Monday, December 26, 2011

God In A Mess


Yesterday was a pretty lousy day. It wasn’t because lousy things happened or because good things failed to come to pass. It was because I was lousy in it. If I could have taken me out of it, everything would have been fine. No, that’s not actually in keeping with my theology, but it’s how I felt.

Grumpy. Sullen. Prickly. A don’t bug me kind of day because I was already really bugged.

Now I know all about what I could have and should have done, like sow to the Spirit (and reap eternal life), take a walk (and get refreshed), call a friend (who could tell me the gospel and build me up), turn on some good music and pray. There are surely dozens of ways by which I could have altered me in my day, but I didn’t do any of them. My didn’t want to overwhelmed my ought to. Does that ever happen to you?

Fortunately for me, Jesus has not stopped being my Shepherd. He didn’t lead me out of bondage and sin and a faulty nature only to leave me alone in freedom, righteousness and holiness. “Sorry, Ralph. It’s all up to you now.” That’s not how He works. He’s made me His house, and I’m really glad He gets to moving the furniture around and banging the cabinets a bit in order to get my attention and do something for me.

Somewhere last night around 8:15, my thoughts locked-on to Romans 8:1-2:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Okay, so those are two of the greatest verses in the Bible. Still, my thinking didn’t linger for long on the there is now no condemnation part of those verses. Instead, my thinker began to reflect on what Paul wrote before those two verses. If I had been writing the book of Romans, I would have preceded Romans 8:1-2 with a brilliant treatise on Jesus’ substitutionary death, inclusive resurrection and His stunning gift of righteousness. And then I’d deliver a new chapter beginning with that incredible word, “Therefore.”

But Paul doesn’t even come close to doing that. Romans 7 is mostly a load of lament about what a loser he is and how he is assured of failing in his own fleshly strength. The things he wanted to do because he believed God, he couldn’t. The things he didn’t want to do because he believed God, he did! And Paul concludes chapter seven and sets the table for “there is now no condemnation” by a faith-building summary, I’m a wretch and a slave. How does all that go together?!

If yesterday was any indicator, it’s brilliant. I didn’t do anything right! In fact I did everything wrong. I was living out the wretch and slave thing. Yet the Spirit attracted my thoughts and set me free from an otherwise day of death. It’s who He is, it’s what He does, and I was delighted at how much better I felt. “I’m a lot like Paul,” I thought, “trying to make myself happen and work well apart from the Spirit.” I laughed, and the wretch and slave vanished. I didn’t like him anyway.

Although I’ve been made a son of God, I’ve still got a lot going on that’s not in line with that. Looking over the years of my life, I’m a mess of contradictions.

Thank God, He isn’t.

(I wrote this a while ago, and thought I'd re-post it today. I hope you benefit.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gift Wrapping Tips For Men

(If you're gift wrapping impaired—truly a crippling ailment—then here's a little something to make your Christmas Eve a little bit brighter. And if anyone knows how to get insurance to cover this disease, please tell me.)

This is the time of year we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "... presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper. If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: "And lo, the gifts were insideth 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman. And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him... she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics:

1. They were wise.

2. They were men.

Men are not big gift wrappers. Men do not understand the point of putting paper on a gift just so somebody else can tear it off. This is not just my opinion. This is a scientific fact based on a statistical survey of two guys I know. One is Rob, who said the only time he ever wraps a gift is "if it's such a poor gift that I don't want to be there when the person opens it." The other is Gene, who told me he does wrap gifts, but as a matter of principle never takes more than 15 seconds per gift. "No one ever had to wonder which presents daddy wrapped at Christmas," Gene said. "They were the ones that looked like enormous spitballs."

I also wrap gifts, but because of some defect in my motor skills, I can never completely wrap them. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards and put it the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a sector of the gift peeking out. (Sometimes I camouflage this sector with a marking pen.)

If I had been an ancient Egyptian in the field of mummies, the lower half of the Pharaoh's body would be covered only by Scotch tape. On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My wife, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is very close to being a symptom of mental illness. If it were possible, my wife would wrap each individual volt.

My point is that gift-wrapping is one of those skills like having babies that come more naturally to women than to men. That is why today I am presenting...

Gift-Wrapping Tip For Men:

* Whenever possible, buy gifts that are already wrapped. If, when the recipient opens the gift, neither one of you recognizes it, you can claim that it's myrrh.

* The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch. They must be smoking crack.

* If you're giving a hard-to-wrap gift, skip the wrapping paper! Just put it inside a bag and stick one of those little adhesive bows on it. This creates a festive visual effect that is sure to delight the lucky recipient on Christmas morning.

YOUR WIFE MAY ASK: "Why is there a Hefty trash bag under the tree?"

YOU: "It's a gift! See? It has a bow!"

YOUR WIFE (peering into the trash bag): "It's a leaf blower."

YOU: "Gas-powered! Five horsepower!"

YOUR WIFE: "I'm leaving you."

YOU: "I also got you some myrrh."

In conclusion, remember that the important thing is not what you give, or how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt.

A Politically Correct "T'was The Night Before Christmas"

For your weekend viewing delight, here's a Larry, The Cable Guy Christmas story.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Post-Christmas Group Therapy

Yes, I have a twisted sense of humor. Is that wrong? (I like this a lot!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Life Is A Tornado Ride


One of my favorite films has to be The Wizard of Oz. When I was about six or seven years old, I saw it for the first time. I was dazzled. It seemed like every character one could ever meet was found in the movie. Looking back now, it was then that I began to receive training for the relationships I was to encounter for years to come.

The hallways of my elementary school teamed with Munchkins, and there were always groups of us boys who, because we liked similar things, would gang up together forming our own version of the Lollipop Guild. Glinda, the Good Witch, was my Kindergarten teacher, and I didn’t want to do anything wrong around her. For years to come, any woman who treated me like Glinda owned me. At recess we were harassed and harangued by those terrible flying monkeys, the egomaniacal power brokers of the schoolyard. I’m certain the Cowardly Lion taught High School Spanish class, the Wicked Witch of the West threatened us in English class, and the Tin Man led us courageously through economics and typing. I was friendly with my brothers, partly so we could compare experiences and increase our chances of relational survival. Fortunately, my mother and father were solid and stable as the earth in Kansas.

This was the relational education of my life.

