Monday, November 30, 2009

How To Un-Cripple The Sons Of God


Yeah, I’m angry. And this is the longest note 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 recently.

There’s a song I’ve heard 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.

All of his life Peter 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 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 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 by believing do the sons of God embrace the freedom they now have in Christ—crippled no more. 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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Trials Of Tryptophan

What happens after feasting upon turkey? The tryptophan effect!

"Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I must sleeeeeeeeeeeeep. . ."

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

Have a look. You'll like it. (Happy Thanksgiving!)

video

I Am Thankful

Since Jesus made me His home in 1980, love—the receiving of it as well as the giving—has become the best and most valuable quality of my life. God seems utterly convinced that love—His, mine and yours—is the vital ingredient of a fruitful and happy life. I am deeply thankful for all of you who help me grow in receiving and giving.

Here’s to fruitfulness.

- Ralph

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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 dastardly 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 after receiving the heavenly ZOE, your ZAO goes stinky, see to your ZOE. That will get you going again.

Isn’t that fun?

Paul’s love for real life (ZOE) meant a lot about his lifestyle (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 receive 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, November 21, 2009

A Whole Lotta Clappin'

Here's a weekend funny 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.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Buh-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.

Buh-bye, paganomics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love & A New Covenant Baby


I have sometimes thought about why I’m glad to live in the day and age I do, rather than two or three thousand years ago. I’m thankful for antiperspirant (raise your hand if you are too), braces, Nike’s, monofilament fishing line, multipacks of underwear, stereo, sunglasses, air conditioning and Starbucks. I don’t know what I would do without a weekly pumpkin spice latte at this time of year.

But, really, have you ever thought about what it would have been like to live a long, long time ago? What if God in his wisdom brought you and me out onto the stage of life years ahead of Jesus? He could have. Think how different that would have been. Isn’t it wonderful that He didn’t, and that fluke and chance had nothing to do with it?

“ . . . 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)

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 planned for me to be born in Jeremiah’s day, when most of God’s people only flirted with Him; you know, sort of pretended to have a nice little friendship. That didn’t go too well overall.

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 heathen. Nine times! Of course that means they were liberated from their captors nine times, and that must have been exciting—Here comes God! But I wonder at what point an Israelite or two might have thought, “You know, it has been a while since we’ve been conquered and abused by an enemy. I wonder how much longer this freedom thing will last?”

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 imagine that heavenly timeline conversation? Okay then. Let’s put Jonah here, and let’s put Ralph, hmmm, later, a lot later. Let’s make Ralph a New Covenant baby. Yeah. That’ll work.

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, 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. It was always in the works, only a matter of time.

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? Think of it.

That’s the glory of the New Covenant. He didn’t make the agreement with you or me, determining our relationship with Him on the basis of our performance. That would have been a copy of the first covenant. Instead, He fulfilled and ended the first one, and made an entirely new covenant with Jesus, giving us all of the benefits Jesus earned.

You wanna talk about a benefits package? Goodness!

The next time you wonder if God loves you or if His love ever wavers with you, remember how determined He was at the start. Nothing’s changed.

3 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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An 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 three minutes. Watch what Dean martin starts doing at about 2.15 minutes into the clip.

video

Thursday, November 12, 2009

God’s Little Leech Looks In The Mirror


How do you feel when you can’t see behind?

A while back I was driving on the freeway when my rearview mirror decided to commit suicide. In an instant, it simply jumped away from its secure and helpful position, crashed on the dash and rolled onto the floor, there to lie in state. “What in the world?!” I said. 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, every time I drove somewhere I felt little security about what was before me because I had become so insecure about what was behind. I drove around always on edge and anxious, with virtually no confidence. Can you imagine it? I had to force myself to drive without a look behind, but until I replaced the mirror, I never felt right.

I get that same feeling every now and then when I practically forget all that Jesus has done for me and stop counting on it. Because it’s not front and center in my mind, I’m really not at rest. Does that make sense? It’s as if I run out in the day, joining the working and consuming and transporting masses, and am unsettled and insecure. I’m either hounded by worrisome and bothersome thoughts (“Am I doing the right thing in the right order in the right way?”), or I just force ahead and block out the thoughts. Maybe I play music really loudly in my car.

The truth is God has made me to live off Him. Call me God’s Little Leech if you like, but it’s true. Without a healthy dose of heavenly reality in my day, it won’t be long before earthly reality has me overwhelmed and worn out. In the weighty words of a friend, “It is what it is.”

Before I go forward, I have to look behind. It’s like an addiction to a cosmic rearview mirror—What’s back there?

