Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! It has been a truly rich 2012, in no small part because of friends on the web.  Thank you for your involvement and care. Here's to more of the same in 2013.

Hang Ups


Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The Hobbit"

I enjoyed “The Hobbit” very much. For those who liked the “Lord of the Rings” series, this will seem like stepping right back into the story, if a little earlier in time since it’s a prequel. The special effects are first rate (an extended scene in a goblins’ town is particularly good), the music excellent, acting is as you’d hope (convincing), and after the first half hour or so, the pace quickens along with the excitement.

Andy Serkis, as Gollum, is amazing. Really. Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, is entirely excellent. I really like how he plays the role of a reluctant yet willing hero. He stands out as best performer.

Is “The Hobbit” as captivating and engrossing as Lord of the Rings? I wouldn’t say so. Not quite. Maybe not yet. But in sum, it was what I hoped it would be, and I look forward to the next installment.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Recovery

Now that the run-up to Christmas is past, we're all in one form of recovery or another, right?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Miserables

Yesterday my family and I saw the new movie, "Les Miserables." It was phenomenal. This is the fourth version I’ve seen (including the broadway musical), and I have never been so involved and engrossed. From the opening scene until the last, I was fascinated. There are not a lot of movies I can say that about. The acting was superb. How does one sing and act so well at the same time? Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway brought my emotional house down. Jackman, Mr. Wolverine?! Frankly, a scene featuring Hathaway was one of the best, most transfixing moments of any I have ever seen. She should be high on the list of Best Supporting Actresses.

And the final scene? So well did it tie everything together, so powerfully did it portray the passing of frail humanity into eternity that I was about a half step away from blubbering.

Note:  This isn’t a “happy” movie, and I strongly caution parents against bringing children to see it. It does, however, provide an excellent opportunity to talk about law versus grace, Old Covenant versus New, and mercy versus justice, a discussion I have long been happy to have with my wife and daughters. (And with many of you for a number of years now.) That's a vitally important topic, one that makes a tremendous difference in how we live and interact with each other.

Finally, some of us simply don’t like musicals--I understand. There are lots of other films I want to see this season, none of which are noteworthy because there are altos and tenors and sopranos getting together...and dancing.  But for those open to a great story told in a magnificent way, go see it on the big screen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Angels In The Know

“Father, what do you think of me?”

That’s the biggest question there is. Not many ask it for fear of what they’ll hear. Yet the One who has made them perfectly well off with himself—the very purpose of Jesus’ coming—loves to give people true and good news. He has a pretty good track record of doing that, don’t you think? We celebrated it yesterday.

Luke 2:13-14 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Why should proclaiming angels know what you do not know? “Fear not!” they would say. Ask. Read. Pay attention to your deepest yearnings for love.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Simon Cowell Christmas Eve


Christmas Cats


The Treasure of Christmas

Knowing Jesus is the best adventure and treasure we have.  If we would keep the focus and intent of our days right there, we'd endure far less bickering and worldly angst and enjoy far more love and miraculous grace.  That’s the lasting intent of Christmas—Christ with us. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christ In You

All of the fruit or production of the Spirit is as much the working and evidence of God in a believer as is hearing his voice. Have you thought of that? If you’re feeling joy or peace, if you’re knowing love or patience toward someone, if you’re enjoying gentleness or self-control, or any of the other graces of God, that’s God in you. Him! That’s pretty fantastic. What an idea—Christ in you.

Matthew 1:23
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Colossians 1:27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s Sermon: 

“Laughter As Proof” – If you’ve been a Christian for a while and you’re lately able to laugh at your mistakes, quirks, errors and odd traits, it’s probably proof that you’ve accepted Jesus’ righteousness as your own and have nothing to defend.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What About My Old Me?

Someone wrote that “my old self is bugging me, and I keep dragging it around. What am I to do about my old me?”

