Wednesday, April 30, 2008

God About God

I am thankful for praying friends.

My daughter is a bit better today, which means my wife and youngest daughter are, too.

I had a fair night wrestling with it all. Sometime in the middle of the night, the Spirit convinced me that He might be with my girls, that He might be capable with them, and that I might want to trust Him. It is so good to be convinced by God about God!

It is raining today, the second day in a row. We are supposed to take a cruise this afternoon, but I think I'll hang back and prepare to teach tonight.

"Salieri's Game." (If you would like to get an idea concerning what that topic is about, click on the following links, or go to lifecourse.org and click on Downloads. You'll see that title amongst the audio titles found there. Have a listen.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hmm. . .

I'm sitting next to a window in Crikvenica, Croatia, so I can get a nearby wifi signal from a gracious Croat with an unsecured signal. I can barely get it, but barely is better than not at all.

I have just gotten my email for the first time since leaving Colorado, only to discover that one of my daughters is very sick. Would you pray for my family?

I am in your debt.

-Ralph

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Would You?

I'm very excited to be heading to Crikvenica, Croatia, tomorrow. I will be speaking at an international conference, Hope For Croatia, for a week.

I will be teaching these leaders about God's grace to us in Christ, and how to live from His opinion of us. It will be exciting and challenging! Would you pray for me and my family, as well as for the people there? I really need you.

I will be posting from there, so check back now and then.

Thank you!

Am I Sick?!


(It's the weekend, so watch out! It's time for a little bit of fun. And that usually means that some will not agree with what I think fun is. But that's no big deal. What we do around here from Monday through Friday is what really matters. Right?)

I like this idea. Does that make me sick or evil? Maybe both?

A soft toy designer has come up with a macabre new range of road kill teddies.

The first to be launched is Twitch the Raccoon which comes complete with its own body bag to keep the maggots out, reports Metro.

Twitch also has an identity tag revealing it was "run over over by a milk float last Thursday, near the Hangar Lane Giratory system in London".

A zip on each side of the toy allows the owner to remove Twitch's innards and stuff them back in again. A tyre print runs across its back.

Creators, Compost Communications, style themselves 'toy terrorists' and according to their website: "We squash and burn and bludgeon and maim. But we're also toy fanatics like you. We love toys."

Toy creator Adam Arber, 33, from London, said: "I got the idea from looking at my mother-in-law's dog which is quite ugly and I thought it would make a great toy. A friend of mine had taken some pictures of road kill and the two things gelled into one idea."

He said he thought the toys, which cost £25, would appeal to people with a sense of humour and "probably not anyone easily upset".

Coming soon are other characters including Grind the rabbit, Splodge the hedgehog and Pop the weasel.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Goodness


Politics aside--please--the sanitizing spin now going on for Rev. Jeremiah Wright turns the stomach. When a preacher harms people by what he teaches, when a pastor induces his flock to sow to the flesh and to anger against man, as if the kingdom was about flesh and blood instead of spirit, he ought to be criticized for it, and not built up and applauded.

I saw an interview of Rev. Wright by Bill Moyers, and frankly, it turned my stomach.

I then watched an entire sermon by Rev. Wright--no spin or out of context possible--and it sickened me. In short, Wright's view of where the Kingdom of God is and how to advance it, departs from where God says it is--within the born again man or woman--and that life is by the Spirit, not by flesh.

If, by chance, you'd like to see and hear an entire sermon by Wright (and it's a doozy), click here. No one will be able to convince you that the man is speaking from Jesus. There's no way. And it grieves me to watch his congregation rise and give him an "Amen!"

Just FYI.

(For more on this, see my previous blog, "Why Wright Is Wrong," here.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oprah's New Religion

Okay, I feel ignorant. No, it’s more than that—I am ignorant.

I had no idea what Oprah is into and propagating. Do you know about this? I believe you will need to, and that’s why I am posting this eight minute video. There’s a brief sales pitch for a relevant book at the end of it, and because I know nothing about the book referenced, this is my caveat. But what this and lots of other videos found on You Tube show is that Oprah is way-into some terribly wrong and very dangerous stuff.

