Thursday, August 23, 2007

On the road...

I will be on the road for the remainder of this week, but will post as often as I can.

Remember His incredible grace and love to you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Is Everything

It doesn't get much better than this:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Ephesians 1:2-10)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Together In Torture

(I wrote and sent this over the weekend to a friend of mine. I take the liberty of including it here because I think it relevant to virtually every Christian older than, oh, say, ten years. We are no longer of nor from this world, having been made alien to it through the new birth in Christ. We are now spirit-born sons and daughters of God, belonging to and seated in the heavens in Christ Jesus. That means our interaction with God is now most normal to us. However, that also means our interaction with this world is, at best, terribly difficult. The odds are good that you know all about this. But maybe you forget that your struggles and failures and longings are not simply bad things, but great evidence of your new birth and one-day home-going, there to fit in where you belong. I hope you benefit from my note to a friend.)

Thinking about you this morning.

I imagine that you’ve had a week or so of total immersion in the things and systems and doings of this world. There is absolutely no way that wouldn’t wear you out. I know that when I am in a “total immersion” time, nothing particularly pleases me, nothing gives me much hope, and nothing really encourages me deep down. It’s like I’m attached to what’s mistreating me. Now, that’s fun.

So, I wanted to remind you that the One who loves you perfectly and without finding fault knows exactly what you’re going through, and has endless compassion for you. He knows that this world can never come close to accurately reflecting or honoring who you are, and that it is nothing less than a torture chamber for you and all His sons.

I think that while He grieves with you over the torture and endless needling and lying about who you are, still He is delighted with you, even thrilled with how you valiantly press on. He knows that you endure seemingly endless battles between the flesh and Spirit, and that you grieve in failure, longing for endless Spirit-filled life.

And that’s His promise—one day what you so deeply want will be yours. While you have a deposit today, in that day you will have Him to the full.

Until then, I’ll be your friend in the torture chamber—I will endure with you. And I’ll work to remember who you are and why the struggles you have are in keeping with a far greater glory, the glory of God in and through us.

You are His idea—and He’s happy about it.

Your friend,


“…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor 4:14-17)

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Pause...

I will be out of town for a few of days, but will post back over the weekend or on Monday.

Until then, remember God's stunning grace to you!


Double until then--enjoy the short video below. There's so much one can do with that global necessity, the outhouse.


File this under, “Things I forget about God.”

“…to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Too often I find myself fighting with myself—I should be less engrossed in the things of this world, more involved with my girls, pray more with my wife, be nicer, more loving, less critical, and so on. Do you have one of those lists too? I went to bed with mine last night.

Early this morning I heard the Spirit say, “Stop wrestling with yourself, and live by faith.”


God is not focused on how I’m struggling with the me that needs to be struggled with—He’s looking at the me that lives by faith in Him. He knows that’s how I live, and live best. Does that make sense? I don't think I'm saying it very well. I love knowing God in me—what a laugh! What a place to build a house, God! And I love knowing that He has given me perfect righteousness and holiness, and made me blameless with Him, having seated me in heavenly places already. Me! God’s mobile home in Colorado.

Whenever the majesty of those truths is impressing me, He drives out the Ralph who needs a good wrestling by bringing forth the Ralph for whom wrestling is at an end. Peace, joy and rest are then obvious in me, and all I want to do is praise God…and run through the day enjoying Him in front of others. Whatever comes of that run through the day, is how the day goes. I am so pleased with God that what usually comes from me is a delight to Him.

And that’s how it goes. God has vested His own renown, what people think of Him, by giving us everything with Him. When we find our delight in Him, in how crazy-good He is, we confirm His magnificence, we prove His grace to us is as good as He says it is.

He is amazing! I delight in discovering how amazing He is with me and with you, and that always works out in me praising “…his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One He loves.”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Love At The Start

“…In love (5) He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (Ephesians 1:5)

Knowing what you must about the shortness of this life and the length of the one to come, which would you prefer:

• you live a life worthy enough to get there;

• God lives a life worthy enough to get you there.

It amazes me and stretches my mind that God destined me to live under the terms of the second covenant and not the first. He could have purposed and planted me in Jeremiah’s day, when most of God’s people only flirted with Him…and discovered too late the results of their pretended relationship. Or, he could have brought me onto the stage during the happy days of the Judges, when the disobedient Israelites went in and out of captivity at the hands of filthy pagans nine times.

Hmm. It’s been several months now since we’ve been conquered and made prisoners for pagans. Any enemy nearby who might be sizing us up? Might as well get ready to be over-run…

Or, God could have ushered me forth not just in the days of Jonah, but as Jonah. “Honey? Are you home? Jonah, did you forget to take out the trash? What’s that fishy smell—it’s overpowering!”

