Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christian Growth

I believe that Christian growth is not change in the sense of becoming something you are not, but of growing into what and who you already are. A baby does not become more human as he reaches adulthood; a Christian does not become more Christian as his years increase. He was born a perfect Christian and is growing into what and who he is, increasingly becoming "established in the faith."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

What Does Ralph Do?


If you're wondering, "What does Ralph Harris actually do?" then here are some descriptions and links that will help to answer that question, and give you a bunch of resources. While I was a pastor for more than 25 years, I am now an:

- Author (http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html),

- Speaker (http://lifecourse.org/Home.html),

- Writer (http://lifecourseministries.blogspot.com),

- YouTuber (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU0vzTvP_wD3Q59QDl9hx7w)

- Facebooker (https://www.facebook.com/ralphharris and https://www.facebook.com/LifeCourseMinistries).

Help yourself to anything and everything you like from me.

God's Biggest Problem Is Me

The good guys at Surrendered Image have published my article, “God’s Biggest Problem Is Me.”  I think it would be helpful for you if that kind of thought ever enters and plagues your mind.  Go to:  http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/gods-biggest-problem-is-me-34502.  You'll also find lots of great articles at the site from numerous authors.  Have a look.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If I Could Only Change

What about “change”?  We talk a lot about it.  We often say things like, “I want to change,” and, “Gosh, if I could only change.”  God has been rather concerned about change for a long time too.  Change or “transformation” from one thing to another is a significant aspect of the gospel—the good news of God for us.

I recently posted the following:  “Truly transformed lives come by looking at and examining everything we can about the cross, resurrection and person of Jesus Christ, not from the attempt to emulate Him. He does the work from inside of us—He brings us out—proving that He is our hope.”

What I’m getting at is that, in Christ, believers have already become like Jesus (1 John 4:17). There is no studying Jesus SO THAT or in order that we might become like Him, because we already ARE like Him. We have already been made holy and blameless as He is (Colossians 1:22), we’ve already been made righteous as He is (2 Corinthians 5:21), we’ve already been justified (Romans 4:25), we’ve already been redeemed (1 Corinthians 1:30), and actually share now in His nature (2 Peter 1:4).  By looking into how that happened through Christ’s cross and resurrection, we live by faith in Jesus as an objective fact and as a place where we are, in Him, having been changed—triumphantly!  Successfully.  We’re in harmony with Him.  Reconciled.  Compatible.

Excluding things like omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, to the extent that we believe we are not like Jesus but should be is the extent to which we do not believe the gospel and cannot live by faith that the change has been made, and are then frustrated in trying to make something happen that already has.  The healthy-sounding phrase, “I want to be more like Jesus,” is unhealthy if and as it implies that we are not now like Him but should be, even though God thinks He’s already made us like Jesus. Instead, we believe that we are unlike Him and separate from Him, with a lot of work to do, but can get close and maybe even sometimes look like Him if only we will behave like Him.  As important as behavior is, it doesn’t necessarily reveal who you are; what you believe about Jesus Christ reveals who you are.

No one can become like Jesus by copying Him—no one.  Only by believing and receiving Him can He make the change that means we don’t copy or act like Him in order to become like Him; we act like Him because we have been made and are like Him right now.  It’s our nature to act like Him.  All of the New Covenant behavioral commands rest upon this.  We’ve been changed into true and actual sons and daughters of God.  So, being convinced of this (which is certainly the majority of our labor with the church—helping each other believe that God made the change, it has been done), it’s then normal for us to behave like Him, putting on love and mercy.

A disciple, then, is not one who pursues or follows Jesus in order to become like Him.  After the cross, after the resurrection and after the New Covenant began, a disciple is one who has been changed by God, is now compatible with God, and who is now led by God from within. The work upon the disciple is done; it’s complete.  The work within the disciple—where the kingdom is—goes on.

If you’ve lost your vigor and vitality as a Christian, it’s not because you’re not following hard enough after Jesus, trying to copy His behavior and become like Him.  Rather it’s BECAUSE you’re trying to copy His behavior and become like Him, unaware you already are like Him.  Disbelief is frustrating and wearing you out.  You’ve traded knowing God, who produces a transformed life, for copying God, which produces a flesh-formed life, Adam-like life, fake life.  One is Spirit and one is flesh.  One fits you, and one does not. 

Transformed lives are not those that we create and make happen, but those that HAVE BEEN created by God, and which we discover and believe by looking at Jesus, His crucifixion and His resurrection, which affected us just as He intended—perfectly.  Done.  Finished.

(This is a transcript of yesterday's video, "If I Could Only Change," and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click http://youtu.be/UE2rStCrRUo, or scroll down this page.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If I Could Only Change

“Change.”  We talk a lot about it and put great effort into it.  But what if we’ve missed something, what if God thinks one thing about “change” and we think something else?  Take 6.5 minutes to get rid of the fear that “I had better change, or else!”


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Upcoming Schedule

For those interested in where I will be speaking in the near future, and/or who would like to invite me to an event, here is my speaking schedule for the next several months.  You’re invited to each one.  Generally, I like to keep events to no more than 2 per month, so March and April are a bit open, and May is entirely open.  To invite me to an event, large or small, either private message me or go to my ministry web site at: http://lifecourse.org/Schedule_Event.html.

January 16 - Ft. Collins, CO., Re-Connect Ministries:  “Divorce”

February 8 – Saline Community Church, Michigan (http://www.salinecommunitychurch.org/#welcome)

February 20-22 – Grace Life Fellowship, Baton Rouge, LA; Men's Retreat (http://www.gracelifefellowship.org)

March 20-22 – Surrendered Image Conference, Three Hills, Alberta, Canada.  (http://surrenderedimage.com)

April 24-26 – Network 220, "Outrageous" Celebrating the Extravagant Love of God, Grace Life Community Church, Virginia. (http://www.network220.org/events)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

No Man Is An Island

Here’s a song and video I’ve been enjoying very much.  There is beautifully expressed and deeply felt heart in it concerning our having been reconciled to God and, thereby, to each other.  See what you think.  (Lyrics below.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlw3jG2pE8w

Lyrics: 