But what I have never known is the spin Dorothy took in the tornado. Remember the scene? Not only was her home drawn up into the whirling danger, but, after catching a fence post with her head, she dreamed about it, too. Double whammy. Not fair.

That part of the movie is really relevant to me now. It’s pretty close to how I would describe my days in the last month or so—tornado alert. I don’t mean to say that things are awful and so am I—it’s really not that way. It’s just that life was pretty much a familiar Kansas-afternoon-easy, when all of sudden the wind came up. With nowhere to escape, up I flew into the spin. How do you get your bearings when you’re inside a cyclone? With lots and lots of both good things and junk flying past, how do you know when to open your arms and receive, and when to throw up your arms and shield your face?

And what’s it like to trust God when you’re spinning about?

While, like Dorothy, I’m still the same, there’s a lot that’s different after the tornado of my mom’s passing. The Spirit has led me to be very involved in how my dad’s life will look and be from this point on. So, while I’m speaking at a camp, at churches and to groups this summer, knowing God and trusting God after the storm feels new. It's different.

Most likely, that’s the point.

It’s comparatively easy to trust God when life is relatively simple and well laid out. When I can grab a calm and restful moment here and a confidence inspiring time with God there, trust comes naturally, easily. I expect Him to meet me with peace and assurance. But when days are dizzy and all that’s in the spin has my attention, what then? Just this: trust is a white-knuckler. Better hold on tightly. Trust seems like a crazy hot air balloon ride with The Wizard, while the Wicked Witch of the West is shrieking and streaking across the sky on her broom. And I’m not as good at trusting God as I once thought I was.

Maybe it’s that my stable life in Colorado hasn’t required of me what the days ahead will, and God, who considers me His workmanship, is bringing me back to essentials as the landscape changes. Trusting Him has always been the fruit of knowing Him, and I suspect that God is assisting me toward more of each. Only this time it means tornado trust.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

In any case, writing this has helped me remember that my Father is faithful—faithful to me. His opinion of me and what He plans to do is truly astounding.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

(I wrote this three years ago after my mother passed on, which was only three months before my father would follow. Life was a tornado ride. At the passing of a very close friend, I was reminded of this note and thought I'd post it again.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

An Unusual Sugar Plum

The Sugar Plum Fairy like you have never heard it before. I enjoy this kind of creativity!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mr. Bean's Department Store Nativity

I don't know about you, but I liked playing with action figures when I was a boy. That Mr. Bean still likes playing, is no surprise to me. And I like this timely department store scene.

Have a great weekend!


Mr Bean - Nativity Scene by mrbean

Friday, December 16, 2011

Into Grace


It is unbiblical for us to believe that after we fail we have “fallen away from grace.” In fact, it is accurate to believe that we have fallen INTO grace—even super-abundant grace. That’s when the reign of grace is most evident in life. (Romans 5:20-21)

Hooray!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hitchin' A Ride


You might think this guy is expressing his opinion to heaven—maybe of heaven. But I don’t think so. Not today.

I think he’s attempting to hitch a ride to heaven. Get on outta here. Go somewhere he belongs and fits in.

Ever have a longing like that? Absolutely. Of course.

Over one hundred times the Bible speaks of a person or of a group as “aliens” in the land, strangers from another place. Always they had been born somewhere else, and had migrated to a place where they stood out. Life was usually not easy for the foreigner.

However, the New Testament uses the word “alien” in a new way—in a more extreme manner. All those who, by faith, have shared in the cross and resurrection of Jesus have become as foreign to this world as Jesus Himself. Think of that.

Speaking of those given to Him by the Father, Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:16) Paul writes that because we have been made sons of God, we are no longer foreigners to Him, but “members of His household.” (Ephesians 2:18-20) How cool is that? However, that little switch means we’ve left our membership with the natural human race and become part of the supernatural race of the Spirit-born. With God and the angels, we’re family.

But on this earth, Aliens R Us.

That means you and I are going to feel like it. No matter how much we attempt to fit in and live well with the locals and their customs, by nature we no longer do. So, we’ll have days where we just don’t do well, where everything we do seems to fail, no matter our motivation, no matter our skills. And those are the days when who we have become isn’t any fun because it doesn’t work in this world. Those are the days when we’ll feel every bit the misfit—the alien.

But not with heaven.

If you’ve been feeling frustrated with yourself and your day to day life, consider that you’re being identified—rejected by the world, welcomed by the heavens. Look to your birthplace; your newest, most recent birthplace. God is weaning you off what no longer is like you, and the world is confirming His opinion of you.

While it’s not yet time to hitch a ride into heaven, you do fit in with the family found there. Might as well start living like one now.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:9-12)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Announcing Good News


Here are my thoughts this morning on a most-debated, good news passage.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NAS)

My take on this passage is that John is juxtaposing Christians and non-Christians. In verse 8, he writes of a person in whom there is no truth. That cannot be a Christian, especially since Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He, THE TRUTH, is in Christians. In verse 9, he writes of all Christians who have been forgiven and cleansed from everything contrary to God, in whom we now live and who now lives in us. That has all happened already for always, and all of our sins He “remembers no more” (See Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17). In verse 10, John writes again about the non-Christian, in whom THE WORD, who is Jesus (See John 1:1 and 14,) does not live.

These are my thoughts, and I hope this helps.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Days In Life


Perhaps the biggest frustration for a legalistic or laboring Christian is that while he is wired and designed to be the ongoing receiver of the grace and righteousness of God, his promise and dedication to moral excellence forces him into failure. The only time he actually enjoys Jesus is after an assumed and confessed falling-out with Him, after which he is “magically” restored to his design (receiver) and he reigns in life. All is well. Trouble resumes when, newly filled by the Spirit of life, he re-dedicates himself to moral excellence.

Romans 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

To “reign in life” means, “to have a time in power,” or “to have a period of influence.” It means that, having been made new creations for our days in this world, we assume our role as receivers of grace—God’s life. We offer ourselves to God not to demonstrate our faithfulness or to pledge our obedience. We look to Him however and whenever we like to receive what He is and has for anything and everything He likes. The result is that He enjoys a person through which to demonstrate Himself—His power and influence—and we know and enjoy God as we fit into Him, reigning in life.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Another Gift Idea

Ladies? Are you looking for that manly, just-right Christmas gift? This gift idea should be perfect.

video

Friday, December 09, 2011

New Or Not?