But, no. Before making the planet God had already dreamed me up, chosen me and determined I would be His. And not just His as in belonging to Him, but His as in the sense of a much-loved son, with everything in keeping with the royalty of my Father. He wiped out my natural birth—made it as having never even happened—gave me a second birth, and thinks of me and treats me as if I was always one of His. In a sense, I always was.

And He liked dreaming and choosing and determining me! It gave Him pleasure. It wasn’t just God’s will, as in moving the pieces of a puzzle toward a satisfying fit, it pleased Him to do it. Isn’t it great to think that you give Him pleasure? I can see a smile on His face as, on the day of my new birth, He says, “Ralph, you’ve always been mine, and now you’ll know. This is so fun!”

That’s the glory of the New Covenant. He didn’t make the binding agreement with me, determining our fellowship or relationship on the basis of my performance. He made it with Jesus, and gave me all of the benefits due Him. Now that’s a benefits package.

Next time you wonder if God loves you, or if His love ever wavers with you, remember how determined He was at the first.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)

What a planner God is.

While it boggles my mind that God planned everything before there was anything, that He wrote the entire play before the orchestra sounded a single note, and that He is, day after day, bringing onto the earthly stage all the events for which He planned and purposed, God is not the least bit boggled. He is pleased because He planned it and sees it all.

And He didn’t just plan for me—He planned me. Brown hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, born to John and MaryJane in Southern California in 1956, an identical twin brother right alongside.

And, as far as I’m concerned, what was the crowning moment during that planning stage of eternity? God chose me. Just as He chose Abraham and Moses, Noah and David, Rahab and Ruth, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Hosea, Matthew and Mark, God chose me. He chose me to one day believe the incredible gospel of His grace to me through Christ Jesus. And when I did, I received Jesus, the mystery hidden through the ages, but now revealed—Christ in me, the hope of glory. As God designed it and right on time, I was brought into Him and I have now received the glory of that perfect design: His righteousness, His holiness, and God Himself, the assurance of His redemption. (1 Cor 1:30) God planned to share His glory with me.

Sitting on a couch in Culver City, California, on an early April evening in 1980, God’s plan moved a little bit more down the road of eternity. God had chosen me, so the moment’s-before-pagan Ralph became holy and blameless, son of God, Ralph.

Much better, thank you very much. Right?

In our day it’s amazing what has happened to that little word—choice. We give each other full rights to make our own choices, yet give God no such grace. While we educate and fairly harangue ourselves about good choices we must make with our free will, we believe that God’s will is subject to our will. Imagine it. If we fail to make right choices, God can do nothing about it. In the end, that must mean that God fails—but that’s not possible.

There are many smart and loving people who believe that we can somehow become vacant temples of God, losing our salvation. Though we were co-crucified with Jesus, co-raised with Him, co-seated with Him in the heavens, and have become co-laborers with Him, we can somehow undo all those “co” things, even though we didn’t do anything to make them happen in the first place. Our nasty free will, insistent on a prodigal path, can reverse and make null the whole thing done for us by God before the creation of the world. Wow. Retroactive.

That makes God’s choice for us something akin to a nursery rhyme. “And God said, ‘Eeny, meeny, miney, mow, catch a human by the toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eeny, meeny, miney, mow.’ Yeah, that’s my plan, that’s my will.”


I don’t mean to make anybody mad—that’s not my purpose at all. I do hope to make you think about it—God’s choice of you—all the way through. Your security does not rest with you and the whimsy of your supposedly fickle will. Your security lies with Him because He chose you long ago. That frees you unto the best thing in life—not a life only of making good choices, but a real life of knowing God, who is really remarkably good at making choices for you.

Fortunately for you and me, He makes the choice; most of them long ago. He saw every turn of the planet before even one revolution, and chose. Why did He choose us? I don’t know. But you don’t have to merit His choice nor secure it nor maintain it. He chose. And that never ends, never goes south. God’s love for me, God’s love for you is not ever fickle; it never changes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

God's "Want To"

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
(Ephesians 1:3)

Think what that must have meant to Paul, let alone to you and me. Everything he had long been working and sweating and fretting about concerning his life with God, Paul had been given! Everything! All of it! Not a moment of work left, not a second of fear over whether or not God was pleased with him enough--God's blessing had been dumped on Paul for an entirely unrelated reason.

God wanted to. So He did.

