Friday, May 29, 2009

So Where You At?


Have you seen any of the commercials that frequently ask, “Where You At?” Sponsored by a clever mobile phone company that is offering GPS (Global Positioning System) as a benefit with it's phones, I have found several of their ads more than funny—they’ve struck a chord.

Here’s one of their ads to get you up to speed.



One of the most significant aspects of life in Christ is that, bad grammar aside, that’s where we’re at—in Christ. Ever since God put us there through the new birth in Christ, that’s where we’re found at every moment—in Him. Oh, I know it doesn’t look like it! Come by my house and you’ll swear you’ve seen me in shorts and a T-shirt, drawn up to my desk and laptop. That’s what your eyes see. And if during our visit I told you to close your eyes so you could see better, more clearly, you’d think I was nuts. But I’d be trying to help you to live according to what’s really real, and you can’t get too much of that.

You and I are learning more and more to live by faith—in what God says is true of Himself, and in what He says is true of us. If we only look with the eyes in our head, we’ll frustrate our growth and twist our experience. It can’t be helped! We’ve got to look, we’ve got to see with the eyes of our heart, the ones Paul asked God to open for the Ephesians so they would know the great hope to which He had called them, the wealth of His incredible inheritance now in the saints, and so they would know His “incomparably great power” for them. (Eph 1:18-21)

I think that because we rarely use the eyes of our heart, the ones that believe and see people the way they have become in Christ, we miss hope, we forsake our inheritance and poorly experience the power of God.

If you’re a Christian, then right now you’re in Christ! Yes, He is in you, and that’s fantastic to know and discover—God in you! But according to God, you’re also in Him. What does that mean? That’s Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and that’s why I’m writing about it with you.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Eph 1:7,8)

If your wife is a Christian, then right now, “Where’s she at?”

If God is right now in your children, then “Where they at?”

If you’ve got friends who are Christians, then right now, “Where they at?”

Do you suppose they know? Could it be that they see what you see? Are they using the eyes of their heart or the eyes in their noggin? Do you suspect you could help them benefit form the sight you now have?

See, when you know you’re in Christ, your worries tend to dissipate, your hope increase, and your confidence in God and in yourself leap. Everything changes when you know where you are.

So right now, “Where you at?”

(For more about seeing people the way they truly are, read “The Eyes Have It,” chapter 11 in my book, Better Off Than You Think—God’s Astounding Opinion of You.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

We're Together In Torture

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


Thinking about you this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your friend,

Ralph

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

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doh!


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

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

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

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

Doh!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

When Confession Doesn't Work

It's the weekend when we get a little nutty around here.

A lot has been written about the need to confess our sin--how to do it, when, where, to whom, etc. Frankly, I think we make it too difficult.

This clever little video pushes it out there even further. I hope you get a kick out of it.

video

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mr. Spock's Love Language?


Think back to when you were in High School, when deep awareness of self and of others was awakening everyone like a loud and persistent alarm clock. Remember how awkward and needy you could feel while navigating the crowded hallways?

Seeming to complicate matters were the hormones newly flooding our bodies, playing a rough, inside game that resulted in passion and fear and hope and delight and disappointment and pimples.

And love. LOVE. What the heck was that?! We were beginning to figure out that love was at the very least invigorating and desirable; it was much more than we had thought.

Let’s pretend that there’s a Christian speaker who will be addressing some of them at a youth meeting tonight. And let’s add a twist—the speaker is you, now an adult. What do you tell them?

This is the theme of what I’ve heard many times at such gatherings: “Love is a decision. Here’s how to make good ones . . .”

Have you heard it? I think fear is the motivator for that approach. Our youth are alive in ways they’ve never been, and we’re terribly afraid of the damage they could do to themselves and to others. After all, they’ve got to learn to control themselves.

And there’s the problem. We offer them control when God is offering love.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) God is not a “how to”, a big list of how to make life work and how to get ahead so that in the end you can retire well and leave a legacy for your kids. God’s love is not a decision. There are decisions because of His love, or as a result of it, but God Himself is love.