Not only has she pushed this weirdo’s book (Eckhart Tolle) on her book club, she’s hosting a television and radio show for him, and more. Oprah is seeking to make converts to a new religion—there’s no mistaking it. The religion of Self-Realization.

Check out the video.



In my estimation, self-realization is the goal for many of us today. And why wouldn’t it be? Most everything points us toward this elusive goal, from doing random acts of kindness so you’ll feel better, to helping a neighbor so you’ll have good karma, all the way to recycling your coffee grounds so you can help save the earth. What’s first offered is an assumed “good,” or a moral standard to shoot for. Do this, buy that, help in this way, and you will be a good person. You will realize who you are, and then be happy and healthy all of your days.

The trouble begins with the lie that it can all be done without God! And any attempt at self-realization without Him is not only pointless, it’s impossible. Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, and Jesus is the life. He didn’t say that He would simply tell you the way, or tell you the truth or tell you about life—He said that He is those things. He will never be disconnected from them, so that anyone might go off on their own, separate from Him because they have realized who they are and can now live apart from Him. Happy and healthy is living in Christ, not apart from Him! Finding out who you are is something Jesus intends you should find with Him, and there is no after that. It’s always with Him that we are found and life is had. If you’ve been wondering who you are and how you work, connect with Him!

Look, I think religion has largely gone astray when it offers adherents a form or a method or a pattern to live by, a way to live well. When that becomes the goal—to live well—then the trap is set to keep people from God by offering something else, something less. If a certain method, even a Christian looking method, can be introduced that holds out the promise of a better life, then one of two things will happen: either the believer will work the method successfully and live without knowing and enjoying God, or the believer will fail in the method and think Christianity “doesn’t work,” or is not for him—better look for another method.

What was the goal? Life by method. But that’s not life. Life is with Him—it’s found nowhere else.

In the introduction to my book I wrote, “The single purpose of this book is that you find Jesus and life in Christ—Christianity—deeply satisfying, beyond anything you’ve ever known.” And in chapter one: “If God and you disagree about who and what you are, your approach to Him and your approach to all of life will be a tangled mess. It cannot be otherwise. This isn’t a book on self-esteem with the goal that, after reading it, you’ll feel better about yourself. That’s not nearly enough. It is a book about accurate self-estimation based entirely upon what God thinks of you, and without question, you’ll feel better about yourself at the end. For the Christian, self-esteem isn’t something you work up and get so you can live well, it’s something you receive from God because you are well—now go and live! He loves it and is glorified when we believe Him about ourselves and live accordingly. That’s the goal.”

You can do a random act of kindness, help your neighbor and recycle your coffee grounds, but do it with God! It’s Him that you want! When you realize that healthy and happy are with Him, guess what you’ll do? You’ll live to know Him as your priority, and His glory will be evident in and through you.

But that’s missing from Oprah’s religion. I have prayed that she’ll soon notice.

Q & A


Yesterday's post, The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day, drew several comments, including this:

"Are we at liberty to judge ourselves?"

A good question, one which I will defer to the apostle Paul, who wrote:

"So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Cor 4:1-5, italics mine.)

All judgment has been entrusted to the Son--John 5:22--yet the Son judges only as He hears--John 5:30. While eternal judging belongs with God and not with man, there is another way or need of judging that Jesus spoke of that relies upon God for daily decisions and estimations. As I wrote in the post below, that judgment is the judgment that discerns or weighs a thing. I believe that by knowing the scriptures and by waiting upon the Holy Spirit, we can (in fact, we must) judge things as right and wrong with God.

Clearly, engaging in prostitution or drunkenness or sexual sin or covetousness and the like is wrong because God says it is. So, when someone asks me my opinion on those things, I choose His opinion and make a judgment--"It's wrong." If that someone says, "But, you're not supposed to judge me, man!" then I might say, "Since you identify yourself as a Christian--you're inside the church--I am supposed to judge what you're doing."

