Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The 'I Want To' of Love

Have you thought of love as being “responsible”?  How about “measured”?  Is love always “a choice,” or is there more to it?  7 minutes to know what I think.  What if I’m right?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stand Up, Jesus

One of the biggest problems you’re going to have in listening to sermons—maybe this weekend—is that the speaker does not start from a Christian foundation that will affect you beautifully, as God intended.

Because of the constraints of time or the desire to be immediately effective, the speaker will identify a problem in your life that needs to be fixed, and then give a prescription to overcome it. It will conclude with a kind of “get to work now,” as you go out the door. “How practical!” you might say. But you’re in danger if you accept it. Let me tell you why.

No matter what the preacher says, no matter how well he or she says it, you won’t be able to conquer sensual cravings with sensual abstinence. You won’t be able to overcome sexual immorality with sexual morality. You won’t be free of anger, jealousy, hatred, envy or impurity by praying hard and by building barricades against them. None of that is how a Christian lives. Not really. All of it will stumble you because all of it is by the flesh and by works, and not by the Spirit and by grace. It won’t work.

The everyday foundation upon which you and I rest and from which our messages and sermons must proceed if we’re going to do well, could be summed up this way, from Romans 5:25: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If we truly start there, we’ve truly started well, and everyone benefits. Anything else is a bad beginning.

I’ll show you. Pretend my sermon began with the above verse, and follows below.

According to the verse, all of your sins—every one of them—He forgave and took, as though they were always His. You cannot have them back because, as far as He is concerned, you didn’t do them. He became your sin, and there’s nothing you can do about it now. Besides, they’re gone—no matter what, even if you do more. His act was both retroactive and future. You’re never going to sin-up-a-mountain-full and be identified by God on the basis of what you’ve done; He knows you only on the basis of His life and your birth.

Your being “okay” with God is forever secure and out of your reach. You cannot improve it, you cannot worsen it, you cannot change it—it’s perfect! 100% stellar. Jesus earned it. He did pretty well, didn’t He? And He gave it to you. Not only has Jesus’ resurrection made you as having never once sinned—you’re a sin virgin—but He has made you as having always done everything perfectly right. That is your past, and it’s your future, because of Jesus. Yeah, you actually are a perfectionist. You’ve been given a score of 100% all the time. That is justification!

That’s how it is. The Great Sin Thief has forgiven and taken your sin, you’ve been justified by the righteous one Himself, you’ve been made at peace with and by God, and you’ve been brought into harmony and compatibility with and by God. He did it! It’s over! You’ve got it. What did you have to do with it? Zero. Zip. Nada.

“Amen,” sermon over. How do you feel right now? Pretty good?

Pop Quiz: What are the odds on you running out right now and sinning up a storm? Poor, right? Why? Because you don’t want to! You have no taste for it, because grace is working right now in you. In other words, you and I have been looking at and marveling at Jesus and His grace (all that He has done for us) in a single verse, and—Oops!—He is at work in us! We feel great about it, too. And it was easy, wasn’t it? According to Jesus, isn’t it supposed to be? You know, that whole “my yoke is easy, my burden light” kinda thing. Right? All we’ve done here is look at Jesus and what He did for us through the cross and resurrection, and He has done the rest. He’s done you! And He has done me. Aren’t we glad?

To grow in Christ means we ‘re increasingly convinced that He is perfect for us and with us and in us. It means we’re increasingly attracted to Him—during any moment, ugly or pretty. And that attraction takes advantage of the secure connection He made with us in such a way that He becomes obvious to us—to ourselves and to others. That’s the plan: we have The Way, The Truth and The Life, and others get us as a picture—an everyday video playing out right in front of them—of what that looks like.

But, and it’s a big but(!), if the message you hear—maybe this weekend—doesn’t start from Jesus as your foundation—that He has forgiven and stolen away all of your sin, and that He replaced all that with His life and righteousness—then you won’t be built up in Christ, you won’t be attracted to Him, who is happily inside, and Jesus, Grace Himself, won’t be standing up in you, capable and trustworthy and evident.

