Saturday, July 30, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
“The ministry of reconciliation” means that, all by Himself, God has done everything needed for a perfect family reunion. Through the cross and resurrection, our sin and failure and ugliness and weakness and resistance to God doesn’t matter—the party has started, and our place is secured. The ministry or message of reconciliation is both the proclamation of that fact (“You can come in now!”) and the insistence of our fit (“You belong!”). You’re family!
To some people, the message is an appeal to come for the first time. We, the church, are ambassadors of that incredible message in a land of foreigners, a worldwide arena of those who have not yet received Christ and are not yet family. Come on in!
But to others—to those already reconciled and part of the party already—our message is an ongoing insistence that we’re family and have no reason to hide. Not anything. Not ever. We’re in. We belong. (Excerpted from my book, God’s Astounding Opinion of You, chapter 14: Stripping Mummies: Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb. For info about it, go to http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html)
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
If you could spend just one day with nothing more to do than to know the love of God for you, what effect would that day have on you? What would it produce? Think about it for a moment.
I’ll put it this way:
If “love is patient,” then what do you want? If love is kind, if love does not envy, if it does not boast and is not proud, then what do you want? If love does not dishonor others and is not self-seeking, and if love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs, then what do you want? If love does not delight in evil, if love rejoices in the truth, and if love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres, then what do you want?
You want the love of God.
Perhaps one of the biggest rip-offs suffered by a Christian is believing the assertion that 1 Corinthians 13 is about how we’re supposed to act and behave with one another in order to be loving, when, to the contrary, it’s about the triumph of God’s love expressed to us and what it will be like for those who know Him.
This is what God’s love is like to us and in us and through us. He is love, and in love is our very existence. You are in Christ and He is in you, so where is love? In truth, you have His love to the full already. If we believe the lie that we do not have love, that we do not have the truth, that we do not know the way, or that we do not have a life, then we believe that God has not happily made His home in us. What ridicule that is to the miracle of Christ in us!
It’s then that many begin to approach the Bible as an instruction manual, a book of how-to’s which, if properly employed, will please God and induce His favor. . .from outside of us.
If, then, we are instructed how to love and we make the attempt to do it, to be kind, to be patient, to not be selfish, to not get angry, etc., we are induced to think of ourselves as separate from God with a lot of work to do—a lot of loving to do. Although it is impossible to actually draw away from God in order to do something (you are in Him and He is in you), we do it in our thinking. This is not only error, it is dangerous to us and might establish a pattern of expecting very little from the love of God.
What you want—all that you truly want—you have already. You have Him. Have you been looking elsewhere?
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Self-control is not a scary and valiant pledge of obedience to do something difficult. “I promise to be good, God!” Self-control means living in keeping with who we have become—actual Spirit-born sons of God. And it means living like that with everyone else. But when we’re not impressed with who we are, self-control feels like a fight to become something we’re not yet, like a bad person having to become a good person, an impossible work we have to create. Instead, we are each a work already done. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11)
(Excerpted from my book, God’s Astounding Opinion of You, chapter 14: Stripping Mummies—Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb. http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html)
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
If I should pastor at a brick and mortar church again, I think I’ll name it, “The House Of The Sometimes Sane.” Maybe there will be a rear entrance with a sign over the door that reads, “The House Of The Temporarily Insane.”
Choose your door.
If it drives you absolutely crazy that your thoughts and actions are often times opposite to the way you want and to the Truth you love, you fit well with a long line of the mentally plagued saints. What will help you? What’s the solution to your temporary lunacy? A fresh booster shot of the truth about what Jesus has done for you and what He has made of you.
It’ll drive out the crazies.
A famous and favorite MPS (mentally plagued saint), the apostle Paul, wrote to a collection of temporary lunatics who comprised the church at Corinth. Paul had been told that their behavior was awful—nothing like what a Christians’ normally would be. So, while rightly pointing out the wrongness of certain actions, he sums up his attempt to revive them—his primary goal—by telling them that those kinds of deeds were no longer in keeping with the nature of who they had become. Jesus had done something so radical to them that they had become literally incompatible with sinful behavior:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9-11, italics mine.)