I won't run, I will stay

I'm not leaving you

I know there's friction here

The struggle makes us new


I wish you never thought you had to go

Wish you never thought you had to leave

Together we can lift each other up

We can build a shelter for the weak



No man is an island, we can be found

No man is an island, let your guard down

You don't have to fight me, I am for you

We're not meant to live this life alone



I see fear in your eyes

There's no safety here

Oh, my friend, let me in

I will share your tears



I wish you never thought you had to go

I wish you never thought you had to leave

We can always lift each other up

We can build a shelter for the weak, come on



No man is an island, we can be found

No man is an island, let your guard down

Please don’t try to fight me, I am for you

We're not meant to live this life alone



Through trouble, rain, or fire

Let's reach out to something higher

Ain't no life outside each other

We are not alone


Through trouble, rain, or fire

Let's reach out to something higher

Eyes open to one another

We are not alone



No man is alone

Why you try to fight me

We don’t have to do it alone

We don’t have to do it alone

We don’t have to do it alone

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Reminder

If God thinks you’re a true son of His, holy and righteous, clean and pure, but you think you’re something else, something less, might that cause stress in your relationship(s) and how you interact in your day to day? Imagine having an argument with God, and you’re trying to lower His estimate of yourself, while He’s trying to elevate your estimate of yourself. Who wins that argument? How long before you relent and accept His view of you? You’ll be glad when you do, because living by faith is not only normal, it’s powerful. You’re going to feel it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How To Help People Breathe

 Christian, you were raised with Christ.  I don’t know why we pray, “Oh, Lord, be with me now,” since not only is He with us, we’re with Him—forever and always.  We’re in Him, united with Him, and everyone in heaven knows it.  This is one reason why you and I need regular revivals, great awakenings to who we are and where we’re from.  Think of it as getting desperately needed oxygen, not because you’re so high up and there is no air, but because your earthly experience is so low down and the air is awful—and foreign. 

Our interaction with Christians often has a lot to do with giving them the air from home, the oxygen of heaven.  Picture a scuba diver many feet deep in the ocean of this world, and you’ve pretty much got the idea of a Christian’s experience in this lifetime.

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

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

These days are a foreign missionary experience in the depths of this world, where dangers abound and breathing is at times difficult.  But I look forward to the day when I’ll pop up on the surface of heaven, mask, tanks and wetsuit removed—not needed—and take my first big breath.  I know I’ll recognize the air.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

He Is Our Hope

Truly transformed lives come by looking at and examining everything we can about the cross, resurrection and person of Jesus Christ, not from the attempt to emulate Him. He does the work from inside of us—He brings us out—proving that He is our hope.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Barbados Trip


Yesterday (Sunday) was a full day, from preaching during Barbados Grace Fellowship's church gathering, to a couple of hours at the beach, to dinner with a couple I dearly love, Jeff and Nicole. Group meetings begin tonight!



Following my message, the church cranked up some music and began dancing with obvious joy.  It was blast!

I had dinner with a couple I absolutely love and admire, Jeff and Nicole Mager.  They're perpetually curious about God and what He is like, and their humor is off-the-charts fantastic.

Fortunately, we had time to sneak in a couple of hours at the beach, which, for this land-locked Coloradan, was awesome!  More meetings today and tonight.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Prayer Request

A number of people have donated toward the high cost of sending me to the people of Barbados, for which I am very grateful. Because of the island’s glitzy image as a tourist destination, many do not know that 20% of the Bajan people live below the poverty line. I will be meeting with them beginning tomorrow, Saturday through Friday (Nov. 29 – Dec. 5), and welcome your prayers.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

 The directions said to "let bird chill in sink for several hours before cooking." I sure hope we're doing this right. (I couldn't resist a Thanksgiving re-post from last year.)

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Good From Within

May I remind you that Paul did not write, “He who began a good work UPON you…” but “He who began at good work IN you…” The good work upon you is all done, and it was perfect. All that remains is His work from within—not to fix you, but to fascinate you with how good and faithful and capable He is with you for your days. (Philippians 1:6)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Your Money & The New Covenant: LOVE WORKS

Does it seem to you that the primary motivators in life today are fear, guilt and anger?  I think that motivational trinity has crowded out what God intended—the motivation of love.

It’s happened to the church, too.

We seem ever to want to be motivated by crisis, by calamity, by a good cause and a good appeal, by a big need, or by a big kick to our backside.  I know the church doesn’t really want that, but it seems like it does.  And I sure don’t like it.  It’s not that we shouldn’t be motivated by a sudden event, it’s just that we can become addicted to the energy and appeal of the moment.  And there is something much better, something more true and constant, something given by God Himself.  The church was made for it.  You were too.

God’s love produces confidence and daring and assurance and peace and rest and hope and, well, everything we need for life.  God’s very being is love, so if we, His sons and daughters, attempt to do much of anything apart from love, we fumble and act unnatural.  We feel it, too.  Like something’s seriously out of whack in us.  And it is.  When the behavior of the Corinthian Christians went seriously crazy, the apostle Paul pointed them back to the love of God because it is the prime motivator—it rescues and refreshes and compels the people of God (2 Corinthians 5:14).

God’s love works.  That’s the New Covenant way:  God in us, and God toward people and God toward situations that would involve Him in us.

I’m reminded of what love did to the Macedonian Christians not long after God first lived in them.  God gave an amazing grace to these people who lived in “extreme poverty” such that in their joy they gave what little they had so others could hear the gospel.  The Macedonians were in love with God, having first been won-over by His love for them.  And that love “welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2).  Do you get the combination?  They hit the big time!  God was in them toward some kind of brilliant display—in this case, giving.

There’s no need and there’s no room for laws about your money, because you’re ruled by the grace of God in you, not law.  Laws hijack love, stuff it in a closet and tell it to “Shut up!  You’re too sloppy and unreliable!” and instead offer you method, calculated and loveless measurement, and ultimately, condemnation.  That’s not the New Covenant way.  That is not what the Macedonians had.  They had the love of God Himself, and that, or rather, He moved them.

Paul then wrote to the Corinthians that they, too, should “excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you (I have no law!), but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Corinthians 8:8, italics mine).  Was it a test of whether they would give or be stingy misers?  No!  It was a test of love—love was the issue—and Paul was concerned about how love was issuing forth from the Macedonians.

That’s why the Macedonians gave – they were in love!  They didn’t give motivated by an appeal to sacrifice, they didn’t give to make sure their tithe was on time, they didn’t give because others were in need, and they didn’t give because it was the right thing to do.  They gave because they were in love, and that made their giving “acceptable” (2 Corinthians 8:12).  Their gift wasn’t acceptable for any other reason but love that brought it forth. 

(By the way, God’s love might compel you to actually give nothing sometimes.  Are you okay with that?)

The foundation of the New Covenant is that you have no covenant to keep—Jesus took care of that—you have the Holy Spirit in you to notice and to follow.  And He loves you!  Love is His primary evidence in you.

