Friday, May 31, 2013

Puss In What?

You KNOW this is how it happened.  Right?


Transformed Son

I'm lately surprised at how little I value Christ's gift of righteousness in the light of how bothered I am with my own.  Doh!  Jesus has seen to a rather significant exchange of righteousness, right?  My dirty rags and history were traded in for His perfect righteousness and record.  When I look upon and value His resume of right-doing—Perfect!—and the fact that He has given it all to me as my own credit and account, then faith, hope and joy rise up in me, and I'm living by grace all over again.  Summary?  Happy man.  Renewed man.  Transformed son.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Swimming In Ungrace

What plagues Christians and wears us out a lot? Believing that we fit in this world’s current of ungrace—and swimming as if our lives will be measured by ever improving personal bests.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Born Of God

The apostle John writes, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children OF God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born OF God” (John 1:12-13)  Those final three words—born of God—literally mean “out of God were birthed.”  Christians have been born of God, not simply BY God, and may now take part and involve themselves in Him.  We’re compatible!  We’ve been given a new nature with the genetic code of God Himself, who has birthed us all over again, birthed us of Himself.

More than likely, you’ll not always feel that you’re living up to your genetic connection, but the facts will never be altered.  What the Bible says is true of you IS true of you whether you feel like it or not.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Every Blessing Already

Jesus earned entirely everything for us for entirely nothing from us. In Him we have been given every blessing already. Believing that fact is the challenge—earning it is not.  Anything that teaches less than that makes us crazy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Life In The Storm

How do you do in the storms of life? Frankly, they sometimes batter me, and I don’t always do very well. But I’ve noticed something.

As long as I believe that I’m doing well when I’m tranquil, fulfilled, happy and satisfied, but not well when I’m experiencing fear, frustration, sorrow and failure, I’ll search and struggle for my identity in “how life is going” and in “how I’m doing,” rather than in who lives in me and how He enjoys riding and working in a good storm now and then—particularly mine.

When I realize, however, that I’ve been born spirit and am entirely secure in Jesus, who lives in me, with all of His ability and grace and love (He is, after all, the way, the truth and the life), then storms may rage but my attention and source are elsewhere.

The apostle Paul, who knew a thing or two about storms and great difficulties, wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay (and we’re going to feel fragile and clay-like) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (There’s a purpose to it after all.) For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (That’s amazing.) So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, parenthesis mine.)

That is a miracle, and that’s the purpose of storms and the life we find.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Life In The Storm,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video and/or to subscribe, click http://youtu.be/LCjXMavaYq4, or just scroll down.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Life In The Storm

How do you do in the storms of life?  I’ve noticed something terribly important about what I think during them.  Give 3 minutes to this little video and see what you think.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Heavenly Wonder & Earthly Wander

Do you do much wondering?  And where do you go, where does your wondering cause you to wander?

Wandering that comes from wondering is a heavenly gift.  There’s a great purpose to it.  But what bothers me is that sometimes the desire for perfect understanding—“I’ve got to figure this out!  Then I’ll be satisfied!”—eclipses the wondering and desire for Jesus himself, in whom is the deepest and purest and best of everything we want most.  We might even get a sort of "knowledge high" or a “knowledge buzz” 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 (not at our core, not in the heart) 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 comes from the knowing.  (That’s the goal—remember?)  That bookish kind of desire for knowledge keeps it incomplete.  It’s at a dead end.  We’re cheated from awe and joy when that happens, because Jesus is why we wonder and wander—it’s him we want—and he perfectly completes us.  He is the goal!   He is the destination and fulfillment of wondering and wandering.  Of course, he knows it.  He set it all up for himself to be the answer to our longings.  And, happily, we know it too.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church:  “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.”  (Colossians 2:2 -4)

So the question is, where is everything we want?  It’s with Jesus.  It’s with Him.  That’s why you and I wonder, and that is the best direction for your wandering.

