Monday, April 30, 2012

The Harley Way of Life

I think I’m a Harley Davidson.  Every time I hear one go past (I don’t have to actually see it to know it’s near) I wonder how it makes any progress sounding the way it does.  And sometimes I wonder the same thing about me.

When I was a boy of about thirteen, I was happily riding in our family car piloted by my mother when I heard an awfully loud sputtering and popping come alongside.  It was awful.  I slowly glanced in the direction of the cacophony and saw what I assumed was a man atop the strangest looking motorcycle I had ever seen.  Although he was right next to our car (I could barely make out his eyes and nose peering out from a sea of hair), the front tire on his bike was, I promise, forty-three feet away.  It might have been less, but thinking back, it might have been more…I don’t know.

Anyway, it seemed he was having trouble keeping the engine going because he kept revving it up, only to have it almost die.  Roooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag—rooooooom, rooooooom—sputter, cough, gag.  And I thought, “He’s going to go somewhere on that awful thing?  No way.”

Then the signal light turned green.

After a final sputter, cough and gag, that slovenly beast of a motorcycle propelled the leather clad fur ball like a missile down the road and out of sight.  Stunned, I asked my mother, “What was that?”  “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I sure don’t like it.”

I had been introduced to Harley Davidson, and to this day I don’t know how those things get anywhere.  I have always believed that a smoothly running engine is the one you want—you can rely on it to get you where you want to go.  If the engine is sputtering, there is something wrong and it’s time to worry.  Who doesn’t know that?  You had better get it to the mechanic or call that friend who likes poking around in engines because until you get it working smoothly, you’re in trouble.  Isn’t life like that, too?

Not really.

From that first encounter with a Harley to the one I heard rumbling and stumbling past yesterday, Harley Davidson has taught me a lot about living.  In between the zooms there’s a whole lot of sputtering—and that’s normal.

There is so much in the New Testament about growing up in what Jesus has made of us—sons of God, foreigners in this world, ambassadors of Christ—that growing pains must be a part.  Who actually believes immediately after receiving Christ that we have become as foreign to this world as Jesus?  That we've been made genuine new creations?  That we cannot ever again live the way we once did, but can and must now live by the Spirit?  The challenge isn’t first to live and behave better, the challenge is to believe better.  It’s normal that we sputter and cough to believe such incredible facts!

We all see and experience so much that tells us we’re not what God says we are.  We fail to pray (cough), we fail to tell someone the gospel (gag), a hoped-for job advancement fails to come about (sputter), and we feel like we’re about to stall.  While that kind of stuff might change our minds about ourselves, it doesn’t influence God, who knows what He has made of us and carries on accordingly.  When I get stuck thinking I’m just a no good sputterer, the Holy Spirit works to rev me up because there’s some place to go.  Miraculously, I’m going to get there.  As a friend recently said, living is “steady growth by jerks.”

Until that day when we fully believe what God believes about us and about the way forward, it’s the Harley way for us—sputter, cough and gag—rooooom, rooooom.  And that’s okay.

Sometimes we get to zoom.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Impactful

A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal brujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the brujo looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The USS Enterprise over NYC today. . .Live long and prosper.

Proof Skin

It's the weekend--I hope you enjoy it!

There were three tribal women. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What If?

What if your sin problem has already been conquered, and the remainder of your days are about trusting and resting and receiving the love of God for you? What then?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Here's a quick look at one of my favorite books that has just been published last month, David Gregory's, "Night With A Perfect Stranger." If you'd like a riveting and valuable read, get this book.

Just Love Them


(The following is from author, speaker, and my friend, Steve McVey.  To read more from him, you can find him on Facebook or at his ministry web site at gracewalk.org.)

Spend the rest of your life obsessed with your Father's love and He will use you to help change the world. Your Father's love is the most amazing thing in existence. It has transformed you and now, through you, it will transform others.

Don't be embarrassed to act just like Him. What does it mean to be like Him?

