Friday, November 30, 2007

A Very Close Saboteur


There’s a saboteur living in your midst, closer than you might think. And I don’t mean the devil. Usually this saboteur is a sniper, choosing a perfect hiding place from which to shoot at you while remaining safely hidden. Snipers can have an incredible affect.

When the battle for Stalingrad was almost lost during W.W.II, a few Russian soldiers concocted a plan to get so close to the enemy that while killing them, they would go undetected. Carrying a high-powered rifle and their daily ration of half a chocolate bar, the starving and desperate soldiers set out from their last remaining stronghold and crawled through the sewer system until they were well behind enemy lines. The Germans had not prepared for such an attack, so they hardly batted an eye when men they didn’t know walked past, even joining them in their own food lines. "Must be one of ours," they thought.

Two Russian snipers, Nikolay Yakovlevich and Ilyin Vasili Zaitsev (made famous by the movie, “Enemy At The Gates”), killed 896 men, many of them high-ranking officers. There were two other effects: 1) the Germans were demoralized, and began to distrust themselves since they didn’t know from where the attacks came; 2) the success of the Russian snipers invigorated the Russian army, which not long after mounted a successful counter-offensive and won the war.

Employing the same tactic, a five-foot Finnish man, Simo Häyhä (pictured at left), crept in amongst the unsuspecting and unprepared Germans and killed on average five men per day. He is credited by the Finnish government with almost one kill per hour of the short winter day, for a total of 542.

For a while the Germans didn’t know anything about this enemy that came from amongst them. It was months before they used the same strategy, and sent snipers after the snipers. For a while now, we haven’t known anything much about the enemy that comes from amongst us either.

You must know that the enemy that hinders you is not you—but it does hunt from within. Unless you know that you are not the flesh and take precautions against the flesh, you’ll be demoralized by your losses, you won’t trust yourself, and the enemy will be invigorated.

When God dropped the new-creation-you into your vessel, for the first time you were no longer found in the flesh—you’re outta there! You are now in the Spirit because you are now spirit! For you to live now means knowing God, and staying in step with the Spirit. It’s the new normal way for every born from above Christian.

If lately you’ve been thinking that you are your own worst enemy, or as though God’s biggest trial today is you, think again—and let the truth guide your thoughts. Up from the sewers, there’s an enemy in your midst—it’s the threat, it’s the problem—you’re not. Go for a revival this weekend. Get back to knowing and enjoying Him. Do some of the things you know will invigorate that. You’ll be living by the Spirit, and that will expose and disarm the sniper.

You’re not the problem and you’re not the flesh—you’re better off than you think.

Romans 8:9-14
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Trials of Tryptophan

What happens after feasting upon turkey? The tryptophan effect!

"Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I must sleeeeeeeeeeeeep. . ."

The effect of eating turkey reminds me of the film classic, "The Wizard of Oz," and the Wicked Witch of the West. Determined to thwart the plans of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, the Witch leads them through a field of sleep-inducing poppies. Have you seen it? "Pahhhhhh-peaz. Pahhhhhhhh-peaz. To make them sleeeeep. . .sleeeeep." As she waved her crooked wand, our heroes nodded off to sleep at the most inopportune time in their journey. Sort of like what happens in this video.

Have a look. You'll like it.

video

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you're a friend of mine, a friend of LifeCourse Ministries or a regular to this site, I am thankful for you, thankful to serve with you, love with you, and want with you--that God would so reveal Himself to His bride that she would cast off restraint, and celebrate her love affair with God in the open.

Wouldn't that be something?

Maybe we'll see more of it in the coming year.

Thank you for your love and support.

Ralph

Thanksgiving #6

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving #5

THANKSGIVING-THEMED MOVIES

14. To Kill A Walking Bird

13. My Best Friend's Dressing

12. The Texas Coleslaw Massacre

11. Casserolablanca

10. The Fabulous Baster Boys

9. 12 Hungry Men

8. Silence of the Yams

7. For Love of The Game Hen

6. I Know What You Ate Last Winter

5. All the President's Menu

4. White Meat Can't Jump

3. When Harry Met Salad

2. The Story of U.S.

and the Number 1 Upcoming Thanksgiving-Themed Movie...

1. The Wing and I

(This is from Mikey's Funnies, a five-days-a-week email. Sign up here.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Weekend Buffet

Have you ever noticed someone poking a bit too much around a buffet? You know, being overly choosy with the salad toppings, coughing in the direction of the food, stacking their plate too high when they could just come back for another round, etc.?