If Christian speakers actually believe that those in Christ have been made new creations with new hearts, they will not be inclined to teach Old Covenant-based methods of life in the attempt to please God and earn His approval, but will instead speak about the wonder of life in Christ and by the Spirit, having all things.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Amazing Compatibility


It's a crisp and beautiful, Colorado morning, and I have a thought.

If through the cross and resurrection Jesus has removed my former self and nature, and given me a new self and His nature, if He has united me with Himself (He lives in me and I live in Him), if He has made me a truly holy and righteous son (we’re compatible!), then is it my “role” to now deny myself, to step aside, get out of His way and become less so He can become more? Doesn’t that seem like a contradictory waste? Doesn’t that seem like a whole lot of self-effort when He has already done everything to me that’s necessary?

I think a misunderstanding of this is one reason why some of us are weary and disillusioned in our walk with God. We believe that we still have to do something harsh to ourselves in order for God to “use” us. Through the cross and resurrection, that's all over with!

When there is something going on that’s outside of my new character, self is not the problem, flesh is the problem, and my deceived attempt to live under its influence. If I believe that “self” is still my problem, I will be induced to do something about myself that, in fact, Christ has already done, and I’m heading into frustration.

But when I am renewed in my thinking, I live by faith in all that He has done with me through the cross and resurrection. My faith is in Him, and I rest in Him and gladly offer myself to Him. We get along perfectly! And that’s amazing.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Before You Shop

It's that time of year for many of us--Christmas Shopping.

Now, I know some people will take offense that I, a Christian author, speaker and sometimes pastor, willingly engage in the worldly ways of this world's ways. (Wait. I think that's double speak. Oh, well.) But anyway, I think this video will help you to better organize yourself and your shopping list before embarking on the season's quest.

I laughed a lot.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What A Deal

How great is God, who works for you to discover Him to be perfect toward you. He delights to earn your love and trust—it’s His work. What a deal.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"If You Don't Forgive Others, God Won't Forgive You" -- REALLY?

(I occasionally post something excellent from another blog. While I have written about forgiveness and separation from God as well, Steve McVey posted this at his blog (http://www.gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/) and I think it's both vital and outstanding. It's an excerpt from his new book: 52 Lies Heard In Church Every Sunday (And Why The Truth Is So Much Better). If you're interested, look for the link at the bottom of this post.)

There are times in each of our lives where we might be holding unforgiveness towards someone else. If you take that statement at face value — “If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you” — it would mean there are unforgiven sins in your life. If there are unforgiven sins in your life, and you were to die without them being forgiven, then I suppose you would be separated from God forever, wouldn’t you? At the very least, we would be in big trouble even in this life if God looks at us and sees unforgiven sins.

Not surprisingly, this teaching creates a lot of anxiety among Christians. Others might preach at us and tell us we ought to forgive. They make it sound so easy. But it’s not easy. All of us have been hurt by others; some of us severely. We do people a disservice by heartlessly pounding on them to forgive those that have injured them, and it can be even more heartless when we use Bible verses to pound them with. How much greater is the damage when our teaching causes people to feel that God rejects them because they have been unable to forgive others for inexcusable actions.

However, we still need to make good sense of the Bible’s teaching on forgiveness, because the difficult verses in question come from Jesus Himself. Jesus says at the end of His model prayer (that we’ve called “The Lord’s Prayer”),

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you your transgressions. Matthew 6:14-15

If we read those words alone, then it seems like game, set, and match. How could we come to any other conclusion than to believe that our forgiveness totally depends on our forgiveness of others? However, we must never forget that verses must never be interpreted on their own out of context, but must always be interpreted in light of the whole Word of God.

Jesus did say those words, but let me remind you again of the need to consider when Jesus was speaking, to whom He was speaking, and what he was doing. Those are things you have to remember whenever you interpret the Scriptures. Not everything Jesus said is to be applied to you personally, because everything changed at the cross.

TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT THE SCRIPTURES

When Christ died, the Old Covenant was made obsolete, and the New Covenant was brought into existence. The night before He died, Jesus took the cup and passed it, saying,

This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. Luke 22:20

Covenants in the ancient world were almost always inaugurated by the blood sacrifice of an animal. That practice was similar to a contract today being put in force through signing on the dotted line. Jesus was indicating beforehand that His death would bring into reality the long-promised New Covenant. This New Covenant is both different and superior to the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses:

But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, by a much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7

This means that Jesus’ death not only inaugurated the New Covenant, but it also simultaneously brought the law, the Old Covenant, to an end:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8:13

I can’t overemphasize the importance of getting this: When Jesus taught, He was speaking according to the law to people living under the law. Whenever you read the words of Jesus recorded in the gospels, you must keep this in mind. When Jesus taught, “You must forgive in order to be forgiven,” He was magnifying the demands of the law in order to provoke people to understand their need for Him as Savior. But when He died, was buried, and rose again, the New Covenant was inaugurated by His death, and things changed.

That’s why you read in later New Testament writings a different order of reasoning. First, the New Testament teaches us that we are forgiven already:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. Colossians 2:13

Then, on the basis of the forgiveness we have already received, the New Testament urges us to forgive others — but notice the change in order:

Be kind to one other, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-13

Do you see the distinction there? Before the cross, the Bible says you forgive to be forgiven. But after the cross, the Scripture teaches that we forgive because we have been forgiven.

CLARIFY YOUR THINKING

The idea that if you don’t forgive others God won’t forgive you is an Old Covenant teaching, even though we hear it from the lips of Jesus. It was prior to the cross, which is where the law ended. Why did the Lord teach it? Because He often held up the law to raise the awareness of sin in the people’s hearts, so that it would pave the way for them to recognize their need for a Savior. By His death, burial and resurrection, He accomplished the work, and the good news is now preached in His name.

Today, to tell someone that if you don’t forgive others God won’t forgive you is to tell a lie. That’s not applicable in the New Covenant. The truth is, we forgive others because we have been forgiven. As I acknowledged in the beginning of this challenge, forgiveness is often difficult, if not impossible for us on our own. We need supernatural power to find forgiveness in our hearts. The best source of that power is a heart that has been changed by first receiving the amazing grace and forgiveness of Christ.