Briefly, there is no more "it" to drag around. The old self is gone, having been replaced by the new. Christians do not have two selves, each competing with the other; one that needs to be beaten and killed, while the other needs to be nurtured and grown. The "bad self" that some refer to is the flesh, which is in conflict with the Spirit (Gal 5:16,17), and which still produces behavior through us (Galatians 5:19,20). But it’s not us. We’re not in the flesh. We’re not of the flesh. (See Romans 7:5-6; 8:9) We’re new creations, who now share in the nature of our Father. (See 2 Peter 1:2-5) That's the new birth, which was preceded with a death—yours. (See Romans 6:3-7) It's amazing! Shouldn't it be?

We’re Spirit-born sons and daughters. For real. Life for the Christian is not found in beating up our presumed sneaky and evil selves, while nourishing our struggling new selves. We’re all-the-way new. Life is found in the grace of God’s gift to us of the Spirit, who, as He attracts and secures our attention and trust, produces the evidence of eternal life. Frankly, He doesn’t even require our attention to do it; it just makes it easier and more invigorating for us. And that looks and feels great (Gal 5:22-25).

We're His workmanship, and He loves His work.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What To Do About Newtown?

I’m undone.  Torn up.  What can we do with the tragedy in Connecticut?

Well, here’s what’s happening with me.  I’m grieving.  Deeply. And loving just as deeply. I would like to be with those families in Newtown.  I know that I’m sharing in the feelings and care of God, who has united himself with me.  I’ve asked him how he feels about the tragedy—I haven’t assumed that I know.  I’ve talked with Him about it, and I’m feeling what he’s feeling.  He is in me right now, caring and loving and longing.  That’s how he is, and I fit with him perfectly.  I’m paying attention to that fit, I’m turning my thoughts to him, listening and feeling for him.  And it’s good.  It’s genuine—no need for pretended compassion because there’s plenty with him.  I’m knowing Jesus, and he is my treasure, a Treasure that does amazing things to me.

And in this, I have decided to not wring my hands and exhaust myself with trying to figure out what exactly caused the young man to shoot people.  No explanation of this world will be sufficient, right?  It won’t add up.  It won’t make sense.  I know this is evil—nothing less.  Nothing more.  Satan has been directing his influence at us for a long, long time.  That’s not going to stop soon unless the Mayans were correct.  All over the world, guns or no guns, we’re going to look and do awful things fairly regularly.  I’m also wary (maybe weary) of looking at this through a wide-angle lens.  There will be many (politicians, preachers and professionals) who will say that this is a “national problem,” an evidence of a “societal disease” brought on by video-games, Facebook relationships, the breakdown of the family, abortion, welfare, etc., etc., etc.  They’ll want to legislate something corrective upon everybody, which almost always falls most heavily upon those who had nothing to do with it.  Some will feel better by doing something—Anything!—and I’ll understand that.  But I’ll know that’s dealing with symptoms, not curing it.

We cannot cure ourselves.  History proves it!  As long as we continue to deny it by our efforts, we’ll prefer failure and frustration.  And tragedy.  Our hope, yours and mine, is that we take Jesus’ offer seriously—“Choose Me, and I will make you my home, providing everything you need for life and godliness.  Really.  And I’ll do it for free!”  As we get used to believing him about how he is, where he is (at home in us), and what he is capable of from where he is, our attraction to him will grow and his love for us and through us will be obvious.  We’ll know.  And so will others.  Like those in Newtown, Connecticut.

These verses apply to me as much as to anyone. In fact, I find them more inviting today than most other days: 

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Re. The Connecticut Shooting

Dear Lord. Oh, Jesus. For the children and the parents and the families. I know how you are toward us. Will you be all of that for them? Will you make yourself obvious? And will you bring your people to the front of this, to walk with the hurting and mourning and fearful? You and your glory--the way you are--is my hope for them. And will you draw people near to each other and to you, and give them the comfort and love that you perfectly give? Oh, how you love to love! Will you show us how good you are with us, and will you spill that out from person to person? I know you! And I know you'll be doing this and more. We are yours to shepherd.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Truth This Morning

video

Love Is That Sync-ing Feeling

If you could spend just one day with nothing more to do than to know the love that God has for you, what effect would that day have on you?  What would God’s love for you do for you?  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 love.  You want the love of God. 

