but they also know that my friendship with God is proving to be as good as they know it is.  I think they love that.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The God Who Doesn't Pay Attention

I have a question for you today:  Do you know “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention”?  Do you know that God? 

Your relationship with this god goes something like this:  you make a deal with him, you put together some kind of covenant, with really good stuff in it, like reading the bible all the way through in a year, supporting a missionary or a child in India, talking to people about Jesus and sharing your faith, giving up alcohol or chocolate for a year, etc., so that god will give you something better that you don’t have now.  You know—like a better job, a better car, a better home, a better spouse(!), or a better something.  And you follow through but God doesn’t.  You keep your end of the deal (you actually start supporting a missionary), but God doesn’t come through with his.  That’s “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” and that’s what I’m talking about.  Naturally, you struggle with this god, trying to figure out what kind of agreement or what kind of covenant you can make with him that he’ll honor and actually complete.

After all, you’re trying to work with him.

And somewhere in the course of your struggle with “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” it occurs to you that maybe God isn’t bargaining with you, that maybe he’s not playing the covenant game with you at all.  Keep that thought.

In fact, God is not making covenants with people at all.  He’s not doing it.  The truth is that God is paying attention to only one covenant now, and He made it with Jesus only—you simply get all of the benefits and blessings of their covenant.  God kept you out of the covenant equation and the pressure to keep it so He can give you everything as a gift forever.  Eternally.  For free.

Hebrews 9:15 says that, “. . . Christ is the mediator of a new covenant (He’s the one who brings us together with God and keeps us together, no matter what), that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  (Parenthesis mine.)  It’s all a gift.  Forever.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Amen? 

So the next time you think that God isn’t paying attention to your attempts at bargaining for yourself, of making an agreement for yourself, remember this:  You’re right.  He isn’t.  He’s paying attention to Jesus, and you’re far better off because of it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two Words of Encouragement

People commonly attempt to encourage by extolling our great possibilities because of our great potential and the virtues of all that we can do, which is a good thing.  But sometimes I’m better built up by remembering how very little I actually need to do.

To illustrate, consider two of my favorite words:  “Rahab lied.”  There you go.  How does that make you feel?  Off the charts with encouragement?  Over the moon? 

Well, think about it.  Rahab, the hooker, is on the short list of the Biblical Hall of Fame, found in Hebrews 11.  Maybe you know who is in the Hall of Fame:  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses (“Let my people go!”), Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel.  If you’re aware of the story of their lives, then you know that they had weaknesses, but that didn’t stop God with them at all.  He did great and miraculous things with each of them.

What was Rahab’s signature moment that boosted her into God’s Hall of Fame?  She lied!  Joshua, king of Israel, sent spies into Jericho to see how things looked just over the hill.  However, the king of Jericho found out about the Israelite spies, and sent some of his soldiers directly to the one person’s house that would know about any men who were new to the community.  Who was that?  The town prostitute.  Of course.  She’d know.

What did our little Hall of Famer do?  Having hidden the spies on her roof under the camouflage of some branches—certainly no one would think to look up there—she cooked up a story.  A fabrication.  You know—a lie!  “Um, yeah, the strangers came to my home, but I didn’t know who they were.  And they left just before dark.  I don’t know where they went, but if you hurry, you can probably catch ‘em.”

And there it is, Rahab’s Hall of Fame moment.  Woo-hoo!  Congratulations.  Well done, girl.  Gimme five!  Confetti everywhere.

Yes, Rahab believed that the true God had sent the people who were on their way to Jericho and whose spies were hunkered down on her rooftop.  That was as much as she had.  On the strength of that, did she go out and evangelize the neighborhood to prepare for their coming?  No.  Did she pass out flyers inviting them to a potluck?  No.  Did she spend time in anguished prayer?  No.  Did she get rid of everything unclean and non-Jewish in her house before the people of God came for their visit, I mean, their invasion?  No.  Did she spend time in worship, or did she reach out to the poor and needy to earn favor with God before the invasion came?  No.  Rahab lied.  Nothing else. 

Why do I tell you this?  Because much of our fretting and worrying is over how seemingly meager our service or sacrifice for God is when looking over our past—that it all fails to amount to anything significant.  We remember great motivational sermons to do great things for God that drew from us great pledges of great commitment to great adventures of service to our great God.  It felt GREAT when we did it. But the years since have not revealed greatness.

Confronted by failed greatness, maybe we’ve closed off just a bit on the inside.  Maybe we’ve sort of turned off the lights in our heart, and we’re quietly disillusioned with ourselves.  “Greatness is for someone, but not me,“ we might think.  “What have I ever done that really matters to God?”

So, to answer that question, I have one for you:  What did Rahab do to get into God’s Hall of Fame?  On the count of three, what did Rahab do?  1, 2, 3:  “Rahab lied.”  She is the brilliant epitome of mustard seed faith; the tiniest little seed of faith in God, clumsily planted, and the mountain that was Jericho began to move.  Wow.

In our day we’re so caught up with doing things right that we miss, sometimes entirely, what God holds dear and values, which would set us free from much of the fear that plagues us.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the fearfully perfectionistic, rule-enamored Galatians: 

Galatians 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit (In other words, ‘Did you get God”) by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? . . . 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law (because you do things right), or because you believe what you heard?  (Parentheses mine.)

We know the answer.  If you were to scan the great and worthy days of my life in order to figure out my lineage, my relatives, I know you’d find that Rahab types figured prominently.

God measures in ways far better than we know.  I can’t imagine that Rahab thought much of her lie that night, but God did.  You may rest today, knowing that on the day you meet Jesus face to face on the other side, you will receive a rich inheritance that is imperishable, un-spoiled and fadeless, kept for you by your Father, who is pleased with His Son, who provided it all for you.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Two Words of Encouragement”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/wjHqfbU4df0.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017