Saturday, April 30, 2011
If your "love factor" has been anemic lately, consider what you've been focusing on concerning people--their outward appearance, behavior and beliefs, or their identity in Christ; what He thinks of them.
Phil 1:9-11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I have wrestled and struggled with obedience most of my life. Well, perhaps not when I was one year old, but put that aside. Besides, everyone obeyed me during that first year or two.
Obey. How does that word make you feel? Obey! Does it stir warm feelings and fuzzy memories of days gone by? Not for me.
The command to “obedience” has provided me with lots of opportunities to navigate or negotiate with it. I could obey the command on the outside, while screaming with resentment on the inside. I could obey if I thought there was an immediate benefit secured by the act—I win. Or I could obey part-way—make it look as though I were carrying out the command when really I was obeying by a percentage less than 100%.
So when as a new Christian I read how important obedience is to God—it’s a pretty big deal with Him—I set to work on it. I had help. Loads of sermons and books focused me on obedience, and my Christian friends were walking along with me, determined to live a life of obedience. What an intense phrase that is.
Here’s what I’ve found: while I am a new creation and obedience to God is perfectly in keeping with who I have become, my flesh is anything but new. In continued rebellion against God, it presses me to keep on navigating obedience. In other words, the mind of the flesh suggests I obey God only when I can predetermine a desirable outcome. Obey if it will make my life work better. Obey if I’ll feel better. Obey if it’s more fun. Obey if people will see it—and honor me. But obey if I have no idea what the result will be?
Hmm. . . May I have another choice, please?
Here’s what I’m learning: obedience is best and most true when it is to God Himself, and not to an acceptable or good plan, or an outcome I can imagine. To be clear, I like it when I can expect or imagine a good outcome; pray, and I’ll feel better; read the Bible and I’ll gain knowledge and wisdom, etc. But offering obedience to God when I have no idea if the result will be what I like is quite the adventure.
What if I don’t like the result better than what I could have had by the flesh? (Ooh. That’s adventurous.)
So I’m talking and thinking through obedience like this: “Well, Holy Spirit, I am offering obedience. There are accomplishments and pleasures and outcomes that seem preferable and within my reach just now, but I believe obedience to you is the proper first course. And that may lead me away from those other avenues. I offer obedience—and turn from watching college baseball on Saturday in order to turn to my girls, simply to be with them because I believe you want me to. When ‘Get off the computer and go walk the dog’ bursts into my mind, I offer obedience to you in case it is you. If it is, I’m outta here. When my fleshly compunction is to fiddle with a dazzling electronic device I’ve just purchased, and I sense you leading to something else, I offer obedience to you. When my fleshly mind suggests I crack down on my kids and set some rules(!), I pause and offer myself to you, Holy Spirit—you may not be leading me to do it at all. I want to find out. I don’t know if I’ll actually like obeying you better than what could have been, but I offer obedience. I trust you for life, moment by moment.”
Does this make sense? There is nothing, nothing better than actually knowing God, and obedience to Him at least gives me that opportunity. I feel like a happy kid when I’m knowing and resting in Him. But while I have my highest delight in knowing Him, I may not actually like His leading away from what the flesh offered. I might, but I might not. So that can’t be the issue.
God, the Holy Spirit, actually lives in me! And in you. And not only do you and I want to know Him better, our life is found in the knowing. Believing Him and knowing Him delivers us from the dead life we had before God came to live in us, before He made us new and young at heart again.
A believing and offered obedience plays a big part in that life.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
How often does He lead us? How regularly is He bringing us forward? Fairly often, it seems to me...;)
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
As we were in Him at the cross, so we were in Him in His resurrection. When He was crucified, we were crucified. When He was raised, we were raised. We're new. We’re secure. We’re in Him.
He is Risen! And in Him, so are we!
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6-7
For always and forever, we will be the evidence of His stunning love and ability. Isn’t that fantastic?
If that's what we'll be throughout the ages, we might as well start getting used to it now--don't you think?
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Why is this important?
Q: What will have to happen in order for me to finally be free from sin? Answer: I’ll have to die. Follow up Q: When did I die? My answer to that question is right now determining much of my experience in life and my expectations of God.