Perhaps one of the biggest rip-offs suffered by a Christian is to believe the assertion that 1 Corinthians 13 (“The Love Chapter”) is about how we’re supposed to act and behave with one another in order to prove that we’re loving.  To the contrary, it’s about the triumph and joy of God’s love expressed to us, and what the effect will be like for those who know Him. 

This is what God’s love is like for us—it’s incredibly fantastic!  The best there is.  Read about His love for you, and listen for Him to tell you and show you all about it. And Love will find a way out of you toward others, too.  They won’t mind that at all!  And it’s not meant to be difficult.  If you are in Christ and He is in you, then 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. 

It’s then that many people 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 already have.  You have Him.  You’re in union, you’re in sync with love.  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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s Sermon:

“The Original Secret Agent Man” - Rather than leave us to our own record, how happy we are that God rewards and judges even our secrets through our perfect representative man, Jesus—our Agent—and we go wealthy and free.

Romans 2:16 …God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today's Sermon:
“Exposing A Cover-up” – What the Spirit is doing for Christians who, while temporarily cloaked in the confining skins of this world, become and do visibly noble things nevertheless, because in the invisible that’s who we are already—nobility.

2 Corinthians 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Colossians 3:3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 1:21 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.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book Recommendation

Here's another one of my top recommendations for your library, "Fight For Grace," by Andrew Nelson. It's brand new and it's excellent. Check it out at all the usual online sellers like amazon, barnesandnoble, etc.

And if you're looking for book gift giving ideas, I have just updated my recommendations page at my ministry web site: http://lifecourse.org/Recommends.html

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s Sermon: “Through And Through”

Through Christ and through the cross, we believers have passed through sin’s judgment and have arrived as justified, innocent, righteous, holy, stellar, having-all-things, got-it-goin’-on sons of God through the resurrection of Christ.

Romans 4:23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Watch Ralph

Maybe you’ve read my book, but have you ever wondered what I look and sound like when I’m speaking with a church or group?  I have just posted another video to my ministry web site at:  http://lifecourse.org/Watch_Ralph/Watch_Ralph.html

The most recent, “What Life Is Like With Christ In Me,” is part two of a series I gave to a counseling organization in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Gospel In Ten

Here's another one of my top recommendations for your library, "The Gospel In Ten Words," by Paul Ellis.  It's fantastic.  No kidding.  Check it out at all the usual online sellers like amazon, barnesandnoble, etc.

And if you're looking for book gift giving ideas, I have just updated my recommendations page at my ministry web site:  http://lifecourse.org/Recommends.html

Sergeant Schultz, Professor

I think Sergeant Schultz’ approach to a sticky situation was often the best one—blindness. While it’s not always easy for me, it is the best.

Have you ever seen the old T.V. show, “Hogan’s Heroes”? Sergeant Schultz (John Banner) was the bumbling, yet funny soldier who could have made life miserable for the prisoners of war at Stalag 13. Instead, he would regularly turn his face away from some obvious violation and, with a German-tinged accent, proclaim, “Nothing! I see NOTHING!”

Lately I’m reminded that taking that position is sometimes the best move for me to make, too. Why? Because what my eyes tell me is often way less than is actually true, and that can easily lead me to the wrong course of action.

Sergeant Schultz’ manner was the one the apostle Paul seemed to take when told about the behavior of the Christians in the town of Corinth. They were plenty guilty of plenty of things, including drunkenness, sexual immorality and fornication, of taking each other to court, of cheating, of divorce, of being a divided church, of stubbornly remaining infantile in their faith and worldly in their living, of arrogance and more. To be faithful to God, you might think Paul’s approach to these badly behaving Christians would be to lower the heavenly boom on them, and give them a good and righteous whack across their unrepentant backsides.

His first words to them?

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3-8 NAS).