 He is the Father who falls on the neck of returning prodigals and with tears of joy streaming down His cheeks, kisses them and shouts with laughter, "My son is home! Let's have a party!" (See Luke 25:20-24) He is the Mother who smothers her babies in kisses as they snuggle against her breasts. (See Psalm 131:2) He is the Lover who says, "I love you so much that I'll kiss you right out in public and I don't care who sees me!" (See Song of Solomon 8:1) He is the Artist who points to you and declares proudly to the universe, "Look what I made!" (See Ephesians 2:10) He is the Composer who sings love songs to you. (See Zephaniah 3:17) He is the Wealthy Merchant who sold everything He had so that He could make you His own. (See Matthew 13:45-46) He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who left the glory of His exalted throne in heaven, waded through the filth of this sinful world, and descended into the horrors of hell -- all for one simple reason. He looked beyond the horror and saw you standing on the other side, waiting for Him to rescue you. 



What is your Father like? God is love. I encourage you to be who you are in Him. Love people. Just love them. Love them radically. You don't have to have an opinion about everything everybody else does. Just love them. You don't have to condone or condemn them. Just love them. Love them when they don't deserve it. Love them whether they act responsibly or repulsively. Just love them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Like Jesus

"You're Safe With Me"

Reconcilers are people who, without a hint of condemnation, rescue their friends, men and women, boys and girls who are being tormented and corrupted by the flesh, and who are covering up and hiding. They’re like Jesus to them. They look past the cover up, deeper than the blurry fa├žade, and they see clearly because they see people by faith in Christ’s cross and resurrection. They’re well acquainted with the temptation to hide, so they assist each other toward Christ’s new creation where safety and authenticity await. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole gang full of them? That’s what Jude envisioned.

"But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."  (Jude 20-25)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Air From Home

You were raised with Christ.  I don’t know why we pray, “Oh, Lord, be with me now,” since not only is He with us, we’re with Him—forever and always.  We’re in Him, united with Him, and everyone in heaven knows it.  This is one reason why you and I need regular revivals, great awakenings to who we are and where we’re from.  Think of it as getting desperately needed oxygen, not because you’re so high up and there is no air, but because your earthly experience is so low down and the air is awful—and foreign.  Our interaction with Christians often has a lot to do with giving them the air from home, the oxygen of heaven.  Picture a scuba diver many feet deep in the ocean of this world, and you’ve pretty much got the idea of a Christian’s experience in this lifetime.

There have been many occasions where, burdened by the things and situations of this world, I began feeling like I couldn’t breathe.  With the pressure getting to me, never have I felt better by simply working harder.  What always saved me and what saves me today is the air of my homeland—the gospel, the truth of God, which the Holy Spirit uses to oxygenate my blood.  I’m revived because I’m breathing fresh air again, the air of heaven.

That’s why I love the Bible—It’s pure oxygen, baby!—and why I’m always on the lookout for great Christian books and music that fill me with the pure air of heaven.  Get all you can—you can’t live without breathing.  (See my recommended book list at http://lifecourse.org/Recommends.html.)

These days are a foreign missionary experience in the depths of this world, where dangers abound and breathing is at times difficult.  But I look forward to the day when I’ll pop up on the surface of heaven, mask, tanks and burdensome wetsuit removed, and take my first breath.  I know I’ll recognize the air.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fullness

If we have been given “fullness” in Christ, and it’s in Him that we find all the riches of satisfaction and glory given to us, might that explain why we get all twisted-up when we seek for fullness elsewhere?  I know something about that twist, and I’m thankful for those who reintroduce me to true fullness.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Friend, Steve McVey


In case you did not yet know, author, speaker and my friend, Steve McVey has suffered a heart attack. It is said that he is in the hospital in stable condition. Would you pray for him, his wife, Melanie, and his family?

Update: Directly from Steve McVey himself:

Thank you, my friends, for your prayers, calls and thoughts. I have moved from ICU to a normal room. They diagnosed me last night as having a heart attack in progress but today said that wasn't it. Still don't know the cause for my collapse and critical episode but they're running tests. I am overwhelmed by the love from you all Thanks for understanding why Melanie and I can't respond to each of you personally right now. Pray with us that they will find the cause for this and that I will get well.

How Many Times?


Pop Quiz: How many times was blood shed for my sins? How many times did Jesus die for my sins? How many times was I forgiven for my sins? How many times were my sins removed? How many times was I made righteous? How many times was I made forever new? How many times was I made a son of God? ONCE!