When Jesus died, with Him, in Him we died. Our previous self, our former nature, which was predisposed toward sin, was crucified with Him on the cross. We’re not only admirers of the cross and what Jesus accomplished there, we’re participants! This means that we will never have to die for our sins because, in Him, we already did. It also means that we won’t have to die to gain power over sin because, in Him, we already did.
How marvelous is that?
Rom 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Romans 6:4—“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
We’ll be looking at this at today's Men’s Retreat.
Friday, April 15, 2011
I’m nearly delirious anticipating the weekend.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
I will be video recording for several hours today with Willy Torresin, who will translate the teaching into Portuguese to be used in Brazil, Portugal, and elsewhere. “Thank you” to Ted Angell for making this happen.
P.S. I love waking up to snow in mid-April.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
In the town of Folderol, lesser things sometimes become primary things.
Most everyone in the town knew Jesus, and often delighted in talking together about their experiences with Him. They were fairly thrilled with Him and sometimes with each other as a result.
But on one crisp, sunny day in Folderol’s main square, a crowd gathered around Bob Bloviate. Bob thought it would be a good idea to honor Jesus during the next Christmas season by adorning the square’s pine trees with strings of clear lights. “The more the merrier, I say!” exclaimed Bob Bloviate. “Imagine how glorious it would be to walk in the light!” he extolled. “Why, it’s so obviously a perfect plan that I don’t know why we haven’t done it before,” he said. Mary Marvel, filled with zealous excitement, shouted, “Amen! It’s the right thing to do!” Nodding heads all around affirmed it to be so.
Until, that is, Fred Fanfare cautiously raised his hand. “Well, Fred,” said Bob Bloviate, “what is it you want to say?” Summoning his courage, Fred Fanfare said, “I like multicolored lights. I think it would be better to hang multicolored lights.” There were subtle coughs and slight winks amongst the crowd. “Really?” questioned Bob Bloviate. “Multicolored lights, Fred? I think we’re all in agreement that clear lights are more true to the holidays, you know, more in keeping with the glory of God. Am I right, everyone?” Everyone murmured that he was. . .everyone except Fred Fanfare.
Somewhat more determined, Fred Fanfare responded. “No, I believe multicolored lights would be more representative, more faithful to God’s character throughout history. He has chosen people from a multitude of nations, so I think mine is the better idea.” Suddenly, Bill Bandwagon spoke up. “You know what, Fred Fanfare has a point. I mean, when I look back through history, well, I have to say that God’s chosen people are sure a mixed-up bag of tricks!” Both Bill Bandwagon and Fred Fanfare chuckled, as did a few others in the crowd.
Feeling the tide turning against him, Bob Bloviate thundered his answer. “This isn’t about people, Fred, this is about God! If we’re going to be true to God, we’ve got to focus upon what brings glory to Him! And I say clear lights represent His power, purity, holiness, and eternal nature. What could be better than that? Right, folks?” Mary Marvel seemed to nearly lift off the ground in exuberant passion. “That’s right, Bob! It’s always been this way! Why, I can feel it in my heart—I just know clear lights are the way forward!”
Several in the crowd uttered support and even pumped their fists in the air. “Clear lights! Clear lights are the way to honor God!” exclaimed Tom Testify. “Everyone knows it. Come on, Fred! Can’t you see?” But Fred couldn’t see. Or wouldn’t.
“Now, wait just a minute,” cautioned Fred Fanfare. “I believe that if Jesus were here today, He’d confirm that multicolored lights are eternal reminders of His immutable character. He’s certainly no respecter of persons, and has no allegiance to any one tribe or tongue. I can’t believe you people would put Him in such a tight box!” Bill Bandwagon shouted support, and Ginger Genuflect revealed that she, too, was on board by kneeling in prayer. “Oh, Lord, we know you’ve have always been an inclusive God, and that multicolored lights are the perfect representation of your character. We just thank you for leading us today. . .”
Tom Testify interrupted: “Oh, Lord, do not harshly judge this wayward daughter, for she knows not what she says. Show her the truth, Lord, that she could repent.” Here and there a soft “Amen” could be heard from the clear light supporters, which had begun to draw away from the multicolored light proponents and sort themselves together.