Well, here's a video I think you'll enjoy, summing up those weirdos in one neatly packaged whack-o.

Have a look. . .and a great weekend.

Thanksgiving #1

Thought I'd start posting something humorous or twisted, or perhaps even meaningful as it relates to Thanksgiving, everyday between now and Thursday.

And why does it have to be Ralph, the Turkey?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quite The Sign


Now here’s a fascinating little article. The picture at left is of Muslims putting a cross back up where it had once been, atop a church. What a picture. And the ceremony of mostly Muslims and a few Christians reopening a church took place in Baghdad! With violence and terrorism down nearly 80% in the last few months, things really are getting much better there. What's God up to?

To read and see more, click here.

Michael Yon (who took this picture) is an independent journalist and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. He has quite the interesting take on things.

Have a look.

An Offered Obedience


I have wrestled and struggled with obedience all my life. Well, perhaps not when I was one year old, but put that aside. Besides, everyone obeyed me during that first year or two.

Obey. How does that word make you feel? Obey! Does it stir warm feelings and fuzzy memories of days gone by? Not for me.

The command to “obedience” has provided me with lots of opportunities to navigate or negotiate with it. I could obey the command on the outside, while screaming with resentment on the inside. I could obey if I thought there was an immediate benefit secured by the act—I win. Or I could obey part-way—make it look as though I were carrying out the command when really I was obeying by a percentage less than 100%.

So when as a new Christian I read how important obedience is to God—it’s a pretty big deal with Him—I got to work on it. I had help. Loads of sermons and books focused me on obedience, and my Christian friends were walking along with me, determined to live a life of obedience. What an intense phrase that is.

Here’s what I’ve found: while I am a new creation and obedience to God is perfectly in keeping with who I have become, my flesh is anything but new. In continued rebellion against God, it presses me to keep on navigating obedience. In other words, the mind of the flesh suggests I obey God only when I can predetermine a desirable outcome. Obey if it will make my life work better. Obey if I’ll feel better. Obey if it’s more fun. Obey if people will see it—and honor me. But obey if I have no idea what the result will be?

Hmm. . .Can I have another choice, please?

Here’s what I’m learning: obedience is best and most true when it is to God Himself, and not to an acceptable or good plan, or an outcome I can imagine. To be clear, I like it when I can expect or imagine a good outcome; pray, and I’ll feel better; read the Bible and I’ll gain knowledge and wisdom, etc. But offering obedience to God when I have no idea if the result will be what I like is quite the adventure. Isn’t it?

What if I don’t like the result better than what I could have had by the flesh?

So I’m talking and thinking through obedience like this: “Well, Holy Spirit, I am offering obedience. There are accomplishments and pleasures and outcomes that seem preferable and within my reach just now, but I believe obedience to you is the proper first course. And that may lead me away from those other avenues. I offer obedience—and turn from college football on Saturday in order to turn to my girls, simply to be with them because I believe you want me to. When ‘Get off the computer and go walk the dog’ bursts into my mind, I offer obedience to you in case it is you. If it is, I’m outta here. When my fleshly compunction is to fiddle with a dazzling electronic device I’ve just purchased, and I sense you leading to something else, I offer obedience to you. When my fleshly mind suggests I crack down on my kids and set some rules(!), I pause and offer myself to you, Holy Spirit—you may not be leading me to do it at all. I want to find out. I don’t know if I’ll actually like obeying you better than what could have been, but I offer obedience. I trust you for life.”

Does this make sense? There is nothing, nothing better than actually knowing God, and obedience to Him at least gives me that opportunity. I feel like a happy kid when I’m knowing and resting in Him. But while I have my highest delight in knowing Him, I may not actually like His leading away from what the flesh offered. I might, but I might not. That can’t be the issue.

God, the Holy Spirit, actually lives in me! And in you. And not only do you and I want to know Him better, our life is found in the knowing. Believing Him and knowing Him delivers us from the dead life we had before God came to live in us, before He made us new and young at heart again.

A believing and offered obedience plays a big part in that life.

(See The Message passage from Romans a couple of posts below this one.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How To Build Each Other Up

Because of God’s stunning grace to us in Christ, recognize who each of us has become in Christ—that's magnificent!—and speak to that and act like that’s true. It is true!

