Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Really Early Days of Michael Phelps


Yep, it's the weekend, so you know what that means. A little bit of fun and frivolity.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How To Cripple The Sons of God


Yeah, I’m angry. And this is the longest blurb I’ve ever posted. But let’s back up.

I paid much closer attention to music after I became a Christian. Before then it was primarily the music that mattered, unless the lyrics were so bad that singing along with the band made me feel stupid.

It was hymns that first got to me. While the music still needed to be stirring, the lyrics made my inner fireplace flame with heat. I vividly recall the first time I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah after having received Jesus--I could hardly contain myself. Well, actually, I didn’t. I leaped to my feet not fifteen seconds into the Hallelujah Chorus, threw my hands into the air and yelled praise to God. That no one else was yet standing made no difference to me; I was motivated beyond concern by God’s grace to me, which was stunningly captured by Handel.

Music and words light me up.

That’s why when the two, music and words, don’t play well together, I get all upset. Sometimes I’ll be singing along and enjoying the music when I’m suddenly confronted with words I don’t like, words that aren’t true, or words that make a mess of things--words that make a mess of you and me.

And that’s what happened a few days ago.

There’s a song racing up the Christian music charts called, “Empty Me,” by Chris Sligh. Now, I don’t want to be a sourpuss when it comes to music, especially Christian music. And I’m as certain as I can be that Chris is a genuinely good guy and a lover of Jesus. Do you sense a “But...” coming?

But. (There it is.)

“Empty Me” is one of those songs which, while accurately identifying the feelings and turmoil experienced by virtually every believer, it inaccurately assumes that everything bad in us is us, while the only good in us is Jesus. If that’s true, then who is the new creation me that God created at my new birth? Am I just a facade? A fake? Am I now a son of God or not? Have I become the perfect dwelling place of God, or is He hunkered down in some teeny, tiny little barricaded room deep inside me, surrounded and threatened by awful me? Am I good or am I bad?

If I am bad, then I don’t know what God did through Christ other than to earn my forgiveness. The sins on my record are removed, but I’m still rotten. Is that it? If it is, then this is why many of us picture ourselves as unchanged by God. And if we’re unchanged, guess who has an incredible (and I would add impossible) amount of work to do?

Let the self-beating begin.

But it’s not true! In fact, it’s a lie Satan began spreading just after those people in the upper room received the Holy Spirit and became alien new creations, no longer of this world. You and I must make the distinction that, while we have flesh and that nothing good dwells there (Rom 7:18), we are no longer flesh! We’re Spirit-born sons! Our fight is not with self because we have a new one. Our effort in this life is not to somehow get rid of our old self or to create a new self--that’s what God did through Christ! Can you see how big and awful a lie it is to believe anything else?

I hate this lie. I hate it because it impairs the glory of God by retarding it in the sons of God. And it fosters songs like this. It and others like it induce us to offer a supposed rotten and unchanged self to God, one He does not recognize! This lie makes unbelievers out of the very sons and daughters of God, horribly crippling us in our approach to Him and in our approach to living.

Jesus’ command to deny self and to pick up a cross and follow Him (Mt 16:24) was given to those who did not yet have a new self. They couldn’t have a new self because Jesus wasn’t yet in the business of handing out new ones. That was yet to come--after His crucifixion and resurrection, in which you and I were included (Rom 6:1-7). Now there are lots of people who have been given a new self. One of those is reading this.

You and I no longer have to deny our “self” since we have a new one, a son of God self. We should embrace that one. Frankly, it’s a high mark of faith in God when we do. There is, however, something that seems like the self we must deny, but it’s the flesh--you don’t want to follow after that!

What we need is Peter’s vision. Peter got it three times, but we might need it more.

Peter was a Gentile, a barbarian to those who were believers in God and who worked to obey Him. All of his life he heard that only those who obeyed God perfectly would be worthy and welcome in the kingdom. Imagine how tough it must have been to be given as a gift from God perfect worth and welcome in the kingdom through Christ, and then have to live around those who were still working for it. Peter was a New Covenant baby, who soon became fully involved in spreading the new gospel of God’s grace to us in Christ.