Another way of judging, a way that Jesus showed us, is the way led by the Spirit. For example, a friend recommended an R rated movie, Hot Fuzz. Before renting it, I sowed to the Spirit ("Holy Spirit, what's your opinion, what's your judgment about my seeing this?"), and was confident that I could go ahead and rent it. So I did. I made a judgment. Years ago, on the other hand, I sensed the leading or judgment of the Spirit when I wanted to go to a James Bond movie; "Don't do it. In fact, don't do it anymore." I discovered there was a type of film that glorified a lifestyle I, at one time, wanted--a carousing, womanizing, swash-buckling, devil-may-care lifestyle. It harmed me to watch those types of films, so, I made a judgment out of His judgment to no longer watch those films.

I have entrusted my judgment to God. He has already judged me for eternity upon the cross and through the resurrection with Jesus. Romans 6 and Galatians 2 say that my former self was crucified with Him, and that a new self, a new me was raised with Him, a holy and blameless son.

He already has judged me for eternity. As Ryan Seacrest says on American Idol, "Ralph, you are safe." If I need to know what He thinks of something I'm considering or thinking about, I rely upon His judgment and ask Him for His leading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day


This is ridiculous.

Here’s the title of an article I read this morning: “Hospice Helps Dying Man Lose His Virginity.”

The staff at a church-run facility helped a young man with muscular dystrophy commit fornication with a prostitute—they set it up for him. The founder of the hospice, Sister Frances, said, “I know that some people will say ‘You are a Christian foundation. What are you thinking about?’ But we are here for all faiths and none,” she said. Further, “It is not our job to make moral decisions for our guests. We came to the conclusion that it was our duty of care to support Nick emotionally and to help ensure his physical safety.”

Perhaps that means they gave him a condom.

Similarly, when discussing the ugly behavior of someone in the public eye, a guest on The Bill O’Reilly Show said essentially, “Well, she isn’t doing at all what she says she believes. Her morals don’t match what she says is her Christian faith…” And before she could finish, the host strongly cut her off by saying, “I’m going to stop you right there! That’s not our job—to judge someone else is not ours to do! That’s for the Deity! When you sit there and judge, you’re getting awfully close to Deity! That’s between her and God, and I won’t let you do that on this show!”

Here’s a man who says his show is a “No Spin Zone,” and who claims he is all about holding people’s feet to the fire, and he pops off with that?!

I think we don’t know what the New Testament says about judgment, so we’re throwing it all out the window, even making it a higher level of spirituality if we tell others to throw it out the window, too—“That’s for the Deity!”

But we’re supposed to judge. In fact, it’s a vital part of life in the body of Christ.

There are essentially two kinds of judgment: one condemns to hell, and the other discerns. One is eternal, and the other is temporal. We don’t bother with the first, but we must be concerned with the second. Otherwise, Christian strippers for Jesus (saw them on the news some months ago), drunkards for God, tax evaders for Jesus, and Saturday night playboys for God get no criticism?! No judgment from us?!

That’s ridiculous. And we ought to be more comfortable in saying it is.

Concerning an unrepentant Christian brother, one fornicating like nobody’s business, Paul writes, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." (1Cor 5:12,13, italics mine.)

If Paul were to speak that, I would expect him to pause and follow it with, “Duh!”

Look, I’m all about knowing God and knowing what He thinks of me and of others so I may live by His grace at work in me. That’s my passion. But behavior has to get our attention, if only to redirect us to Him. Letting Fornicator Frank run loose in the church because “It’s not mine to judge” is ludicrous—judge him, and then go get him! Tell him that his faith and fornication don’t go together. Duh! Treat him as a new creation in Christ by working to awaken him through the gospel and by the Spirit. And if he refuses to wake up and knock it off, heave ho!

Sister Frances, if Nick isn’t a Christian, be a real care-giver and give Him the gospel. But don’t assist him toward hell! He’s already dying—are you nuts?! And if he is a Christian, then make a judgment and help him to know Jesus. Knowing Jesus will satisfy him, unlike hooking-up with Patty Prostitute.