Did it work or not?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Parental Squabbling Resolved

I can soooo relate to this parental squabbling. . .except my girls ARE, in fact, the two greatest girls in the world. Still, I think Mary and Joseph win.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Single Moment

If you've ever had a moment that you wish you could get back, you'll relate to this. (Have a great weekend!)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Do Our Mess-Ups Make God Moody?


Is God fickle? Is He a nitpicker? Can you put Him in a generous mood or make Him stingy? Is it possible that He might be the Grand Benefactor on Monday, but the Cosmic Scrooge on Tuesday?

The Corinthians wondered, and sometimes I do too.

The church at Corinth would have been my favorite place to visit. I’m not sure I would have become a member, but man, it was a happenin’ place. The members’ behavior swung wildly from wanton worldliness to high holiness and back again. They were as neat and tidy as a two year old with a bowl full of spaghetti, but they were truly alive! And sloppy. (Like me.)

Naturally, they were aware that the apostle Paul, a sort of spiritual daddy, knew all about their sloppiness. Paul knew of their ugly failures and fleshly frailties, and they were afraid that he wouldn’t come to be with them because they were often bad. “Will Paul, the one who loves us so deeply, draw away from us? Will he go somewhere else, to people who are better than us?” they might have asked. “We’re so awful—why would he want to come here?”

Knowing their fears, Paul essentially told them: “Are you kidding? I brag about you! And God fills me with grace and love toward you—how can I help but want to be with you like He does? I’m crazy about you! Didn’t I make that clear by my first letter? I did mean to come, but I was working through some personal things with God, so it wasn’t a good time for me to visit. But my heart for you is like God’s—it’s always ‘Yes!’ And that makes sense when you consider that God has secured us the same way: He has brought us into Christ, fully blessed, fully belonging to Him, with God Himself living in us as the Guarantor of what is to come. He has done it all, and He keeps doing it all! Isn’t He amazing? It was Him who sent me to you in the first place. Do you think His heart has changed toward you now that you are His? Impossible! You’re in Christ, and since that’s where you are, everything is ‘Yes!’ for you. Can I get a Corinthian ‘Amen’?” (2 Cor 1:12-2:11)

Amen!

I’m glad Paul raised the Corinthian question, “Are you a moody nitpicker?” to the highest level. “God, when things don’t go according to how it seems they should, have you left me because I’ve done something wrong? Do my failures drive you away and cancel grace?” The answer is: “Never!” Weakness and failure set the table for grace—it is best seen where it is most obvious. May I remind you? This was the theme of Paul’s life—mine, too. Paul delighted in his own weaknesses and inabilities, he boasted about the insults that wounded him because he found something through them: God is forever faithful and full of grace! (2 Cor 12:8-10)

God has plenty of motivation to be with us—He doesn’t need more and He doesn’t need convincing. He’s the One who loves and behaves perfectly. Have you forgotten? I know it’s not easy to believe because it seems too fantastic! But that’s the gospel that the devil keeps trying to move you away from. If you’ve wandered away, as I sometimes do, wander back.

You and God are tight. He made it happen. Might as well enjoy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Forever New


It's a terrible plague that, after having received a new self from God, we still fall into denigrating ourselves as though that's humility. It is more humble—and accurate—to acknowledge what God has made of us all by Himself.

In making us His very own creations (2 Cor 5:17), we have or are an outstanding self, one that is compatible and in union with God (Phil 2:1). Could something in union with Him be less than perfect? I’m thinkin’ not. (See Hebrews 10:10,14.)

Our new self is what’s renewed through knowing and communing with God (Col 3:9,10). When you’re thinking or wondering about God, reading about Him or singing or talking with Him, you’ll also know yourself. He brings the real you out, and reveals you to you. You're going to like that.

The old self is gone! (Rom 6:6) God took care of that old thing by crucifying it with Christ. He did it! On purpose! And He was successful. Oh, I know that the flesh would masquerade as you, but it isn’t. The new has come. That’s worth looking at and celebrating now and then, don’t you think? Perhaps just an occasional, “Way to go, God!”

You're not old. You're forever new.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Way To Go, God!


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? Way to go, God!

If that's what we'll be throughout the ages, we might as well start getting used to it now—don't you think?