However, Peter struggled with the lie that God’s gift wasn’t really as good and perfect as God said it was. So, to help Peter believe the truth, God gave him a vision that helped him shift from an inaccurate and faulty estimate of people to a true one--a vision of people according to God, rather than people according to feelings and lies. The point of the vision? "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." (Acts 10:15)

Boy, do we ever need that vision.

Satan, ever the strategist, continued to badger Peter with the lie that when God made men and women, boys and girls clean and new, they weren’t really entirely clean and new. And if they weren’t, they’d better do something to get there, like restrict themselves, perform rituals and take up new promises of what they would do to get God’s approval--to create an acceptable self and earn righteousness.

The lie, offered by those who were still selling the old and obsolete model of how to get along with God, the Old Covenant, found a place of influence with Peter. When those selling the lie blew into town, Peter chose to hang out with them, rejecting the newly made clean and holy sons and daughters of God as not clean enough.

Fortunately, Paul knew and despised the lie and its retarding and crippling effect, so he courageously exposed it (Gal 2:11-21). What a scene he must have made. I imagine fierce arguments, angry arguments that revealed both the need of the truth and the strength of the lie.

I hate the lie. But hating a lie of the devil doesn’t mean it goes away. In our day I think we’ve mostly bought it.

Look, you might really like Chris Sligh’s “Empty me”--thousands of people do. But lyrics like, “Lord, empty me of me so I can be filled with you” imply the lie, or at least flirt with it. What “me” do you think He must empty in order for Him to fill ‘er up? Are you at best just an empty tank? You’re not. While you are a vessel of God, when He fills you He is not alone! He’s with a magnificent son of God. If the “me” that I am needs to be gotten rid of and hurled out before the Spirit can fill me, then what of the gospel? Didn’t God already do that? Isn’t it to His glory that we believe Him?

It is. And I think that’s worth an argument.


(The lyrics to “Empty Me” are below. I welcome your comments.)

I've had just enough of the spotlight when it burns bright
To see how it gets in the blood.
And I've tasted my share of the sweet life and the wild ride
And found a little is not quite enough.
I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change.

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.

I've seen just enough of the quick buys of the best lies
To know how prodigals can be drawn away.
I know how I can stray
And how fast my heart could change.

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.

Cause everything is a lesser thing
Compared to you, compared to you.
Cause everything is a lesser thing
Compared to you. So, I surrender all!

Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
Empty me of the selfishness inside
Every vain ambition and the poison of my pride
And any foolish thing my heart holds to
Lord empty me of me so I can be
Lord empty me of me so I can be filled with you.
Oh, filled with you.
Empty me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fired-Up For Life


“I can do all things through Christ, all things!” the fiery young man at the pulpit yelled. “I can have life the way it ought to be!” He was really worked up, and so was the congregation. And why not? He was preaching from the Bible, and he was preaching good news.

Then, listening to him, why was I slightly disturbed? I wanted him to say more, and then get fiery.

The passage loosely quoted is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, who had received reports that Paul’s life wasn’t looking so good lately…jail time, floggings, shipwrecks, riots and fights, struggles with fear, worry and lust, and on top of that, he wasn’t sleeping or eating enough. I’ll bet he wasn’t taking his vitamins, either. What had gone wrong?

Jesus had lovingly interrupted Paul’s zealous lifestyle and given him a new life, one born and fit right with heaven, but one at odds with the world. From that day forward, Paul abandoned his lifestyle to the pursuit of knowing Christ Jesus, His new life, who then led Paul on the adventure of a lifetime.

Would it surprise you to know that a most delicious effort on the part of the devil is to confuse us about life?

As a little FYI, the Greek word for life used most often in the New Covenant is ZOE. Before we received Jesus (who is ZOE), we didn’t even have life—at least not the life that God thinks about. Remember what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden? Cut off from God, they lost life. While they must have been haunted by what they lost for the rest of their earthly lives, we don’t even know the haunting. We’ve been mustering up fleshly existence and calling it life ever since—but Adam and Eve would know better. All we’ve had is a lifestyle—ZAO—a going through the motions without real ZOE.