(This blog is one of the chapters in my new book, 52 Lies Heard In Church Every Sunday (And Why The Truth Is So Much Better) You can order a copy by going to this link:
http://gracewalkresources.com/item.asp?cID=0&PID=635)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Girls & Grace


Through every difficulty, failure, or triumph my daughters experience, they are still in Christ and have everything because of it. My wife, Sarah, and I work to keep that foremost in our thinking and approach. We work to keep that secure foundation in our girls’ thinking as well. And we’re careful not to send them any confusing, false message that tells them they don’t already have everything in Christ—they do! We want to be so positive about God’s grace to us that earning God’s favor and blessing remains something Jesus already did for them—and not something they have to do for themselves.

Some people will say we’re giving them a license to abuse the grace of God. We believe we’re holding them to His grace and keeping them in awe because of it. We’ll take the risk.

Consider Paul’s thoughts on this subject:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14

What is it that teaches my daughters best? The grace of God. God’s grace is not only the condition in which we stand with Him but also the power by which He works in us. Knowing God and how well-off they are with Him through Christ works and teaches my girls to say “No” far better than any list I could come up with and drill into them.

(Excerpted from my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” chapter 12: “Aliens Have Landed—The Proper Care and Feeding of the Everyday Foreigners in Your Family.”)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Day!

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He Is With You


God is so good with sin. And failure. And frustration. And agony. And devastation. And depression. And lunacy. In all of it, He is in us. In all of it, we have Him—the Antidote. The Life. The Comforter. The Security. The Lover. The Promise. The Treasure.

He is with you. And He's delighted.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking the Cycle of Condemnation & Re-dedication


(This outstanding post is from one of my friends and heroes, Steve McVey. If you'd like to learn more and read more from Steve, you may find him at http://www.gracewalk.org/.)

"Why are so many Christians stuck in a cycle of condemnation and rededication? Because the truth is hard to believe: When God forgives, it’s a done deal."

After I became a Christian, I said the following prayer hundreds of times: “Dear Lord, I’m so sorry. I want to ask Your forgiveness for how I have failed You in my Christian life. Lord, You know my heart. I want to serve You faithfully, but I can’t stay on track. Help me, Lord, to live for You. With Your help, I promise to start doing the things that glorify You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Maybe the words varied over the years, but the essence of the prayer was always the same. It started with me groveling in self-condemnation, asking for forgiveness. Then came the rededication part of my prayer, when I asked God to help me keep my promise to do the things He wants. Sometimes I was specific about the stuff I vowed to do -- things like reading my Bible in a year or getting up early to pray every morning. Once I even promised to not eat until I had verbally witnessed to at least one person. By the end of the day, I decided that a gospel tract left for the waitress could count toward that quota.

I don’t pray that way anymore. Every time I prayed like that, I sensed a gnawing awareness that it wouldn’t be long before I was praying the same prayer again. Yet I always had a heartfelt desire to please God. It finally dawned on me: I didn’t have a heart problem; I had a head problem. I wanted to keep my promises. I just didn’t know how.

In the last few years, God has begun to reveal spiritual truths to me that have totally transformed my life. These biblical truths will set a person free to live more effectively than he would with a lifetime of rededication prayers.

1. Realize that you can’t keep your promises. That may seem like a strange first step toward the goal of keeping promises, but it’s true. Miss this one and it’s like being told you didn’t touch first base when you come across home plate. Consider this question: If we could keep our promises, wouldn’t we have done it by now? How many times have we made the same promises? Let’s face it, rededication to keep promises won’t work. If it did, we wouldn’t find it necessary to keep rededicating ourselves.

Many of us have struggled with promise-keeping for one reason: We have focused on our performance more than on Jesus Christ. We have tried to keep our promises, but the Bible teaches that effective Christian living doesn’t come by trying. It comes by trusting Christ to express His life through us. He is the only One who can successfully keep promises. Before we can be effective promise keepers, we must become promise receivers. The Bible is clear about God’s promise: the One who has given us His life will be the One who lives it for us. Only Jesus Christ can effectively live the perfect life. He lives inside believers today and wants to reveal His perfect life through us (See 1 Thess. 5:24; Gal. 3:3-5).

2. A godly identity, not good intentions, must sustain our lifestyle. My own prayer of rededication always focused on my sense of sinfulness and my perceived need of God’s repeated forgiveness. Many men regularly pray to receive God’s forgiveness. We sometimes feel like there is a bad guy deep within us who is eager to come out. We ask the Lord to help us, hoping to suppress that “old man” so that he cannot have his way in our lives. But we fail again, either by doing what we should not have done or not doing what we should have done. And so we conclude that the “bad guy” within us has escaped our control and must be put back in his place. Then, once again, we seek forgiveness and recommit ourselves to keeping various spiritual disciplines.

This scenario sounds logical, but it is far from the teaching of the Bible. You don’t have a “bad guy” deep within you. To the contrary you are righteous at the very core of your being (See Rom. 3:22). The Bible refers to us as “saints” 63 times. God would not call you a saint if you were rotten at the core. At the cross, God took our old sin-filled spirit, with which we were born and crucified it (See Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3; Rom. 6:6). He then placed His own life into us, imparting to us His nature (See 2 Pet. 1:4). We now have a new identity. God did not simply change us; He created a brand-new person (See 2 Cor. 5:17).

When we live independent from Christ, we are doing what Paul called walking “according to the flesh” (See Rom. 8). In other words, we sin. We then see that our sin is not consistent with who we really are, but only how we function when we are not depending on Christ to animate our lives. So it is possible to behave in a way that totally contradicts who we really are.

The Bible teaches that we are righteous by nature (See 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 4:24). When you believe that fact, it will begin to totally transform how you live. You will find yourself practicing godly behavior, not because of disciplined determination, but because that is how you want to live -- and because freedom from condemnation opens the door to God’s power. You will not act out of good intentions, but from a godly identity. Ultimately, people behave according to what they truly believe.

3. Experience the freedom of forgiveness instead of the curse of condemnation. My rededication prayers often began with the words, “I’m so sorry. I want to ask Your forgiveness.” I believed that it was by my continuous confession that I maintained a righteous standing with God. Much of my time was spent begging for forgiveness. Even when I could not think of any unconfessed sin, I thought that surely there must be covert sins down in me somewhere.