And that’s what drives me bonkers for the church, frankly.  I want believers to know and be motivated out of a burgeoning love affair with God.  I don't mean that we should never give unless we're right then invigorated by a love we can feel, but I fear we've gotten used to giving without it.  We've learned to motivate and to be motivated by something else.  That's what makes pushy pastors and manipulative motivators out of our leaders.  And I don’t think they like it any more than we do.

So let me sum it up:  If we're not behaving well and doing good, it's because we're missing God’s love.  That’s it.

If your motivation is low right now, what should you do?  Go get some love.  You need it and can’t live without it—not well, anyway.  If your giving lacks, if your service is stunted or reluctant, if there is gossip in the church and “sin in the camp,” go get some of His love, because for you, love works.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your Money & The New Covenant:  LOVE WORKS,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/XzZZdSRGQus, or simply scroll down below.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Your Money & The New Covenant: Love Works

What makes giving or keeping our money godly?  How can we know?  Do we need standards by which to estimate the authenticity of what we do with money?  Here’s a pure and simple way to consummate God’s grace in you by following His love.  You were made for this. 



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Quality Struggle

There are times when I feel so weak and incapable, trapped in a body that does not function as I want it to.  Not mentally.  Not physically.  Not spiritually.  It's somewhere during these times that the fact of my new creation birth—I'm a spirit in a body—becomes terribly evident to me, and I long for my true home.  That’s a good longing, but I’m not sure I like the way it comes about.  Do you ever feel this way?  We are aliens here, but I'd rather read about it in the New Testament than actually feel it.  I like feeling the power of God, the love and life of God Himself now in me.  But feel the sufferings and the struggles that identify me as not fitting in with this world?  I’d rather pass.

And yet, they do identify you and me in the pain and frustration as the sons and daughters of God, heaven-born citizens, foreign royalty in this world.  For real.  Knowing that, we are renewed and transformed in the understanding.  That's good.  That’s gold.  Frankly, this is why many of us love hearing how others find God in the midst of suffering.  It redeems the suffering into something more, something better than just suffering endured.

In 2 Corinthians 4, the apostle Paul kind of spilled out on paper what the Spirit was showing him in suffering, even likening himself to a fragile, clay pot with the greatest of treasure within—God Himself.  Summing up his findings, he wrote to the heavenly colony at Corinth: 

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart.  (That doesn’t mean our hearts don’t feel challenged or hurt.) Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 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.  (Italics mine.)

Even in weakness, trapped in a sometimes rebellious and unruly, clay pot body, God is working in you.  So don’t believe the lie that your struggles identify you as a perpetual struggler only, disqualified and doomed.  They do not.  You have been qualified completely by God who is working His life within you in the struggle—the life without beginning and without end.  This is eternal life, and it takes some getting used to. 

This is the game we’re in and these are the days we’re enduring for His glory in us—the evidence of God in us.  It’s a quality struggle.

(This a transcript of yesterday’s video, “A Quality Struggle,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/sdo58Tq4IcI, or simply scroll down this page.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Quality Struggle

If your struggles, sometimes ugly and unbearable, identify you as a loser, you’ll enjoy this brief, 4.5 minute, message.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trends

Since you’ve believed God’s grace for you, you have increasingly loved what Jesus loves, cared how Jesus cares, wanted what Jesus wants, and given yourself as Jesus gives Himself. There have been fluctuations—sure—but you’re trending. How cool is that?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sermon Available

The audio of my sermon, “In Him,” from last Sunday at Real Life Church in Gilbert, AZ, is available for free! To get it, go to: http://reallife.cc/cpt_s…/in-him-guest-speaker-ralph-harris/.


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pause For Life


Do you ever grow weary of fumbling and knocking your way through life and wonder, “What the heck?” Give a couple of minutes to this and see if you don’t come away with hope and a greater awareness of God’s life for you. This is my favorite thing! (Written and/or video versions.)

http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/the-pause-for-life-34050

Saturday, November 08, 2014

It's All Free

All that truly counts in your heart and then comes out of you looking really good and beautiful is produced as a grace of knowing that God in Christ has justified you, which means He has made you authentically and genuinely good, and that He has given you His righteousness, holiness, redemption, sanctification, and every blessing, because Jesus earned entirely everything for you for entirely nothing from you. In Him you have been given every blessing already for free. That’s going to affect you, and that is His plan!

Believing that fact is the challenge, earning it is not.  Anything that teaches less than that makes you crazy.  Maybe you’ve noticed.

The gospel loses its dazzle when you believe that you must work or serve or tithe in order to earn blessings from God.  Tell me that you don’t become like the elder brother of the prodigal, working in the fields to earn what you have already been given.  Now that’s crazy.

However, you live best when you live by faith in the complete sufficiency of what Christ did for you—not just forgiven, because of His perfect sin removal system, but given everything that He has.  Everything from God for you is all for free.  The earning is all done, and you can rest.

Taking dictation from God, Isaiah wrote and Jesus fulfilled centuries later, chapter 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  ("Well, if I have no money, how can I buy?"  Believe and come near in order to see that it’s all yours. . .for free.)
 Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (italics mine).

The apostle Paul, himself dazzled by “it’s all free,” wrote to the Ephesians, "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)

Your life with God is not about a sacrifice you make, but a belief and a trust and a rest in a sacrifice He made.  Because of Him, it’s all free for you.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “It’s All Free,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  Too see the video, click http://youtu.be/yidEJnSb1TA.)

Friday, November 07, 2014

It's All Free

If you ever wonder why you might go a little crazy and weary in life, this short 4 minute video ought to clear your head and encourage your heart.  Seriously.  Happily.  ☺ 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Election Day Insanity

Today is an awkward day in America, particularly for Christians. Having been brought into Christ and knowing now His life and love for us and for all, still we will make choices today that seem to divide us into groups opposed to one another. We’re voting! It’s Election Day. Frankly, we go a little crazy, and can get ugly and hurt. We might go a bit blind today and lose sight of who we are and where we are—in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit who loves and draws all, and who never ever loses sight.

After the election—tomorrow—perhaps we will begin to remember again who we are and where we are, and how the Kingdom of God in us always compels us in truth and love. Maybe some of you will do us a favor and help us regain our thinking, not by shaming the crazy Americans—that’s never the God-given way of bringing us back to our senses—but by telling us the truth of the gospel, the good news of what God has done through Christ for us. That will be the power we need to revive us.
Until tomorrow, see you later.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Election Day Insanity,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click http://youtu.be/vKDu_fWYUNo, or scroll down.)