But! When we receive Jesus we receive life for the first time. And ZOE explains why you and I have those marvelous new urges and desires, like wanting to know God, and wondering about worship and scripture and holiness and service. The day before we received ZOE, we didn’t care! But everything is different now. One might say that until you get a good ZOE, your ZAO is sure to stink. Or, if, having received the heavenly ZOE, your ZAO has gone stinky, see to your ZOE.

Isn’t that fun?

Paul’s love for real life (ZOE) meant a lot about his life (ZAO). If you’ve ever read the eleventh chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, you know how his life looked…and have probably hoped yours wouldn’t look the same!

The point is this: because he had Christ and because he had been changed into someone fit with heaven, Paul let go of his career path as life, and instead chose life (ZOE) as the path for his career. Whether Paul’s pursuit of Jesus (and the life He is) meant lack or lots, nice style or bad, Paul knew he could, indeed, do it all in the One providing life for living. ZOE for ZAO.

How’s your life feeling and looking just now? Struggling with inner riots? Afraid of wrecking on the rocks straight ahead? Fighting with worry and lust? Upset with what the mirror reports? Not too crazy about what people are saying about you and your life?

The style of your life is not worthy of your greatest fight; the fight you’re in is a great fight for life. When you’re having that, when you’re doing whatever you like in order to know Him and have His life, then whatever the day brings, you can live in it through Christ. And maybe have a bit of that “more than conqueror” thing goin’ on.

And that’s worth getting fired up about.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shooting Stars Explained

Ever wondered about shooting stars? Well, here's an astronaut to explain it for you.

(Yes, it's the weekend, and it can get a little loopy around here.)

video

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bye Bye, Paganomics


Do you remember what it was like when God rescued you from paganometry? Was there a season when you noticed you no longer completely enjoyed romping and mixing with the things and ways of this world?

I don’t mean to say that you never sinned again, or never had some dark days where your behavior didn’t match up with your new birth. I mean that because something real had happened between God and you, it was just no longer possible to easily and fully enjoy what you might have back in the days when you were still a pagan. What was it like?

It had to be a shocker for the apostle Paul. He was such a nasty man—an aggressive, brutish, bull of a human, who chased down the sons of God and sometimes handed them over to death. It was his particular brand of paganomics—what fun. And then he became a son of God—how ironic. Imagine the change.

He describes some of that change in his letter to the Galatians:

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,…” (Galatians 1:13-16)



I love that! Paul didn’t wake up one day and choose Christ, he woke up one day and knew God chose him! That changed everything. One moment Paul is an empty hellion on his way to hell, and the next he’s a modern day holy of holies, the dwelling place of God. What a shocker for Paul to realize! I wonder if he ever thought, “What happened?! What about my business of capturing Christians? Can I still do it? Maybe if I treat them a little nicer…” I don’t think so.

I believe that Paul was so transfixed by what had happened to him and by who did it—God—that he didn’t have to think much about what he could and couldn’t do anymore. The presence and influence of God in the formerly pagan Paul made life as it had been impossible. Even if one of his former partners in crime had offered an excellent opportunity to indulge in paganometry, Paul had only to think about what God had done to him, and where He now lived. Sorry, Charlie—Buh bye. Adios.

And I suggest that’s how it is for you and me. If you’ve grown weary in well-doing, how about taking a look at your beginning with God? I bet it will revive you. Reviewing how God came after you will help you see how He is still doing it today. If He is active concerning you, wouldn’t you like to know how? That kind of interest in God is healthy! That’s how Paul helps the Galatians in asking them:

“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:2-5)



In other words, wasn’t your beginning with God because He began with you? You didn’t start anything—He planned for you a long time ago (before He made the earth), woke you up to His plan, and hopped aboard. He still enjoys revealing His plans for people, and knowing what’s up with God is invigorating!