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Ain't Happenin' For Easter

(Having been a pastor for many years, I know about the pressure to come up with something special for Easter Sunday—it's pretty big. I actually think these ideas have some merit…but what do I know? The last one is my favorite--a sure-fire hit.)

TOP TEN REJECTED EASTER DRAMAS THIS YEAR

10. Gigantic, super-loud fireworks explosions signal resurrection of Prince of Peace

9. The guy who lost his ear to Peter sells it on eBay

8. Angels swing from piano wire and, for the most part, make it down to the Tomb

7. Guys in metal skirts hurt, too: The Roman's Story

6. Our elderly and near-sighted ushers will wash your feet throughout the first act

5. It's the Jets (disciples) vs. the Sharks (Pharisees) in "West Bank Story"!!

4. Last Supper Dinner Theater

3. Stone rolled away and down the aisle

2. Orange construction barrels impede triumphant entry into Jerusalem

1. Aslan the Lion eats evil temple merchants

(Copyright 2005 Dave Tippett--used by permission)

Friday, April 06, 2012

No Easter Discount


When Jesus was on the cross, where were you?

As the retail sign implies, if we think of Jesus as going to the cross by Himself, we’ve bought Easter at a discount. And that’s no bargain.

While enduring the awful human torment of carrying a shameful cross through the streets of Jerusalem and out to Calvary on the edge of the city, Jesus—God Himself—knew what was before Him, and through the pain He was overjoyed.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 Italics mine.)

Seemingly all alone in His tortured trek through town and the many people lining the streets, Jesus held a fantastic secret: He was taking them with Him. They thought they were onlookers to a tragedy; He knew they were participants, not just in the cause, but in the act.

An incredible, miraculous, retroactive and future fact of Easter is that Jesus’ faithfulness to the cross was the initial act of bringing to an end one creation—darkened, stumbling, sin frustrated mankind—and of making another—a glory-sharing, innocent and holy new race. That was His joy, and now it’s ours!

On the cross and knowing what was coming in three days, Jesus reached for you in the crowd—the crowd in the past, the crowd right in front of Him, and the crowd in the future—and accomplished God’s timeless desire, union with His people. He didn’t simply hold you close, He brought you in. Jesus removed what hindered us and brought us into Himself, where there can be no distance, no transgression and no fault, making us safe and secure with Him, who loves us perfectly.

When Jesus rose and fairly strutted out of the tomb, as I picture it, He was full and full of joy! We were in Him, and He was joyously satisfied, just as He planned.

(See Romans 6:1-7; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:6-7)

A Favor


A birthday favor?

Run over to Amazon.com and quickly Like and/or write a sentence or two about my book. It would help out, and it would take about one minute. Think of the birthday points you’ll get!


To go directly to the link, click: http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Astounding-Opinion-You-Understanding/dp/0736937838/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333718605&sr=1-1

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Good X 2


Here’s a good statement and a good deal.

Andrew Farley says: "Dynamic communicator Ralph Harris invites you on an exhilarating journey to discover the person God has so gracefully handcrafted you to be. If you’re not sure of your place in the Kingdom or if you’ve lost that sense of closeness to the King, this book can change all of that. I’ve seen relationships saved and lives rebuilt by the incredible truths revealed in this book. Read it to bask in the breathtaking beauty of God’s new creation – and, yes, that means you!"

For a short time you can get a copy of my book, God’s Astounding Opinion of You, for essentially 40% off the total cost by going to http://bestofmytown.net/ and entering the promo code, 12834. This is for US residents only. You may also vote and be eligible to win a prize. How cool is that? And for more information about the book and what I do, go to http://lifecourse.org/.

Calories

Weaning Us Off

We are, all of us, wired to need and to know Jesus. Our days are set up for it. And in that perfect need-to-know basis, He will give us His view and His feelings and His confidence and His love of people and understanding of events. Fascinated with Him, He will wean us off a worldly view that obscures reality.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

God Being God

It's easy to become worn out and maybe a little disillusioned. I know. But He will rescue and comfort you, and, God being God, you'll likely feel better than had you not grown weary in the first place.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

A Good Gathering

A friendly bit of instruction to help you enjoy your local church gathering.