It’s incredibly effective for me to pause long enough and to think something like, “I lost my life and the ownership of it twenty-nine years ago. God Himself now lives in me—what a wonder that is—and I will be hearing Him, seeing Him, and feeling Him throughout the day, no matter the congestion and chaos. I’m counting on it. For me to live is Christ.”

It’s like sobering-up, only better. (Okay, that just gave you in window into my past, didn’t it?) Re-connecting with God like this keeps me from doing a brilliant imitation of a bumper car at Disneyland—fun for a while, but getting nowhere.

While looking in the mirror, somehow it happens—I remember that I’m a new creation. Everything changed. When Jesus died, in Him the guy I used to be died, too. When Jesus rose from the dead, the new me did, too. And now I’m walking around in all that. (That’s Romans 6, in case you’re reaching for your Bible. The first 6 or 7 verses should do it.)

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 now 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.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Lie That Twists - "God Is Reluctant To Give"


(People ask questions of me and make comments all the time, and this one comes from a friend who agreed to let me post it. My response follows her question.)

Hey Ralph,

Did you see this urban legend about the new dollar not having "In God We Trust" on it? It is a false accusation, as the Snopes website chronicles, but the initial email still gets me rolling my eyes. If you read below the mass email, it says if we don't have "In God We Trust" on our money, then "God will turn his face from us." What is that?! It seems insidious at so many levels. It is those kind of comments that not only manipulate Christians into feeling their salvation is based on their own militancy, but it also makes non Christians think, "There goes those right wing extreme fundamental Christians again."

I suppose a Bible reader could argue that our money is actually "Caesars" and we should not expect it to have God's name on it, and someone with a bit of humor might wonder if God isn't just a little insulted to be associated so closely to our cultures most worshipped god of all - money.

What do you think?

(My response is below.)
Brilliant! Much of western Christianity (and a type being sold in Russia and in Asia) asserts that to get what you want, you have to get God to give it up. Think what one could put in the "here's how" part of the equation! So, at the foundation is a terrible error, one that motivates everything else: we don't believe that God has given us absolutely everything for entirely nothing in Christ. We're seduced into believing we have to earn more than the everything we've already been given, and that twists Christians into militant and vigilant, nervous and anxious images of God.

I think that lie, that God is withholding something desirable from us, is the same one the serpent seduced Eve with in the Garden. God is reluctant to give, God is withholding something good from you, but if you'll just do this, you can get it. . .and, heck, He may even want you to get it after all. Does that make sense? So, from that day to this, you can see that lie—God is withholding something good from you—running through history, and running through our bookstores and churches today, twisting us now as it did then.

When I see its' effects, it makes me angry, too. However, I am mostly angry at the liar, the one who sold the lie the first time and who sells it today. It's robbing us and mutating us into rich beggars around God's throne. Think of it. Think of the affront to God that is. It makes elder brothers out of us, slaving away out in the fields away from Dad, working and working for what we already have. And if we work for what we already have, we never get it. And if we're busy in the field working—after all, it's most important—then we don't get to be with dad very much.

A favorite author of mine, Malcolm Smith, put it something like this: "If I walked up to one of you seated here today and told you, "Sit down, man, sit down!" you would either think I was weird in my command, or you'd be miserable trying to be what you already are." That's how it is when we tell Christians how to earn the anointing or get God's promises or favor or national blessing. Everything is entirely ours in Christ already! Strive no more! It's His gift to us. (Except for that little national blessing thingy. I don't think God looks to give us such a thing. But then, that's just my opinion.)

That's the magnificent gospel! And that's the target of the devil. I'm delighted that you're not buying the lie, perhaps even more so because you're seeing the ugly twist.

Well done.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Johnny Cash Glee Club (or Nasty Looks At Love)


Sometimes I’m stunned alert to the intentions and efforts of God. This video did that to me.

A large group of Hollywood celebrities and music industry chart-toppers sing of the coming wrath of God upon sinners. It looks weird, and a little bit eerie. It’s a virtual sing-a-long to a Johnny Cash song, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”

I know there are believers in those industries—whenever I breeze past a Grammy Awards or an Academy Awards show it seems like someone always gives glory to God. And I don’t know that person, so I can’t say what their life is like or what the other evidence of their love of God is. But I’m skeptical. I’ve seen one too many crosses noosing the neck of a celebrity bad boy or girl to not be suspicious. But since I’m not swimming in that pool of people, I don’t know if praising God is only faddish or genuine.

And so this video. It’s crammed full of bad boys and bad girls. But they’re not singing about the wonder of the gospel of God’s grace to us in Christ—that I would love! Who better to picture the grace of God than those who already picture the need of it? Instead, they’re singing about His coming wrath! Like they’re warning us. They’re doing the very things they’re warning us about.

