Tuesday, May 31, 2011
When God first revealed that He loved me "without finding any fault," He both shocked me and caused me to fall head-over-heels in love with Him. From that moment in 1984 to this, God's astounding love and grace is what my ministry is all about, it's what my book is all about, and it's what my life has been all about. In case you were wondering.
Ministry web site: http://lifecourse.org/
This next weekend, June 3-5, I am the speaker for “An Astounding God Conference” Men's Retreat in Vancouver, Canada. Three churches are coming together for this event, and I am anticipating a terrific weekend.
This is a return trip for me since I was the speaker for a retreat in 2009 that was hosted by the same church. I can hardly wait.
For more information, contact Pastor Durwin Gray at Hillside Community Church.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. - John F. Kennedy
I'm deeply thankful for the men and women who have labored and fought to ensure the liberty my family and I enjoy so much.
Have a great Memorial Day!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
God has brought an end to offerings and sacrifices which people once used to rely upon to make themselves okay with God. There's no more of that. He never liked it in the first place.
He has set that all aside in favor of something far better—the offering of Himself. He has relied completely upon Himself and made us entirely holy already—in perfect condition—uniting us with Himself through the cross and resurrection.
No more earning; only believing. No more striving; only trusting. How cool is that? (Heb. 10:8-10)
The only offering now is you—and that's perfect.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Here's a recent review of my new book, published by Harvest House a couple of months ago.
Hmm. I think he might have liked it.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)
Unfortunately, many of us have become transfixed by this world that is temporary and passing away, rather than by the world which gave us birth—the eternal and invisible. Our vision has been seduced away from the most-real realm—the spirit realm—to the temporary arena where neither God nor us are understood in truth, and our sight has been shifted away from the eyes of our heart to the eyes in our head. The effect on the church is calamitous. We don’t see ourselves as God does, we don’t approach each other in the revelation of God’s glory now shared with us, so we don’t see Him either.
Even though God has perfected us in Christ (“because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Heb 10:14), we don’t believe He has because we’re not looking where He is.
But some of us are.
For those whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit, continue in the hope that you have—it will be strength to you—and assist others whose eyes God will open. I know you will encounter loneliness and rejection, sometimes by the very people God has changed and made radiant, but, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3)
You are magnificent. If you’re not seeing it just now, it’s not because it’s not true, it’s because you’re not looking in the right place. Look anew.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I’ve been fasting this week. It’s not because God likes it when I fast, it’s because I do. Yeah, you read that right. For me, fasting is choosing a weakness through which I will know and savor God more. It’s all about satisfaction—mine.
In this case, I’m fasting from food, but in the past I’ve fasted from television, music (rather than listen to the stereo in my car on morning drives to work, I preferred thinking and listening for Him in quiet), news media, alcohol (I like an ale or a glass of wine now and then), and more.
It’s amazing how much I get used to turning to the things of this world for satisfaction, rather than to God, who satisfies me most and best. Like many, I suppose, seeking God or reading the Bible or praying can become all about obedience and willpower (“I’ve got to do it!”) when I’m getting more satisfaction and better pleasure elsewhere. Does that make sense? When my eagerness is most evident because I’m really, really looking forward to a barbecued steak and a glass of syrah tonight, or when I’m really eager to see by how much USC beats Notre Dame this coming Saturday(!), or when I am passionately curious to figure out and/or debate exactly why the Nobel committee saddled our President with the Peace Prize, then it's likely that my wants and desires and satisfaction have been captured by the stuff of this world and not by God.
In effect, I’ve been taken hostage.
And then my thoughts go something like this: “I really should read the Bible.” “I really ought to pray more.” Or, “I’m really weak on the spiritual disciplines of study and meditation. I’ve got to be more committed.” That’s a good one.