The love of God compelled God, and it still does. I'm so glad! Oh, I've heard the love of God described as a love that decides for the benefit of another, and I know we're all supposed to love like that. I wonder how many times I have heard someone say, "Love is a decision!" And the implication is always, "So get busy making decisions!" The goal seems to be about improving our relationships, and that's not something we should downplay. After all, it's just logical. . .and calculated.

But is that really what motivated God? Is that why God ". . .blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"? I know that somewhere "way back when," He decided to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, bringing us with Him. But was it calculated only?

No way! That's not the love I know from God. He wants to! And it's the want that motivates the decision. His love is ever flowing to me, ever convincing me, ever rescuing me from doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief. . .and convincing me that He is as good as He says He is.

I'll tell you, that's one of the highest goals of my faith--to believe God about Himself. To live believing that God is who He says He is, that He does what He says He does out of love, and that He did what He says He did--blessed ME in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

That's tremendous.

Really, Father? You really did? You're not kidding? I don't have to earn anything anymore--I have it already in Christ?

"Yes. It's true, son."

And so, amen. Or, as my dad might say, "Yee-gads!"

"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." (2 Cor 1:20)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Before You Go Anywhere

(Today begins with Paul's letter to the Christians at Ephesus—Ephesians 1.)

Before we go any further, before we get into anything else, you’ve got to know this – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Thank God. That’s indispensable for my day, the one just before me, the race I’m about to run. It is for you, too.

Every letter to the church that the Spirit inspired Paul to write essentially begins with this same sentence. To all those at Rome and Corinth, Galatia and Ephesus, to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonicans, and to his dear sons in Christ, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Paul offers the same truth—you’ve got everything! No more worries with God.

I have a lot to do today. I’ve got to promote and market my book; sign, package and mail those just ordered; write a blog and send an articulate email to hundreds; make calls on a cell phone that doesn’t work very well (“What, Ralph? I can’t understand you—you’re breaking up…”), replace a light fixture, walk the dog, tend the tomatoes, reorganize my office, work out, and be good to my visiting mother-in-law.

Sheesh! It’s all about me. Better get going.

Wait a minute. What would God say to me, first thing? “Grace and peace to you, Ralph, from God your Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

You really think so, God? Because of Jesus, I’ve got everything with you for nothing? Righteousness? Holiness? Love? Hope? Future? And you live in me? All of that? “Yes.” And because Jesus took upon Himself all of my sins, as though He committed them, I have not a worry with you? “Yes.”

Wow. Hooray.

“Ready now, Ralph?” Yes, Father.


Ephesus (now Turkey) was one of the most important cities of its day. It was like New York or Hong Kong…maybe on steroids. Everybody was busy, everybody was working at a frenetic pace because, well, you just had to. If you didn’t work hard and fast, somebody else would get the deal, close the sale, move the merchandise.

Paul founded the church at Ephesus and spent some three years there, so he knew what the city was like…and he loved those people. But Paul, father figure that he was, doesn’t first tell them how to live. He tells them how well off they are with God. Why? Paul knew that a revived heart and an energized spirit comes from the truth and is by faith. So, instead of giving them a motivational speech—“Get going for the glory of God!”—he gave them revival by telling them of the glory of God in them.

“Head’s up, Ephesians! In case you’ve forgotten, you’re really well off with God!”

Can you imagine what that might have meant to the Ephesians? In all their work, in all their trials, through their failures, weaknesses and frustrations, comes God’s word to them: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I so often need to hear that! You too?

You and I were made to have that as our starting point.

Ready now?


Monday, August 06, 2007

Where Have You Been?

“It’s well past time! Where have you been?!”

It’s the first Monday of August and I’m finally back at my desk.

In addition to I’m-back-in-the-saddle-again regular posts to this forum, I am today announcing two new features:

• A once-a-week, book giveaway. Whoever asks the most interesting question or makes the most thought provoking comment wins an autographed copy of my book, Better Off Than You Think (God’s Astounding Opinion Of You). I will post the winning question/comment to this blog each week, and respond to it as well. (Your comments to this blog are, of course, welcome.) What is the winning criteria? That I like it best! Yes, it’s completely subjective, but, come on—it’s a $20 value. And if you already have my book, give it away to someone you know will love it. They’ll think you’re wonderful. (You may email me at the address to the right; make sure I can contact you!)

• I am beginning a sort of casual, dear-diary, book study. In other words, after reading a certain biblical passage I will reflect upon it. I won’t be picking up my Greek helps, no commentaries or exhaustive digging—just here’s-what-I-think reflections. I will begin tomorrow with Ephesians, and I welcome your comments.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Well, I've pretty much taken a month off from blogging and writing in general. I'll be back at it in a day or two.

Until then, here's a funny video. I think you'll enjoy it.