I don’t know. Maybe the likes of Chris Rock and Johnny Depp and Kanye West and Kris Kristofferson and Justin Timberlake and Cheryl Crow and Woody Harrelson and the Dixie Chicks and Whoopie Goldberg and lots of other nasty looking boys and girls I don’t recognize know something . . . and I simply don’t know that they know it.

I do know that sometimes God’s love for the nasty looks ridiculous, like He’s misplaced it. I want to tell Him to take it back and put it somewhere else where a better reward is waiting. Oops. That would have meant bad news for me back in 1980.

I rest my life on this (and maybe they do too): The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20,21)

I sure would like to know what those in the video are thinking as they sing . . . It boggles my mind. I don’t know, but He does—and He’s not worried. Have a look at the video.

Never Again Merely Men

While I found plenty of memorable moments in the most recent Narnia film, Prince Caspian, there was one that was particularly so.

In the first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, bears were loyal to Aslan and talked and walked side by side with the just-introduced kings and queens of Narnia—Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy. But fifteen hundred years have passed between that story and this, and the royalty of Narnia were just discovering how different and ugly things were when Lucy comes upon a bear.

Naturally, she assumes a kinship with the beast. “Hello there, Mr. Bear!” However, the bear, intending to kill Lucy, charges her only to be stopped by the arrow of a Narnian dwarf. Shocked, Lucy asks, “What’s happened to the animals?” to which the dwarf replies, “Treat them like mere animals long enough and they’ll forget who they are.”

I think the same thing happens to us—the sons and daughters of God. Oftentimes our enemy, the world and our flesh, seek to hinder us not by rejecting us overtly and outright, but by slowly and persistently inducing us to abide by their vision, methods and goals, one day to believe we are little different than those of this world. To borrow on the dwarf’s response to Lucy, “Treat them like mere men long enough and they’ll forget who they are.”

In my little world of experience, here’s how Christians who have either forgotten who they are (or never knew it to begin with) sometimes sound: “I’m only human, aren’t I?” To be succinct, here’s my response: “Hell, no.” That’s where that thinking comes from.

The apostle Paul chided the Corinthians for just this thinking and behavior: “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Cor 3:3, italics mine.)

Did you catch that? You and I will never again be merely men or merely women, never again only human. Anyone who has believed and received Jesus has not only had a change in standing with God, but a change in nature, literally a change in DNA! When the Bible says that we’ve become a “new creation,” God isn’t trumpeting a new way of behaving better, or that we’ve been granted a new kind of good manners for good relationships. He’s telling us that we are now actual Spirit born sons and daughters by nature! We have been born by and of the Spirit. Our humanity has forever been altered because “the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17; see also john 3:5,7,8; 2 Peter 1:3,4).

That takes some getting used to, I know.

If you’re familiar with the C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, then you know that virtually all of the books are about the growing awareness of the kings and queens of Narnia—that they are, in fact, kings and queens already. Everyone in Narnia recognizes them, some in awe and delight, some with fear and dread. The more the kings and queens believe it, the more their behavior is affected, to the delight of Aslan. They act like the nobility they are.

It’s the same with us.

Ask God to show you yourself, the self He sees because He remade you. Quit praying things like, “Oh Lord, you know what a lousy sinner I am!”—He disagrees with you! That’s not what He made you. Stop lamenting in prayer, “Oh God, I know I should be a better person than I am now!”—you ARE a better person because you’re a new person! You just don’t know how to live in Christ. And stop saying, “Father, change me.” Father HAS already changed you! Besides, you’ve never heard Him answer those prayers, so don’t you think it’s time to change them?

Give it, oh, two weeks—don’t say any of that stuff. Instead ask God during prayer, “Father, did you change me already?” “Jesus, how well related to you am I now?” “Holy Spirit, what do you like about me?” “God, have you secured me with you forever?” “Lord, am I really an authentic son of yours?”

In the same way that the kings and queens of Narnia struggled to believe they were the royalty of the realm, it’s likely that you will too. So get help! Get after it! Get and read my book (Better Off Than You Think - http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html), get and read anything Steve McVey has written, or Lewis Gregory, Dan Stone and Greg Smith, or go to my Recommended Reading List and take the plunge.

This will help you grow up into who you already are. You’ve got to believe it before you’ll see it.

To borrow one more time on the dwarf’s response to Lucy, here’s what will help you: “Treat them like the sons and daughters of God they are for long enough and they’ll know who they are.” That’s what your Father is doing to you right now. Have a look.