Your beginning was like Paul’s—what a shocker. And it was the beginning of the end of your pagan days.

Bye bye, paganomics.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In A Picture

Spending a few days in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I have but one thing to say--better still, one thing to show.
Hope that's clear enough for you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On The First Day of School

(Here in the Rockies it's the first day of school. I really don't like it. Not at all. My daughters are going to be out of the house way too much, and that means not only will I miss them, but they'll be virtually soaking in the contrary messages and manners of this world. It doesn't recognize them--it cannot--and they will be hurt. I post again a letter I wrote to my daughter over a year ago in the hope it will help you regain focus. Christians, no matter their age or experience, are not of this world. We must remember that and help each other prefer what God says is true of His sons and daughters--we're different and we're here for different reasons than those still of this world. - Ralph)

The following is a letter that I gave to my daughter, Emma. She read it alone this morning, and then sat on my lap while we read through it together. Emma is as alien in this world as I am, and is not at all spared from its’ attempt to deceive her into thinking she is far less than what God has made of her. It throws mud at her, so to speak, and it happens a lot at school. For once, she did poorly on a test and it really stunned her—she wept and cried, “I stink!” I share this with you in the hope it will assist you in your day-to-day life. This world is not worthy of you, but perhaps the image you have of yourself has been muddied. – Ralph


To my Emma:

You had a difficult day yesterday, and I wanted to write you a note about it.

I have two thoughts: I was sad—I hurt with you. I know what it feels like to be measured or challenged, and to not do well. It feels like somebody just pointed out that you’re dumb or not talented enough or not as good as you should be, and that’s painful.

But it’s a lie. And it’s a really bad lie, too.

Emma, my Beauty, God has made you spot-on perfect—just right. He has made you exactly the way He has planned for the life He has planned for you—no mistakes. You match up perfectly. However, neither the tests at school nor the tests of relationships or of sports will always show you how perfectly designed and made you are. Sometimes they will, but sometimes they won’t. Yesterday they didn’t. But nothing has really changed—you’re still just right. Ask God—He’ll tell you.

The lie the devil works with and wants us to believe, Emma, is that how we do in life is how we are—even who we are. So, if most everyone likes us and we get good grades and we do well in sports, well, then, we must be good. How wonderful. But if there are people who actually dislike us, if we occasionally get bad grades, and if we’re not good at every sport, well, then, we must be bad. But is that true? No. Neither example is true.

None of that stuff has anything to do with who we really are. But if the devil is successful in getting us to believe the lie that how we do reveals who we are, then we will live and strive to be good and do good in the eyes of people as our highest goal. That will make us slaves to what people think, and we’ll have to always perform just right for them. And that will prevent us from ever knowing who we really are according to God because we’ll be busy being somebody we think is good.

Satan’s lie will own us.

But not you. What God thinks about you is accurate. Remember what He thinks? You have become His daughter in the deepest sense—He has even made you like Himself. You feel His feelings, you have His thoughts, you know His desires. Incredible! You are a holy girl, a royal daughter of His—no one in this world is actually any better than you, Emma.

I know that you have confusing thoughts and experiences and feelings about who you are. Nuts! That happens a lot to me, too, and I don’t like it. But that’s why you and I go back to the Truth—and that’s Jesus. What He did for you and me on the cross, what He did for us in His resurrection, and what He did for you and me in choosing us(!) makes us incredible. No kidding!

So when we don’t do well in some sort of worldly test, it does not tell us who we are. We get who we are from God. Now, if you believe God made you to be a mathematician or a baseball player, there’s some work you can do. But you don’t do the work so you can become either of those things, you would do it because you believe that’s who you are and what you’re to do. If God convinces you that you’re going to be a rancher(!), then believe it and work at it with all your heart! And you can figure that baseball won’t be very important to a rancher. You might play at it, but you might not be the best at it. Would that matter? No. Not if God made you a rancher. Might people laugh at the way you throw a ball or swing a bat? Yeah, maybe. But that’s okay since you’re not a baseball player. See? You know God, and He tells you who you are.

