Friday, September 28, 2007

Lovin' Georgia

Sorry for the paucity of posts, but I'm on the busy-as-can-be speaking
trail in Georgia.

What wonderful people. True, they sound funny. But I'm correcting their English and grammar as I go. Actually, no I'm not. I love to hear them, and they come up with some beauties that make me marvel. Just every day speech to them, but I marvel.

"Whaaaaaaaayle, dang if ah know, Raa-elph. Ah luv whatcher sayin' n-all, buh-could-jew sayyit agiyin? You know--differnt?"

I've spoken a bunch of times thus far, will speak several more times to small groups, home churches and big churches, so would you pray for me and my family? Separation anxiety is no fun...and this isn't all fun and games--it's far more serious than that.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Puttin’ On The Dog

It's the weekend, and I'm heading south to Georgia for a week of speaking and fun. Every time I get south, I pick up some fabulous phraseology and come back to Colorado with a doozie of an accent--I really look forward to it!

Here's a video of Aaron Wilburn with a passle full of good southern people all around. You'll enjoy it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Love Must Be Genuine

Well, it's the weekend--or close enough.

This clip brilliantly(!) underscores the fact that one must marry by faith and for love--by faith that God is directing and will celebrate His achievement with you on the day two tie the knot and become one, and for love--you gotta be bonkers for your spouse...Right?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Redemption's Poster Boy

Growing up I learned that there were very desirable groups and clubs to which I could belong; Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Kiwanis, and baseball teams. Join those and fun was on the way. Good to go.

In college (Go USC!) I took the necessary steps to join another kind of group with benefits galore—a fraternity. Say what you will about “frats,” but I liked the idea and wanted in. Near the end of our probationary period, those already “in” began to make those of us not yet feel like we would never make it. In fact, after putting us through incredibly rigorous tests, they kicked us all out in a single night, one by one. Many of us felt like we deserved it, having failed the tests, but others were incensed at the seeming injustice.

Anyway, with great fanfare, they then welcomed virtually all us into the fraternity, telling us that the whole rejection had been an elaborate ruse. We had been redeemed, and were now bona fide members, all rights and privileges given. Hooray.

That was probably my first biggish lesson in redemption—I needed to be rescued, and I was. But that first exercise was nothing compared to the one I was to receive from God. That first lesson attempted to get me to believe I deserved rejection when, in fact, I didn’t—just kidding. You’re not bad enough for us to kick you out! Welcome! I was still the same, only now I belonged.

That’s nothing like biblical redemption. To the Ephesians, Paul writes, “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.” (Ephesians 1:7,8; italics mine.)

To put it another way, in keeping with God’s staggering grace, He knowingly lavished upon us the grace of redemption. Of course! That’s how He is. We really were in bad, rejection-worthy shape. But God, Mr. Grace Himself, determined to show Himself through redemption.

Redemption means not only to be brought out of a terrible condition and fate, but also to be brought into an incredible condition and future. It’s similar to the word, “Justification.” This often used Biblical word means that not only has God made you so that you have never sinned (having put all of your failures upon Jesus, and treating Him as though He were guilty of them all), but God has made you as though you have always done everything perfectly (having given you the perfect righteousness of Jesus as your own).

It’s staggering.

Redemption means that never again will I be a sin-natured flesh bag on my way to hell, sins paving the way. Never again. Jesus has made me (and you) a son, a Spirit-born, Spirit-filled son of God on my way to heaven. No matter how it looks, no matter how I look, Jesus redeemed me because He took me into Himself. And in Him, I have redemption, the absolute and eternal forgiveness of sins. And I don’t minimize how great and terrible my condition and sins were—no! In fact, His lavished grace is all the more glorious in light of my previous terrible condition.

Look, I don’t particularly want to be the poster boy for Romans 5:20—“…where sin increased, grace increased all the more;”—but, frankly, I already am! I know pretty much what I was before redemption, a pagan-natured flesh bag on the road to hell, and I rejoice over what I have been made!