What youth need is the love of God. They’re set up for it. (You are too.) With everything going on in them and around them, what will save them and enable them is God’s love. If they have and know Him, do you suspect the chances will be higher that they’ll make good decisions and have self-control? Yes. That’s the fruit of the Spirit—God Himself now in them. But if we teach them to major on making good decisions, they may well end up with the result of love instead of love. They may make good decisions, but not actually know God.

I think this plagues the church now, but it doesn’t have to.

Try this. As you read the following, have in your mind what you think God’s love is like:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Look at all those marvelous words—blessed, in love, predestined, adopted us, pleasure, will, glorious grace, redemption, riches, lavished, good pleasure. What a smorgasbord of happy news. And that’s how God was and is! Love Himself made the decision, and Love makes it today. But why? Because God wants to—so He does!

The love of God compelled God, and it still does. I'm so glad! If life is about making good decisions—Get going!—then do you see what’s happened? We don’t actually need love because we can just make decisions. Making the correct decision becomes the primary goal, and most of our teaching and sermons and books go in that direction. There are lots of good intentions, like improving our relationships, something that’s important to us all. It's simply logical. . .and calculated.

But is that really what motivated God? Is that why God ". . .blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"? Because it was a good and perfect choice? I know that He decided to send Jesus to the cross and to raise Him again, making us holy and new. But was it calculated only? Just a strategic decision He made?

No way! That's not the love of God that I know. God wanted to! And it's the want that motivates the decision. He is full of holy and passionate desire. His love is ever flowing to me, ever convincing me, ever rescuing me from doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief. . .and convincing me that He is as good as He says He is. He doesn’t love me because He made a decision for it—“Well, okay then. Sigh. I will love Ralph.”—He loves me because He IS love. He works to express love to me and to you, and is satisfied only when you and I understand His love and revel in it—our “getting it” consummates His love. Am I being clear enough?

Which is better: to believe that God makes an every day, every moment decision to love, or that God IS love and every decision of every day and every moment comes from love?

The former casts God as a sort of cosmic mathematician, a Super Computer, measuring and calculating the happenings of the universe. Where is action necessary? Where must I place blessing? Where must I prove that I am Benefactor? Star Trek fans might think of receiving a love letter from Spock. Ooh. I bet that would really warm you up with passion and power. Mr. Spock’s love language could only have been—say it with me—“Logic, Captain, logic.”

Frankly, I think this concept of God’s love—love is a decision—has, in fact, kept people from love. Rather than know the magnificent love of God for themselves and for others, they’ve accepted a result of love as the real deal itself. They’ve got the decision to love without the motivation. They’re trying to act like there is heat in their inner fireplace, when all that’s there is wood. No wonder they grow weary.

The love of God is not His gravy, it’s His main course!

If God IS love, then what do you suppose His thoughts about you are today? If the two of you were to go to Quizno’s this afternoon for a sandwich and a chat, what might He want to talk about? If you were to enjoy a time of prayer this afternoon, and you asked, “What do you think of me, Father?” what do you think you’d hear? “Well, Karen, I have decided to love you. There you go. Now let’s get on with the day—here are my instructions.”

No way!

But if God IS love, then even when the stuff of your day seems contradictory to love (and I have had whole seasons like that), you will be drawn to Him in order to know Him. “Father, I know you love me. So why is this happening? Has anything changed? Is Spock sitting in the Captain’s Chair right now? No? Well then, what’s going on?” And you’re set up to know Him—and knowing Him is everything. Even if He doesn’t point to a clear reason in answer to your question, you will get what He is for you—love.

He is compelled by love. And you’re the perfect place to express it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Better Than Caffeine


Before you go any further today, before you get into anything else, you’ve got to know this – “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2)

Thank God. That’s indispensable for my day and the race I’m about to run. It is for you, too. And really for everyone born of God.

Every time the Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write a letter to a church, He made certain that Paul began it with the same theme. To all those at Rome and Corinth, Galatia and Ephesus, to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, and to his dear sons in Christ, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Paul offers the same truth—You’ve got everything! No more worries with God.

That’s so important.