I start to approach God and the things He likes as important things to do, rather than ways to know Him and like Him. And what about letting Him show me why He likes me? Reading the Bible and praying becomes a daily duration of time when I get my study and devotional time card punched. Thunk-thunk! Going to church becomes all about following through on commitment. Giving money is about the pledge I made. Yuck. Round about then a college football game is much more exciting, or a bowl of ice cream, a shopping spree, a good movie, or a new electronic gadget. What delight, right?
Read the Bible? I’ll do that later or on Sunday. Yeah, that’ll be good then.
God no longer brings about the wedding of desire and satisfaction—fulfillment—because it has been joined together elsewhere. What does God get? Commitment and Study and Pledges of Obedience—and my frustration. A lot of frustration.
But because He has crucified me to this world and this world to me (we’re incompatible), I can tolerate this hostage situation for only so long (Gal. 6:14). A break-out is drawing near.
That’s where a fast comes in. Through it I am needling myself, my true self, and saying, “Alert! Wake up and be satisfied! I can no longer stand surface satisfaction when I’ve been made for far deeper.” To be sure, I still have strong longings for satisfaction—in fact they get stronger—but the Spirit brings out desires now natural for me. I actually want God. I truly want Father. And any way to get Him and to know Him is where I start going. I begin talking to Him more, even as I read my Bible. I start wanting to take a walk just so I can get out and look around and express my thoughts and questions to Him. I wake up in the morning and I think, “God, I want to be satisfied by you.” That’s a pretty welcome thought compared to what can otherwise go on in my noggin.
To be clear, no one has to fast to earn anything. It’s a way of enjoying what you already have. Any kind of fasting is toward satisfaction. It’s a way of acknowledging, “Jesus, you have given me absolutely everything already for entirely nothing. Hooray! I’m full already. So I want to hunger as a way of finding fullness.”
This morning I made breakfast for my family: French toast, strawberries, bananas and real maple syrup. And I didn’t eat any of it. My youngest daughter is staying home today because she’s sick, and she just asked me to make her a piece of toast, with lots of cream cheese and lots of boysenberry jam on top. Lots.
And I’m loving it. The Holy Spirit—my friend and fascination and satisfaction—is carrying me along. The hunger I feel for a nibble is less powerful than the satisfaction I’m getting from Him.
And that’s what a fast is for.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sometimes the best-meant teaching about what we're supposed to do in prayer and what's supposed to be accomplished actually cripples us. We're taught to approach the I AM in battle readiness and to make the crazy attempt to organize the universe on His behalf. He may indeed direct us toward some prayerful work with Him, He may share with us His thoughts and feelings about someone or something, as He did with Epaphras in Colossians 4:12-13.
But being with Him, being convinced by Him about Himself and about ourselves with Him is the highest accomplishment before any direction or sharing. Most of the time He convinces me that He has actually made and arranged the universe and planned out everything already so I needn't fret; in fact, He has made me. He convinces me of my fit with Him, which baptizes me anew in love and delivers me from fear.
How important is that?!
God re-takes the lead in prayer, which usually means that I have been seduced into a position in the world and in my daily doings that makes me the burden-bearer or the load-puller. I love having that exposed! It means I’m about to be delivered, revived and restored. Any direction or task that follows that finds me securely and delightfully yoked with Him. And that means I'm resting in Him.
For me, that's the best there is.
(This follows my post from Friday, “A Reviving Homecoming.”)
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
But if I asked a room full of people what they would rather talk about, prayer or tooth decay, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the winning majority chose to talk about the benefits of regular flossing.
For many, prayer was something we were taught to do in order to get something else. Right? That something else might have included a better day, a better job, a better outcome, a better future, or a better wife, but in any case, praying wasn’t the thing, getting something because of it was the thing. Prayer was a little like calling room service. Cool.
However, lots of us have virtually stopped praying because we’ve found prayer doesn’t often give us the something else we wanted. Prayer has become more about disappointment than fulfillment, so how many of us who have been around awhile really want to do it anymore? I mean, c’mon—if a strategy doesn’t work, why would you keep doing it?