By the grace of God, Paul woke up the Corinthian Christians with chapter one. There he addressed them as the “sanctified” and “holy” sons of God they had become, who were on the way to being kept “blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul knew they were acting way out of line, so, judging their behavior, he built them up in Christ. When once they repented and came to their senses, they were ready to hear how to live.

Make a judgment, and throw unrepentant, Fornicator Frank out!

Paul writes, “If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” (1 Cor 5:12-6:6 NIV)

So, let’s be clear about judgment. If you're working to restore Christians to the grace of God, it's a much-needed kindness. Even if they're unrepentant and a heave ho! is necessary, you're not forsaking them, but trusting God with them.

And I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Pause Would Do You Good

Sometimes it becomes strikingly apparent that we who are not of this earth must not view the things of this world by the visual evidence presented.  It is insufficient.  That's when sowing to the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, is the only true course for living.  

Remember to pause in the midst of the day, pause and think toward the Spirit.  If you sow to the Spirit, what will you reap?  You'll get what you were designed to have--eternal life.

video

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor 4:17,18)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pricking Myself

I’ve been fasting this week.

In this case, I’m fasting from food, but I’ve fasted from television, music (rather than listen to the stereo in my car on morning drives to work, I preferred thinking and listening for Him in quiet), news (including newspaper, television and radio), alcohol (I like an ale or a glass of wine now and then), and more. It’s not because God likes it when I fast, it’s because I do.

For me, fasting is choosing a weakness through which I will know and savor God more. It’s amazing how much I get used to turning to the things of this world for satisfaction, rather than to God, who satisfies me most and best. Like many, I suppose, seeking God or reading the Bible or praying can become all about obedience and willpower when I’m getting satisfaction and pleasure elsewhere. Does that make sense? When my eagerness is most evident because I’m really, really looking forward to a barbecued steak and a glass of syrah tonight, or when I’m really eager to see who does well on American Idol next Tuesday, or to figure out who won the debate between Hillary and Obama, then it's likely my wants and desires and satisfaction have been captured by the stuff of this world, and not by God.

And then my thoughts go something like this: “I really should read the Bible.” “I really ought to pray more.” Or, “I’m really weak on the spiritual disciplines of study and meditation. I’ve got to be more committed.” That’s a good one.

I start to approach God and the things He likes as important things to do, rather than ways to know Him and like Him. And let Him like me. Reading the Bible and praying becomes a certain daily duration of time when I get my study and devotional time card punched. Going to church is about following through on commitment. Tithing or giving is about the pledge I made. Yuck. Round about then a college football game is much more exciting. Or a bowl of ice cream. A shopping spree. A good movie. A deal closed.

Read the Bible? I’ll do that on Sunday.

The wedding between desire and satisfaction is no longer officiated by God, having been found and joined together elsewhere. So, He gets commitment and study—and frustration. But because He has crucified me to this world and this world to me (we’re incompatible), I can tolerate this upside down living for only so long. (Gal. 6:14)

That’s where a fast comes in. Through it I am pricking myself—my true self—and saying, “Alert! Wake up and be satisfied! I can no longer stand surface satisfaction when I’ve been made for far deeper.” To be sure, I still have strong longings for satisfaction—in fact they get stronger—but the Spirit brings out desires now natural for me. I want God. I want Dad. And any way to get Him and to know Him is where I start going. I begin talking to Him more, even as I read my Bible. I start wanting to take a walk just so I can get out and look around and express my thoughts and questions to Him. I wake up in the morning and I think, “God, I want to be satisfied by you.” That’s a pretty welcome thought compared to what can otherwise go on in my noggin.

This morning I made breakfast for my family; French toast, strawberries and bananas. And I didn’t eat any of it. My eldest daughter is staying home today because she’s sick, and she just asked me to make her a piece of toast, with lots of cream cheese and lots of apricot jam on top. Lots.

And I’m loving it. I’m being carried along by the Holy Spirit—my friend and fascination and satisfaction. The hunger I feel for a nibble is less powerful than the satisfaction I’m getting from Him. And that’s what a fast is for.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Temporary Prodigal


I think a friend of mine has lost his noodles. Gone a little nuts. When I look at his myspace web site, I’m deeply saddened.