Instead, you’ll have work to do, principles to apply, promises to keep, integrity to worry about, and “Christian responsibilities.” And that won’t go well.

Here’s our picture of Grace at work in us:

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation (or “soundness”) to all people. 12 It teaches us (literally, "Grace stands up inside of 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 appearing of the glory 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. (Parenthesis mine.)

That’s you! And Jesus is inside, the one who stands up when we look at Him, when we marvel at Him.

What you want and what you’re fit for is to wonder at Jesus. . .at what He did, at who He is, at where He is, and how compatible the two of you are right now. He did all of that! Take a look, and He will stand up in you and work, just like He always has. That’s the deal. It’s pretty good, right?

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Stand Up, Jesus,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see and/or to subscribe to the videos, click: http://youtu.be/lA_5FnUj9yQ.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Stand Up, Jesus

If you want to know the difference between a Christian message and one that isn’t, why one affects you so well, and another doesn’t, even when given in church, then watch this.  It might not be what you think — it will be better.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Recovering King

When thinking about your relatives, have you ever wondered if fog and heaviness might be very close relatives of yours?

I despise doubt and unbelief and how it creeps slowly upon me, fogging my mind and weighing down my life. Do you ever get that? Fortunately, I’m in recovery from the most recent visit of my relatives.

I was today reminded of a scene in my favorite trilogy of films, Lord of the Rings, and specifically, The Two Towers. In it, the marvelous King of Rohan, Theoden, has been under the terrible influence of a demonic spellbinder. While Theoden still sits on the throne, he no longer believes he is much of anything, not much of value, and he no longer understands the meaning of his own crown, even though it still sits on his head. Further, the mighty sword of his authority and kingdom lays useless and wasted on the floor. Instead, others of lesser, ignoble birth and evil intent direct a kingdom now in chaos.

As God would have it(!), Gandalf and a trio of valiant warriors break through to rescue him, and Gandalf immediately exposes and rebukes the spellbinder, releasing the king. Rising slowly to his feet, the king’s senses and eyes grow clearer. “Dark have been my dreams of late,” he says wistfully. Theoden looks at his hand and can scarcely move its fingers.

Gandalf, intent upon restoring the King, says, “Your fingers would remember their old strength better if they grasped your sword.”

The King’s second in command offers it to him, and, slowly taking it into his grasp, Theoden draws it from its scabbard. The evil, wormy spellbinder instantly squirms in fear, while the King looks at the sword in wonder. Suddenly, understanding lights his eyes and his face grows fierce. The recovering King glowers at the enemy and angrily hurls him out of the throne room. “Get out! You have no business here!”

“Hail! Theoden King!” comes the triumphant shout from everyone all around, who look to the recovered king with renewed wonder, awe and thankfulness.

So, how are you, royal son? How are you, regal daughter? How have the thoughts playing in your head matched up to the dazzling crown of royalty that God has put upon your head? Has The Spellbinder been whispering “dark dreams” to you, too? Is he making the attempt to get you lost, to get you to forget who you are?

“Your fingers would remember their old strength better if they grasped your sword.”

Remember what God has made of you, take Him at His word, and act like He meant it. He did! Throw off the lies that say anything else or anything less! Praise The King who shares His glory with you. That’s amazing! You may remember your crown by singing a song to God—loudly! Shake the ceiling with it! Or maybe proclaim an important truth aloud—“I am a holy and righteous son of God, and I will never be anything less!” It might help to yell it. Or perhaps you might grasp your Bible and thrust it heavenward as the sword that it is.

1 Peter 2:10 “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, in order that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

That is you! Try reading it loudly and with your name in it. That’ll bring revival to your thinking and kick the evil one’s butt out the door. He has no place with you. You’ll regain faith and strength and stand again as the royal son or daughter you are. And that is the greatest thing in this world—there’s nothing better than who God has made you to be. Nothing and no one. The Spellbinder will scurry off, his butt kicked, now fearful of recovered royalty.