(This is a transcript from yesterday’s video, “Heavenly Wondering, Earthly Wandering,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/5vcrwOtLzyw.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Heavenly Wonder & Earthly Wander

Dissatisfied from racking your brains? Give 3 minutes and see if this little video doesn’t help lead you to the satisfaction you want.

Validate Me

A little levity on an otherwise cluttered Thursday morning.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Bozo Maxim

The Bozo Maxim:  Whenever there is a natural disaster (fire, earthquake, storm, etc.) that takes the lives of many people, a Christian of notoriety will seize upon the moment to disregard Jesus’ cross and resurrection and the affect upon humanity, and say something brilliantly foolish and cruel.  “God is mad, and (because Jesus’ death wasn’t enough) He killed people” is the summary, minus the parenthesis. 

Beyond the tragic theology this presents, I suppose this kind of stuff actually helps me in a back-handed, after the slap-on-my-face sort of way.  I am vividly reminded that, while we are Saints, we also carry with us Bozo The Clown.  The clown will occasionally show up and have his way with us.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why I Don't Preach On Repentance

Here’s something I think is very helpful concerning an often used, “four letter” sort of word – “Repentance.” It’s written by a friend of mine (Paul Ellis), whose excellent book, “The Gospel In Ten Words” was released a few months ago. I strongly recommend it on my recommended reading page: http://lifecourse.org/Recommends.html.

Click to see the article:  http://escapetoreality.org/2011/11/28/3-reasons-why-i-dont-preach-on-repentance/

Autocorrect

Wait.  That would have changed the whole story, right?


Monday, May 20, 2013

Ralph's Billboard

While it might at first be embarrassing if my face were to adorn a massive billboard alongside the interstate with the glaring caption, “Ralph Harris is the epitome of ‘where sin increased, grace increased all the more,’” still, my fears of being found-out would be gone, and all that would remain is the subtext: “Ralph is also the grand prize winner of God’s never-ending supply of grace and righteousness for eternal life in Christ. He will never lack.” (Romans 5:20-21)


 Yeah. That’s my billboard.

Exclamation Point Abuse

Just a little Monday morning funny.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Growing In Christ

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.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fears

Don't keep your fears to yourself, as though they were your own. That would be selfish. Share them with Jesus.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Enemy Within

There’s a saboteur living in your midst, closer than you might think.  And I don’t mean the devil.  Usually this saboteur is something of a sniper, choosing a perfect hiding place from which to shoot at you while remaining safely hidden.  Snipers can have an incredible affect.

For example, when the battle for Stalingrad was almost lost during W.W.II, a few Russian soldiers came up with a plan to get so close to the enemy that while killing them, they would go undetected.  Carrying high-powered rifles and their daily ration of half a chocolate bar, the starving and desperate soldiers set out from their last remaining stronghold and crawled through the sewer system until they were well behind enemy lines. The Germans did not expect such an attack, so they hardly batted an eye when men they didn’t know walked past, even joining them in their own food lines. "Must be one of ours," they thought.

Two Russian snipers, Nikolay Yakovlevich and Ilyin Vasili Zaitsev (who was made famous by the movie, “Enemy At The Gates”), killed 896 men, many of them high-ranking officers.  There were two other effects:  1) the Germans were demoralized, and began to distrust themselves since they didn’t know from where the attacks came.  “Who’s killing us?”  2) the success of the Russian snipers invigorated the Russian army, which not long after mounted a successful counter-offensive and won the war.

For a while the Germans didn’t know anything about this enemy that came from amongst them.  It was months before they used the same strategy, and sent snipers against the snipers.  For a while now, we haven’t known anything much about the enemy that comes from amongst us either.

You have to know that the enemy that hinders you is not you—you are not your own worst enemy.  But it does hunt from within.  Unless you know that you are not the flesh and take precautions against the flesh, you’ll be demoralized by your losses, you’ll feel poorly about yourself in your defeats and failures, and you won’t trust yourself because you’ll believe that you’re the problem.  You’ll believe that you’re the one who is blowing it all the time.  And, in some way, the enemy will be invigorated.