But before I was taught how to strategize my life by praying the "right way," I accidentally got to know God in prayer. I found that God was like my own personal fountain of youth—Ponce de Leon was on the right track, he just looked in the wrong place. God showed Himself to be like a spring of water that I could visit anytime simply by taking a few steps away from the dry flatlands of the visible and temporary world, toward the rich and satisfying peaks of the invisible and eternal. My best expression before prayer was, “I simply want to be with you!” In other words, “I thirst.”
If God is, in fact, like a spring of life, a fountain of revival—and He says He is—then all I have to offer Him is my thirst. I can do that. The best way to glorify my Mountain Spring is to get to it as often as possible and to drink to the full, to drink to satisfaction. It would be foolish to drag water from the flatlands up to the spring, there to pour it in, hoping to make something more of it, hoping to make it go somewhere else or look different. Or maybe we could get a bucket brigade going to make a really impressive watering hole, set up some floodlights to illuminate it, and add on some related attractions to get people up the hill.
Prayer is bringing to God my thirst for Him. The way to please the Mountain Spring, the way to please God is to come to Him to get and not to give, to drink and not to water. Every time I approach the Spring it is because I have found its water to be everything I need—that’s how God is glorified by me. I believe He is who He says He is, and my efforts related to wanting Him and finding Him is how the spring of living water now in me bubbles up as His satisfying life for me and through me. He has planned for that.
So whatever it is that makes me thirsty—frustration, chaos, futility, lust, covetousness, hopelessness, envy, weakness, arrogance, pride, anger, unbelief, or gas prices—I want to be quicker and quicker to head for water. And since He now lives in me, since the Spring is so close, I can silently turn my thoughts toward Him in the confident hope that satisfaction and water await. Anything(!) that surfaces my need is the avenue toward the Spring. My satisfaction and His glory through meeting the need are the result. You and I are set up for this.
So if prayer is about drinking, have one on me.
Prayer is more about jumping into the pool of the Spirit, and less about directing the water. If prayer is going to be satisfying, let alone inviting, it must provide revival and deliverance for the one immersed. It must be more like a homecoming than a going to work.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Sometimes after a bunch of good days in row, days of Spirit-filled love and effectiveness around people, it can seem like someone pulled the plug on them and drained the life all away…slowly. The fun begins to slip, and the mundane, life-as-it-has-to-be takes its place. Pretty soon the days are all about going through the motions, while adding the proper amounts of postured zeal. But on those days you know you really don’t have it anymore. I don’t like those days.
I call them Dracula Days.
If you’re under thirty years old, you may not be real familiar with Dracula, but you’ve probably heard of the famous bloodsucker. In the films of many years ago, Count Dracula would seem to be a fine, up-standing citizen, someone you’d like to know. Coming from the fictitious Transylvania, he had a magnificent accent and I nearly always think well of those who do, even if it isn’t warranted. “Vonderful to meet choo—I am Count Drah-koo-lah.”
Unfortunately, he could turn into a nasty, hairy bat, and swoop in through the always-open window of the unsuspecting beautiful woman. And then he’d suck the life out of her.
For the longest time, Dracula would escape suspicion because he was so nice. Only after he had punctured the neck and drained the life out of almost every vivacious and gorgeous girl would anyone figure it out. And when he was finally dragged, hissing and growling, into the sunlight, his life of taking life came to a fiery end.
I’ve got lots of hidden Dracula’s in my days, sneaky ways by which the life I’ve been given in Christ seems to drain away. Do you? They’re not always easy to identify, either, because I may have grown used to them. Maybe I’ve even accepted them.
I like to watch movies at home with my daughters. But while we enjoy watching, what actually happens between us? What heart value is exchanged? We may laugh or make comments together, but what did it actually draw out of us? What did I really give my girls from me? How did we share in the hope and love and grace of God, or in the things that build us up in Christ, or how did we grow in life by the Spirit? I’m not saying that movie watching together as a family is bad or to be avoided if you’re really a Christian. I am saying that it isn’t life giving or life stimulating. Not really. In fact, it sometimes becomes a default way of entertainment, which distracts me from what really satisfies.