“Hail to the King!”

A Recovering King

If you’ve been experiencing some heaviness lately, and feeling fairly worthless or useless, give 5 minutes to this short video and see if you don’t feel better—like you just got a shot of spiritual adrenaline. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Temptation

Don’t be shy during temptation; there’s no need to draw away from God in presumed shame—it’s not from Him. He is great to know during temptation! He’ll produce in you the evidence of Himself—the fruit of the Spirit. You’ll be pretty happy at the knowledge of His nearness, and He will be glorified in you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Let The Bragging Begin

I forget that the ongoing measurement of my life, the way I am seen, the way I am estimated and the way I am judged is not singularly dependent upon me—Jesus became all of that for me.  Everyday and all day I am living with His righteousness, His holiness, and His redemption.  All that He accomplished has been given to me as my own.

“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.  Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:30-31)

Let the bragging on God begin because that’s overwhelming.  But shouldn’t it be?  Yes!  The gospel is crazy-good. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

No Such Trouble

The Spirit reminded me this morning that while I often have widely divergent thoughts about myself—"I’m a good man"—"No, I’m not"—"Yes, I am"—"No, I’m not" — He has no such trouble.

In fact, His opinion of me is incredibly good, even astounding. It never wavers and He is never indecisive about me. I have moments when it overwhelms me. I like that.

And perhaps the best news is that He is going to carry on with me as though He is correct.


Psa;m 139:14-18 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Canada Trip

I will be leaving shortly for Canada, where I will be speaking this weekend at Crossways to Life, in Kitchener, Ontario. Would you pray for them and for me, as well as for my family? I appreciate you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Double Dare

I’ve got a double dare for you today.

Dare #1:  The next time you’re hanging out with a few Christian types, drop the biblical truth that they actually are a select bunch of people, a collection of royal, God-birthed ministers, a spotless and holy group belonging to Him (see 1 Peter 2:9-12), and see if they don’t disagree with you—perhaps even argue with you.  I bet they will, and I wonder why that might be.  We’re certainly not stupid.  It’s because we’ve been deceived.

Dare #2:  At church next Sunday (or wherever and whenever it is that you gather with people), set up a table and hang out a sign:  “Perfect Christian Survey.”  Pull up a chair, whip out a notepad, and ask a hundred people (or as many as you can in your group) if they believe that, according to God who loves them madly, they have been made perfect.  Ask them that.  Give me your best estimate of the actual percentage responding, “Why, yes, I do!”  What do you think it would be?

During 30 years of ministry, I have posed that question in various ways to perhaps thousands of Christians, many who did not know that I was a pastor-type (and thus a member of the get-the-right-answer-or-be-shamed Gestapo).  What do you suppose my findings were?  Fewer than 5 percent responded, “Yes. I believe that God has made me perfect.”

Do you think Satan has been successful in his game of deception?  I do too. But the Spirit (who is not willing that we should live without the knowledge of how well-off we have become with God through Jesus) is turning on the lights and drawing back the curtain, and happily revealing to us the majesty of God’s grace to us in Christ—of how good it is!  Finding out all about it is in no way a trivial pursuit—it’s what He wants for you.  You’ve got to believe God about Himself, and you’ve got to believe God about you.  It’s fantastic, and, as far as I’m concerned, those are the two most important things there are. 

“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14

That word, “perfect,” is the same word that Jesus spoke while on the cross:  “It is finished.”  The first covenant had been perfectly completed and finished, and He was bringing in the new one.  Christians have already been finished to begin with—isn’t it marvelous?  That’s our starting point, and we grow into who we are from there. 

That’s the truth.  Get as much of it as you can—get books, speakers, and resources because there’s not a lot out there telling you about this, I know.  Have a look through my ministry web site (http://lifecourse.org) and take all you can, including my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You.”  I want to help.