Election Day Insanity

Got 2 minutes? It's a crazy day in America. Maybe you can help us . . . tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Speaking In Arizona

For my friends in Arizona, I will be speaking at Real Life Christian Church during both services next Sunday, November 9. I would love to meet you! Services are held at: 4132 E Pecos Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85295.  For more information, go to:  http://reallife.cc.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why 'Submit' Is Not A Curse Word

When reciting her wedding vows to me, Sarah looked me in the eyes and said, “I promise to submit to you.”  There were a few people in the audience who later told us that they were bothered by her promise to submit to me, until I made the same promise to her.  “Well, as long as it’s mutual, I guess it’s okay,” they said grudgingly.  It was almost as if we’d exchanged curse words.

“Submission.”  How does that word grab you? 

Here are a couple of not-so-popular Bible verses I’d like for you to consider today: 

1 Peter 1:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

If you’re an American, then it’s very likely that you’ve got thoughts and feelings about our current “king.”  And if we consider the “king” previous to him, well, just about everyone has experienced a high “cringe factor” when commanded to “submit” to the king and to his governors—let alone to a spouse.  Right?

But here’s the thing:  Paul’s command for submission is not a stand-alone-demand of surrender, as if God loves a grand capitulation.  “I just love it when my people bow down and give up.”  That’s not godly submission—not ever. 

Always does New Covenant “submission” come loaded with reasons why, and benefits for the one who submits.  Whether submitting to a worldly authority, to a spouse, or to one another in relationships, offering myself in deference to another in what might be a difficult moment or a risky looking future is so that I can be aware of God in me, for me, and for the situation I’m in.  In other words, submission is yet another way to know and to enjoy God in me, and for His kingdom in me to collide with and to affect the kingdom of this world. 

Jesus never did or said anything except what He “saw” and “heard” the Father do and say (He was tuned in to the Father), and He left us the perfect, most stunning example of submission in dire circumstances because of His awareness of God and the affect to come: 

1 Peter 2:22-23 ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’  23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  (Italics mine.)

The “entrusted himself” part made all the difference!  And why did Jesus submit Himself to the cross?  Was it sheer obedience?  No, it was not.  Hebrews 12:2-3 tells us that He did it “. . .for the joy set before Him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Italics mine.)  In my view, the only way we will not grow weary and lose heart in submission is if we do it for the same reason Jesus did.  Human Jesus submitted to unjust torture and torment because He was knowing the Father, who revealed to Jesus “the joy set before Him. . .”  That resulted in faith that led to obedience.  Do you see it?  Knowing God keeps us from becoming weary in well-doing.  Anybody can do “well-doing,” but it’s the knowing God part that produces grace that’s perfect for the moment.

We’re not to go blind and un-feeling into submission!  Jesus certainly didn’t.  He walked knowingly into it, and He reaped the grace-sufficient benefit of living by faith that something good and greater was happening right then—God was happening, and Jesus was aware of Him.  He knew it, and that propelled Him into the most lovingly submissive act in history.  That’s our example.  Submission alone is not our example:  awareness of God plus submission is Jesus’ incredible example for life.

This is why Peter first wrote extensively about our life and identity in Christ, and then followed that with our natural way of knowing God by living in submission.  The order is important.  We are entirely and forever secure, as is our inheritance, having been born of imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:3-4; 23); we are God’s house and stage of evidence that He cares about everyone (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9;) and, in view of God’s grace to us, we are to live toward righteous deeds, which is our god-given nature and motivation (1 Peter 2:12; see also Romans 8).

After building up the church concerning who and how secure they were with God in chapter one and much of chapter two, Peter then moves into How The Plan Works from there:  God-aware and submissive aliens in whom dwells the Kingdom of God, walk into the day.  What a plan.  The great collision was coming:  the kingdom of God in sons and daughters would meet the kingdom of this world, and the evidence of God reaching for people would be clear. 

Before the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, our conscience, our “inner knower,” was fouled and not free from guilt (see Hebrews 9:9).  But after His act of eternal cleansing and forgiveness, the Christian’s “inner knower” is new and clean, and by our awareness of Him in us does He lead us into acts in keeping with His will and purpose and glory.  That’s how it works, and it’s a big deal.  (See Hebrews 9:11-14.) 

You can take a deep breath and shut your eyes as you go into submission if you want to—it’s okay.  But it’s far better (it’s alive) when you stay open and alert and aware of God as you go in.  This is how we keep knowing God as we enter into challenging obedience, embarrassing confession of sin and error, and difficult honesty in relationships and see what He does in the sometimes chaos of our submitted lives.  Trusting and knowing God, we take our hands off of the presumed handlebars or steering wheel of control and instead know the rest and grace produced by the Holy Spirit in us.

This is often our way forward—submission so that we can know God, The Treasure, and so that people can know Him too.  And there’s nothing more important or better.  Right?

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Why ‘Submit’ Is Not A Curse Word,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/4voPIzn9wqU, or scroll down below.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why 'Submit' Is Not A Curse Word

“Submission.” How does that word grab you?  If God leads us toward submission for the purpose and benefit of real, God-given life, how can you find that life?  Take 9 minutes to find out. 



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Speaking This Sunday, October 26

For my friends in and around Lawrence, Kansas, I will be speaking with the New Life In Christ Church this Sunday at 10:30am. (They meet in the Arterra Event Gallery.) How about you western Missourians, southeastern Nebraskans, and northeastern Oklahomans? Come on over. Come on up. For more information, click on: http://www.newlifelawrence.com. I hope to meet you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

He Is For You

Jesus is not “The All-Knowing, Cosmic Fault Finder.” He is the Author and Giver of Life, and makes no demands that we have it ourselves. He is, perhaps, best discovered in the light of faults and frailties, walking with us and offering Himself as friend and all-capable Savior. Have you forgotten?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Revealing You To You


One of my favorite events is God’s unveiling of me to me. He unclutters my thinking, He detoxes my mind, particularly regarding how He and I are doing together. And I’m amazed by God.

If that seems selfish, bear with me. Oftentimes the pressures and strategies of this world result in a virtual blindness of ourselves to ourselves. This is not pleasing to God, who has made an incredible change to us through Jesus’ cross and resurrection. He wants everyone to know! To the extent that we remain unseeing and unconvinced is the degree to which we are hindered in our love affair with God and in our approach to people. What’s the cure? A proper view of His mercy and grace that pulls the cloak off of our minds, revealing the transformation.