Like many today, I believed that when I was saved God forgave me for all the sins I had committed up to that point. Then it was like He deposited forgiveness in a heavenly account with my name on it. From then on, every time I sinned all I had to do was make a withdrawal by asking for God’s forgiveness. If I asked, He would forgive. Until then, I was unforgiven.

That perspective puts a person in a bad predicament. If remaining in a state of forgiveness depends on one constantly asking to be forgiven, our focus must be on ourselves at all times. After all, what if we sin and then suddenly die before getting forgiveness again? It’s hard enough to keep up with the wrong things you might have done, but to never miss doing something you should have done? Talk about pressure!

The liberating truth of the New Testament is that we are totally forgiven. God did not deposit forgiveness in an account for us at salvation. Because of the cross, He emptied the whole account on us! God is not restricted by time. He saw the sins of our whole lifetime and placed them upon Jesus at the cross. God has poured out forgiveness for the sins of a lifetime upon us. One might ask, “Do you mean that our future sins are already forgiven?” That’s exactly what I mean. Remember, when Jesus died for our sins 2,000 years ago, they were all future sins.

This is where God’s grace can seem absurd, even scandalous. After all, if all future sins are already forgiven, why not just go and sin all over the place? But the amazing fact is that, when we receive forgiveness as a finished work, it has the opposite effect. We see ourselves as the forgiven “new men” that we are in Christ, and we set our minds on that fact. The love of Christ expands within us, and He motivates us and empowers us toward a Christ-like life.

We are called to utter dependence on Christ, completely living by faith. It is humbling. But without it, we will never really know where we stand with God. When we stay in that place of certainty in Christ, the works of righteousness will burst forth. It will move us to repent (change our minds and our behavior) when necessary, confess our faults to others and seek forgiveness of people we have wronged. In other words, we will grow in living a life of love.

This ancient truth will sound new to some, because certain scriptures have been misinterpreted which weaken the truth. We have often blurred the lines between the Old Covenant (before Christ’s death) and the New Covenant. When we cross that dividing line and embrace New Covenant grace, we will discover how radical His grace really is.

The reality of grace is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. It is the truth that Jesus spoke about, a radical forgiveness that enraged the Pharisees but delighted the humble and needy follower.

So if we want to keep our promises, we must start trusting. Let us choose to enter God’s rest and receive His love. Then we will discover that we begin keeping our promises, not because it is our duty, but because it is our delight.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The New Law


If you agree with the enticing combo of God’s standards and the side dish of you keeping them, something sinister will always happen—always. “Thou Shalt Not Covet” immediately stimulates another law in you which invariably produces wretched living—invariably. That means “no exceptions.” (Romans 7) However, God’s grace to us in Christ’s death and resurrection has set us from The Law and the other law of sin and death (the combo). We have been set free from the life-goal of attempting to manage ourselves, and are released to life by God.

If now you set your mind on obedience (“I must! I must!”), you will express flesh, in all of its deathly ugliness. Invariably. (Romans 8:5-8) On the other hand, if now you set your mind on the Holy Spirit and His task of revealing the gospel of Christ Jesus to you and in you, growing faith in Him will produce the life you were always meant to enjoy and express—Christ’s life. It's the new combo. (Romans 8:9-11)

What will that be like? You will delight in an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Everything you most want will be produced by Him in you. It's fantastic. And shouldn't it be?

So since we live by the Spirit and His work of revealing Christ to us, let’s stay in step with the Spirit, and we won’t satisfy the “I must!” cravings of the flesh in the old combo.

There’s a new law.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paul's Wish

The lie of religion suggests that while God has already given us everything in Christ, we might have lost a little of the all we never earned—here’s how to get it back. Slaves are made in the "here’s how." So evil and destructive is this suggestion that the apostle Paul made a wish for those who spread the lie.

"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Gal. 5:12

Thursday, November 17, 2011

God At Home


God has made His home in you and in me, and He will never, NEVER withdraw Himself or forsake us. He has made us righteous royalty in His family, and even if our radiant robes should drag in the mud of this world, like the father of the prodigal, He will never lawyer-up and prosecute us for waywardness or distant country visitations.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tree Of Life--A Brief Review


(Here's a brief review of the summertime movie, The Tree Of Life, which I just saw last night with my home church group.)


Nearly 24 hours after seeing it, I’m still thinking about the movie. Afterwards, I immediately liked the first half better than the last. I was very moved and kept thinking, “Oh, God, what is man that you are mindful of Him? You created the heavens and the earth and are right now sustaining all of life—and still you are with us.”

I found the second half difficult to watch. . .and then I began thinking about it in the middle of the night. I was deeply moved all over again. The wife and mother signifies grace. She is secure and loving and far from judgmental while fully involved in her son’s lives. Her family thrives from her involvement. She has nothing to achieve—only to love and share. The husband and father signifies living by the flesh and the futile attempt to achieve a life apart from Christ. He is terribly insecure because there is always something he has to do, something he has to accomplish. The difference between the two is stark and stunning. When the father leaves on an extended trip, the whole family emerges healthy and vibrant and full of love and grace for each other. When he returns, everyone tenses and returns to living by instruction and the fear of failure. The difference is amazing. . .and uncomfortable.

I felt deep sorrow for the husband and father, who tried so hard to teach and shape his sons and wife—even for their good, or so he believed. Each measured attempt added distance to their hearts until love, given and received, was lost amid the classroom that had become their family life. They became disconnected, and intimacy lost exploded in frustration and anger amongst them all.

I’ve seen that before.

The end was pretty great. The truth—that we have no kingdoms to create, no castles to erect and guard because God Himself is Planner and Creator and Sustainer and Fulfiller—beautifully dawned upon each person. Rest had always been available, but was now accomplished. They got it. I think I did too.

So now I really like the movie. A lot. I’m going to watch it again and I suspect I will like it even more. Maybe make it onto my Top Ten list.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Keep Christ In Christmas...Or Else!

Okay, for those who really, really, really want to keep Christ in Christmas (It fires you up!), perhaps you can relate to the passion and outcome of this short video.

I hope you've had a great weekend. . .After this, it's on to more serious stuff. Right?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wonder

It’s not so much about trusting God with my life given to Him; it’s about trusting God with His life given to me. After all, Jesus didn’t accept my life when I gave it to Him, I accepted His. Kindly and graciously, He crucified my life and gave me another—His. I’m learning to trust Him in me.