Yet, as I look over the pictures of carousing and cruising and of near-naked women, the Holy Spirit reminds me that He lives in my friend. He made my friend a son of God. So I ask, “And what are you doing?” His reply is reassuring—“I’m ushering him to burnout. He’s having a Prodigal Walk…but He will return.”

You know, I’m coming to rely upon what God can do with people more and more, and my confidence and rest increase as I do.

There was a time when, after looking at my friend’s web site, I would have tracked him down, sat him down, and given him a good “What do you think you’re doing, you numbskull?!” talk. I would have done everything within reason to wake him up and shake him loose from his lunacy, including the use of a defibrillator. “STAND BACK, EVERYONE—CLEAR!” That ought to do it. And I think I might have liked watching his body jump from the table, his chest surging skyward.

But, in this case at least, after I’ve checked with the Spirit about my friend, all I have for him is love. If I were to see him face to face, I would love him and hug him and say something brilliant (“I love you”), and then probably do it again. Nothing more? Nope. Why not? Because I’m simply full of trust that God is well aware and perfectly capable with His son, my friend, a temporary prodigal.

Nobody ran after Prodigal Pablo in Luke 15 in order to talk him out of his course of action. Daddy didn’t write a letter to alert cousin Baldo in “a distant country” as to his son’s arrival—please knock some sense into him. And God didn’t send a talking donkey or an angel or a plague of locusts, either.

I think the picture is that God knew Prodigal Pablo could be prodigal only so long. Eventually, he would “come to his senses” and high-tail it back home where he belonged and where he fit in (Lk 15:17). By nature a prodigal doesn’t stay prodigal. He can’t. He won’t.

Writing this, my hope is that when my prodigal comes to his senses and begins his return he won’t be greeted by shame-sayers and puffed-up know-it-alls. “I warned you, didn’t I?! Man! You were such a loser!” I hope he will be greeted the way Prodigal Pablo’s dad welcomed him home—you were a royal son when you left, a royal son in that distant country, and you’re a royal son today. I mean to convince you of it, too, so let’s get that crap off you and get you back in clothes that reveal who you really are…I see who you are, even if you don’t.”

It will be good to have him back.

Rom 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?”
(NIV)

(Update: I wrote this more than a year ago. I am delighted to report that Prodigal Pablo has returned home--welcomed and celebrated by his Father. A few of us also danced a bit.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our Prodigal Approach To God


If you had to choose, would you say you’re more like the Prodigal or the elder brother? There will be a test.

Several weeks ago I wrote about my sudden attraction to Jesus’ story concerning the two brother’s approach to the greatest dad on earth. (To read it, click here.) At the risk of giving you understanding which you could use to harpoon me, I think I am more like the elder brother in my approach to God than the younger Prodigal. I’m afraid he’s been something of a mentor to me. I’ll have more to say about what that means, but today I write for all the Prodigals in the world. Let’s hear it for them.

I know it’s inviting, but let’s skip over the binge living and mud-mucking part of the story, and get to where repentant Prodigal came up with a plan for the next part of his life. “I’ll sneak back into town and live and hang out where the day laborers gather,” he might have surmised. “Maybe my dad will take pity on me and hire me a time or two. God knows, I’ve been worse than a thief to him, let alone an awful son. But maybe he would let me work around the farm now and then. That’s the best I can hope for.”

Imagine the reunion. The greatest dad on earth is dazzled with the delight of his returning son. Without the slightest concern about his son’s sloppy looks or strong odor, dad launches into a kissing marathon. My goodness. My God.

I wonder how long it was before Prodigal noticed that his father was ignoring his speech. While Prodigal is progressing with his planned lament—I’m not worthy—dad gets busy with what’s really important. “Okay, son. You go right ahead and say what you’ve got to say. . .get it all out. Excuse me for a moment—Hey, servant Sam and servant Sue! Get the royal robe and the family ring and shoes and put ‘em on my son—I’m right here, son, you’re doing just fine—and get that fat pig of a calf ready for dinner. We’re gonna party until my son gets it through his beautiful, thick skull that He’s my son! Ooh! I just love my boy. Ain’t he something?!—Okay, son. You all done now? Come here, you wonderful boy, and let me kiss you! Didn’t I tell you that you’d always be my perfect son?! Have I got plans for you!”