What’s God’s favorite event of the day? It might be revealing you to you. He’s rather pleased with His work.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

God Is Love


God’s love toward you will never be “if” and “then.” In other words, “If you do right, Ralph Harris, then I will love you.” It won’t ever be like that.  God’s love is always “because” and “therefore.” It’s like this:  “Because I love, therefore I sent my Son, therefore I gave, and therefore I keep giving.”  God keeps you in love and offers perfect grace to you everyday, at all times, like it or not, embrace it or turn away, fail or succeed.  It will not deter Him, and it will not change Him.  Love is how God is, and it’s how He is with you.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The End Of A Wicked Heart

Some years ago when I was palling around with my single, male ministry friends, we were discussing one of our favorite topics:  women.  We were talking about our true desire to not get into trouble with females.  Some of us had a history of struggle and of doing things we knew were not in keeping with our life in Christ.  We knew it.  We felt it.  Certain physical things outside of marriage were not appropriate, so we were talking about how best to prefer God and the women we dated.  One of the guys threw up his hands and proclaimed, “I’m not dating anymore, I’m not giving myself a chance to do wrong,” and he paused to take a deep, attention-gathering breath before concluding, “because God says that the heart is wicked, so I cannot trust myself.”  We all thought, “Wow.  That’s not good news at all!  We’re dead!”

So, to better prosecute ourselves(!), we looked up the verse he was referencing, Jeremiah 17:9, and there it was, the we-are-rotten-to-the-core proof:  “The heart is more deceitful than all else
 And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (NASB)  We said, “Gosh, that’s just great.  It’s more deceitful than anything?  We can think of a lot of ‘anything’ that we thought was more deceitful than our hearts.”

Another version translates the Hebrew this way:  “The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!” (TLB)  And another one really put the nail in the coffin:  “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (NIV)  “Oh, great!” we said, “So there’s no cure for it, either!  Don’t we feel much better?!” 

No, we didn’t.  And it sure made some common sayings seem odd:  “Love each other from the heart.”  That’s gotta be difficult with a desperately wicked heart.  And how about this complimentary phrase:  “She has such a warm heart.”  We said, “She can’t have a warm heart!  Not if it’s this one!”  And how about this descriptive sentiment:  “He has a broken heart.”  And we said, “Heck if he does!  He has a horrible heart!  It’s worse than being broken, it’s fully-functioning awful!”

This gave birth in some of us to the desire and creation of new forms of accountability groups—a way of policing our terribly untrustworthy selves.  Imagine it:  none of us could trust ourselves, so we put ourselves in charge of policing ourselves together.  Brilliant!  But maybe the odds of success would improve; you know, a safety in numbers kind of thing.

Well, I had a problem:  I didn’t have time for the groups or gatherings that some of the guys designed.  I was too busy.  Besides that, I didn’t really get it.  Something seemed wrong about it all.  It didn’t make sense with what I knew about God in me.  What I had been finding in my early life with Christ in me was that our being together made all the difference with me.  I no longer was vigilant with myself, paying great attention to my presumably wicked and deceitful heart, because my attention had been re-directed, captured, by God in me.

So hearing the Jeremiah 17:9 verse kind of threw me out of whack for a bit.  It didn’t make sense.  After pondering it for few days I did what I often do with things that don’t work in my life with God:  I forgot about it.  I carried on in life with God in me, enjoying the little understood fact that how God is with people (even the opposite sex) was now how I was with them, too.  As a result of our union, our getting together, His life and desires and influence were given to me and were expressed through me.  I thought, “Wow.  This is way better than the groups those guys are torturing themselves with.” 

Through the new birth, the second birth in Christ, my old heart, the wicked and deceitful one left to itself, had been removed and a new one put in its place.  As Old Covenant believers at one time traveled to the perfect dwelling place of God, so now New Covenant believers have become the perfect dwelling place of God.  That is the new heart you have.  The new heart is the dwelling place of God with you—on your inside.

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was no way of curing the heart.  Before the New Covenant in Christ, Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”  (Mark 7:20-22)

But God always intended to do something perfectly curative about the heart.  By the Holy Spirit, the prophet Ezekiel wrote about God’s plan:  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  (Ezekiel 36:26-27)  That’s the gospel!  That’s the BIG DEAL—God is in us!  He has given us a heart to contain Him!  We had a heart problem—God wasn’t in it—but we no longer do because it has been made perfect for God with us and in us.

The new heart is where God lives in union with me.  I make decisions in my heart—the Holy Spirit and I together—so it’s a decision from the heart, from that place.  To be clear, it’s not so much a decision OF the heart, like the heart is all-by-itself a decision maker.  It’s a place where choices and influence happens most powerfully with God and me, and with God and you.

In this way, you and I, the new creation sons of God, meet with Him and are under His influence and subsequent leading, which produces the fruit of the Spirit through you and me.  Tahdah!  The Christian life.  That’s it!  We’re set up for God on the inside.

Have a look at the following verses.

2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  And where is God?  Inside of you.  Do you think He might have something to do with making you cheerful in the giving?  I think so.

1 Peter 1:22 “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”  That’s where you and God are together, in the heart.  Do you suppose that there’s a whole lotta love goin’ on in your heart?  Yes! 

Ephesians 6:6 “Obey them (your masters) not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” (Italics mine.)  That’s the key.  It’s from the two of you together on the inside—from your heart.  The will of God naturally flows from there.  How cool is that?

The apostle Paul wrote about what had happened to the new-hearted Corinthians: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 4:6)  Before the New Covenant in Christ, “darkness” was the condition of our hearts.  But God Himself turned on the light because He came into our hearts, having made them a perfect place to dwell with us.  With you.  With me. 

That’s the new heart.  That’s what we received in Christ.  That’s pretty good, right?

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The End Of A Wicked Heart,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/_nP43Z6C3Fo.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

The End Of A Wicked Heart

Lots of us believe that we carry around a wicked heart, which is why we cannot trust ourselves.  That’s pretty bad, but is it true?  Take a few minutes to see what God did about your heart and why you can confidently enjoy Him from there.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Surrendered Image

Here's something from the good guys at Surrendered Image. It's a great site, full of terrific, gospel-based resources:

"Subscribe for YOUR chance to win Books from our authors, Ralph Harris, Jeremy White, and Andrew Nelson. Bonus Prize: two MP3's from our friend, Melody Joy!"

Click the link for more information.

https://surrenderedimage.com/Subscribe

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Jesus Shuffle

(From Laurie Troublefield, a longtime close friend and ministry mate. I think you'll enjoy this—I sure did.)