Just then Nancy Needy, having left her ailing mother’s side moments before, strode into the opening left by the now divided throng. “Has anyone seen Jesus? Can anyone tell me where He is? I need Him.”
Betty Bluster, who only moments before had sided with the clear light gang, fairly hissed, “I can tell you where Jesus isn’t, that’s for sure.” When several people shouted “Amen!” and Bob Bloviate said, “Preach it, sister,” Fred Fanfare could take it no longer. “This meeting is over! All those of the multicolored lights, stand with me! We must separate ourselves from the clear lights heathen. Together we’ll see to it that truth prevails! You and you only are invited to my home for food and fellowship. I’ll provide the coffee! Who will bring dessert?” Ginger Genuflect raised her hands and said, “My brownies!” Arnie Argumentative offered, “My chocolate chip cookies are better than anybodies!” And Hank Hawkish laughed and said, “I’ll bring my appetite!”
The clear lights gang embraced each other with glee, and the multicolored lights supporters drew together as well. “’Bout time we had some clarity around here,” said Bob Bloviate. “Oh, thank God!” exclaimed Betty Bluster. “I’ve never felt such unity.” Feeling the passion of the moment, Connie Codswallop cried out, “I’ve been needing a cause to get me going! I’m committed to a community of clear lights!” Tom Testify offered a way forward. “Let’s get together at my house. I’ve got some paint and poster board, and my wife, Imma, would love to make some signs for us. She’ll be so glad to finally be using her gift!”
Almost forgotten by the gathering groups, was Nancy Needy. With a bewildered look on her face, she said, “Wait, will you? Lights are good and lights matter, but they don’t matter like this. And what about Jesus? Can you tell me where I might find Him?”
“He’s around somewhere,” replied Connie Codswallop. “Everyone knows He’s always around, right?” A bit of smugness lit her face. “But I wouldn’t bother asking anyone from the multicolored lights crowd. They’re clueless!”
“Oh, as if you know!” an angry Fred Fanfare replied. Feeling encouraged by his supportive group, Fred went on. “It’s obvious that you’ve never really known anything about Jesus. What else would explain your ridiculous beliefs?” Everyone in the multicolored lights group nodded and harrumphed happily. “Look, Nancy, I’m sure He’ll be here soon. Can’t you wait? What’s the rush? We’ve got plenty to do—why not join us?” asked Fred.
Before Nancy Needy could get a word in, Betty Bluster blurted, “You don’t want to be a part of that bunch, Nancy! They’re dangerous, and I’ve lost most any respect I ever had for them. I’ll be getting rid of any of their books I might have in my library, as well, and I’d advise you to do the same. Even a little bit of poison can kill you, right, Nancy?” Bob Bloviate weighed in. “I think I speak for all of us, Nancy, when I say you’d be welcome in our fellowship. I can tell you’re a discerning woman, and I’m sure you agree that clear lights are God’s best, right?”
Nancy Needy replied, “Oh, well, I don’t know exactly. Do I have to know? I mean can I take a few days to think about it?”
“Sure, you can, Nancy!” beamed Bob, “And allow me to serve you by coming to my home where you can enjoy some fine coffee and dessert with people you’re sure to enjoy! People just like you!”
Mary Marvel suddenly whimpered. “Oh, I’m so confused! At first I thought decorating with clear lights was the way to honor God, but now I think multicolored lights might be better.” Jubilant, Fred Fanfare said, “Yes, Mary! I knew God was leading you to the truth. What a good decision you’ve made. It’s so good to live in the light, isn’t it? After all, no one wants to be lukewarm!” gushed Fred Fanfare.
“You’re either for us or against us, Mary Marvel!” countered Connie Codswallop. Clearing his throat and riveting his focus upon Mary, Tom Testify said, “You’re making a choice, Mary. It’s either clear or multicolored. Beware of back-sliding, because your eternal destiny depends upon it.”
“Jesus?!” cried Nancy Needy. “Jesus? Are you near? I need you now, and I’m so confused by all this. I just want you. . .You.”
Fists clenched, Bill Bandwagon said sternly, “Nancy, you have to make a decision. Over there are the heretics. Do you really want to be led by them? Do you want to be a part of them? You need to be with us.”