I wonder if Prodigal resisted the father's hugs and kisses. But I’m dirty—can’t you see?! I wonder if the Prodigal resisted the royal robe, ring and shoes as much as today’s church does? And I wonder how long it was until he believed they were truly his and they felt comfortable? How long did it take for the Father’s soothing treatment and words to take the sting out of Prodigals’ pigpen memories? See anything relevant to today’s church?

I wonder.

On the other hand, maybe Prodigal blinked, wiped his eyes and gulped a few times at his father’s grace, and shut up and received it. Maybe Prodigal quickly traded his plan for dad's. And was really happy.

Could’ve happened. Might have been. End of story—happily ever after.

I see the Prodigals’ approach today in those of us who voluntarily and regularly assign ourselves to an ugly place with God. We might say, “Father, you know how I am—no good, through and through. I’m such a lousy sinner! I don’t even know why you put up with me. I’m a loser Christian—always a failure. But I re-dedicate myself to you for whatever you want, even if it’s nothing.”

Have you heard that before? I think it’s a Prodigal echo, or a Milli-Vanilli style lip synch.

For those of us with a Prodigal approach to God, I think the Holy Spirit is forever working to convince us that we have already been made royal. What a task! (I’ll bet He has a lot of overtime hours.) Imagine: we whip up a brilliant, lamentations-style prayer approach to God—I’m such a sinner, why do you put up with me, make me a slave—and then wonder why we never hear the Spirit ‘Amen’ our prayers. We don’t hear much of anything because, like the father in Jesus’ story, God is ignoring our lament and carrying on with what He thinks of us.

“Glad you’re here. Let me put this on you. Royalty needs a robe.”

Maybe we’ll become more accepting of the Father’s opinion of us—what a compliment that would be—and start regularly approaching the Father not to apologize, but to receive. “Here I am, Father. What are your thoughts toward me? I’m here to learn.”

Could happen. Might be. End of story—happily ever after.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17; italics mine.)

We’re better off than we think.

Ralph
P.S. I’ll bet the servants of the father continually reminded Prodigal about who he was, too. Don’t you think he would have needed all of the reminding he could get? It’s what I mean to do for all the royals of the Kingdom.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ensuring The Opposite

Don't you think this would induce the opposite of what they, Prohibitionist women, wanted? I would have done something dramatic, like pour a beer over myself, ensuring that they wouldn't be coming after my lips any time soon. . .or ever.

Thanks for telling me how to avoid you, ladies! Nothing personal. . .well, maybe.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Oldie But Goodie

It's the weekend--time for some fun.

I don't know how old this clip from the Johnny Carson show is, but it's got to be at least 30 years. Anyone have a guess? In addition to the main guys, Dean Martin and Bob Hope are included.

I think you'll enjoy this clip of about two minutes.

video

Friday, April 11, 2008

If Only Hopes & Dreams


Sometimes your hopes and dreams aren’t high enough.

Sometimes they don’t match up with what God thinks is your design and destiny. When that happens you’re likely to have friction and at least a little confusion. But what would you rather have? His vision for your life, or yours? There’s the rub.

When there is more chaos in my life than stability, sometimes I think crazy thoughts, like God’s vision is blurry…or perhaps He isn’t looking just now—I’m on my own. This morning I wonder if my neighbors think the same.

We live on a cul-de-sac—the perfect place for our girls to ride bikes, make chalk drawings and have water fights. And with all the snow this winter, even do some sledding, and they’re right in front of our home, within earshot. If you have to have a street in front of your house, go for a cul-de-sac. Yet strangely, out of seventeen houses on our street, six are for sale. Those of us who aren’t moving wonder if we’re missing something…like those getting out of town know something we don’t.

I do know that most of those families are disappointed. The homes they bought were part of a dream they had of how life would be great if only. They wondered about location, shopped the town, thought about paint and carpeting matching up with their furniture, dreamed about growing up together in the home, looked at schools and churches, and questioned over and over again if they were doing the right thing. Finally, they rolled the dice and planted on our street.