"The Jesus Shuffle"...have you experienced it? I hadn't, until this morning, at the gym. I awoke this morning feeling NOT myself...had gone to sleep feeling the same way. "Stuff" bugging me, emotions all over the place, and just this insecurity I could not get rid of, no matter how hard I tried. So, I knew for me, a good workout would help...hit things, sweat, you know...get it all out. So, off to the gym I went, phone in hand to play something while I would sweat out the crap. Then, I couldn't get the download of a podcast I wanted so I decided to just play some music. Now I have lots of styles of music on my phone, lots of genres, lots of SONGS. But, as I began to work out, and the music played in my ears, something really amazing began to happen...Jesus showed up in my "shuffle!" Each song that came through, totally at "random", spoke to me of my true reality, my true self, and His amazing presence in my life as EVERYTHING. At one point, while on the bike, I found myself singing out loud (thankfully they gym here plays very loud radio) and my arms lifted in worship...and I didn't care...LIFE was happening to me and I had no other response than to be FREE!

Sometimes, I ask myself, is this Jesus really REAL? Have I concocted some crazy way of believing that makes me feel I have purpose and meaning, but in reality, it's all just a placebo for the pain this world is and shares freely without warning with all who inhabit it? I don't often stay there long, thankfully. But, today, once again, without me even asking, praying, trying in anyway, Jesus "shuffled" His way into my insanity and turned me again to hope...not hope for something, but hope in LIFE, hope in Truth, hope in HIM! It was amazing!

Now, here's the best part (not in terms of my experience, but in how TRUE He really is, despite me!)...it didn't last. I came home and went into my day, meeting, teaching preparation, and various other "duties." And "it" faded! What is "it"? The feeling, the being overwhelmed with gratefulness for such a kind and generous experience with my Jesus..."it" left me...but HE didn't! He was there before, during and He'll be there forever after. And it doesn't matter whether I feel "it" for a minute, an hour, a day, or even never. He is my reality...and I don't have any deeper desire than Him. So, my day wasn't all fun and ooey gooey...but it was real. And tonight, as I am about to go to sleep, I am rather amazed once again at how loved, how cared for, how desirable, how completely accepted and acceptable, I am.

If you haven't known or experienced the Jesus "shuffle" before...well, I can't tell you how to do so, but I can tell you, He's got a way of "shuffling" into our reality without invitation or notice...and you will never be sorry He did!

Monday, October 06, 2014

A Possible Trip

I often travel the country and meet with people and groups in an effort to encourage and to build them up in Christ. Most often, I do it for free. Once in a while I get a request from a faraway group, and I cannot bear the cost alone. A small church near Bridgeport, Barbados, has asked me to spend about a week with them, meeting with individuals, small groups and their collective church in December. I have told them that I would offer this opportunity to people who might support them by sending me, and to see what happens. Because my Barbados friends need to plan and because airfare costs will soon jump dramatically, I’ll give it one week’s time.

If you’d like to make a donation of any amount toward this, please email me. If enough is pledged, then I will say so, and then you may make tax-deductible donations at: http://lifecourse.org/Giving.html.

Thanks for considering this with me.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Growth 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.  There's nothing like it, don't you agree?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Blessing Train

Religion at its worst induces you to keep striving in faithfulness because there’s a blessing He will give you that He hasn’t yet—a blessing that depends upon your faithfulness rather than upon His faithfulness.  So you’d better keep tithing, keep praying, keep witnessing, and keep being nice because the blessing train is coming (“It’s right around the bend!”), even though He thinks that He has already arrived in you.  If He is the train, then you’re the station.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Audio Message Link

Some have been asking if there is a link to the audio of my message, "Witness Protection & You," that I gave at Andrew Farley's church, "Ecclesia, Church Without Religion," on Sunday, September 21. Click on the link below, and you can download it for free.  Cool.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ralph-harris-witness-protectio/id325724962?i=319242455&mt=2

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Link To Video Sermon From Sunday, Sept. 21


I was thoroughly drenched by a west Texas thunderstorm Sunday morning, just minutes before speaking at Ecclesia, Church Without Religion (pastored by Andrew Farley). My shirt wrinkled up like an accordion, possibly terrifying the audience into believing that I was there to lead them in classic polka songs. It was quite a day. Here’s the link to the message, “Witness Protection & You.”

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/52944502

Friday, September 19, 2014

Speaking This Sunday - Watch Live

I will be speaking this Sunday at Ecclesia, Church Without Religion, pastored by Andrew Farley. If you would like to watch live, you can do it at 10:30am CST (for music) and 11:00am CST (for sermon) by clicking on the Ustream window at: http://www.churchwithoutreligion.com/home.

To watch my sermon from the last time I spoke there, click:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17920119

Andrew introduces me at the 11:00 minute point in the service, after which there is a bit of an audio glitch—I didn’t turn on the mic! But it doesn’t last long.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Foolishness of Freedom

Now and then I post something from another author because I think it's excellent and will be helpful to you.  Andrew Nelson has a lot of great things to say (as well as a good book, "Fight For Grace"), and his article posted at Surrendered Image is a good example.  Have a look by clicking on the link below.

http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/the-foolishness-of-freedom-32806

(For information about his book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Fight-Grace-Time-Roll-Sleeves-ebook/dp/B00A9XERXO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410625125&sr=8-1&keywords=fight+for+grace.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 1 of My Annual Twin Sabbatical


With Brent, just before putting on our fly fishing uniforms and getting after it on Day 1.

Annual Twin Sabbatical


As I head for bed after a long and rigorous day at the beginning of my annual Twin Sabbatical, I have only one thing to say. (More pics coming.)

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Giver

What are my thoughts about the movie, “The Giver”?  My daughter and I enjoyed it very much. (It's an excellent part of a daddy/daughter date.)  She has read the book (loved it), and had some trepidation about how the story would come to film.  While it was different, she said it was true to the point of the book and that many of the changes/additions added to the strength of the story.  I think the story depicted very well the dangers of social engineering, the attempt at creating a better society by taking away personal freedoms and experience.  If everyone is brought to the same level of experience and expectation (financially, emotionally, responsibility, etc.), then everyone will be better off, since sorrow, suffering, competition, success and failure will be minimized—or so the theory goes.  In that setting, however, true love found through trial is the casualty, as is personal character. 

Through my eyes, also, the story depicted the futility of human effort while ignoring God.  We suffer terribly when we are deluded into terrific efforts at making ourselves and life work while abstaining from Him who is Life.  This story illuminates and expands upon that theme. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Crippling Clutter Of Lesser Identities

Frankly, I am sick of the constant cacophony of sex talk.  That some of it is in reaction to ugly and unwise condemnation by those who name Christ is certain.  However, identifying oneself as either homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual is to choose a false identity, an earthly identity, and one that does not depend upon Christ and His gift of the true identity, sons of God.  This is a big deal.