In other words, “Look, you’re acting like idiots, but you’re no longer idiots! You used to have the nature “Idiot!” to do such nasty stuff, but you have it no longer. Remember that whole ‘new creation’ thing? Well, it’s true! You are no longer of an earthly birth only, but have been born of heaven. You're magnificent, heavenly creatures! So come to your senses, be renewed in your mind, and quit it.”
Their faithful friend labored with them to bring the temporarily insane to their senses, giving them the truth, which, along with the Spirit’s work, clears the head and rescues the temporary lunatic.
Like the Corinthians, our ugly behavior doesn’t identify who and what we have become, it reveals we’ve temporarily lost our minds! And, of course, we act like it. When the Corinthian collection of the MPS looked and did awful, they needed to have their hearts and heads targeted with the truth, which is the power of God. (Romans 1:16) The apostle Paul knew it, even when they did not, and he treated them that way. He knew (and we should, too) that revival in our thinking leads directly to our behavior (Rom 12:1-3).
The next time you see a forgiven, sanctified and justified believer acting like a lunatic, encourage him with the truth that brings revival. He’s just confused, he’s just temporarily insane.
But you’re not. At least, not right now.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Having been made a new creation, a new self, the old self has nothing to do with our current existence. We are not our own worst problem, nor His—we are His greatest workmanship. What if we believed it?
Some have confused the two words, self and flesh, but they are not the same. Self (the old man) was crucified (Rom 6:6) and removed in favor of the new self, the new man, which shares in the very nature of God. We have one nature at a time and one self at a time. If we had even remnants of the old self, then that would mean we have two selves at the same time. We do not.
This confusion has led many to unnecessarily demean and distrust themselves, all while thinking it wise to do so. “I’m a new creation,” they might say, “but I sure don’t want to trust myself.” “The worst part of relationships,” they might say, “is that you take self into them.”
I contend that Jesus would be delighted for you to trust your true self and for you to enjoy your true self in every relationship. Having faith in Him about His workmanship glorifies Him, and it frees you from fear and a false and endless war of self-annihilation. There is no war against self—He gave you a new self through the cross and resurrection, and His victory is also ours.
You’re fantastic. Or, as my daughter would say, “You’ve got it goin’ on!”
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
When a Christian is lured into the attempt to navigate his days by the flesh, the evidence of Christ in them will be absent to them—and around them. They may not truly know that Jesus is actually in them, perhaps because they’ve been trying to make it look like He’s there. “Christian manners” often become the fleshly default that covers over life by the Spirit and the actual “formation” of Christ in us (Gal 5:19). If I am taught and employ the “proper skills” of how to love others, it can easily become a fleshly put-on, rather than an authentic fruit of the Spirit—the look of love, rather than genuine love. It’s flesh produced, rather than Spirit produced.
Flesh can look good and it can look bad, but when life is not received from the Spirit, the Christian most likely has been led away from true life unto something else—faux life. Actual transformation by the Spirit does not much occur because fleshly manifestation has taken its place. Many accept this as normal—they’re hooked. However, this eventually leads to burnout because it is not normal for the Spirit-indwelled Christian. Life by the flesh is a contradiction and we will feel it.
As we increasingly trust and look to the Spirit in us, He will produce the evidence of Christ in us—the fruit of the Spirit. It’s then that Christ is formed in us. And that’s the way to life.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Here's a clip from one of my favorite film series, The Pink Panther. Top of my head, I can't remember which film this is from--help me remember?
Have a great weekend!
(Click on the link to go to the video.)
Friday, July 08, 2011
A friend recently asked, “What does it mean to abide in Christ?”
There is a lot of incredibly good news about the gospel, but one of my favorite aspects is that when Jesus died on the cross, I did too, and when Jesus was raised three days later, I was too. I could write a book on the significance of this (Well, I suppose I did.), but my point for mentioning it here is that not only has God made His home in us, we’ve made our home in Him.
