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?