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, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

That’s who you are!  And that is who you are not.  According to Galatians 3, there is no such thing as a male son of God, and there is no such thing as a female son of God.  Further, there is no such thing as a homosexual son of God, neither is there such a thing as a heterosexual son of God.  There are only sons of God. That is our Primary Identity.  That is how God sees us.  What do you see?

In my experience, most people put their true identity, “son of God,” on no greater level than they do their earthly identities:  “I’m a man,” “I’m an American,” “I’m a Republican,” “I’m a boss,” “I’m a salesman,” “I’m a husband,” and so on.  Do you know how tragic this is?  We’re not impressed by who we are, often because we’ve been seduced into believing we are many things, each of which need work.  As an example, which topic has more books available to you today, which one sells more:  “How To Enjoy Being A Son of God,” or “How to Be a Better Man,” “How to Be a Better Husband,” “How to Be A Better Wife,” “How to Be a Better Salesman,” and “How to Lose Weight & Be the Person You Really Are”?  Which?

God knows who we are in Christ and He is talking with us all about who we are and the benefits of that so we can live as we are.  But we want Him to talk with us about lesser identities, which we might think are more practical, even though they’re comparatively rarely mentioned in the New Covenant.  Have you noticed that?  And we’re disguised from the glory of who we are.  And we cannot live by faith.  We’re impaired, and don’t recognize that our limp comes from the wound of a false identity.

To me it is just as foolish to tout a heterosexual identity as it is for someone to tout a homosexual identity.  Both identities are outside of Christ, and captives are made in such ways.

Colossians 2:6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental principles of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

I think it is worldly and dangerous to choose an identity, whether it is based upon status, ethnicity, desire, geography, grade point average, or bodily plumbing(!), because it leads the chooser away from life in Christ (which is where we are), away from being rooted and built up in Him, and away from enjoying the fullness we have received in Christ.  The one so choosing has been made a prisoner, even if he doesn’t recognize the invisible bars.

Our bodies are not for us to figure out and to gain identities from; you must know what a trap that is!  Our bodies are for the Lord, for His work, for His display, for His glory, and for His life.  (See 1 Corinthians 6:13.)  There’s no rest in Christ when you believe you’re primarily something outside of Christ, and focus and work upon that.  We no longer live, but Christ, remember?  Any particular struggle that goes on in the body, any wrestling we encounter within, however it comes, however it looks, is for Him with us there—“Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  That’s where God is; have you found Him there?  Probably not if a lesser, worldly identity has your focus.

My friends who refer to themselves as “gay,” know that I won’t talk with them about their chosen worldly identity.  Instead, I talk with them about their heavenly identity, their “here-is-who-you-are-in-Christ” identity, because I believe they are who He says they are, new creation sons of God, and that they are then Christ’s workmanship—from beginning to end.  He who began a good work IN them—not UPON them—is who I want them to know.  For them to be filled and led by the Spirit inside is everything to me, so I recognize them not as the world does, or even as they might want me to recognize them—as gay.  To see them and to approach them only as what they feel and what they desire is, I think, for me to choose blindness and to injure them, and I want nothing to do with that.

It’s the same for me with people who are married, people who are single, people who are heterosexual, people who are kids, people who are black, people who are white, people who are Democrats, people who are Republicans—that’s not who they are!  Those things are comparative cover-ups to the truth, the truth that brings life within.  So this is not a pro-heterosexual rant, neither is it a pro-homosexual rant; it’s a pro-Christ-in-you rant.

My suggestion?  Repent, re-think who we are and where we are—sons of God in Christ—and lay aside the clutter of lesser identities.  Choosing them has distracted, crippled, and disguised us even to ourselves.  The truth is much better.

This is a transcript of the video, “The Crippling Clutter of Lesser Identities,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/GjzG5rv-Tl8.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Crippling Clutter Of Lesser Identities

If you haven't truly been enjoying the benefits of being a child of God, take 9 minutes to find out why. You might be surprised.  And yes, it involves sex. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Read The Bible?

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Have you ever thought that meant we’re just supposed to read our Bibles?  Read ‘em more, read ‘em better, because then we’ll know what to do?  I think it’s a mistake if we believe and approach this transforming act as one that will result primarily in a smart mind and a head crammed full of wisdom and what to do.  That’s not it.

In his outstanding book, “Birthright,” David Needham writes, “. . .the renewal of our minds is far more than simply exercising brain power. A crucial ‘how’ of holiness is inseparable from knowing the truth of God’s Word, but it must be more than simply quantitative information. It must involve a participant, relational type of knowledge, which in the Bible is inseparable from the power of its Author.  Instead of simply telling us to ‘memorize the Bible,’ Paul prayed,

‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…’” (Ephesians 1:17-19 NIV.)

Knowing God and the riches He has given us is the point!

What do I do? Well, no longer is it my goal to commit scripture to memory so that I might not offend God, or so that I might not make Him mad or disappointed in me because of my actions resulting from not reading the Bible enough.  I heard that angle suggested about Bible reading for many years, which led more than a few people into disappointing false guilt when, having been given a standard of time they were supposed to spend reading, they concluded that they hadn’t read enough or good enough because their days weren’t as good as they thought they would be if they read enough.  Frankly, they had done nothing wrong!  But because they’d been taught to read their Bibles so as to not disappoint God, they assumed they were guilty.  They didn’t hear that from God, but it didn’t seem to matter because they had figured it out on their own without Him.  Or so they thought.

Look, all kinds of life and busyness and family and jobs and various distractions are going to happen to you, right?  So if you believe you have to put in a certain amount of time in the Bible in order to qualify for God’s blessings, or in order to be transformed, you’re going to struggle with false guilt which usually leads you to stop reading the Bible altogether.  And you’ll feel worse still, as it sits on your table, glaring at you.  “You haven’t picked up the Word today.”

Many of us have been taught that the Word of God is text on a page, something to be memorized, and not God Himself, someone to be known.  When Amy Grant sang Psalm 119:105—“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”—we figured that meant the Bible.  It would have been a better song if Amy had included the New Covenant fact of what God did concerning the Word:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

The Word is Jesus!  And where is the Word now?  Where is the “lamp unto my feet”?  In us, the receivers of Christ Jesus!  Considering the path you’re walking, aren’t you glad that the “light unto your feet” is in you?  You don’t have to carry a pocket version of the Bible so you’ll have the Word with you at all times—you already do!  You have much more than a pocket version!

