Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We've Got To Change Marriage, Part 2

I’ve got a different view of Christian marriage, one that will make it a lot better, easier, and a more normal part of life in Christ.  See what you think.  (If you missed Part 1, you can get to that from the link below.)


Monday, March 24, 2014

Recognizing the Perfect Work of God

I spent some time today looking online for a church group for my daughter.  You can imagine that I was a little bit thorough.  For each one found that seemed relevant, I quickly scanned their Beliefs, Vision and maybe their staff, and listened to snippets of several of the pastor’s sermons.  Some might consider that what got my attention as unimportant, but I heard it over and over again.  When I listened further into their sermons, it was reflected in a lot—a lot a lot—of what followed.  I was unhappily surprised.

Sure evidence that many speakers and pastors do not recognize the fulfillment and end of the Former Covenant in favor of the beginning and far better promises of the New Covenant is how often they say something before their messages like, “Let’s prepare our hearts for the Lord.”  Really?  I thought that through the new birth we had been given new hearts—hearts that God, all by Himself, made from the original material of His own nature. 

He shared Himself with us.  How do you top that?  There is nothing for me to “prepare” or to “work upon,” since not only did I have nothing to do with that work, but I could never do as good of a job as He did.  Right?  Isn’t it fantastic to have that pressure removed?  How cool is that?  All I get to do is to recognize that God Himself has prepared my heart.  He is all done with it, and it was a perfect work.  He is now convincing me to live from my heart, not to work upon it.

He who has made me “the house of God,” is the very happy inhabitant—He loves His surroundings and paid off the mortgage and everything forever.  It follows, naturally, that one of my favorite things to read or to hear about (especially when listening to a sermon) is how good a work that was and how perfect my heart is—the very core of my being.  God saw to it and it cannot get any better than He made it through the new birth.  To say then that there is work for me to do where God has already worked, and in an arena that Christ alone can touch and I cannot possibly—my heart—is, well, it’s anti-Christ.  And it’s terribly confusing and frustrating for everybody who hears it.

What would I like to hear from these same speakers and pastors?  Well, something like, “Let’s turn our minds to the Spirit, and explore the perfect work God has done to our hearts.”  I would be all ears . . . and my perfect heart would be beautifully wide open.  I bet yours would be, too.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Recognizing the Perfect Work of God,” and is for those who might rather read than watch . . . or both.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/AutQSZ-CZb0.)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Recognizing the Perfect Work of God

Got 4 minutes?  Oftentimes the first thing you hear in a sermon is the most revealing.  If it isn’t about the perfect work of God, beware, because what follows may well be a twisted burden aimed at you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Booking It

When writing a book, there are days when, I swear, I should buy a canary. I’m convinced that I’m laboring in a deep, dark and dank hole in the ground, and that I could die at any moment from poisonous gas only a bird could detect . . . by keeling over and dying before I do.

But, today was not one of those days. Nope. The sun was shining and it felt like spring in my head.

If God Is Moody, You're In Trouble

Is God moody?  Can you put Him in a generous mood or make Him stingy?  Can you do something to move Him close, or something to move Him away?  Can you do something to get into His presence, or do something to get out of it?  Is He fickle? Does He leave you?

The Christians at Corinth wondered about those things and they had good reason.  Their behavior was awful—headline news. Epic.  While Corinth was well known as a city where people took cruel advantage of each other, non-Christians were especially repulsed by the behavior of some who called themselves believers.  Many in the church knew they were a mess, so it caused them a lot of stress concerning the security of their relationship with God.  The Christians at Corinth had to have been worry warts.

Naturally, they were aware that their spiritual daddy, the apostle Paul, knew all about their sloppiness and ugly failures, and they were afraid that he wouldn’t come to be with them because they were so often so bad.  “Will Paul,” they might have asked, “who loves us so deeply, draw away from us to punish us or as a way of teaching us a lesson?  Will he go somewhere else, to people who are better than us?  Why would he want to come here?”

Knowing their fears, Paul wrote a second letter to the worried Corinthians, and said essentially this:

“Are you kidding? I brag about you!  Every time I think of you, even just a little bit, God fills me with love for you!  How can I help but want to be with you in the same way that He does? I’m crazy about you!  Did I not make that clear in my first letter? I know it’s been awhile since I’ve visited; it simply hasn’t been the right time.  But my heart for you is exactly like God’s heart—everything is ‘Yes’ with Him!  Remember what He says?  Yes, I will always be with you.  Yes, I have given you all things.  Yes, I have secured you in Christ for always.  And, Yes, my love and grace for you is unchanged—it is and will always be “Yes!”  Can I get a Corinthian ‘Amen’?”  (See 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11)

Paul did what many of you do:  he answered their questions and vanquished their fears by describing what he knew and how he felt from having God’s love for them.

The Corinthian Christians were the perfect people by which to make the point:  no matter how things look, no matter how we look, God’s affection and grace are never at risk, never threatened.  In fact, they are even more in view.  That’s the perfect relationship God has given to us already.  You don’t have to go get it.  You don’t have to earn it.  You don’t have to work on it.  It has been given to you.  It’s His gift—yours to enjoy.