What a wonder that is.

Thank You


Your care and concern led you to efforts and places mine didn’t, and I’m better off by far because of you. American Military Veterans, you have my deepest appreciation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Great Resource


In case you're interested in Christianity and growing in Christ, here's a link to an excellent resource. Furthermore, the ministry has published one of my articles: "Never Beggars." Click on the link, and off you go.

http://www.lifetime.org/2011/11/never-beggars/

For Always. For You.


Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection was not God’s Plan B. He didn’t make something up because we messed up. Jesus was always the Lamb slain before the foundation of the earth. God’s plan is right on time—always. Even today. Even for you.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

When Life Doesn't Work Out

Here's a funny little video for your weekend fun. While it is about candy--and the sudden loss of it--there is probably a bigger lesson here, don't you think?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Don't Miss Out!

You certainly don't want to miss out on what God's doing by being even an hour late (Heavens!), so FYI.

Know what I'm sayin'?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Creatures


We have become all-together different creatures. Not only does God have no record of our sins, not only does He not impute them to us, not only has He made us as having never committed them; He has made us as having always done everything right. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

An Excellent Resource


Here's a great resource, but only if you're interested in Jesus and the incredibly fantastic things He's done for you through the cross and resurrection. Plus, something I've written ("A Shuffling Ninja") is the featured article.

Have a look. http://www.lifetime.org/2011/11/a-shuffling-ninja/

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Rest Well


Sons and daughters of God, rest and sleep as though you have never failed God or committed a single sin in your entire life, and you will be sleeping by faith in Jesus. Good night.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Wondering?


For those who don't know what I do for my real job, you can find out at http://lifecourse.org/. I'm a speaker (you'll find video and audio messages from various churches and locations on the "Downloads" page), author (click "Ralph's Book" to find out about "God's Astounding Opinion of You"), and sometimes pastor (click "What We Do" or "Face To Face"). And if you'd like to have me speak to your group or church, click "Schedule Event".

An Unusual Declaration of Faith

For me, this is one more unusual post today. I do not know who I am voting for in the Presidential election, and this is not an endorsement. Besides, I'm withholding my choice until after the swimsuit competition. But for those of us who are lovers of Jesus, this impresses more than the usual claim of faith. It's not long--check it out.

Delicious Satire

I don't post many of these, but my twisted sense of humor insisted upon this delicious satire. If it offends you, you're not the first, and I apologize up front. Really.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky!

Does this count for spooky?

What If?


What if God is working most pointedly with us every day so that we will recognize Him as greatest treasure? Not to correct us, not to direct us, not to answer our questions or even to guide our path. What if God’s best treasure is the one you discover Him to be? Trading everything for the one thing would be a no-brainer. What if?

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Triple-Dog Dare


Here’s a triple-dog dare you.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Christmas-time classic movie, “A Christmas Story.” While there are lots of great moments in the story, one drew a particularly large crowd. Best pals Ralphie, Flick and Schwartz were walking to school one frigid and snowy morning when an old discussion resumed: Will a tongue pressed on a frozen metal pole stick or not? Schwartz said it would, and Flick said, “No way!” With a crowd drawing round the flagpole moments before school, Schwartz loudly dared Flick to “Go ahead and do it,” if he was so brave. Flick, not altogether sure of his tongue-stick position, stalled as long as he could until Schwartz called him out with the ultimate verbal motivator: “I triple-dog dare you!”

You know what happened—Flick stuck. Seconds later the school bell rang, so everyone hurried away including a triumphant and beaming Schwartz. Everyone, except Flick. But I can’t imagine a better bit of tongue-stuck education than Flick gave that day, arms waving and voice wailing. No one would forget it. In the end, foolish Flick helped them all.

I would like to triple-dog dare you into a bit of foolishness—the unforgettable, apostle Paul type of foolishness.

Many of us are frustrated amongst a church that does not recognize itself. Most would agree that the percentage of Christians who believe they have truly become new creations, holy, blameless and righteous is very low. And that’s tragic. How can one truly enjoy the perfect intimacy God has achieved for us with Himself when we’ve got a serious disagreement going on about our union? Further, how can we enjoy true fellowship within the church when we are unrecognizable to each other? The devil and this world have effectively disguised the sons and daughters of God, even to themselves. The cover-up, which cannot prevent our longing for the benefit of true fellowship, nevertheless frustrates the possibility of it. We’ve been trained to settle for the outward appearance, even though we’ve been commanded against it.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:16-19 Italics mine)

Surrendering to worldly identities terribly injures us all. It’s not normal. It doesn’t work for us. We are obscured and reduced to life by masquerade—of pretending we are not what we in fact are. Imagine a day in which you throw off your astounding Christian identity and masquerade as a pig in a pen because the slaughterhouse is after cattle. You’re neither one, but that’s what it’s like when a noble Christian accepts the lowly images of this world—pork or beef. It’s a never-ending game that disguises us and keeps us playing dress up. It’s demonic and it’s hurting us.

A better fit for us, a normal, Spirit-led and life producing fit, is to boast in the Lord. He has made us to be like Him in righteousness—pure—holiness—perfect—and redemption—complete (1 Cor 1:30-31). Wherever you are, you are at all times recognized in the heavens as having become magnificent. Those in the heavens see what we must know. Otherwise, we walk covered-over and crippled.

Here’s my challenge: Identify yourself to those who cannot.

If you were to say, “I am a righteous man,” in the hearing of a few friends, would you be accurate? You would. Would they be surprised? Probably. Would you be arrogant? Not at all, since you had nothing to do with what God has done to you through Christ. Your boast is accurate and we need it. It’s healthy to say it, and it’s healthy to hear it. Or how about saying, “It’s amazing that I am a perfect daughter of God,” when with some girl friends. Oh, you’ll get “looks,” for sure, but you will be drawing back the worldly disguise that keeps you and your friends in a lie. Get outta there. Or what would happen if you asked a similar group, “Which of us is the most holy?” That ought to birth some eye-opening conversation!

And don’t we need it?

It may be a little uncomfortable at times because we are not used to identifying each other as we are in Christ, but rather, as we appear in this world. A little discomfort, however, does not mean inaccuracy. To the contrary, we’ll be living in agreement with God. While that has always been daring, it’s also invigorating. You will be assisting yourself and others to the truth that makes free—and that’s unforgettable.