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

Paul knew the city and these people because he founded the church and spent some three years there. And he loved them. But Paul, father figure that he was, doesn’t first tell them how to live, he tells them how well off they are with God. Why would he do that? Paul knew that an eager heart and an energized spirit, indispensible for the sons and daughters of God, comes from the truth and is by faith. So, instead of giving them a motivational speech—“Get going for the glory of God!”—he gave them revival by telling them of the glory of God in them.

“Head’s up, Ephesians! In case you’ve forgotten, you’re really well off with God! No cares. No worries. You’re the best there is.”

Can you imagine what that might have meant to the Ephesians? In all their work, in all their trials, through all their failures, weaknesses and frustrations, comes God’s word to them: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And Paul wasn’t simply giving them a booster shot of self-esteem, he was telling them the truth.

I so often need to hear that too. Don’t you?

I have a lot to do today. I’ve got to write a blog and send an articulate email to hundreds; make lots of phone calls to people who may not respond as I would like; sign, package and mail copies of my book; replace a sprinkler, walk the dog, tend to my broken wife, reorganize my office, work out, do some late evening counseling and meet with some people in Arizona via live video over the internet.

Sheesh! I’d better get going. Hurry up!

Wait a minute. Is there something that God might like to say to me first? There is. “Grace and peace to you, Ralph, from God your Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

You really think so, God? Because of Jesus, I’ve got everything with you? Righteousness? Holiness? Love? Hope? Future? And you live in me? All of that? “Yes.” And because Jesus took upon Himself all of my sins, I have not one worry with you? “Yes. That’s right.”

Wow. Hooray.

“Ready now, Ralph?” Yes, Father.

"Go."

That's waaaaaaay better than caffeine, and you and I were made to have it as our starting point.

Monday, May 18, 2009

When You're Disappointed

(I find this to be timely and hope you enjoy it. Written in August of ’04.)

We’ve just returned from a weekend camping trip, which proved to be a lesson in at least two things:

1) Don’t go camping on the weekend. Insensitive dolts were playing rock ‘n roll songs and whooping it up at 3:00 a.m., just like they did when I was growing up and camping in Southern California. When I approached to ask them to knock it off, they seemed startled that I was bothered. I felt old.

2) God is more compassionate than I thought.

Surprise.

Fishing in a nearby stream on Saturday and fully enjoying myself, I heard a different sort of question from the Spirit, one I’d never heard before: “Son, if in the next moment you were to join me in heaven, what would you expect?”

Foolishly thinking that I didn’t want to be interrupted during such an intense and focus-demanding time—fly fishing—I quickly shuffled the thought to a far off place, and got back to the more important business of fooling trout. However, the same thought returned two more times to my mind before I finally paid attention.

Thinking about what I would truly expect upon my arrival in heaven, a curious realization crept across my mind. On the faces of those gathered in welcome, I would expect to see a hint of disappointment.

Yes, I know about the rich welcome awaiting the faithful upon arrival home—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness.” But I was startled to realize that I didn’t think I’d be getting that rousing reception. Or, at least, not that rousing.

I don’t always do so well in this life. I regularly get stuff wrong, needlessly offend people, or fail to act like the man I am in Christ. Whether I know it immediately or find out about it later, failure weighs me down. You too? And then I begin thinking about all the work I have to do to make things better, and to make me better. I’ve proven, however, that I’m not very good at saving myself.

Anyway, in my mind I heard something like this, “I know how difficult it is in the world, I know how very awful it can be. Do you think I have no compassion for you, my righteous son? Do you think I don’t know of your anguish and valiant struggle between flesh and spirit? I am so pleased in your triumphs and rejoice in your success! I love how you are and how you do. Fear not your homecoming—it will be triumphant.”

There on the stream I choked up and laughed a laugh of relief and renewed hope. “He’s really compassionate!” I thought, “He really understands and delights in the smallest success, valuing it far more than the ugliest defeat, wiped clean as He looks upon me with joy and delight. He really loves me in the mess.”

I had a great afternoon. Throughout it I was overwhelmed by the compassion He has for me (and for you) right now in this life, in every trial, in every struggle.

And, yes, I caught a bunch of trout. You can ask my wife and girls if you don’t believe me. Really.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,…” (2 Cor 1:3 NIV)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's Really Going On?