See you later.

(This is a fairly close transcript of yesterday’s video, “A Double Dare,” which was sort of excerpted from my book:  God’s Astounding Opinion of You – Understanding Your Identity Will Change Your Life; Chapter 2, “The Pursuit of Trivial Nobility.” To see more of these videos, click: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU0vzTvP_wD3Q59QDl9hx7w.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Double Dare

Do you believe it's important to be in "good standing" with God?  Would you say that there are many people who have a good grasp of what God has done concerning that?  Take 4.5 minutes to consider what might happen if you accepted my challenge.

I sure wish I could choose the thumbnail picture that goes with this video.  I look drunk.  Goodness.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God's House

While believers used to go to the house of God, now God has come to us and made us his house. Just a reminder that, if you’re going to “go to God,” you haven’t far to go.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fickle-Heads In God’s Relocation Plan

Are you ever fickle and inconsistent toward God?  I am.  Should I be worried?

From my early days as a Christian, I have heard some people speak or teach in a manner that indicated that a Christian could lose his salvation.  For a time, I was fairly plagued by the fear that I might, in a fit of rage or covetousness or stupidity or lust or laziness, lose my heavenly place.  I could be terrified.  Only later, after reading the whole New Covenant (there’s a novel idea), did I realize that God is in charge of our salvation, not us, from beginning to end. You and I are secure, not because we are security experts, but because God is.  We simply believe and receive.  It was God who chose us before the foundation of the earth (see Ephesians 1:4).  Aren’t you a little bit glad about that?  I sure am.

And then there are several little biblical words with which God paints for us the vivid picture of what He thinks He has done for us, and where He thinks we are right now—in Christ.  He put us into Christ, which God thinks is a rather big deal.  Think about it.  Because God wanted His life and security to be ours, as well, He co-crucified us with Christ (Galatians 2:20), co-buried us with Him (Romans 6:4), co-raised us with Him (Ephesians 2:6), and co-seated us with Him in the heavens (Ephesians 2:6).  We’ve been put into union with Christ!  (See Romans 6:5.)  We’re enjoying God’s re-location plan right now.  We’re in Christ.  Frankly, that means we’re in rather good shape, don’t you think?  That’s what God thinks.

If then we’re going to trust God and what He thinks He has done, we’re going to relax about our supposed ability to lose the security we didn’t earn in the first place.  We’re in!  We’re in Him.  God saw to it.

But, just for fun, let’s play out the “You-can-lose-your-salvation” game.  Fred Fickle, affectionately known as “Ficklehead” by his buddies, receives Jesus one Sunday morning, but decides to reject Jesus by Monday.  Tuesday dawns bright and cheerful, so Ficklehead let’s Jesus back in again.  Alas, Fred has a lousy morning at work, and dumps a seemingly useless Christ over lunch.  “Fine!  If you won’t work for me, Jesus, get out of me!”  By the following Sunday, Fred has accepted and rejected the Savior twenty eight times.  That means Ficklehead, over and over again, has been un-co-seated, un-co-raised, un-co-buried, un-co-crucified, and had his "union" card taken away some twenty eight times.  That's a lot of work.  But then when Fred gets saved all over again, he would then be co-crucified with Christ, co-buried, co-raised, and on and on it goes.  Isn't that fun? 

I wonder if the on-looking angels in heaven would lack a little celebratory zest after awhile.  Like maybe they don’t throw confetti anymore or shoot off as many party poppers as they used to when Fred got saved.  “Oh, hooray.  It’s Fred again.” 

Hopefully, Ficklehead times it just right and dies in security before he can reverse the process and disappoint the angels all over again.  (I wonder what kind of greeting Fred would get in heaven?  Maybe instead of getting the eternal new name promised to him, “Ficklehead” would continue to be his name forever.  Doesn’t that seem fair?  I don’t know.)