Or maybe it’s reading the newspaper, or going through the mail while someone is with me, or watching the news while one of my daughters sits in the chair next to me. Why not drag her onto my lap and talk or pray with her? That’s sure to stimulate life. Or maybe it’s letting Sarah do the kitchen stuff while I’m parked in front of the computer screen. Why not go out there and empty the dishwasher together? Why not ask a life-provoking question (“What does God think of you, Sarah?”), or talk about something that caught my attention today concerning a lie of the devil that I’ve been deceived into believing?
Any of these things (and simpler ones, too) are about sewing to the Spirit with other people. And what happens when you sew to the Spirit, giving Him your attention?
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 NASB)
Sowing to the flesh essentially means living through your days without the life of God—the life Jesus gave you and which the Holy Spirit now produces. I think it’s the familiar things that drain the life out of us, the mundane stuff we have to do, so we do it without thinking through it. We don’t recognize that those are puncture points.
Next time you have to do the laundry, or clear the table, or when you feel fatigued after a full day of work, resist the familiar impulse to plop down in front of the TV, or pick up a newspaper, or surf the web, and go for life—real life. It may feel awkward at first, but you’ll soon notice you’ve got more vitality, you’re more alert and with it. Not only will those Dracula Days be at an end, but you’ll also be dragging his sorry carcass into the light, there to sizzle and fry.
And that’s nice.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
But now there's a organization that has stolen and capitalized on my life's goal. I suppose it's okay, as long as the word gets out. Right?
Have a great weekend!
Friday, May 13, 2011
If you’ve read “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” would you take a few minutes to post a brief recommendation? Click http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Astounding-Opinion-You-Understanding/dp/0736937838/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305324619&sr=1-1-catcorr and scroll down to “Create your own review.”
And thanks for your help.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
My sermon from last Sunday has been posted.
Are you in Christ? This message (linked below) has everything to do with reaping the benefit of His presence now in you: His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His gentleness, His faithfulness, His self-control. From our perfect position in Christ, our best approach to the needs of relationships all around us, and specifically to marriage, is to be undivided in devotion to the Lord and relatively unconcerned with meeting the needs of those around us. How can that be?
This approach, first advocated by the apostle Paul, allows Jesus to produce His life in and through us, even His love for our spouse.
1 Corinthians 7:29-35 reads: “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not;...35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”
This lack of concern for others while being “undivided” in our devotion to Jesus (which is where we are—in Christ) puts us in direct trust of Christ now in us. He has more love and power for everyone and everything than you could ever imagine. And wouldn’t it be nice to start getting used to it? Through this approach He can produce what He is like in us, and we will find Him capable and perfect for everyone and everything around us. This is the life of trust and of awe you’ve always wanted and for which God has set you up. You’ll be thrilled with Him.
This message was given at Grace Life Church, in Woodstock, Georgia, where Ralph had been speaking for several days prior to this final, Sunday morning message.
Go to http://web.mac.com/ralphandsarah/LifeCourseMinistries/Downloads/Downloads.html
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I don't think absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think absence reveals the heart that's fonder.
This world’s noise and bother and frenetic pace can seemingly cover over the new heart given us by God and temporarily diminish our true loves and delights. I’m so grateful that He is faithful to bring out and display His work in me, so I can know the loves and likes that are now mine.
Saturday, May 07, 2011
I've been traveling and speaking for more than a week now, and I'll be heading for home tomorrow after speaking at Grace Life Church, in Woodstock, GA.
This picture captures my mother as I best remember her--radiant and ready to cheer you on. She was brilliant! If you'd like to see a video presentation of her incredible life (she passed on nearly three years ago), go to http://web.mac.com/ralphandsarah/HarrisFamily/In_Memory_of_Maryjane_Harris.html.
She's even more radiant and cheerful now.