My second thought: I was very proud of you yesterday—even more today. Here’s why: you went through something like what Jesus went through and you’re okay. When Jesus was nailed to the cross and then hung up for all to see, you know that He was dying for our sins. But something else was happening too, and it was awful—terrible. Jesus was being misidentified and rejected by a lot of people all around Him, people He really loved. Some of those people thought He was a deceiver, a liar, and others thought He was misguided or stupid to do what He was doing. “What an idiot!” they might have said. And yet He willingly did it for them, too.

Imagine the pressure Jesus must have faced from all those people. “Just tell us you’re not the Messiah, and we’ll let you go!” “We’ll stop hurting you if you’ll simply say you’re only a man, and not God!” “Think of your parents and the embarrassment and pain you’re putting them through—give up this foolishness!” But Jesus knew who He was. Because He did, He went willingly to the cross. He wanted to! He endured that pain because He knew who He was, and what would happen after the cross. Lots of people misidentified Him and pleaded with Him to be someone else, someone different, but He couldn’t do it because He knew.

He knew about you too, Emma.

Before either of us was born, He chose us, knowing that would mean that we would have incredible gifts and talents and thoughts and feelings and joys because we would be sons and daughters of God. And he knew that we would sometimes be terribly misidentified and mistreated. In fact, Jesus told us to figure that sometimes our life would be like being nailed to a cross and rejected, just as He was. Might as well expect it. If the world mistook and mistreated Jesus, it will do the same to us. Yesterday, it did it to you. I hope you can understand why—it’s not your fault—you’re being identified with Jesus.

I am your very pleased dad, Emma. I see you! I know who you are. It pains me but sort of reassures me when I see the world misidentify and then mistreat you. Even in that way, you really are a lot like Jesus. It angers me when I see the devil throwing his lie at you, and I want to beat him up. The best way for me to do that is to pray for you (and I do) and to tell you who you really already are so you can withstand the misidentification and mistreatment you will go through.

When I look at you I am proud of God! He has made you brilliantly and brilliant. You’re obviously His, even while you’re mine.

I’m yours, too.

Daddy

Ralph Recommends


Here's a link to a ministry I like—Andrew Wommack Ministries.

Among other resources, the ministry offers books, mp3 downloads, daily devotionals and more. Click here to check it out, or go to http://www.awmi.net/

I think you'll like it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Whole Lotta Clappin'

It has been awhile since I have posted a weekend funny, but here's one I think you will enjoy.

It's a short video of the world's fastest clapper, Ken French. I have never seen someone do anything like this, have you? Bet he could get a job sitting in the audience of sitcoms or late night television shows. Not much of a job, but a job nonetheless.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Soon-To-Be Home


Well, I'm pretty tired. I've been on the road for some nineteen days now, and road weariness has definitely set in. But there's always coffee.

Fortunately, a couple of days ago I met up with my wife, Sarah, in Fresno, where I officiated a wedding of a longtime friend--it was entirely terrific. And is it ever wonderful to be with her. The only downside is that, seeing her, I'm strongly aware of how much I miss my girls. I think my most common emotion is longing.

However, it has been a wonderful and fruitful time. While I will write more about what went on at the camps and churches at which I have spoken, the response has been virtually everything I hoped for. I'm very thankful for those who have prayed for me--I could tell.

I'll be home in a couple of days. Hooray.

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:

1) you live a life worthy enough to get there, or

2) 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 planned for me to be born 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 nine times at the hands of pagans. Nine times! Of course that means they were liberated from their captors nine times, and that must have been exciting. But I wonder at what point an Israelite or two might have thought, “It’s been a while since we’ve been conquered and abused. Think this freedom thing will last much longer?”

Or, God could have arranged for my birth not just in the days of Jonah, but as Jonah. I can imagine Jonah’s wife, now my wife saying, “Ralph? Honey? Are you home? Ralph, did you forget to take out the trash? What’s that fishy smell—it’s overpowering!” But, God being God, I’m sure he knew that the book of Ralph didn’t fit in very well with the books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Ralph, Micah, Nahum and Habakkuk.