Check out this short video. It's very clever and has a great conclusion.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's the weekend--time for a bit of fun around here.

I think this little video perfectly presents what will happen if the government takes over the auto industry. Er, wait. It pretty much already has.

Anyway, it will sound promising on paper and look cool, but, well,. . .here you go.

video

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Me & Mr. Smiley Face


Stopped at an intersection recently, I glanced at a bumper on the left and there it was—Mr. Smiley Face. I can’t begin to estimate how many times I have seen that yellow button: on a bumper, on a shirt, on a wall, on a sign, and now it accompanies emails as an animated “emoticon.”

Smiley is everywhere.

This Smiley was accompanied by that common phrase, “Smile, God loves you!” And I thought, “How cute. How corny.” But in the next moment it occurred to me that I should think about it.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me. And in a moment I was completely and wonderfully overwhelmed. For the next few minutes I had revival in my car. I hadn’t been aware that I needed it, but God sure was.

I fancy myself to be one of the gurus on God’s love, a major player in telling the church and the world how well off we are because God loves. And I had somehow forgotten that God loves me. He doesn’t put up with me, He doesn’t consider me a bother, He’s not disturbed when I barge into His throne room—He loves me.

God loves me.

That’s the biggest influence of my life, and it would only make sense that that knowledge is one of the primary targets of the devil. Think what comes from knowing God’s love—love for others, obedience, a variety of godly works, a true perspective of the world and its inhabitants, and hope—authentic hope.

As far as I’m concerned, I live from the knowledge of God’s love for me. You too?

Smile, God loves you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back To The Field

Is there a place or two that when you visit, you come alive? Maybe it’s a distance away, like a vibrant meadow or a mountain view or a breeze that brings the scent of the ocean to you. Or perhaps it’s nearby, like a certain chair in the early morning or a walk through the neighborhood.

One of mine is an emerald pool on a secret river near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Since the late 60’s, I have been wading through its long, slow waters and scanning the currents and grassy banks as I hunt what lies within it. The very moment I enter the water I find myself sighing deeply in welcome and relief. It’s as if the Divine Masseuse has begun gently massaging the cares and deep anxieties that have knotted me up, and made me rigid and mechanical.

I don’t like Ralph The Rigid and Mechanical. He’s a fake. But somehow I can be held captive by him, a sort of hostage from myself. But not in the river. I get myself back.

The best place I have ever found where I come back to life is in the field where my Treasure lies waiting. God worked years ago in such a way that I discovered Him to be greatest treasure. Not simply because of His value, supreme as it is, but because of what happened to me when treasuring Him. I wasn’t simply dazzled by what I found, like a pirate after lifting the lid on a booty box; the radiance filled me and affected me. I was filled with the Spirit—God Himself—and I became the best Ralph possible. My Treasure treasured me! And I was forever changed. . .and hooked on Treasure.

After that no commands to obey or tithe or pray or read or witness were really necessary, having been made superfluous by the one: Enjoy your treasure. It happened again this morning when, resisting the impulses to read the newspaper or to turn on my computer or to ship a book, I turned my thoughts to Him. “Father, I need you. What are thinking about today?”

It didn’t take long wandering the field before the stone moved and there He was: Treasure. As a result, Ralph The Rigid and Mechanical vanished, driven away by a simple gaze turned to my favorite field.

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Mt 13:44)

The next time you’ve lost your way, resist the urge to drive faster in order to get where you’re going. Instead, get off the common avenue, if only for a minute or two, and return to your field. Your Treasure will dazzle you back to yourself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Might Be A Harley Davidson


I think I’m like a Harley Davidson. Every time I hear one go past (I don’t have to actually see it to know it’s near) I wonder how it makes any progress sounding the way it does. And sometimes I wonder the same thing about me.

When I was a boy of about thirteen, I was happily riding in our family car piloted by my mother when I heard an awfully loud sputtering and popping come alongside—it was awful. I slowly glanced in the direction of the cacophony and saw what I assumed was a man atop the strangest looking motorcycle I had ever seen. Although he was right next to our car (I could barely make out his eyes and nose peering out from a sea of hair), the front tire on his bike was, I promise, forty-three feet away. It might have been less, but thinking back, it might have been more…I don’t know.