Like this.

What A Message!

(From The Message; Romans 8:3-17. Fantastic!)

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

12-14 So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Me & My Dad

Here's a good way to start off the week.

A Brit friend of mine recommended this short song and video last night at our home church gathering. I like it quite a lot. It's about a boy and his dad and the love they share. You'll need to put on your British accent translator (they have an accent, Americans don't, right?) in order to get the lyrics. Here's a thought--I'll post the lyrics below the video. Oh, and I think a JCB is like a bulldozer.

Have a look.



Well, I'm rumblin' in this JCB.
I'm 5 years old and my dad's a giant sitting beside me.
And the engine rattles my bum like berserk
While we're singin', 'Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work!'

My dad's probably had a bloody hard day
But he's been good fun and bubblin' and jokin' away
And the procession of cars stuck behind
are gettin' all impatient and angry, but we don't mind.

An' we're holdin up the bypass, woah
Me and my dad havin a top laugh, oh-woah

I'm sittin on the toolbox, woah
And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school, oh no

And we pull over to let cars past
And pull off again, speedin' by the summer green grass
And we're like giants up here in our big yellow digga
Like zoids, or transformers, or maybe even bigga

And I wanna transform into a Tyrannosaurus Rex!
And eat up all the bullies and the teachers and their pets
And I'll tell all my mates that my dad's B.A. Bahraccus
Only with a JCB and Bruce Lee's nunchuckas

And We're holdin up the bypass, whoa

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh, oh whoa

I'm sittin' on the toolbox, oh
And I'm so glad I'm not in school, boss
So glad I'm not in school

And we're holdin' up the bypass, oh

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh, oh whoa
I'm sittin' on the toolbox, oh

And I'm so glad I'm not in school, Boss
So glad I'm not in school

Said I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round

And we're holdin' up the bypass, whoa-oh

Me and my dad havin' a top laugh, oh-whoa
And I'm sittin' on the toolbox, oh-oh

And I'm so glad I'm not in school, Boss
So glad I'm not in school
I said
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his
Aw, I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee. Drives me round in his JCB.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Newhartian Counseling

Bob Newhart ranks in the top five of my favorite comedians. His stoic, blinking and halting style of interaction has long been a delight to watch--I crack up well before he does anything overtly funny!

Since it's the weekend (time for a bit of fun!), I offer this short video of Bob Newhart "counseling" a needy Mo Collins, a long-time cast member on MadTV. While I have never seen even one episode of MadTV, it would seem that I have missed some great humor. Drat.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You're A Piece of Work

. . .and God knows it.

Pop Quiz!

If God were to say that to you, would it come with a negative or positive inflection? Imagining Him saying it, would it build you up and provide life and faith and grace for your day, or would it bring you down, taking your faith and hope with it? Looking at you, when God says it to you, would it reflect what He thinks of you based upon what He has done for you, or would it reflect only what you've been doin' lately?

To believe what God thinks of you and to live from it, you need regular exercise by the Spirit and through the truth. If you don’t get it, you’ll read that first sentence negatively, rather than positively. And that means you'll be frustrated in life with Jesus because you'll be living by the standards of this world. It happens to me, too.

When that happens, it won’t be long before your flesh will be in evidence in most all you do, and your Christian life will become about restraining yourself from ugly and ungodly stuff, rather than about living in Christ, holy, righteous and free.

That’s no way to live.

Take a little time and ask God what He thinks of you. You'll like what you hear.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Families & Grace

I've recently re-read some chapters of a great book, "Families Where Grace Is In Place," by Jeff VanVonderen. I highly recommend it.

If you've yet to read it, ask for it at your local Christian bookstore, or you can go here to buy it online.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“If our sense of well-being and value come from the behavior of another person instead of God, we will always be giving off messages that say to others: You’d better perform right. The innate problem is that no human being is capable of performing well enough to establish another’s self-esteem—that person’s behavior will always fall short at some point. If the other person is not willing or able to change their behavior fast enough or in the ‘right way’ to meet our needs, most of us decide that their behavior is an issue we must do something about.” (Page 26)

“Most people who feel worn out in a relationship think they are tired because of the other person. ‘If he would just change,’ or ‘If she would only stop pressuring me, I wouldn’t be so tired.’ This is not true! You and I are the cause of our own tiredness, by trying to make changes in someone else that we do not have the power to make.” (Page 31)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Boat Ride

It's the weekend, and you know what that means. Here's a brief and funny article from one of my favorite humorists, Bruce Cameron. I think you'll enjoy it.