Anyway, these are some of my thoughts this morning as I enjoy Jesus, who is just now lavishing me with love.  And security.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Fickle-Heads In God’s Relocation Plan,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  The video can be found by scrolling down, or by clicking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnOQ8m3tMzM.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fickle-Heads In God's Relocation Plan

Are you ever fickle or inconsistent toward God?  Have you ever wondered or worried if that might have dire consequences in your standing with Him?  I have.  Here’s 5 minutes that will help you with that.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

See You Later, Brennan Manning

To me, Brennan Manning epitomized what the apostle Paul knew about God: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) Having once been a full-fledged flailer in weakness—Oh, how I loathed it—God met with me in the midst and provided Himself and His love and grace (the cure), and I willingly became His vessel and display for that process, for that life. I was amazed! Weakness was worth what I found, but I wondered if I was crazy or wrong, since no one was talking about personal weakness as a doorway by which to know Jesus. Like weakness was a good thing!

Brennan Manning and his books became a sort of mentor to me. He talked all about the weakness and ugliness in his life, and how, nevertheless—maybe because of it—God showed Himself perfectly wonderful to sloppy Brennan. Brennan fell in love, just as God planned. And, just yesterday, weakness ushered Brennan home to be with the One he loved, the same as it will for me one day. I’m glad he has always gone ahead of me, leaving some understanding for me to follow. He was one of my highest heroes.

How Animals Eat Their Food

My daughters showed Sarah and me this video last night, and maybe it was because we were in full birthday celebration--I don't know--but we laughed out loud.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What About My Old Me?

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

I replied that 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 (See Galatians 5:16-17), and which still produces feelings and behavior through our bodies (Galatians 5:19-20). You need to read that because you’ll see that the flesh produces through your body (“The acts of the flesh are…” which you don’t want), as does the Holy Spirit—that’s what you want.  So the flesh is not us. We’re not in the flesh. We’re not of the flesh (See Romans 7:5-6; 8:9). We have no old self that is some ugly thing.  It’s simply the flesh.  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 by something rather significant—your death!  (See Romans 6:3-7) You were included in Christ’s death and resurrection.  So when He died, you died.  When He was raised, so were you—holy and new.  It's amazing!  And 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 Holy Spirit, who, as He attracts and secures our attention and trust, produces the evidence of eternal life now in us. Really, it’s the life of Christ Himself. 

Frankly, He doesn’t even require our attention to do it; it just makes it a whole lot more enjoyable and invigorating for us, and we get to know Him in the process.  And that looks and feels great (See Galatians 5:22-25).

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

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “What About My Old Me?”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What About My Old Me?

Got 3 minutes?  While I do have a twin brother, I do not have a twin nature.  Christians don’t have one nature to beat down, and another to build up.  Here’s a quick bit of news that will encourage you.

We've Got To Change Marriage, Part 2

“Marriage is hard work,” we say, “so Christians better get to it better than everybody else.” Is that true? It seems to me that many of us are already crazy over marriage, but we’re told that we’ve got to push the accelerator to go crazier still?! I don’t think so.

In this, Part 2 of a series called, “We’ve Got To Change Marriage,” I hope to help you see something that will liberate you from life-draining distractions. One of them is marriage. Are you up for that? If you haven’t watched or read Part 1, I strongly recommend you get that before wading into this. You might just get mad at me if not. (You’ll find links at the end of this post.)

I said in Part 1 that we’ve got to lift marriage out of the Old Testament, because it has bogged down and been left behind. Christians haven’t done anything different with it, except try to do the same thing better. And that won’t work. We’ve got to bring it into the New Covenant so that it matches up with who and what believers have become—new creations—and where God is in the New Covenant—He is in us. Unfortunately, He is fairly unemployed in a lot of us, and that’s what this message and series is about. Let’s give God something to do in marriage!