Forever and always have I been redeemed. Hebrews 9:12 says that Jesus obtained eternal redemption. To believe that is not only pleasing to God (“Hey! Ralph’s getting it—he believes!”), it’s a great exercise in my daily life.

Just call me Redemption’s Poster Boy.

A Great 5.5

If you've got five and a half minutes, you couldn't do any better than to watch the video below. Watch it to the end--you'll like it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where You At? Pt. 2

Many years ago my mother pulled a trick upon my brothers and me. While telling us that she would have homemade chocolate chip cookies waiting when we returned from school, she neglected to tell us that they wouldn’t be the usual deal.

Now, it’s a verified fact that my mother makes the best chocolate chip cookies in America. You in the rest of the world have yet to confirm that fact, but just because you haven’t had one doesn’t change a thing. We’re dealing with facts here. My mother doesn’t overload her delicacies with too much chocolate either, making you wonder if you’re eating a chocolate bar rather than a cookie. Hers are balanced just right, and have nuts in them. Why some people insist upon having nut-less chocolate chip cookies is beyond me. It’s wrong.

Anyway, in my rush to cram the delicacy into my mouth (and beat my brothers to it), I failed to recognize a foreign scent in the kitchen. “Ooh! These are goooood!” I mumbled. Pointing to the cookie in my mouth, I asked, “But what’s that other thing in there? What is that?” With a smirk on her face, she said, “Do you like the cookies?” “Yes!” we replied. “Well,” she said, “that’s orange rind. I shaved several oranges into the mix. How do you like it?” Shocked, we said, “Orange rind?! What?! You put that in these?!” But we had to admit the cookies were better than ever. It seemed like no matter what she put in there, it was all perfect.

Guess what I often think of when I have an orange in my hand? That’s right. Orange rind belongs in chocolate chip cookies—that’s where it’s perfect. Anywhere else, orange rind is just decoration. But in the right place it’s brilliant.

In my previous LifeNote, I wrote about where each orange-rindish Christian is located right now—in Christ. Apart from Him, there isn’t much to brag about. Yet, as Ephesians so often reads, in Him we’re incredibly fortunate—we’re prefect. I want to encourage you to accept God’s view of you and “where you’re at.” Satan, the world, and the flesh all work in harmony to see that you don’t. What happens when they’re successful is disastrous.

We’re most at risk when we see ourselves outside of Him, detached from Him and living on our own. It’s during those times when I’ve been listening to the wrong source of my identity that I begin to worry about “my walk”, worry about “my righteousness”, worry about “my holiness,” and begin fearing for “my life.” Practically speaking, I think of life as “Jesus over there,” and “me over here.” And I’m not enough—I’m orange rind! “What have I done that’s worth anything?” I might think, or, “I have made so many bad decisions—what hope do I have now?” Or perhaps, “I’m such an undeserving idiot! Why would God do anything for me?!”

See what’s happening? A foreign voice is attempting to seduce me away from the truth to a lie.

If successful, my hope is no longer with Jesus, having been secured by Him, in Him, but with me—apart from Him. Not only is that woefully insufficient, it’s a lie! And there’s no way I’ll be able to live well, since I’m all fouled up. When I’m deceived from the truth (“I’m in Christ, and in Him I have everything!”) by a lie (“Well, you’re such a mess that you’re on your own—Good luck, orange breath!”), I can’t help but be miserable. And I almost always act the same.

Why are you forever secure with God? Because Jesus secured you by bringing you into Himself. Why are you holy and blameless with God? Because Jesus brought you into Himself, making you that way. Nothing in Him could be anything but perfect. Why is every promise God has ever made “Yes” to you? Because, taking you into Himself, He has hidden your life in His, making what He deserves yours. Not only have you been changed from what you were before you were saved, you’ve been put somewhere different—into Christ. You’ve been utterly redeemed from your previous condition, as well as your previous location—on your own.