And now they’re uprooting. I wonder if they have any dream left, or any confidence in God’s ability to orchestrate their steps—especially if life isn’t bringing about their dream.

The longer I’ve lived the more I see that it isn’t where you live, but how. I think God’s in that, but I think the world around me isn’t. Concerning the dreams of life, all I see it offering is a way to get a dream house, a dream car, a dream babe, a dream vacation, and financial planning for the end of my dream life.

How does that match up with God’s plan for my life? Not well.

If God thinks I’m His son, if He thinks that He lives in me, and that I am now His workmanship, I seriously doubt He’s much into all that other stuff. I don’t mean He’s against it, but I think it’s far down His dreamy scale, really low on His if only hopes.

I want my dreams to match up with His design and destiny—that will make my life! I’m not sure what that will mean concerning the things and dreams of this world. In fact, wanting to fit with His design and destiny causes my flesh to offer worrisome what-ifs. But this morning I’m not living under the influence of the flesh, nor the dreams of this world.

I’m living to believe His thoughts about me are correct. And that opens up and changes everything about my if only hopes and dreams.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Well, Maybe

After several weeks of labor and anguish, I think my ministry web site is back in order. Whew!

If you can, will you take a look and see how it loads on your computer? Every browser is different, as well as every computer, so it would help to know how it looks and loads on yours.

http://lifecourse.org

By the way, there are now lots of free audio teachings and sermons that you will find on the Downloads link.

Leave a comment, will you?

Thank you.

-Ralph

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Caught-In-Between Day


Do you ever feel like you’re caught between what you want to do and what you have to do instead? Do you ever struggle between some kinds of business principles and those of the Kingdom? And does it ever get so frustrating that you have a blow up or a break down? You know—really lose it? I don’t mean the kind that requires hospitalization. Or maybe I do.

I simply felt from the Lord that He knows we’re prone to frustration and anxiety and even outbursts of temper. And He has not one iota of condemnation for us—not one. I think He wants us to know that.

You and I are living life caught between two worlds—the temporal and the eternal. The one we can see, and the one we can’t. The one that passes away, and the one that lasts. Just as one of those worlds seems to get into focus, the other comes barging in. I can be enjoying the day, knowing the Lord and trusting in Him, when suddenly something worldly knocks me senseless. I remember a bill I forgot to pay (like the tow truck driver), I forget to pick up my daughter(!), I discover that I didn’t record the USC game properly (heavens!), and I told someone I would call her back but forgot. (Sorry, Pam!)

It’s like I’m happily flirting with spiritual maturity, and then it rudely breaks up with me. I don’t like it at all.

Sometimes, however, I get into the rut of not living by the Spirit, and of not truly enjoying Him in any way. In fact, being a Christian momentarily seems a bother, a hindrance to the life I could have. Have you ever felt like that? I can have times when my thoughts go something like, "Ah, just think of all things I could do and have if it weren’t for the fact that I’m a believer." Fortunately, it's not long before I have one of those BAM! moments, when somehow the Holy Spirit knocks me back into my senses. "Oh, yeah. I love being a Christian—wouldn’t trade it for anything."

I like that.

So, if you’re feeling stressed, bent out of shape, pushed or hurried, and are having one of those sloppy, caught-in-between days, take a moment to breathe. There is such purpose to this life, and through it all, God holds us in Christ, holy and righteous. Don’t worry about that. While this life is a mess, in the next one there won’t be any chance to live by faith in heaven, no opportunity to grow and succeed in the battle against temptation, no one to lead to Jesus, no friend to pray for, no groceries to buy for a down-and-outer. Nothing will be in-between anymore.

That will be such a good day! But not today.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Havin' Fun


I haven't posted very much this week. Wonder why? It's spring break--aka, Easter vacation. That means all my girls (including the one I married) are free from school, so I've been taking advantage of it. In other words, we're playing a lot together!

Can you blame me?