Growing up I never once asked the question, “Who am I?” because I was busy becoming something all the time, or unveiling my latest creation of me. Whatever was needed for any situation, I became that to the best of my ability. I was Ralph, the clever and lovable twin. (Yes, I have an identical twin brother.) I was Ralph, the baseball player. I was Ralph, the pretended Don Juan. I was Ralph, the fly fisherman. I was Ralph, the collegian. I had no starting point, no identity of beginning. So I invented a self and worked hard on that self. . .with varying degrees of failure. But do you see what a trap that is? If, to begin with, you are not a certain thing, then no matter how you labor upon yourself, you will not become it. No one can accomplish a change of identity—not truly. You can only work on the fa├žade.

Except God. He ends the masquerade. He gives to believers an actual, true-at-the-core identity for the first time: son of God. This is what we become when we receive Christ—and we’re born authentic. The real deal! Now we have a core identity, and can live truly from there. Nothing else will ever displace or change your true identity. Nothing. God will always recognize you for who you are—son. That is your identity to God and to the angels. . .and it ought to be with fellow Christians.

So true and genuine, so important and primary is this identity that God has given to us—sons of God—that all and any other identities for us become simply tributary to the one. A branch, an offshoot of the one, the primary.

Look how singular your identity is, according to the apostle Paul:

Galatians 3:26 So in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile (your family isn’t your identity), neither slave nor free (your condition or status in life isn’t your identity), nor is there male and female (your plumbing isn’t your identity), for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Parenthesis mine.)

You are a son of God in Christ Jesus. If you don’t know it, or to the degree that you focus your life upon trying to fashion or to improve upon other, lesser, tributary identities, is the degree of frustration and futility you will experience because you will be attempting the impossible: to return to when you had no identity.

When people see you in your role as dad or mom, and for our purpose today, husband or wife, that is not who you are—it is not primary, it is tributary. Marriage is tributary to who you are and how you live.

This does not mean that you cut off all other roles, or that you block off all tributaries and pay no attention to them. It means that you live and focus upon your primary identity—where God is looking—at the invisible and eternal, at what He has made, and not upon the visible and passing away, your tributary identity, because life and love and grace comes from and through your primary identity.

When a couple meets with me about tangled issues in their relationship, after we’ve talked a while, the most important question I ask them is: “How is Jesus?” Not one time has his or her response been anything other than, “I don’t know. I’m working on my marriage.” Each of them thought they had to fix marriage before they could know Jesus again, as if He had nothing to provide for it! They believed that tributary identity was most important, and that it was the influence of primary identity. In other words, “If you have a good marriage, you must be a Christian.” They had it backwards. Each of them thought the problem was first tributary, when all that tributary does is channel the flow from the source. That is Christian.

Think of having the apostle Paul as your church gatherings guest speaker next Sunday morning. And the title of his message is: “Keys To Success In Marriage.” There he is on the stage. Lights all around, maybe some PowerPoint on the screen. . .Wow. Everyone’s ready, and he begins with this: “From now on, those of you who are married should live as though you are not. I do not want you to be engrossed in the passing-away relationships and things of this world. I don’t want you to be concerned with your marriage: how you might please your spouse, or how you might meet his or her needs. Don’t do it. That will make a mess of things. Instead, I want you to be singularly devoted to Jesus, who is the source of life and love for the sons and daughters of God, and for every relationship and situation they encounter. That’s how you must live, and it is the key to success in marriage.”

And Paul concludes his message. What would be the feeling in that room? Would there be thunderous applause? A standing ovation for the apostle? Or would it be quiet and tense? I think the latter. That should tell you how enslaved we’ve become to focusing and working upon marriage, instead of upon Jesus, who provides for it.

Now, you must know that Paul didn’t mean it as a way to degrade marriage, but as a way to position marriage in its proper place—as a receiver of God’s life and love in us. God in us flows down the tributary of marriage. . .and down the tributary of parenting, and down the tributary of all relationships and situations. Primary to tributary.