That’s how God sees it, and that’s how it is. Maybe it’s time to look again at where you’re at.

“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.” (Eph 1:7,8)

(To help you remember “Where you at?” today, and because I like these ads, here’s another good one.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

I love this stuff.

(The following is from a technology site that occasionally posts humorous this one. Yep--it's the weekend. Sarah and me in 30 years?)

"We know that Nintendo's Wii has been a massive hit with families, but we've also noticed a growing trend with the physically-interactive game system that is honestly a bit of a surprise -- apparently, senior citizens can't put their Wiimotes down. Similar to stories we've seen before, the UK's gossip rag The Sun is reporting that seniors at the Sunrise Home in Birmingham, UK, have taken to the console like super-old fish to water. The pensioners at the institution have been engaging in knock-down, drag-out contests in Wii Sports -- playing tennis, boxing, and bowling with a cut-throat competitiveness not seen since the Dark Ages. Barrie Edgar, 88, one of the home's residents said, 'It's great fun. We've only had it a few days but we can't put it down.' Mr. Edgar then glanced at Tilda Montgomery, another Sunrise Home occupant and exclaimed, 'Prepare to be pawned, you old bird.'"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A 9/11 Picture of Grace

Here's a terrific article about God's grace in the midst of shocking tragedy--the kind of thing we all go through. David Rahn really nails it.

It's well worth a read--don't miss it. And it's short.

Click here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

One of My Favorites

I confess that when I was growing up, one of my favorite television shows was "Get Smart," starring Don Adams. Each episode was framed by the struggle between the evil agents of Chaos and the good agents of Control.

In addition to the funny situations Agents 86 (Adams) and 99 (Barbara Feldon) would get into and out of during the show, there were certain "evil" characters I just loved. Siegfried, played by Bernie Kopell, was my favorite.

Some of the best shows included Siegfried and his assistant, Stocker, and those two would banter back and forth in their terrific and overdone German accents. Finally, Siegfried would re-focus upon his enemy, Maxwell Smart, and say something like, "Schmart! Vee at Chaos vill defeat sza plans of Control! You vill nevah vin, Schmart!

Here is a sampling of Siegfried.

Hey, it's the weekend.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

True About You

For how long will we be the holy, perfect, flawless, and beyond-accusation sons of God? For always! The Bible uses all kinds of marvelous words and phrases which describe us as we have already become in Christ, forever establishing how great His gift is to us. It is perhaps the most humbling point of faith to believe what He believes is true about you, and the wonder of it makes you addicted to the One holding the opinion. What a concept.

Yet most days scarcely any of us gets much of a thrill from the fact. Hang out with a few Christian types and drop the biblical truth that they actually are a select bunch of people, a collection of royal, God-birthed ministers, a spotless and holy group belonging to Him (see 1 Peter 2:9-12) and they’ll argue with you! I wonder why that might be. We, the bride of Christ, are certainly not dumb. We’ve been deceived.

Try this: At church next Sunday set up a table and hang out a sign, “Perfect Christian Survey.” Pull up a chair, whip out a notepad, and (if your church is big enough) ask a hundred people if they believe they have become perfect with God who loves them madly. Give me your best estimate of the actual percentage responding, “Why yes, I do!”

During more than twenty years of pastoring, I have posed that question in various ways to perhaps thousands of Christians, many of whom did not know I was a pastor (and thus a member of the get-the-right-answer-or-be-shamed Gestapo). My findings? Fewer than five percent.

Think Satan has been successful? I do too. But the lights are coming on and the curtain is drawing back, because the Spirit is not willing that we should live without the knowledge of how well-off we have become with God. He is happily revealing to us the majesty of God’s grace to us in Christ. Finding out all about it is in no way a trivial pursuit—it’s what He wants for you.

(Excerpted from my book, Better Off Than You Think—God’s Astounding Opinion of You; chapter 2, “The Pursuit of Trivial Nobility.”)