Begin telling people who you are. This may well cause something of a revolution amongst your friends, and they will likely ask how you got that way. Wouldn’t that be great? That’s when the Spirit has a field day—with you and with those around.

Go for it. I triple-dog dare you.

(Two things to help you: 1. Have a look at my sermon from a couple of weeks ago at Andrew Farley’s church. It’s really all about this. Go to http://web.mac.com/ralphandsarah/LifeCourseMinistries/Downloads/Downloads.html, or to http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17920119. 2. Get a copy of my book (even for FREE if you like), “God’s Astounding Opinion of You” and read chapter 14: “Stripping Mummies—Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb.” You can get it in print or in eBook format at most any bookstore, at my ministry web site (http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html), at amazon.com, and many other online retailers.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yukon Cornelius?


Does anyone else think the St. Louis relief pitcher, Motte, looks like the bearded prospector, Yukon Cornelius, in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”?

Life By Masquerade


Surrendering to worldly appearances terribly injures us all. It’s not normal. It doesn’t work for us. We are obscured and reduced to life by masquerade—of pretending we are not what we in fact are. Imagine a day in which you masquerade as a pig in a pen because the slaughterhouse is after beef. That’s something of the picture of a noble Christian accepting the “more acceptable” images of this world--pork or beef. It’s a never-ending game that disguises us and keeps us playing dress up. It’s demonic and it’s hurting us.


(I will have more to say about this tomorrow.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome Mr. Trash Man


Does a big behemoth of a trash truck thrill you? Around my house, we think they’re wonderful.

For several years whenever any of us, Ellen, Emma, Sarah or I, heard the low rumble of the approaching beast, we would shriek in various keys and styles, and run to the window to glimpse the city’s lumbering removal system. What a spectacle. The big-as-a-house creature would sort of squat down and unfurl one of its’ alien-like arms. This appendage of deliverance would deftly reach out and grasp our cowering container of garbage, hoist it skyward, and forcefully shake it until it expended every last vestige of foulness.

We cheered.

Our comparatively diminutive container, which, resting in the street had previously looked happy enough, immediately appeared somehow grateful—like it had suddenly realized it was never supposed to be happy when stuffed—and that it’s friend was the trash truck. As it rumbled away, we often waved goodbye. “Thank you, Mr. Trash Truck and Mr. Trash Man! Thank you for taking our trash! We love you! See you next week!”

Truth is, we still cheer Mr. Trash Man. Just last night I encouraged my youngest daughter to welcome His work.

For some time now we have likened the Holy Spirit’s effort within us to that of the trash man. Pardon us if you’re offended by our comparison, but consider God’s directive: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We know by experience what I’ll bet you do, too. God isn’t particularly thrilled just because we set out our trashy anxieties, whether by the confession of sin or by the expression of our fears; He’s interested in caring for us.

God’s care for me doesn’t come only when I’m doing well and loving life, but when I’m doing poorly and full of garbage. Sin, failures and fears often whisper to us that we’ve got to stop them—Stop them right now!—but they never suggest we immediately offer ourselves to God who can do something about them. And sin, failures and fears never bring up Jesus’ ability concerning struggles and temptations, either. He faced every struggle and temptation we’ve had and disposed of them. All of them.

And where is this Jesus today? In you. In me. And in my wife and daughters. You’re not full of garbage—God lives in you! But sometimes you’ll feel like you are. Don’t believe it; it’s a lie directed at the glory of God.

That’s why one of our pet names for God is The Trash Man. When we know that one of us is beleaguered we might say something like, “Wonder what the Trash Man might do for you?” or, “The Trash Man is really good at taking the trash out of you. Have you given Him a call?” Immediately we know what’s meant: God is good and amazing in the middle of sin, failures and fears, struggle and temptation. He’s good with us, and He’s always about freedom and purity—He’s a sanitation expert. He knows how to make and keep the majesty of His Bride.

You’ll never ever be an offense to Him. He cares for you, in anything and everything. Talk with Him and call upon Him when the trash is threatening. His care for you will be evident, and you’ll learn more quickly to welcome Mr. Trash Man.

(This post is now appearing on Lifetime Guarantee’s site, an excellent resource for the Christian life. A new post will arrive tomorrow, Wednesday, October 26. Go to http://www.lifetime.org/)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Fruit of the Spirit


Surprise: the Spirit in me continues to produce hope and love for others--a lot of it. He's really good at it. With all of the worldly gloom and doom-saying pointed at my mind, it’s more than a relief to recognize Christ formed in me. He is wonderful there!

I don't know what the result of His fruit in me will be, but I'm sure glad for the taste of it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Devastating Cover-Up

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:21-23, italics mine).

Satan’s goal is to move the church away from the gospel of reconciliation, to get us to believe that we have not been made holy and without blemish—that we’ve not been reconciled. If he can seduce us into believing anything less than the gospel (if he can get us to believe, for example, that at our core we’re 75% holy and 53% without fault), then we, the people of the gospel, won’t believe the good news. Instead, we’ll believe that God’s gift of righteousness and holiness and redemption (and all the other incredible gifts we’ve received through Christ) have either not been given to us or have been sullied and perhaps taken from us. Now what do we do? Moved away from the gospel, we will no longer be free from accusation. We’ll take a pounding (“You idiot! You’re so stupid!”), and it will hurt.

So to stop the pain, we’ll cover up. We won’t live by faith and we won’t trust God. But because our days and lives go on, we’ll turn on our personal image projection system. After all, now there’s work to be done. In a terribly twisted way, we’ll believe that we have to earn what has been and will always be a gift. Then we’ll measure ourselves and others by how we’re looking, and by how we’re really getting ourselves together now. Really.

This is the primary misery plaguing the church. We’re horribly cheated when we go for the image we can perform instead of the revival of faith and grace that the church is to assist us with.

To see if you’ve been affected, I want to ask you a question: If people suddenly knew that you sometimes got sloppy drunk, were in an affair, were lately looking at pornography, or were about to have an abortion, who would you be most afraid of meeting: a roomful of Christians from your church, or a room full of people you didn’t know?