Do you see it? We are perfectly set up for this! All of us have lots of tributaries, don’t we? We’ve got jobs, bills to pay, children to raise, relatives to visit and care for, and much more. If you’re exhausted, if Christianity has seemingly worn you out, it’s because you’ve been induced to focus upon tributary identities, and to labor yourself there. And your primary identity, “son of God”, winds up having no practical relevance for you. “It’s a nice title, but no big deal.” What I am saying is that, while you are a Christian, you don’t have authentic Christianity. What you’ve got is not Christian. It can’t work for you.

Aren’t you a little bit glad? It hasn’t been working anyway, right? Jesus’ yoke and burden hasn’t been easy and light because you’ve been shouldering the burden. You don’t have to! It doesn’t fit! Your days and relationships are for Him with you and in you. Set your eyes and heart upon Jesus. He will revive you and work through you. That’s Christian.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll have more in Part 3. Until then, go for your primary identity: son of God. He will see to your tributaries.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We've Got To Change Marriage, Part 2

“Marriage is hard work,” we say, “so Christians better get to it better than everybody else.”  Is that true?  It seems to me that many of us are already crazy over marriage, but we’re told that we’ve got to push the accelerator to go crazier still?!  I don’t think so.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Fertilizer & Goggles

I’m betting that unless you’ve decided to pull the covers over your head today, you’re going to shuffle through Facebook, scan a blog or two, read a newspaper, scroll through email or watch television, which will ensure that this world’s ample supply of fertilizer finds its way to your face.  Bam.

Translation:  Get your gospel goggles on, baby.  For those equipped to see past the passing away world and its offered issues, to the unseen and eternal realm, beware of focusing upon today’s crap as though it is anything more.  It is helpful only as it points to what is truly true. 

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, who knew all about worldly fertilizer:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

So, strap on your goggles.  It isn’t always easy, but you can do it.

(This is a transcript of today’s video, “Fertilizer & Goggles,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.)

Fertilizer & Goggles

It's gonna get in your face.  There's no avoiding the "fertilizer" of this world, but you can get past it in a way that's just right for you.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Remember What God Is Like Toward You

God has plenty of motivation to be with us and to do for us; He doesn’t need more. He doesn’t run out of motivation or have a shortage one day, and He doesn’t need convincing. You’ll never need to woo God, and you’ll never need to do anything right in order to attract Him to you. There’s no class on successful flirting with God! He’s the One who loves and behaves perfectly—remember?

Believing that slips away sometimes, I know, but that’s the gospel that the devil keeps trying to move you and me away from. So if you’ve wandered, as I sometimes do, wander back.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

We've Got To Change Marriage

We’ve got to change marriage.  That’s what this post is about, and it won’t be without controversy and disagreement.   But it’s my take on it.  Are you ready?

Christian Marriage is not Jewish Marriage 2.0.  We’ve got to take it out of the former covenant so that it matches up with who and what believers have become and where God is in the New Covenant—He is in us.  That changes everything.  Think what He can do from where He is now.  And that’s Christianity. 

But let’s back up a bit and get some context to this.

The apostle Paul told us that he had been crucified with Christ, and that he no longer lived but Christ in Him.  Paul had become a new creation, and life was now by the Spirit and no longer by the flesh.  Life arrived and was directed by what God in Paul did, and not by any other means.  We know that this is true for every Christian.  We also know that life by the Spirit means He will produce in us what Christ is like:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  That’s His work to do in us, and He’s particularly good at it.  We, on the other hand, are wonderfully lousy at the fruit of the Spirit—thousands of years have proven it—but He is perfect.

That production of life is going to benefit you personally, as well as all those around you.  Christ in you is exceptionally good at relationships—all of them—including marriage.  We have the Great Lover Himself within us.  He is our hope, and a very real one.  1 John 4:8 says that, “God is love.”  He is the original source.  He doesn’t experience shortages of love or run out of it either.  “Sorry, Vicky.  Come back next week.  I’m expecting a new shipment.”