Can you hear that heavenly conversation? Let’s go with Jonah here, and put Ralph, mmm, later, a lot later. He’ll be a New Covenant baby.

Before making the planet God had already dreamed me up, chosen me and determined I would be His (Ephesians 1:4). And not just His as in the sense of a possession, but His as a much-loved son, now of Him, having been given the new creation grace of royalty. 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. That’s how it is with all of His sons and daughters. 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 second birth, He says, “Ralph, you’ve always been mine, and now you’ll know. This is so fun—I love this part! Wake up now, Ralph! It’s time to receive.”

Can you imagine the smile that lit His face on the day of your new birth?

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 He earned. You wanna talk about a benefits package?

Goodness.

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Obedience For Dogs and Me


One of my daughters has a Nintendo DS. Yes, my wife and I actually gave it to her for Christmas. What evil thing does that say about us?! Hmm…

Anyway, she has this game where she gets and trains puppies, raising them from puppiness through adultness. To do it, she gives them behavioral commands like “Lie down!” and “Sit!” and “Roll over!” Sometimes the Nintendo dogs obey, and sometimes they don’t, which provokes my daughter to say it again—a little more strongly. It’s funny because not only does she speak with clarity and deep authority (well, at least it sounds pretty convincing for a girl her age), but our own dog, sitting next to her, carries out the commands. Well, some of the commands.

And I wondered, “If my daughter said those commands with an encouraging tone, a really upbeat inflection, would the dogs follow through and obey more readily or less?” And that got me thinking.

What if I thought of God’s commands to me as wonderful, life-securing and encouraging orders, instead of grumpy and foreboding demands? I mean, I know God is always correct and spot-on in His assessment of everything, so why does my fleshly mind attach a doom and gloom tone to His directions? Does the Spirit talk to me in the same manner as He would to, say, Pharaoh? Jezebel? Nebuchadnezzar? Or, how about the devil? Same?

If I was hanging out with Pharaoh one day and God showed up with something to say, would His commands to me sound the same as those to Pharaoh? Of course, I suppose we’d have to make certain exceptions for content. “Pharaoh, you brutal subjugator of my people, take out the trash...and then go to Sheol.” And, turning to me, “Ralph, you greatly favored, heaven-bound son of mine, take out the trash.” Would it all sound the same?

I don’t think so.

There are those who think obedience is the most important part of the Christian life—I’m not one of them. I think believing God is first. And while the obedience-is-king crowd might say, “Well, of course believing is first,” I don’t think they really mean it, especially because they often come across as stern and dour, obedience monitors among us. They major in it, and we’ve noticed.

I think the reason many of us fail to obey the New Testament oriented commands of God is because we think they come to us from a sort of high school principal—Do this, Ralph, and you won’t get into trouble. So, the only thing I believe at that moment is, “Well, I’d better do it, or I’ll get detention.” See what I mean? My belief is in avoiding the consequences of disobeying authority, not in the brilliance and well-intentioned motives of the trustworthy principal. Sounds like a dog’s life. To be certain, obedience is a vital, indispensable part of Christian life, but why we obey is, I believe, even more important.

So, today I’m doing what God says to do because it’s coming from my Father, who is perfect in love, perfect in knowledge and grace, and perfect in how He sees and treats me. I have a pretty good idea of what He did for me and to me through Christ, and I have a decent idea of what He thinks of me. It’s pretty fantastic.

He’s amazing, and He’s amazing toward me—I believe that, and I believe Him. Obedience comes from there.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Good News For Your Week

(Here's an example of something I receive each week--something I regularly read. If you're interested in receiving this once a week encouragements, please visit http://www.sourceministries.net)

GOOD NEWS FOR YOUR WEEK
TGIT! - Thank God It’s Tuesday!