If you responded, “I’d be most afraid of a roomful of Christians,” you have something in common with me and 90% of the people who have previously answered the question. Think for a moment what that means. The implications are devastating. We’re a church that doesn’t like or trust each other—not really. How can we have fellowship on the grand scale befitting the church if we don’t know what we have in common?

Since God’s revelation about my own cover-up, the most difficult people for me to be around have been Christians. Not rookie Christians and not those recently born anew, but some of the veteran and leader types, those who shepherd the flock. They often don’t see the church for who it has already become in Christ (having been reconciled), so they work to make something of it, to push it somewhere, and to make something happen—a bigger church. That means the members have to know what to do, how to look, how to reach out, how to love, how to obey, how to fight, and how to win. WIN!

But because these leaders don’t know who they already are (new creations), the projection way of life remains, and their hearts are left bound up, blocked from view, and blocked from life. Their only hope is God and His reconcilers.

If we don’t help convince new believers who they now are, and if we don’t prove to them that they may walk among us without fear, safe and welcome because they’re actually part of us, then we’ve left them in the tangle of the grave clothes of their previous way of life—a way of living that was dead. Even as we tell everyone in Christ to run because they’re free, no one really will be. Everyone will be impaired because everyone will be stumbling over the grave clothes we’ve not removed.

This is why church is mostly boring, given enough time. We’re not truly impressed, and we’re not actually engaged with one another. Imagine a sanctuary filled with mummies, and you’ve about got the picture. This is what happens to believers when they’re still wearing their own grave clothes, when they don’t know they are truly dazzling, new creations in Christ, with new life and a new way of living. It doesn’t matter whether they’re new or longtime Christians. When they’re not relieved of living as they once did because they’ve been made new, they cannot help “falling away” or “backsliding.”

However, God “has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19), and I’m deeply thankful for the sons and daughters of God who are noticing the urging of the Spirit toward assisting others.

(Excerpted from my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” chapter 14: “Stripping Mummies—Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb.” For more information about the book and my ministry, go to http://lifecourse.org and click on Ralph’s Book. You’ll find my book at bookstores everywhere, as well as in eBook format at amazon.com, christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and more.)

Speaking This Weekend


Grace Evangelical Free Church of Longmont, CO, is hosting me for a weekend conference, “Putting AMAZING Back Into Grace.” I will be speaking from 9:00am – 4:00, this Saturday, Oct. 22—tomorrow—and again on Sunday at 8:30am and 11:15am.

For more information about this free event, call the church office at (303) 772-5685, or find them on the web at http://www.graceefc.org/

Video Sermon Available


Did you miss me speaking at Andrew Farley’s church, Ecclesia, last Sunday? You may watch the video at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17920119.

If you’ve wondered how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus profoundly affects you today, this sermon, “Looking Where God Is Looking,” is for you. (Andrew introduces me at about the 11:00 minute point in the service, after which there is a bit of an audio glitch—mine! But it doesn’t last long.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In Texas


I arrived in Lubbock this afternoon, and immediately began ministering to the locals.

(TIME CORRECTION! -- I will be speaking at Andrew Farley’s church (Ecclesia) tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10:30am and 7:30pm (CST). You may stream both services live at http://www.churchwithoutreligion.com/home.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Absurd Forgiveness

(Here's an article by Steve McVey, who also wrote the foreword for my book. It's another strikingly clear and vital truth I know will help you. Otherwise, would I post it?)

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he wrongly assumed His God would be angry but instead God came looking for Him to take His regular evening walk.

When Abraham sent his wife, Sarah, into Pharaoh’s tent to protect his own life by allowing her to have sex with another man, God told Pharaoh that he was on dangerous
ground and that he’d better get her out of there right now. The next words out of God’s mouth to Abraham were to reassure him of the covenant He had made with him. Not a word about his sin.

When Elisha was depressed and afraid and angry and prayed to die, God sent an angel to feed him so that he might regain his strength. No shame or blame.

When Peter denied Jesus, our Lord made sure when he arose to mention Peter by name and said to make sure he knew Jesus was alive. No reference to what Peter had done.

These were giants in the Bible – giants who made horrific choices. In each instance, the love of God swallows up their sins and foolishness in one great gush of grace. It's absurd. What have you done that causes you to think God may be disappointed or perturbed toward you? Whatever it is, you need to set it aside because that's what He has done. As absurd as it sounds, God isn't interested in what you've done in the past. He lives with you in the now and wants you to live in this moment of grace and accept His forgiveness.

Jesus showed us our Father’s heart when He had the Father of the prodigal son throw him a party when he returned home without so much as a mention of what the boy had done. That’s your God.

Refuse to accept His acceptance and you’ll lock yourself inside a prison of your own making. Accept His acceptance and you’ll run in the joyful freedom only known by those who know their sins never appear on God’s radar – never.

You’ve messed up? Welcome to the world of great children of God. It happened. So put it aside now. Don’t insult the finished work of Jesus on the cross by insisting on trying to share in dealing with it through your own gnawing guilt and spiritually suicidal self-consciousness. You are forgiven. You are free. You are one with the One who keeps no record of wrongs and promises to never remember them again.

So dance. Run. Laugh. Play. Celebrate. That’s what the Father, Son and Spirit are doing and He asks you to join in right now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Sunday, Oct. 16!


Update! Seeing others as they are in Christ has become one of the most invigorating aspects of faith for me. Each encounter, whether by phone or in person, is an opportunity to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, to reap God’s life, instead of the failure of flesh. Everybody wins.

I will be speaking about this at Andrew Farley’s church (Ecclesia) this coming Sunday, Oct. 16, at 10:30am and 7:30pm (CST). You may stream it live at http://www.churchwithoutreligion.com/home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Majesty Unveiled


A great danger today is for Christians—the ones made holy and blameless and new and radiant, and who are right now the happy homes of God Almighty—to listen to a speaker or pastor or leader who does not see them as they have become in Christ, but who sees them only in the disguised and lowly appearances of this world. What they hear will be flesh to flesh, and confusion, though cloaked in bright lights and noise and smiling faces, will produce frustration and disillusionment.

If, on the other hand, that speaker or pastor or leader truly sees them and is at all dazzled by the royalty they are, then they can rest confidently because what they hear will invigorate who they are—majesty unveiled. It’s then that the glory of God in the sons of God is brilliantly evident. And that—the sons of God living together by faith in God—is how the world is changed.