Anyway, it seemed he was having trouble keeping the engine going because he kept revving it up, only to have it almost die. Roooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag—rooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag. And I thought, “He’s going to go somewhere on that awful thing? No way.”

Then the signal light turned green.

After a final sputter, cough and gag, that slovenly beast propelled the leather clad fur ball like a missile down the road and out of sight. Stunned, I asked my mother, “What was that?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I sure don’t like it.”

I had been introduced to Harley Davidson, and to this day I don’t know how those things get anywhere. I have always believed that a smoothly running engine is the one you want—you can rely on it to get you where you want to go. If the engine is sputtering, there is something wrong and it’s time to worry. Who doesn’t know that? You had better get it to the mechanic or call that friend who likes poking around in engines because until you get it working smoothly, you’re in trouble. Isn’t life like that, too?

Not really.

From that first encounter with a Harley to the one I heard rumbling and stumbling past yesterday, Harley Davidson has taught me a lot about living. In between the zooms there’s a whole lot of sputtering—and that’s normal.

There is so much in the New Testament about growing up in what Jesus has made of us—sons of God, foreigners in this world, ambassadors of Christ—that growing pains must be a part. Who actually believes immediately after receiving Christ that we have become as foreign to this world as Jesus? That the change made to us through faith has made us genuine new creations? That we cannot ever again live the way we once did, but can and must now live by the Spirit? The challenge isn’t first to live and behave better, the challenge is to believe better. It’s normal that we sputter and cough to believe such incredible facts!

We all see and experience so much that tells us we’re not what God says we are. We fail to pray (cough), we fail to tell someone the gospel (gag), a hoped-for job advancement fails to come about (sputter), and we feel like we’re about to stall. While that kind of stuff might change our minds about ourselves, it doesn’t influence God, who knows what He has made of us and carries on accordingly. When I get stuck thinking I’m just a no good sputterer, the Holy Spirit works to rev me up because there’s some place to go. Miraculously, I’m going to get there. As a friend recently said, living is “steady growth by jerks.”

Until that day when we fully believe what God believes about us and about the way forward, it’s the Harley way for us—sputter, cough and gag—rooooom, rooooom. And that’s okay.

Sometimes we get to zoom.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bible Reading vs. Transformation


Maybe you’ve read the apostle Paul’s directive, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Have you ever thought that Paul meant we’re just supposed to read our Bibles? Read ‘em more, read ‘em better, because then we’ll know what to do? We make a big mistake if we believe and approach this transforming act as one that will result primarily in a smart mind, a head crammed full of wisdom and what to do.

In his outstanding book, “Birthright,” David Needham writes, “…the renewal of our minds is far more than simply exercising brain power. A crucial ‘how’ of holiness is inseparable from knowing the truth of God’s Word, but it must be more than simply quantitative information. It must involve a participant, relational type of knowledge, which in the Bible is inseparable from the power of its Author. Instead of simply telling us to ‘memorize the Bible,’ Paul 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 1:17-19 NIV, italics mine.)

What a prayer! How much better is all of that than, "Do your homework (read your Bible), so you'll be smart and make good decisions"? There are lots and lots of things I can do and read if my goal is to get smarter so I can make good choices. But having that as my goal is far too low, and reduces the incredible Christian life of knowing God (Think of that!) and the wealth of His grace to me into something crude, useful and worldly. And then I wonder why God isn't very useful at times. You know what I mean? It might take a while before the dawn happens in my mind and I realize that God is not useful--He's far more than that.

And He has something far greater in mind for me, too. Transformation.

What do I do? Well, no longer do I make it my point to commit scripture to memory in order than I might not offend God, in order that I might not make Him mad or disappointed in me because of my actions. Sometimes I do memorize a verse or two, but I don’t read the Bible so I can be a “good Christian,” with ample spiritual brownie points growing in my heavenly file. I memorize and think about certain passages and verses so that in my day, whether beginning, middle or end, I’m thinking about Him. Reflecting upon what He has done for me and what He has made of me does something miraculous—the real me, the newly created son of God me emerges, stands up and is noticeable. I can tell! So can others.