THE WORD IS: I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

THE POINT IS: Many people are looking for the secret of success. Well, here we have it! In Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul gives us his personal testimony about the secret of true success. The secret is a person—Jesus Christ—by whom we can live life and experience true success. He is the Source of life, as well as the means by which we can live life successfully! Christ traded places with us. He took our place upon the cross by becoming one with us in death, in order that we might become one with Him in resurrection life. As a result, we are now seated with Him in Heavenly places—the spiritual realm of God’s presence and power—even while remaining here on this earth. This is the duality of true spirituality. We are in the world, yet no longer of it, by virtue of our union in Christ. Due to our co-crucifixion/resurrection with Christ, our family lineage has changed from Adam to Christ. We now have a new identity in Christ!

THE APPLICATION IS: The testimony of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20 becomes true about you when you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. At that moment you enter into your death and resurrection with Christ. His death becomes your death and His resurrection becomes your resurrection. You have been raised to walk in newness of life. So, why are many Christians still not walking consistently in this new life? Perhaps they don’t realize that Galatians 2:20 applies to them. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as the Apostle Paul saw himself? Well you should; here’s why.

- You are crucified with Christ—the cross. The old person you were in Adam has died. That person is dead and gone. It’s not you anymore.
- Nevertheless you are alive in Christ—the resurrection. Your old life in Adam has been replaced with a new life in Christ. You have been made alive in Christ, as an entirely new and different person.
- “Yet not I” means you are no longer the old person you were in Adam—the cross. That person died with Christ; therefore your old life in Adam no longer exists.
- Christ lives in you—the resurrection. Since you are in Christ, you have a new life source resident within you. You are indwelt by Jesus Christ Himself.
- “The life that I now live in the flesh” is a reference to the fact that life is for living now. Now you are able to truly live a successful life, even though you still remain in the same physical body. Your flesh, the physical body you live in, has not changed. But that’s not a problem, because what has changed is the Source of your living.
- You are now living, but not by your fleshly human strength and abilities. You are living by the life of Another. Christ has become your life! Your faith in Him, which is a constant reliance upon Him, will allow Him to live His life through you. And that’s the secret of true success!

The point is simple: Jesus Christ loved you so much that He gave His all for you when He gave His life upon the cross. The application is just as simple: you can reciprocate by giving your life totally and completely to Him, so that He can live His life through you. Now that’s successful living!

Have a great week, Lewis and Lue Gregory

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Good Look Behind


A while back I was driving on the freeway when my rearview mirror decided to commit suicide. In an instant, it leaped away from its secure and beneficial position, crashed on the dash and rolled onto the floor, there to lie in state. I couldn’t believe it.

Grief over the untimely and unnatural death of the mirror swept over me, and I became vividly aware of how instantly insecure I felt.

I couldn’t see behind.

Until replacing it about a week later, each time I drove somewhere I felt little security about what was before me because I had become insecure about what was behind. I drove around always on edge and with virtually no confidence. For a while I forced myself to drive without a look behind, but until I replaced the mirror, I never felt right.

I do that sometimes in life, as well, and it’s terribly dangerous because I don’t do good without a good look behind. My going forward first requires a look back at what has been done for me by Jesus. If I forget to take a look, or if I can’t see behind, I’ll be out of sorts wherever I go.

I must know and have settled in my heart the momentous occasion of my past crucifixion and resurrection with Christ Jesus. If I don’t, I’ll bash around in my day like a bumper car at Disneyland; fun for a while, but getting nowhere. When Jesus died, in Him the guy I used to be died, too. When Jesus rose from the dead, the new me did, too.

My look behind at what Jesus did for me and to me means I can go forward, knowing the truth about how to live and look at what’s ahead. And everything’s different. From then on I regard nothing and no one from a worldly viewpoint (2 Cor 5:16). Instead, I listen and look for the Spirit’s involvement with me and figure He knows about everything and everyone else. It’s then I’m led by the Spirit, which has become my new normal way to live. Knowing what’s gone on behind me allows me to look forward with confidence because I know that I’m really living. I need that! And it’s then I live for what’s eternally true, not for what’s temporarily before me.

In view of the past, I can see ahead--and it doesn’t look so bad from there.