Why did Paul turn away from what he knew was true? He didn’t. He turned to what he knew was absolutely true, not just temporarily true. When Paul thought of the Corinthians he thought of them as they had become, not as they behaved. He lived by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), and that framed every view for Paul.  He knew that if the Corinthians were acting in ways contrary to who they had become it was because they had forgotten who they had become. Paul’s first duty was not to the correction of their behavior (“Stop that, you cruddy Corinthians!”), but to the awakening of their faith in God, who had made them sons. Knowing all about their behavior, Paul looked away from it (“Nothing! I see NOTHING!”), and put what he knew was true of them into his mind: “God chose them.” “God changed them.” His approach came from there, and so did the correction that followed. So instead of first giving them restrictions, he gave them revival. Instead of conforming them to a proper look, he built them up in Christ.

The devil and his demons strategize that believers should identify themselves and others according to what they see—nothing more—while God and the angels work for them to believe they and others are what God says they are—nothing less. The battle for the Christian is over whether life is defined by what they see or by what they know. Battle lines drawn and faith hanging in the balance, are people defined by how they look, behave and perform, or are people what God says they are, even if they don’t look like it?

How we approach people will reveal where we’ve placed our faith, and it will determine our effectiveness. I’m not saying behavior is unimportant: I am saying that our way to behavior is vital.

I want to learn from Sergeant Schultz, an esteemed professor in the skill of turning away from what he saw, and I want to cling to what I know. That means I live by faith in God’s ability and plan. And for me, that’s the way to live.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today's Sermon:

“You’re Not Dreaming” – The millennial dream is now our reality:  rather than make any attempt to become something we are not, we rest in the truth that the union we have with Jesus has taken care of all that we want to be and do.

Colossians 1:26 …the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

1Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Love On The Way

Think of it:  we are entirely safe with God at every moment. He has taken to Himself every reason we might have for fear or shame around him and done away with it, for he is the Grand Lover and Giver of Life.  In love, he has made us the evidence of his desire and grace. He is love at the start, and he is love on the way to you all the time.  That’s what he thinks.  And now that you know, how’s your thinking?

Ephesians 1:4-6 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Gospel Uncut

"The truth is, spiritual maturity is the outgrowth of spiritual security, not vice versa. Only when a person understands, embraces, and begins to live in the awareness of their absolute security in Christ – regardless of external performance – will they begin to bear real fruit in this life. This is essentially what Christ was introducing when He taught His disciples the importance of “abiding” in Him." (See John 15).  – Jeremy White, "The Gospel Uncut: Learning to Rest in the Grace of God."

I highly recommend this book!  It is an eye-opening, burden-relieving read, one you'll want to read again and again. . .and give away.  To get more information, click here, or go to:

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Gospel-Uncut-Learning-Grace/dp/144976567X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354575394&sr=8-1&keywords=The+gospel+uncut

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Dead Or Alive?


(Here's something a friend wrote that I think will benefit you.)

Are You Dead Or Alive?

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."  (Rom 6:12-13)

When the majority of Christians read these verses, it’s like they just ignore every verse that leads up to them. The relationship with sin has ceased. You are no longer under its control or power. You are no longer its slave. You no longer obey sin.  The power of sin is the Law, and you are no longer under the Law.  Do you remember from chapter 5 where Paul says sin reigns? It reigns in death. You are now alive in Christ. If you do not consider yourself dead to sin, and alive to God, then you will put yourself back under the Law declaring yourself a sinner who is obeying sin.  Are you going to go back and present the members of your body to a system that proves you a sinner, or are you going to present yourself to God as what you are... an instrument of righteousness? Are you in sin or in Christ? Are you dead or alive?  - Dave O'Brien

Jesus' Hands

I'm thinking he had to have done this a few times, don't you think?


Friday, November 30, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s sermon:

“Gravity Lessons” – The purposeful plummet everyone experiences when making the attempt to live by the Ten Commandments or by any laws or rules, rather than by the Spirit of life.

Romans 7:8,13 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Romans 8:2 …through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
2Corinthians 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Daughter, Remember

Satan would have you to estimate yourself based not upon the world you're from—the one you can’t see—but upon the world you're in—the one you can. And that will not do. It's a deception, a temporary cover-up. It’s not nearly good enough because the truth about you is so stunning and powerful and heavenly. God knows! And, increasingly, you do too.