Christians were crucified with Him, buried with Him, raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Rom 6:1-6; Eph 2:4-7; Col 3:1-4). Further, God has made and brought a new self for us and put it in place where the old self had been (2 Cor 5:17), and we will never again have to deal with the self we once were. Our very existence is now in Him, and we live by believing we are in Him (abiding), a perfect and compatible fit. This is abiding in Christ—believing and seeing yourself and your life as in Him. Believing what He says about us allows Him to live His life through us. This is what living by the Spirit means and looks like.
If and when we are seduced into living after the ways of this world (making attempts to improve ourselves, etc.), self will not be the problem, flesh will be the problem. Self is in Him now, holy and perfect, and will never be found in the flesh. Much as the Spirit produces fruit or “evidence” of Christ in and through us, His vessels, so the flesh would produce evidence of its influence (Gal 5:16-25). As I believe and see myself in Christ, I naturally offer myself to Him and the result is righteousness (Rom 6:13-14, 22) as Christ is formed in me.
Abiding in Christ means believing I am where He says I am, and I am how He says I am—and that needs often to be renewed in my thinking. An added benefit(!) of all this is that I get to know Him, and there is nothing better than that.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Here’s what Malcolm Smith had to say about my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” published just a few months ago by Harvest House:
“This book will seriously spoil you for the religion of rules and the futile attempt to keep them! It will also lead you to the heart of the real Gospel - relationship with the God who passionately loves you. This is a must read for those weary of aimless wandering in religious systems while knowing that there must be more to knowing God than what they presently experience. There is and this book will show you the way. May the blessing of God rest on the book that it be used to bring life and hope to all who read it.”
To check it out and read reviews and endorsements by Steve McVey, Andrew Farley, Twila Paris, David Gregory and more, go to my web site (http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html), Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, etc. You can get a copy or an E-book from the above web sites and at bookstores everywhere.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
As a Christian it’s amazing and revealing to me what happens when someone guilty in the eyes of most is proclaimed innocent and made free.
I think we have a terrible struggle to believe the gospel is as good as God thinks it is—Everyone is innocent! Everyone goes free! And moments like this slap us in the face and make us mad. “What! No freakin’ way! She’s guilty as sin!” Whether she did it or didn’t, I don’t know—it’s not my point. It’s not my judgment.
But we don’t receive justice, we don’t get the penalty we deserve either—none of us! We have received something far better and fantastic but have trouble believing it’s so. And that’s at least a little of what today’s verdict reveals. We still think judgment, cold, harsh and exacting, should prevail. It’s what we deserve, or at least what someone more guilty than us deserves. Judgment and justice, who is right and who is wrong and the reward and penalty deserved, is how we occupy our minds.
It’s difficult to think of how the kingdom we’re truly a part of sees us and treats us—we’re magnificent, holy, rich, blameless and noble, having been made that way through Christ’s cross and resurrection. And today’s verdict reveals how lightly convinced we are.
I’m not implying that the guilty should not face consequences. I am saying that in light of overwhelming evidence that today’s verdict infuriated the many onlooking judges, we might want to see how deeply we believe we’ve been made innocent and free and favored—and how we got there. Maybe we’ll discover we’ve got a pretty shallow grasp of the gospel.
If I’m going to help people be as free from fear and reprisal as Christ Jesus made them to be, then I’m going to have to let them love me in the way they can, not in the way I want them to. Otherwise I live and labor toward the appearance of love, and that always disappoints.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
If He loved you before you loved Him, if He delighted to choose you and bless you with every good gift before you woke up and stretched a single muscle, if all of His actions toward you brought and continue to bring Him great praise and glory throughout the heavens though you fail to pull off one decent thing in response, still He loves you with abandon and holds nothing back.
That’s who He is. You may stop wondering.
Friday, July 01, 2011
In my Cultural Truths That Bear Repeating file:
"I don't want to make a nucular case out of all this, but to be pacific--I, too, get expecially flustrated when people mispronunciate words. I think I'll just go unthaw me some deli meat and make me a samwich with chipulltay and manayze. Sounds good, if you axe me." -Doug Meeker