When God dropped the new-creation-you into your vessel, for the first time you were no longer found in the flesh.  You’re outta there!  You are now in the Spirit because you are now spirit.  You’re in union with God.  For you to live now means knowing and trusting Him, and staying in step with the Holy Spirit.  This is the new way forward, the new normal for every born from above, Spirit-made-alive, Christian.

If lately you’ve been thinking that you are your own worst enemy, or as though God’s biggest trial, His biggest difficulty today is YOU, then think again—and let the truth guide your thoughts.  You are not the problem and you are not in the flesh!  You’re you—Spirit born, new creation, stunning daughter or son of God, recognized throughout the heavens.  And that’s pretty fantastic.

Romans 8:9-14  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

And that’s you.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The Enemy Within,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down the page a bit, or click http://youtu.be/XoXejuAEpIA.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Change

It is far better to tell Christians that they have been changed, than it is to tell them to change.

The Enemy Within

Have you ever thought, "I am my own worst enemy"?  Give 6 minutes to find out why that's not true, as well as how to counteract the hidden saboteur, which suggests it’s so.


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Gift

The surest way, the most-true way to encourage a Christian—right at the heart—is to tell him where he is, the condition that he’s in, and all that he has. 

Christians are inside of Christ, and are a perfect and fully functioning part of Him, having everything He does because of where they are.  They cannot fall from the place they were placed, they cannot change an eternal condition given to them, and they cannot lose the benefits they were not responsible for to begin with.  They are secure in Christ. 

While their worldly experience might be unpleasant now and pleasant later, ebb and flow, still they will never lose what they’ve been given because they will never be taken from where they are—in Christ, having all things that He earned.  That’s the gift.  And that’s the good news a heart needs.

The Gift

Got 1.5 minutes to be encouraged? Here’s how to beautifully help each other throughout the day. It’s simple. It fits your style. It affects the heart—yours, and those you help by it.


Thursday, May 09, 2013

Curing Everyday Blindness

Question:  How’s your eyesight?  How reliable is it?  I’m not an ophthalmologist, and I’m not an optician.  I’m just wondering about your eyes and what they’re saying to you.

If you accept only what your eyes tell you, particularly about people, you’ll soon wonder why the thrill of being a son or daughter of God has seemingly leaked from your heart.  “Where’s the joy?”  In my years of pastoring, that is one of the top reasons that sons and daughters of God begin to lose vigor and joy—they believe what their eyes say about their neighbors.  When they see people from an exterior view only, they cannot approach them by faith in what God says is actually true of them because of what He did through the cross and resurrection.  So their Christianity becomes relatively impractical, frustrated by the faulty angle of appearances.  From that view, they can’t help but grow “dry” or bored in their walk with Jesus because their eyes are out of focus.  They’ve essentially gone blind.

Here’s the normal view, the invigorating and healthy view for a Christian: 

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 (it’s a passing away fa├žade), but what is unseen is eternal (it’s what is forever true about God and about us).”  (Parenthesis mine.)

Your mind, renewed by the truth which transforms you and which brings the real you out, must become the primary influence of your eyes.  That is how you’ll see what’s really real. . .and live by faith in Christ.  That’s also what will affect you best—you’ll like it!  Think of going through your days with the sunglasses of truth over your otherwise lying eyes, and you’ve got it.

This is why we set our hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-3).  We don’t focus upon the unseen so we’ll feel better and have a happy day, though it’s likely that we will.  We do it because that’s where we find ourselves, that’s how we discover who God is and how well off He has made us in relation to Himself and to each other—perfect!   Holy people, righteous people, recognized throughout the heavens as well fit with God.  Looking to the “unseen” is where we find that, and it’s going to effect us.  This is our approach to life, not because we’re pretending, but because it’s accurate!  We’re seeing the truth.  From that focus, our lying eyes cannot lead us astray and foul our approach to life.

