Thursday, September 16, 2010

God & Google

Have you ever Googled yourself? Using only my name for a search parameter, a couple of years ago I combed through twenty five pages of Ralph-the-comedian, Ralph-the-barrister, and Ralph-the-recently-deceased before giving up on myself. But this year, there I am—top of page one, number 4 out of a possible 221,000. Could #1 be far off? Ooooh. Like a rocket, I'm on my way to the top of the Ralph Harris heap!

This morning I felt like God drew me out of all the chaos and confusion of this world—like He personally Googled me. It felt like Google Earth, where the view on your monitor can take you from England to Colorado in about a second. Whoosh! Out of the teeming masses I was drawn to be alone with God, and immediately I felt my fit with Him. I knew I belonged.

I don’t know how He does that, but I’m delightfully glad He does.

I was newly reminded that in the midst of a ruined world filled with tragedy and turmoil, God is making for Himself a perfect bride—you and me. And I suppose that from His perspective (and that would be the right one), the church of the redeemed must look astonishing against the backdrop of madness and imperfection.

But I often get lost and caught up in the smallness of my view. That seems particularly easy right now when the usual noisy stuff of this world has been joined by all the political noisiness and nonsense. There is so much clamoring for my attention! So my need of God, who carries on with the sovereign plan for His glory, increases. When He Googles me, I can see what He sees, and I am stunned all over again.

When one day God Googles us for real, we will exchange perishable for imperishable, mortal for immortal, and we will be like Him. Raised in glory, when we cross over we will be like Him—and not a single angel will be surprised, having been looking at us for a long, long time already. (1 Cor 15:42-56; Eph 1:3-10)

Father, way to go! Glory to you! Google me again tomorrow?

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 24-25 NIV)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Speaking Locally

My wife and I had a fantastic time in the Canadian Rockies this past week. Truly, it was better than we could have hoped. We're deeply thankful.

I will be speaking tomorrow, September 12, at Grace Evangelical Free Church, here in Longmont, Colorado. Their services are at 9:00 and 10:35am, and you can get directions and more information by clicking on the following link:

Friday, September 03, 2010

Canada Trip

I'm off to Calgary, Canada.

I will be speaking six times at Alberta Foster Parents Campground, where a Calgary-based church (Parkdale Grace Fellowship) holds its' annual retreat. I will be speaking about our identity in Christ, how to view and interact with people based upon what Christ did at the cross and resurrection, and how to be led by the Spirit concerning our day-to-day lives.

Sarah and I will also grab a few days together near where we honeymooned nineteen years ago--Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Banf. We're pretty excited.

Would you pray for us and for our daughters? And would you pray for the great people of Parkdale Grace Fellowship?

We would deeply appreciate your help.

Thank you.

- Ralph

Thursday, September 02, 2010

In Charge Of Our Own Blessing? Part 2

(To be as clear as possible, and in response to some comments and questions raised, I am posting a Part 2 to yesterday’s note about giving. You might check that one before reading this. . .but it’s not a command.)

Every Biblical command or principle must be taken in the context of the New Covenant.

Christians have been placed into Jesus Christ, and will never be viewed or treated by God as separate from Him. In Him, we all have all things, and God provides the grace and power to His body (us) for His purpose and glory. That’s why we all look and act so differently—we’re gifted and motivated by God according to His design of His body.

2 Cor 9:6 (“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”) must be viewed in the context of chapters 8 and 9, because Paul is describing what God did to the Macedonian Christians as a way of setting up the Corinthians for the same thing—the working of God’s grace in them. That’s the point.

2 Cor 8:1 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.”

The rest of the two chapters are filled and shaped by this same truth, that God inspires and works His people to do what pleases Him, and they respond to the desire He puts in them. That’s why they’re genuinely cheerful. God’s “act of grace” was brought to completion by the Macedonians when they “followed through” and gave, not because of a command, but because of God’s grace alive in them—in union with Him and His will.