In short, I’m transformed, and I know it. The lie of my earthly citizenship and belonging is removed, and there I am, a heavenly creature. The decoy attractions of this world appear as the ludicrous seductions they are, and true delight and freedom invigorate me.

And things are as they should be. (And I’m likely to make some pretty good decisions, too.)

Needham writes, “Remember, God did not save us simply to use us. He did not save us to get such and such quantity of holiness produced. He saved us for love.”

He loves you wildly—and that’s transforming.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day


It's my first without my mother, who is spending this one with God. Do you suppose they celebrate Mother's Day in heaven? Probably not, but if they do, I'll bet it's all about God in a way that makes perfect sense of it.

You know—it was He who gave mom’s radar, eyes in the back of their head, a mother’s prerogative, insight, discernment, motivational skills, fashion sense, providential giving, wisdom, the silent treatment, and loads and loads of love.

See? A lot like God.

My mother loved me tons. It was obvious and I’m thankful.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Prayer For My Wife

My wife was accidentally tripped at school this morning and fell extremely hard. . .and fractured her shoulder. (Humerus) She is in immense pain and all drugged-up, something very difficult for her body to tolerate.

She is just now resting in bed, and I plan to soon follow. We're exhausted.

Would you pray for us?

My thanks--

Ralph

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Offer In Temptation

How good it is to offer myself to God, to appeal to Him and call to Him in the beginning or midst or even end of temptation.

Heb 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Whatever is tempting you just now, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer yourself to the Spirit. How the angels must delight to see us offering our tormented selves to God.

Instead of making pledges that we’ll be strong, we look to Him. And we get Him.

When covetous avenues beckon to our flesh, we make no promises of obedient avoidance; we stay tight with our Friend. And our friendship is deepened.

When lust or fear or disappointment rage against us, tempting us toward ugly conclusion, we move toward Him. Lo and behold, He who now calls us home, sees to what’s going on inside of us. He who finds no fault with us—none—recognizes the assault, takes the blows and turns the fight. Afterward? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When temptation strikes at you, don’t go it alone. Go to Him, and He’ll see to you.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Butterfly Breath


Yesterday I saw the first butterfly of spring. (It had a sign on it, so I knew.) To see it wandering about my backyard was exhilarating. Right about now I’m tired of winter brown and love seeing emerging natural beauty.

I was reminded of another butterfly experience of last summer when I saw a beauty crawling around on the ground. It really looked out of place.

I figured it was slightly injured and confused, and so carefully picked it up and placed it on a flower, hoping it would come to its senses. “This is where you belong, butterfly breath,” I said, “Now, start living the way you really are…off you go.” After some recuperative stretching, it flew off, looking normal and healthy again. I felt I had done something particularly great by assisting Mr. Butterfly. But if it had the capacity, I bet it would have thought, “Whew! That giant almost killed me, squeezing my wings the way it did! I’m sure glad I escaped.”

I suspect that I don’t always recognize God’s assistance when it comes. Even though I often think about how He promises to orchestrate the steps of my life, I don’t always believe He’s doing it. I mean, come on! Surely I’ve messed up His plan by now. I start thinking that my sovereignty has finally canceled His. What a laugh the angels must have over that.

Like that butterfly, I get confused about who I am and where I belong, and maybe I fall down. Fortunately, there’s Someone who is never confused and who has all the power and ability to pick me up and get me flying again. And He’s sure to do it.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
(2 Cor 1:8-11 NIV)

If just now you find yourself down in the dirt, you must know you’ll not always be there. He will pick you up, comfort and refresh you, and bring the breeze that will lift you once again. He’s pretty good with His favorite handiwork.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Stand By Me

Could you use a lift? Got 5 minutes? Watch this little video. It's terrific!

"This song says, ugh, no matter who you are, no matter where you go in your life, at some point you goin' need somebody to stand by you." - Roger Ridley

Saturday, May 02, 2009

How Swine Flu Is Spread

(It's the weekend and things can get a little bit nuts around here. Have a good end of the week!)

Can you imagine what this boy's mom and dad did immediately after this public display of affection? Disinfectant wipes, quick!