Grow accustomed to relying upon the unseen when you’re with people.  They probably won’t “see” what you do, but they can.  And at least you’ll be seeing how they actually are—in truth—and that’s going to effect you beautifully.

Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. 

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Curing Everyday Blindness,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click: http://youtu.be/XQ_KFK0scTw.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Curing Everyday Blindness

There’s a whole lot of lying going on that makes us blind to the truth—or at least unable to really love and benefit from it.  Sometimes it’s your own eyes that do the lying.  Give 4 minutes to this little video and find out if real vision isn’t tremendously invigorating.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Antidote For Temptation

Pop Quiz:  Where is God?  While this probably isn’t very difficult for you, here’s a hint:  Where has He made for Himself a perfect place to live?  Where is He most happy to be right now? 

He is in you.  That’s His big thrill!  When you received Him, He actually came in—Surprise!—fully capable, ready to show Himself perfect with you and in you.  How cool is that?

So it’s an amazing act of faith to offer yourself to God, who is now inside, to appeal to Him and call to Him in the beginning or middle or even the end of temptation.  God is excellent with you during temptation.  After all, He’s famously familiar with it, right?

(Hebrews 2:18) “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

That would be me!  Isn’t it you, too?

So please don’t be shy with God during temptation.  There’s no need to draw away from Him in presumed shame—it’s not from Him.  He is great to know during temptation!  He’s your very best friend, and the one who’ll keep all your secrets—you’re entirely safe with Him.  He is patient with you.  He knows the great truth about you—what a fantastic new creation you are—and He always serves you lovingly with the truth. 

By the way, why do we believe that stupid lie that “The truth hurts”?  No it doesn’t!  Not with Him.  Not when He knows what He has done for you through the cross and resurrection, bringing you into Himself, and making you new and clean and holy and forever secure.  The truth helps!  It saves us!  You were made for it, and He’s just the one to give it to you.  That’s a little bit important to know when you’re suffering temptation, right?

Jesus knows what it is to be tempted by a pile of money, a naked woman or a naked man, a bottle of alcohol, the opportunity to cheat in order to get ahead in the task at hand, or by the suggestion of a lie that might seemingly make a relationship go better.  He knows what all that stuff is like, how it wears heavily upon us, sometimes conquering us.  And Jesus remains loving and perfect with you and me.  He is the antidote for all of that struggle.  And, if we need it, He is the recovery we seek.

Whatever is tempting you, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer yourself to God, now inside.  You’ve got to know that the angels rejoice whenever they see us doing that, not only because they know that recovery is beginning and that we believe that Christ is inside of us (we’re living by faith), but they also know that our friendship with God is getting better and deeper.  I think they love that.

So instead of making pledges that we’ll be strong, when fear or lust or disappointment rage against us, that’s especially when we move toward Him.  When covetousness (for example) begins hammering away at us, we don’t make promises of obedient avoidance; we stay tight with our Friend.  He frees us from that ugly, ungodly, uncharacteristic thing, and our friendship is deepened.

“Savior!  I know you’re in me, so I look to you for your ability and grace; for the way that you are.  You’re what I need.”  Lo and behold, He who now calls us home, sees to what’s going on inside of the house.  What a concept!  Imagine Jesus one day long ago saying, “Hey!  Here’s an idea.  I’ll live in them and be Myself!”  In my mind(!), that’s about how it went.

He who finds no fault with us—none—recognizes the assault going on inside of us, and He takes the blows and turns the fight.  Afterward?  We’re left with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  That’s how He is, and that’s what He is like inside you and me.   It’s God Himself showing off in you and me.  And we’re the happy audience.

So when temptation strikes at you, don’t go it alone.  Go to Him—in here—and He’ll see to you.

Romans 6:11-14 says:  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.  (Italics mine.)