Hu's On First

Here's one of those semi-political things that balance out the other semi-political things I've posted. This, like those others, is funny. At least I think it is.

Ah, the weekend--no offense intended. (But a little bit of room for it.)

video

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Rockin' Revival


Do you ever get afraid of what living would be like if you offered your life to the Holy Spirit? Yes? Me, too. In fact, that bothersome fear has kept me from the delight of life by the Spirit—the new normal for all those born of the Spirit—and led me to living by the flesh. Living by the flesh simply means following the suggestions of your unregenerate inner thinker of how to navigate your days without knowing God. It’s life by logic or rationale, life by passion or lack of it. In any case, it’s the attempt to live well without doing whatever it takes to believe and know God.

God is life, but the attempt to live without Him is still tempting. After all, knowing Him and loving Him and having that all reciprocated can be messy. For real.

I was reading today in Acts 7 about Stephen’s experiences with God. Specifically, his experience with living filled by the Spirit. Chatting with Jewish men committed to life without the Spirit, Stephen says,

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it. (Acts 7:51-53)

Well, that little sermon goes over just great. Stephen had to have known that would tick 'em off, right? And here’s the dangerous part. Whether Stephen knew how they would react or not, he was living filled with the Spirit! And look what happens—

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:54-56)

So the lesson here is that if you really want to live by the Spirit, you’re going to see the glory of God! It’s true. You’re going to know God in a way that produces awe and amazement and infatuation in you. There is nothing better. And the result? It might not be to your immediate comfort.

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. (Acts 7:57, 58a)

What happened after that little Spirit-filled-life event? The church was persecuted in a new and terrible way, which caused believers to scatter. . .and preach the gospel wherever they went! A sort of rockin’ revival. And in a delicious bit of irony, the primary persecutor of that day would also one day be filled with the Spirit—to his delight and to his peril—the soon to become apostle Paul.

Life by the Spirit means delight and it means peril. But I’ve never found anything better. Nothing even close. So, I want to get over my fleshly, uncomfortable fears, and live by the Spirit—day after day, rockin’ revival or no. It’s worth it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Eyes Open

It’s stunning how often I need to have my eyes opened. You, too?

I don’t mean the eyes I see you with, or the sunrise, the snow falling yet again here in Colorado, or the eyes I watch television with. I mean the eyes God gave me, the ones in my heart. There is so much working to close those eyes.

My favorite Bible big-wig prayed: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe…” (Eph 1:17-19a)

It seems that every time I’m not actually knowing God, it’s because I’ve lost the genuine thrill of the “hope to which He has called” me. In my life, sometimes hope in Christ has been shot-through with disappointment, and my eyes can only see the circumstances in which it happened. When that’s all I can see, “the riches of His glorious inheritance” in me seem hollow, like someone stole them when I wasn’t looking. If I’m a sort of godly treasure chest, I must be empty. And as far as “His incomparably great power” for me goes, well, sure. I don’t doubt that He is all powerful, but I haven’t felt or seen any of that for quite a while.

And I’ve gone blind.

What helps me then is how life is set up for me to notice that I can’t see. I get grumpy, overly sarcastic, cynical, excessively bothered by politicians, and withdrawn. In other words, I’m revisiting life as a flesh-bag. I hate that! Do you ever feel that?

So, I get really smart and brilliantly strategic, and employ all my training to come up with the perfect thing to do in order to get my eyes open again—ha. I might say aloud, “Where are you, Jesus?!” or “What in the world is wrong with me?!” or “Holy Spirit, have you gotten out of me while the gettin’ was good, or are you still in there?!” Or perhaps I open my Bible or a great biblically oriented book, and then, with it open in my lap, sit there awhile…and maybe have a melt-down.

And, my eyes opening, I can see again.

What’s happened is that I’ve finally burned-out. I was snookered away from the life and power that comes from God and works in me, having exchanged it for the work that seems to get the job of the day-all-around-me done. I’ve been burning the wrong fuel—life by the flesh, instead of life by the Spirit.

Unless I want to go through life with my eyes closed, that doesn’t work for me anymore. I bet it doesn't for you, either.