THE BOAT RIDE
By W. Bruce Cameron
www.wbrucecameron.com

I am a member of that nearly extinct generation of Americans which actually thinks it possible to enjoy a vacation without hours and hours of cable television. I believe that a lake can be fun even if you don't rent jet skis and blast around at high speed, and when I come up with a list of exciting things to do on a trip, "go to the mall" is not likely to be on it, even if they do have factory-outlet stores.

Because of my antediluvian attitude, I have forced my children to suffer through several "horrible vacations," including one just this summer in which my younger teenage daughter "almost drowned."

She didn't almost anything. I took her out in a rowboat by promising her an opportunity for one-on-one quality time with her father, during which the two of us could talk intimately about anything she wanted and then I would pay her twenty dollars.

I know it sounds as if I were bribing her to spend time with me, but in my view, she was going to get the money out of me anyway, "borrowing" it so that she could go shopping later. This loan would join all the others in a non-interest-bearing note which even Enron's accountants would have ethical trouble calling an asset.

Okay, maybe not "ethical" trouble.

At any rate, we rowed along for awhile, enjoying a silence disturbed only by the occasional gurgle when my oar dipped into the water. Then she took me up on my offer to discuss anything she had on her mind, which turned out to be this:

"Can we go back now?"

"We've only been out for five minutes; let's drift for a bit," I suggested.

"I can't believe this boat doesn't have a motor."

"I don't mind rowing. Do you want to try it? It's a lot of fun," I offered seductively.

"No."

"I brought a rod; do you want to try to catch a fish?"

"No."

"What do you want to do?"

"Go back."

"Wouldn't you rather be out here on the lake?"

"No."

It was, I reflected, one of our more pleasant conversations.

"Dad, what's with the water?" She pointed at my feet.

I frowned. A steadily growing pool of water was forming on the bottom of the boat. As a sailor of considerable experience, I immediately recognized we were in the nautical condition known as "sinking."

"The plug fell out," I noted.

"Oh no!" my daughter shrieked.

"Don't be afraid. We won't drown," I assured her.

"These are new shoes!"

"Just put on a life vest." I held one out to her.

She glanced at it disdainfully. "Could they pick a more hideous color?"

"I'll get us back to the dock." I began heaving on the oars, but the boat had gained considerable weight and responded sluggishly. Not wanting my daughter to panic, I decided to distract her with a question. "Well, we seem to be taking on about a gallon a minute.

With every gallon, our speed slows down by about one percent. Our current rate of travel is around a foot a second, and we have a hundred yards to go. How long will it take us to get to shore?"

Her eyes bulged. "The boat is sinking and you want me to do math?

"It's an interesting problem, don't you think?"

"You're making me nauseated."

"You could take that coffee can and bail."

She gingerly picked up a rusting can. "It has dirt in it."

"Right, that's where they keep the earthworms."

She dropped the can. "Ew!"

"But if you bailed a quart of water every ten seconds..."

"If a boat were sinking an inch a minute, how long would it take my dad to realize he's a complete dork?" she wondered out loud.

We didn't sink, but by the time I got us to shore a considerable amount of lake had joined us in the boat. Our pants were soaked, and my daughter couldn't wait to tell her siblings that in the midst of drowning, I insisted on torturing her with algebra.

Also, her shoes were "ruined," so the twenty dollars I gave her would go toward a replacement pair.

She borrowed the rest.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Secret Life of Cats

Okay, I admit it--I'm not much of a cat lover. Over the years I have occasionally run over, I mean come across a cat I liked. But thinking about it, the reason I liked the cat was because it acted somewhat like a dog. It was genuinely playful, liked to hang out with me, and had a personality that wasn't turned on when it wanted food, and turned off at all other times.

Know what I mean?

Well, I have a couple of great friends who have a bunch of cats. They were her gift to the marriage, but he had to fight them off in order to sit next to her, eat dinner alone, watch a show, and just about anything and everything married people like to do. He knew that, win or lose, it was a turf war.

He won.

But now his wife is spending some time in the northwest, leaving him all alone with the cat gang. This short cartoon is something of what's happening every morning while she's away. You'll like it. . .unless you like cats, in which case you'll think it's an unfair characterization, and then you'll start yeowling. . .like a cat.

video