John 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Visible Or Invisible?

Each of us is in constant, invisible war for what defines life.  The devil and his demons strategize that we should identify ourselves and others according to what we see and nothing more.  God and the angels work for us to believe that we and others are what God says we are—and nothing less.  The primary battle is over whether life is defined by what we see or what we know.  What we do must and will come from one or the other.

2 Corinthians 4:18 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.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Deal!

Here’s a pretty good Black Friday deal—my book for $8.99, and FREE shipping! (Continental USA only.) That’s $4 off the already low price, and it has never been discounted before!  You can get this deal beginning at midnight tonight (MST), until midnight on Friday—24 hours only!

And here’s a great opportunity to give a Christmas gift you’ll love giving. Have copies sent to yourself for gift giving later, or simply include the address you’d like the book to go to, and we’ll take care of the rest. Go to http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html to get your copies!


Thank You

For your love, for your support, for your comments, and for walking with me in these days, I am deeply thankful. Though sometimes at great distance, it is monumental—even miraculous—that we are together in so much. And I am very glad. Thank you, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Knowing The One

Whatever persuades you to become preoccupied with the results and benefits of knowing Jesus but not with the reality is deadly. Remembering this will save you from an awful mess.

For example, very often when couples are searching and working diligently on ways to better love each other, what they’re really seeking is the result of Jesus loving them. They can have that anytime. They’re both set up for that. Perfectly. And no matter how long they’re married, the set up is the same. When people want to have better relationship skills, what they’re really looking for is the result of Jesus relating to them. When people are wanting to be more confident, more compassionate, more understanding, more kind, more disciplined, more patient, more happy, more faithful, more peaceful, more gentle, all are the result of Jesus loving and moving in them. That’s Christianity. When they’re knowing The One, they’ll have everything else.

That they’ve not experienced God’s life for them in that way does not make the hope of it untrue, but it might induce them to believe it’s not possible. So, God being the wonderful way he is, he will work with them in such a way that what they know and experience with him, will pour out of them to others—as if by accident. (But not quite!) And Jesus will become their great treasure and influence of life. The One! That’s the plan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

He Is With You

God is so good with sin. And failure. And frustration. And agony. And devastation. And depression. And confusion. 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. Remember? He is the Answer. He is what you want. And He is delighted.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s sermon:

“Hot Lovers” – Those invaluable and heroic people who, out of genuine and burning love of the truth, persistently annoy us to the message of the cross and the anti-slavery message it insists.

(I have found that many of those who become irritated over dilutions of God’s grace do not like the immediate effect, either what happens to themselves or to those who hear their protest. But theirs is an ongoing, difficult and invaluable service. It is to those men and women that I direct today's sermonette.)

Galatians 2:15-21 The Message
We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
17-18 Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Rescuer

When I begin to experience frustration, I may be seduced to see myself (or others) as a failure, and, by default, I view life from a position outside of Christ.  I get caught up with what failure means about my past, present and future, and a different identity is pressed at me and upon me:  Hopeless.  Loser.  Idiot.  Perpetual Bad-choice Maker (PBM for short).  If I accept any of these identities and do not look to My Rescuer, who knows all about who I really am (and where I am—in Him), then the deeds of the flesh result.  And I hate that stuff. 

Revival and restoration will not come by conquering failure (and those ugly identities) but by looking again at Jesus, who is my life and who produces true life—and everything else, including confidence in who I am and how his love is my greatest motivator.  How well I fit with him!  In this world’s junk of frustration and failure, he is My Rescuer.  He will always be!  And I’m more than a conqueror through him after all. 

Romans 8:37 …in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The End Is Near!

Today's sermon:

“The End Is Near!” – While people are anxiously predicting the demise of the world as we know it, Christians are being moved confidently by the Spirit, who knows all about the beginning and the end. (Romans 8:5-6; Revelation 22:13; Isaiah 46:9-11)

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Covenant Maker & Keeper

I write today to tell you about one of the greatest words ever kept out of the Greek New Testament, “Suntheke.” That it doesn’t appear is one of the greatest stories of our time.