And so you are.  See you later.

(This is a transcript of Friday night’s video, “The Antidote For Temptation,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  Want to see the video?  Click http://youtu.be/f1iuVarlRK0.  By the way, you are free to share this message in any way you like.)

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Antidote For Temptation

I’m an expert at bumbling and stumbling with temptation.  You might not know this, but my official temptation title is: “Dr. Stumbler.”  I’ve got something to talk about that might help you find hope and joy in it, however, instead of doom and gloom.  Give 8 minutes to this little video and see what you think.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The "I Want To" of Love

Do you ever wonder what amazing and fantastic verses meant to the people who first wrote them down?  How about this one?

“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.” (Ephesians 1:3)

Think what that must have meant to the apostle Paul, let alone to you and me.  I think it drove him fairly crazy with joy!  Everything he had long been working for, and sweating and fretting and worrying about concerning his life and standing with God, Paul had been given!  For free!  Everything.

Paul was a specialist at hard work for God—he had graduate degrees in it, I’m sure.  There was no one who was better at working for God’s blessing than Paul.  And there was not one moment of work left, not a second of fear over whether or not God was pleased enough with Paul to bless him.  God’s blessing, His all-the-time favor, had been entirely dumped on Paul for an entirely unrelated reason: 

God wanted to!  So he did.  And Paul believed Him.

The want to of God—or, the love of God—compelled God, and it still does.  I’m so glad!  Oh, I’ve heard the love of God described as a love that “decides” or “chooses” for the benefit of another.  And I know we’re all supposed to love like that.  I wonder how many times I have heard someone say, “Love is a decision!”  The implication is always, “So get busy making decisions!”  Of course, that has always been my problem!  I’m simply not always good at making good decisions.  Haven’t you struggled to make right decisions?!  Anyway, the goal of “right decisions” is a good one—better relationships, which is no small thing. 

But it seems so calculated.  Is that really what motivated God?  Is that why God “…blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”?—Because He calculated it?  Because He did the math, and the idea proved workable?  I don’t think so!  I know that somewhere “way back when,” God decided to send Jesus to the cross, and to raise Him again, bringing us with Him.  But was it calculated only?

No way!  That’s not the love I know from God.  He wants to!  And it’s the want that motivates the decision.  He’s full of want to!  His love is always overflowing to us, and His decision—to give us everything—is in the overflow of the want to.

Imagine Jesus going to the cross thinking, “Well, I suppose this has to be done.  After all, Father put it on the road map of history a long time ago, so I have to carry it out.”  No way!  Hebrews 12 tells us that it was for JOY that Jesus did it!  God’s love was about to be consummated in the joy of bringing many people to Himself!  He did it for love.  He wanted to.

That’s why He is always convincing you about what He thinks of you—How good and high it is, and how well off you are with Him.  Love is the reason that He spends His time rescuing you from your enemies of doubt and fear and covetousness and lust and unbelief.  Because of love, He wants to rescue and comfort you!  He really is as good as He says He is with you, the one He loves.  As He did for Paul, God has given you everything.  He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  

So try this:  the next time you’re in fairly serious prayer with God, ask, “Father, do I have to worry about asking you to bless me?  Is that an everyday decision you make, a moment-by-moment calculation based upon something I do?  Or did you already bless me all the way, holding nothing back?”  And then be still and listen.  He has so much fun answering that, because then you can proceed with being convinced over and over again by God about His love for you. . .and that He’s holding nothing back.

“Really, Father?  You’re not kidding?  I don’t have to earn anything anymore?  I have it already in Christ, and you’ll never change your mind?  You really love me that way?”  And the answer will always be:  “Yes.  It’s true, my son.  It’s true, my daughter.  I’ve held nothing back and I’ll never change my mind.” 

All that’s left for us to say is, “Ahhhh.  Amen.”

2 Corinthians 1:20 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The ‘I Want To’ of Love,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/jkp4XQqHce4.)