Giving is the result of our love affair with God, and Paul was provoking or testing the authenticity of the Corinthian Christian’s love (2 Cor 8:8). “Are you knowing God’s love for you?” Paul might have asked. “Because if you are, then I’ll bet an evidence of that will be the desire to give. God will see to and cause the desire within you because that’s what makes the giving authentic. If He hasn’t yet given you the desire, don’t act like He has. That’s hypocritical.”

2 Cor 8: For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

That’s New Testament giving. And you find God moving the hearts of His people from 2 Cor 8:1 to 2 Cor 8:16 (“I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus. . .”) to 2 Cor 9:7,8 (“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work .”) to 2 Cor 9:14,15And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

The indescribable gift is God’s grace in Christians.

Christians should not give a lot so they can get a lot—that’s likely not God working in them. Besides, who doesn’t know Christian people who have given a lot, even sacrificially, but didn’t get anything back, not ever? On the other hand, who doesn’t know Christian people who have given a tiny bit, and who then got a lot? Where’s the sense in it all?

It’s God who motivates the heart of the Christian, it’s God who then works with the Christian to carry out the desire, and it’s God who leads the Christian to the act of obedience, which consummates the whole thing. Hooray for God in Christians! And He does it from within each one for the benefit of all. Each individual gives whatever God inspires, and the reaping (sparingly or generously) is what God planned for His body—for all of us.

It’s almost like God has a plan. Almost.

Another important fact in 2 Cor 9 is the pronoun, “you.” It is not singular, as in, “You, Bob Smith, will get a lot if you give a lot.” It is plural—“You, all of you Christians at Corinth, God will inspire each person individually to give so that you all will have an abundance in every good work. God gave you all the righteousness of Christ, and now, living from within you all, He is working with each of you to produce a harvest of what He has made of you all.” Because God “graced” the Macedonians to give, whatever it was for each person, all of the Macedonians, while looking and acting differently, together looked great—and so did God.

That was His plan. It’s New Covenant, Spirit-led living.

Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”) must also be understood in the context of Old and New Covenant, as must a lot of things in the gospels. The N.C. had not yet been brought about, and Jesus was speaking as one “born under the law” (Gal 4:4) to those also born under the law. For example, Matthew 5:20 Jesus says, For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Is that still true? Is our entrance into heaven secured by our achieving righteousness that exceeds even the Pharisees and law teachers? No, it isn’t. It was then, but it isn’t now. After Jesus brought the New Covenant with God, He gave us His perfect righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), which obviously exceeds anyone else’s!

Looking at the verses that precede Luke 6:38, is it still true for Christians that if we judge, we will be judged, if we condemn, we will be condemned, unless we forgive, we won’t be forgiven? No. It’s not true anymore. How could it be? While we don’t want to fail at any of those points, in Christ and through the cross we have already passed through judgment and condemnation, and have been entirely forgiven. We’re in Him. That’s the gospel.

Secondly, Jesus is again speaking to “you all,” plural, not singular. And that’s a big deal.

And that’s enough.

Did You Know?

I didn't.

Here's a pretty great video (8 minutes) describing the Christian heritage of this country, the United States of America.

There's a lot in it, including the fact that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 29 held seminary or Bible school degrees.

Did you know that? I didn't.

Check it out.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

In Charge Of Our Own Blessing?

What bothers me when tithing is taught as a New Covenant necessity is that it puts people in the deceived position of believing they control their own blessing. This, and other teaching that tells the sons of God that if they don’t do the right thing, God won’t either, makes the complete sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection of little benefit (“in vain”; 2 Cor 6:1), other than a one-day home going to heaven.

The gospel loses its majesty, and the sons and daughters of God become like elder brothers of the prodigal, working in the fields to earn what they have already been given.

Jesus earned entirely everything for us for entirely nothing from us. In Him we have been given every blessing already. Believing that fact is the challenge; earning it is not.

Anything that teaches less than that makes us crazy.