During the days of the writing of the gospels and epistles, it was the common word used to describe the word, “covenant.” Everybody knew it, everybody used it, and lawyers were as comfortable with it then as they would be today by using the word, “contract.” “Suntheke” means, “a mutual agreement between two people or two parties; an agreement ‘with’.” So, details are worked out and, when agreement between parties is reached, the covenant is entered into and binds each party. Both promise to give or to perform something, which obligates them toward a desirable goal. That’s how it has always been.

If you have ever read Deuteronomy 28, you know covenant language. God instructs his people that if they do what he wants at all times and all the time (keep his rules and commands), he will give them what they want: big-time blessing. That was the covenant. As it is with all covenants, however, if they failed to keep their end of the agreement, everything fell apart and got ugly. Of course, God had no difficulty keeping his part of the arrangement, so the covenant pressure was ever upon the people. They failed a lot, and lived in a cycle of commitment, fear, failure, sorrow, forgiveness, re-commitment, fear, failure, and so on. . .and on and on. Inherent to covenant is pressure and judgment.

Fast-forward to the days when the carpenter’s son, Jesus, died in order to give us the next covenant, the new covenant, and something wonderfully unusual happens. No one describes the new covenant as anything we participate in. The word of the day, “Suntheke,” is nowhere to be found in the Greek New Testament. Instead, a new word is used: “Diatheke.” This word means, “an agreement of one.” It’s not a mutual agreement, it’s not a contract with, and there is no pressure on anyone because there are not two parties involved in keeping the contract. There is only one in the covenant: God. In other words, God made up the arrangement (“I’ll give them everything in Christ”) and God keeps the rules (“I’ll make sure they get all the benefits”) all by Himself!

There is no pressure. There is no judgment.

There will never be a place for “Suntheke,” never be a time when God will depend upon you to keep anything in order for you to have the everything he has provided for you in Christ. That’s the deal! This is the great gospel, this is what we serve to people burdened and wearied by the “Suntheke” covenants of this world and of the past, which they were forever breaking. You know about breaking agreements, right? Well, there is no way to break this one! Jesus is the Covenant Maker and the Covenant Keeper.

Our gospel is not, “Okay, Bud. Keep your end of the bargain and God will keep his.” Instead, our gospel is, “God took you out of the equation, so he could give you everything! No worries.”

This is why it is the height of folly to make quid pro quo commitments with God: “Father, I will do this great thing if you will do that great thing.” The good news is, he’s not paying any attention. Don’t bother. He thinks you’ve already been given everything in Christ—everything! (See Ephians 1:3; Col 2:9-10) God thinks there is now no condemnation for you because he’s taken you off the hook of earning anything (Romans 8:1-4). He’s not looking and will never look at how you’ve failed, because there is no evidence (Colossians 2:13-14) and no one’s bringing charges (Romans 8:33). That perfect relationship you’ve been working on with him has already been provided for you—you can stop trying to earn it and, instead, enjoy it—and there will never be any distance between you and him because he brought you permanently near (Ephesians 2:11-16). All he sees, all he counts, is what he has done and given to you in Christ. He’s not hoping you’ll “do your best and he’ll take care of the rest,” because he has already done everything! Perfectly. So you can rest. Done deal.

You’re safe. You’re in. You’ve got it all. No pressure. No judgment. That’s “Diatheke.” You like the new covenant. Right?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today's Sermon


Today’s sermon:

“Grace Reigns” – If Christian speakers actually believe that those who have received Christ have been made new creations with new hearts and with Christ resident in them, they will not be inclined to teach Old Covenant-based methods of living by the attempt to avoid sin in order to please God and earn his blessing, but will instead speak about the wonder of New Covenant life in Christ and by the Spirit, where God is not counting men’s sins against them, where righteousness and grace reigns, and we have all things. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Romans 5:20-21; Titus 2:11-14)

2 Corinthians 5: 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.

Romans 5: 20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 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.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Navy Dad

Here's my dad in uniform on the left. He was in the Navy during WWII, and fought in the South Pacific. He's not fighting anymore, having made the jump in 2008.