God is love, and genuine love comes from Him.  Relationship with God is the only relationship that can actually produce authentic love.  That’s why we become so attracted and devoted to Him; we do it for love!  No matter how good any other relationship is, it cannot produce God’s love—it can only be a receiver of it.  (Do you suppose there might be a plan there?)  And God has come to live in people, a staggering new development, making every other plan obsolete.  Forever.

So when it came to marriage, Paul did not Christianize the former union between male and female, adding nifty new promises and commitments, working toward a sort of Jewish Marriage 2.0.  Instead, he put it into the context of the new reality of Christ in us, who is revealed in us by the grace and work of the Holy Spirit.  It could be said that marriage during the Old Covenant, the male and female union that uniquely produced life, prefigured Christ joining Himself to mankind in the New Covenant gift of new and eternal life. 

So the headline news of Christianity is not, “Hey!  We can do this better than the Jews ever did.  Watch this, God!”  Christianity is not Judaism 2.0.  The premier aspect of Christianity is, “We have God living in us, and He has all the life, love and ability necessary for every situation and relationship.  We watch for Him inside and offer ourselves to Him.”

This is why Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30).  He is where our rest is.  He does the work in us for situations and people!  But try quoting that verse to people hard at work on their marriage and not only will they tell you that you’re absolutely wrong, they’ll look at you like you’re an alien. . .which should make the point that they don’t believe they are alien in this world.  This is the position every born again vessel of God has in the world:  “Christ in me, for every situation and relationship, including marriage.”  Knowing that God is in us, we go out amongst people and give ourselves to them and see what happens.  More accurately, we see how God happens.  It makes everything adventurous, and our focus remains within, upon Christ.

In the context of New Covenant marriage, just like the church, wives have the unique position of knowing where God is (inside), and of then offering themselves to their husbands. This means Christ in them for their husbands.  Husbands, with Christ in them as well, have the unique position of offering themselves to their wives just as Christ did for the church.  This means Christ in them for their wives.  Do you see what that means?  Christ for everybody!  That’s the plan.

This is why, when it came to Christian marriage counseling, Paul told the Corinthians an otherwise odd thing:  if they could not remain single, but chose instead to marry, they were to avoid being “concerned” with their marriage and “how they might please their spouse” by instead remaining singularly devoted to Jesus.  Paul didn’t mean it as a way to degrade or cheapen marriage, but as a way to elevate and position it as a receiver of God’s life and love.  (See 1 Corinthians 7:29-35)  In other words, “Stay in the knowledge of God’s love for you—make that your only concern—and He, who is now in you, will produce what He is like for your spouse.  Life!  In that way, God will be evident in you.  That’s how God benefits!  (So does your spouse!)  And that is the New Covenant plan—Christ in you.”

Now, you’ve got to go see this, so read 1 Corinthians 7:29-35.  Take your time with it, and knowing what you do about the New Covenant and Christ in you, see if this doesn’t make sense and explain why Christian marriage is so messed up today.  We’ve got our fleshly, grubby hands all over it.  We’ve taken over the New Covenant delivery vehicle of God’s grace—the union of a man and a woman—and made it our own work.  And that will not work.

This may seem terribly foreign to you because the church hasn’t been talking about it much, but we’ve got to.  I’ve written a lot about it in my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” so I won’t give more time to it here.  But go get it, if you haven’t already.  Here’s my ministry web site address for it (http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html), and you can also get it at bookstores and all of the usual online locations in either regular or eBook format.

That’s it for now.  See you later.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “We’ve Got To Change Marriage,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  You’ll find the video a bit down my wall, or click on the following link: http://youtu.be/L4tri2WGvBg)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

We've Got To Change Marriage

What’s happened to the joy and ease of marriage? If Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden light, then doesn’t that apply to marriage? It does. Take a few minutes and see if this short video doesn’t explain a lot.

A Different Kind of Smack-Down

If the end of one Godly Administration and the beginning of another could be called a “WWF Smack-Down,” Jesus wins. (A little fun for the wrestling fans among us.☺)

Hebrews 8:6 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.