Nancy Needy, her face pale and eyes wide, said, “But I’m not sure I want to be led by any of you. I just want Jesus. Can you tell me how I can find Him?”
“Look, Nancy,” said Bob Bloviate, “You have to be part of a community seeking truth, and that’s us. We’re Bible only. None of that humanistic liberalism will be found here. That’s over there.”
“Oh, that’s rich!” sneered Fred Fanfare. “Who set you up as high and mighty, you hypocrite? Why, I remember when you had a string of multicolored lights on your house at Christmas time! I even helped you put them up! That’s the truth!” Those of the multicolored lights group murmured their agreement.
Bob Bloviate simmered with anger. “How dare you throw my past sins in my face! I’ve grown! I’ve changed! I’ve seen the light, and it’s clear. Anyone with any maturity knows it. But I don’t expect that from you, Fanfare! You and all those with you are not on good terms with the truth. And that’s the truth!”
Straightening a bit and crossing her arms, Nancy Needy said, “But I don’t know if any of you have grasped the absolute truth, since that’s who Jesus is. I trust Him. My experience with Him is always completely safe and deeply loving. But I’m not getting any of that from any of you. I don’t think I’m going to find Jesus here.”
With that, the newly formed gangs, each filled with confidence in their knowledge of the truth, turned their backs to each other and began to follow their leaders to their sanctuaries.
“We’ll pray for you, Nancy,” a triumphant Bob Bloviate exclaimed. “We’ll pray that one day you’ll make the decision to join us. We’re going to build the best display of God-honoring clear lights anyone has ever seen! To Him be the glory! Amen?” “Amen!” his members shouted in unison. It felt so natural and invigorating to them.
Fred Fanfare, his faithful following, said cheerfully, “We’ll get a multicolored lights fund started right away. With God on our side, we’ll build something so powerful that the glory will be evident for miles and miles around! Hallelujah!” “Hallelujah!” mimicked the faithful, reveling in unity.
As snow began to fall in the square of Folderol, Nancy Needy was left alone. . .but soon she wasn’t.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Friday, April 08, 2011
Our Christian children are aliens. If they don’t know it, or if we only teach them techniques to be successful in this life (as though that were Christian), we’ve set them up for frustration. When I see a trained monkey wearing children’s clothing and playing with children’s toys, I think it’s cute but I’m not confused. It’s not natural. I don’t leap and exclaim, “Wow! The monkey has become a kid! What shall we name him?” In the same way, as I train my children to function in this world, the fact that they are not of this world must always remain clear, to them and to me. They’re from another. If they don’t know it, their deluded attempt to fit with this world will make monkeys out of them.
Our Christian children are lights in this world, holy and blameless sons and daughters of God in whom lives the Holy Spirit Himself. They’re not on a long and winding path to their destination—they’ve arrived already.
Do you see them? Not if you’re looking at them only with the eyes in your head and not the eyes in your heart.
Paul prayed, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe" (Ephesians 1:17-19).
The “glorious inheritance” in our children right now is more fantastic than anything else in this world. Just because it isn’t easy to see is no reason to turn away and quit looking!
(Excerpted from the 12th chapter of my book: Aliens Have Landed: The Proper Care and Feeding of the Everyday Foreigners in Your Family. The chapter is about raising children with the grace and truth of God in full view. Click the following link for more information: http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html)
Perhaps today is a day when you might join me in saying something like, "To Hell with--IF ONLY! I'll take right now, thank you very much!"
Thursday, April 07, 2011
Here’s a link to a message I gave at Grace Life Community Church, in Bristow, Virginia, on Sunday, March 27. In essence, my hope here and always is to assist people toward finding God as the treasure He Is.
The church titled the message: Knowing God – Christ “IN” Us. (It’s the second one on the list…for now.)
Monday, April 04, 2011
When I’m delighting in the incredible grace of God to me in Christ, and when I reflect on how great this new covenant made by the Father with Christ is, the fruit of the Spirit is quickly in abundance—and I’m not even working at it. Believing in Him in me, I am free to be who I am in reality, at the deepest point. I still get surprised by how great that real me is, the me in Christ, the one now sharing His nature, having been born entirely new through the work of the Spirit. In Him, I’m godly and free!
And, in Him, so are you.