Veteran's Day

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.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

People Like Us

Last night my wife and daughter and I watched the movie, “People Like Us.” While I’ve read a little about the film’s profanity and minor sexuality, what I hadn’t read was anything about its value. We were deeply intrigued throughout, and it wasn’t difficult for us to get past how people SHOULDN’T swear and SHOULDN’T do crazy sexual stuff, because, well, people do! Don’t we? The movie and story does an excellent job of including the viewer in both the struggle and recovery of its characters, which counts a lot in life, doesn’t it? I don’t think Jesus carried antiseptic nor earplugs nor rose-colored glasses into any of the relationships he had when walking amongst us, and I don’t either. He did, however, make good use of a whip on those who cared more for the outward model than the inward heart. (It’s probably a good thing I don’t own a whip.)

Jesus isn’t specifically in this movie—he didn’t get a part—but I am involved with people like those in the story, and it does me good to see them working through fears and false, long-held beliefs that have starved them of love. That’s where I live, that’s what counts, and that’s where Jesus in me makes himself most obvious—to me and to others.

This is an adult-themed movie, and I like it very much. Is this a “wholesome” movie? No. But since when is life? If you value people growing and recovering around each other as becoming “whole,” however, then it’s wholesome in that way. I plan to watch it again with my youngest daughter later tonight. I know we’ll have great conversation because we’ve been watching and talking about this kind of thing and these kinds of real-life, how-God-is-involved, situations for years. It’s a treasure chest of value for my family just waiting to be opened. If that’s a new or challenging idea for you, do what you think best. Duh. Maybe pre-view the movie. Maybe don’t do it at all. This is simply how we do things around my home.

Know what I’m sayin’?

Friday, November 09, 2012

A Heavenly Gift

Wandering that comes from wondering is a heavenly gift.  What bothers me is that sometimes the desire for perfect understanding—“I’ve got to figure this out!”—eclipses the wondering and desire for Jesus himself, in whom is the deepest and purest and best of everything we most want.  We might even get a sort of "knowledge high" that can become a substitute for the satisfaction and love and freedom Jesus gives.  We can tell we’re under this delusion whenever we are truly not satisfied for a prolonged period of wandering—a week or so, is my experience. 

There’s nothing wrong with the desire for understanding that more knowledge offers, unless it remains bookish and prescriptive, and not related to truly knowing God and the astonishing formation of Christ in us.  That’s knowledge incomplete.  We’re cheated from awe and joy when that happens, because he is why we wonder and wander—it’s him we want—and he perfectly completes us.   He is the destination and fulfillment of wondering and wandering.  He knows it, and, happily, so do we.

Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s sermon:

 “A Triumphal View” – If God is constantly leading us successfully and brilliantly in Christ—no slowing, no detours, no stopping—then maybe it’s important that we see ourselves IN Christ as He does, always effective, instead of following Christ, trying to catch up. 

2Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Post Election Message

ON NOVEMBER 7, 2012, AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II:

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. (You should look up 'revocation' in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, David Cameron, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,' 'favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up 'vocabulary.')

2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ''like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.'

3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.

8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

10. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

11. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of ninnies).

12. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

13. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

14. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

15. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups and saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes, plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Today's Sermon

Today’s sermon:

“Pray For God!” – What we’d better start doing tomorrow morning if we believe that our election results will take by surprise, “him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,…”

Ephesians 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Be Aware

Tomorrow will begin a busy season for the Accuser, don't you think?  Watch for it, and be led by the Spirit, not by the flesh.  Just FYI, election fans.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Today's Sermon


Today's Sermon:

"Swimming In The Crazy" -- Since we've been made sons and daughters of God and citizens of heaven, is it any wonder that prolonged concern for the issues of this world makes us crazy?

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."  (Colossians 3:1-4)