I love the Bible and sometimes I memorize a verse or two—it’s a good thing!—but I don’t read it so I can be a “good Christian,” with lots of spiritual brownie points accumulating in my heavenly file. I memorize and think about certain passages and verses so that in my day, whether beginning, middle or end, I’m thinking about Him. Reflecting upon what He has done for me and what He has made of me, does something miraculous:  the real me, the newly created son of God, me, stands up and is noticeable.  I can tell!  My thinking is clear, my heart is open and on display, and I love without fear of consequence.

I’m transformed, I’m brought out, and I know it. The lie of my earthly citizenship and belonging is removed, and there I am, a heavenly creature.  The decoy attractions of this world appear as the ludicrous seductions they are, and true hunger and value and thirst and freedom invigorate me.  Hooray!  And things are as they should be, including me.

I don’t mean to imply that the scriptures are not sacred and “God-breathed,” because they surely are!  It’s just that we get deceived into thinking more highly of the text and our knowledge of it than of knowing God and the “God-breathed” part.  That’s what counts and that’s what transforms.  Needham writes, “Remember, God did not save us simply to use us.  He did not save us to get such and such quantity of holiness produced.  He saved us for love.”

He loves you perfectly, and that’s transforming.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Why Read The Bible,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/f_3rWWF84Uc, or simply scroll down this page. You can also subscribe at the link by clicking on the red Subscribe button.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why Read The Bible?

Will God be mad at me if I don’t read my Bible, cut me off from blessings and cancel my inheritance?  Should I be worried if I haven’t read it as much as I was supposed to?  Give 8 minutes to this video and find out. (You’ll also find a surprise at the 3:35 mark!)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Encouragement On The Encouragement Tour

I spoke with about a dozen groups of people over the days of my eastern Encouragement Tour, and most of those people had been brought together by friendship with these two ladies, Laurie (left) and Retha.  Seriously, they’re incredibly giving, loving, truth-telling, gospel-sharing, burden-bearing, twisted humor-loving, sincerely stellar women.  And people know it.  Toward the end of my trip I was overwhelmed by how many people I met with that had been reached and deeply encouraged about and by God through Laurie and Retha.  Obviously, I’m one of those people.  Thank you, and I love you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Witness Protection & You


If you'd like to listen/download my message from last Sunday at Grace Life Church (Woodstock, Georgia), this quote will help get you primed:  "Witness is what I would die for, opinion is what I would kill for."  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shallow & Deep

Chuck and Regina have invited me into their lives for years, and have an unusual gift of enhancing our friendship by loading it up with terrific and fascinating friends and family (including their son, Barrett), boating events, cigars, stellar beverages, feasts, and a pet raptor that regularly threatens to remove my nose. (The beast flies wild in their home, but threatens only me, I swear.) They can be shallow as a puddle and deep as a well in about 10 seconds (maybe less), and I am always better after exploring both with them. I love these people.  (On The Encouragement Tour.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

People of Grace

Do you have people in your days with whom you can completely relax because you’re safe and because you know you’re going to be encouraged some how, some way?  That’s Woody and Donna (and the petite Great Dane, Kiwi, climbing on Donna), who after maybe 20 minutes of conversation upon meeting them 5-6 years ago, made me believe I was an honored member of their family.  These are people who fairly gently(!) insist upon authenticity, by convincing you that what you really want is open-hearted, open-life friendships—everybody wins.  And they’re absolutely right.  I can’t get enough time with them, but I’m sure motivated to try.  (On the Encouragement Tour.)

Eastern Encouragement Tour

On this latest version of the Encouragement Tour, I’ve spoken with several large-ish groups, but there ain’t no pictures of us. After a 27-hour trip that should have taken only 5 in order to get to Atlanta, I put down my suitcase and jumped into the middle of a fantastic gathering. I don’t think we failed to talk about everything important, such as Christ’s cross and resurrection and what that means about us, how we might truly encourage and build each other up, and the reckless, seemingly chaotic ways by which life—Christ’s life—leads us toward each other in love, mercy and grace. A couple of hours passed by in, I (almost) swear, like 20 minutes. Jim and Patricia, thank you for putting together a deeply satisfying evening and for hosting me with your usual miraculous gobs of love and generosity. I love you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Speaking In Georgia

I will be speaking to the church at Grace Life, in Woodstock, Georgia, this Sunday, August 17. I'd sure like to see you. For information and service times, go to: http://www.gracelifeonline.org/

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Catch The Pattern

In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

One comes to take and to damage thereby; that’s the pattern. The other comes to give and repair; that’s Jesus’ pattern.

I want to remind you today simply that Jesus is not asking you to give Him your heart – He has given you His. Jesus is not asking you to give Him your life – He has given you His. That’s the pattern.

The rest of your days will be about exploring how good He is for you so He can do and give and repair more and more for you. That’s life by Jesus. You like life that comes from Him, right? And He likes giving and repairing. That’s what He’s like. That’s the pattern, and that’s what you’re set up for.

If you’ve been hearing or giving yourself to a contrary pattern, no matter where it comes from, no matter how you hear it, there will be no life in it, and there will, consequently, be no repair. It’s not for you. It’s not from Jesus. One pattern is from this world—take and damage. The other is from Jesus—give and repair. That’s Him.

Catch the pattern. It will help you.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Catch The Pattern,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click http://youtu.be/3af193i6220.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Catch The Pattern

Do you ever get confused about the theme of God’s life and grace for you? Do your days tangle that up? Take 2 minutes for the remedy.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

East Coast Encouragement Tour

Update: my east coast Encouragement Tour begins on Friday, August 8, and winds up on Sunday, August 17, when I will be speaking to the church at Grace Life, in Woodstock, GA (http://www.gracelifeonline.org/). I’d love to meet you! I have a few OPEN DATES on this trip, including Tuesday, August 12, and Thursday through Saturday, August 14-16. If you’ve got a group you’d like me to speak with, or if you’d simply like to meet for an hour or two, message me, and I’ll do my best to get with you. And if you’re way out of the area, I like meeting with people and groups via Skype or iChat—I do it all the time! So message me if that’s something you’re interested in.

One of My Favorite Pastors

On my recent West Coast Encouragement Tour, I had breakfast with Jeremy White, who is one of my favorite pastors. Why? He is a testimony of God’s effective grace, and he doesn’t hide it. His sermons, coaching, fun, family and church related activities reflect what God does for him. That means that anybody can listen or talk with him without fear of being challenged by a super-human, Superman kind of person toward the foolish goal of being the same. With Jeremy, it’s all about Christ and His work for us, in us and through us.

If I lived anywhere near Vacaville, California, I’d be hanging out with him as often as I could. To find out about his excellent book (The Gospel Uncut: Learning to Rest in the Grace of God) and church, click http://www.valleychurch.com/