God has plenty of motivation to be with us and to do for us; He doesn’t need more.  He doesn’t run out of motivation or have a shortage one day, and He doesn’t need convincing.  You’ll never need to woo God, and you’ll never need to do anything right in order to attract Him to you.  There’s no class on successful flirting with God!  He’s the One who loves and behaves perfectly—remember?  Believing that slips away sometimes, I know, but that’s the gospel that the devil keeps trying to move you and me away from.  So if you’ve wandered, as I sometimes do, wander back.

You and God are tight and secure.  You’re together! He made it happen.  And He will never be moody with you.  He’s not like that.  I can tell you.

(This is taken from a March 2013 video, “If God Is Moody, You’re In Trouble,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  If you’d like to see the video and/or subscribe to them, click http://youtu.be/v4WTvaRtTJw.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Fight Worth Having

Do you like arguments? You know, a discussion seasoned with some passion?  There’s an important one going on right now about what Jesus did for us all at the cross.  That’s important, and I’ve been a part of it at times.  And I will be.  But I want to say that the risk and maybe the cost of prosecuting our particular side of the argument is often that we lose the wonder of knowing Jesus Himself; you know, Christ in you.  Him.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul writes that the primary battle—the big fight!—for the Christian is this: demolish, wipe out, fight off, throw away ANYTHING that threatens you from knowing God.  That is the prize that is threatened by other “stuff” or arguments.  Demolish them!

This doesn’t mean, “Trash your television!  Don’t watch March Madness or Downton Abbey or American Idol.”  It doesn’t mean, “Throw away your iPhone or Samsung.”  It doesn’t mean, “Stop talking about ‘Big Oil’ or ‘Big Government.’”  Neither does it mean, “Come to a conclusion right now! Choose a team and fight concerning exactly what Jesus did at the cross.  WE MUST WIN THE ARGUMENT NOW!  Prosecute with us!”

For you and for me, it means, “Don’t get lost.  Don’t get so caught up in debate, even over important things (maybe especially over important things), that knowing and enjoying Jesus in you, with you and for you, becomes and remains less of an anticipated thrill and solution and hope and joy than those other things.”

We write and talk about the gospel, which is the very power of God, not simply so people can be smarter and well armed in a debate.  We, who love the gospel, offer it to people because it enables and promotes in them what it does in us:  the knowing and the loving of God Himself.  That’s the grand prize.  It’s the best thing there is.

And there’s another benefit:  that’s how life in Christ works—that’s how grace works.  Through the nearly ridiculously great gospel and by the Spirit, He attracts our attention, we give it to Him, and He produces the life.  (Did you get that?)  I’ll offer the following as a foundation for our new life in Christ:

Romans 6:11 Even so consider yourselves to be 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 lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  (Italics mine.)

That’s simply incredible.  And, since we are in God and He is in us, we don’t present ourselves to God out there, but to God in here, on the inside.  In that way, we get to know Him in us.  It seems to me that that is our life in Christ, and that’s how “grace works.”  (See also Titus 2:11-14.)

Some of the arguments we’re having go toward knowing Jesus.  I know.  That’s good.  But there are an awful lot where that’s lost.  So in your mind, in your writing and conversation, be careful to hold to the prize, to the real treasure above all treasure—knowing Jesus in you and with you and for you.

This is the God we get to know, the mystery hidden from the ages, but now revealed to us and received by us.  Christ in you means life for the first time; what He does and how He is from there (in you) reveals and directs life.  That’s the prize and that’s where the wonder is!  Right?  You should have it.  Fight for it.  It’s worth it.

(This is a transcript of a March 2013 video, “A Fight Worth Having,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. . .or maybe you’d like both.  If you’d like to see the video, click http://youtu.be/5BHk5TNXn5Q.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Great Resource

In case you missed it, here's an excellent resource with a lot of good authors and writers, such as Andrew Nelson (Fight For Grace), Jeremy White (The Gospel Uncut), Kyle Jordan May, and Greg Gay.  My article (linked below) is Surrendered Image's first for today.


Friday, March 07, 2014

Where's Ralph?

There’s a story, a book that I’ve had in my heart and mind for several years now, something I simply must write—it just owns me.  But I’ve truly only dabbled with it up to now, maybe because there are many ways and many avenues for the gospel that I’m giving myself to.  I think I’m over-dabbled.  So, I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing; I’m going to have to go sort of full submersion to write it. 

What is it?

It’s an allegorical story based upon Colossians 1:27  “…God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The setting is two or three hundred years ago in a small town when a boy, Elliot, is surprised to meet someone who changes everything—starting with him from the inside.  I’ll be writing two versions of the story:  one for adults (who will see how love on the inside conquers the fear that has twisted them in most every relationship) and one for children.  I picture a child on a mother’s lap, and together they’re reading and looking at a richly illustrated story about God:  not distant God, not God “over there,” but God now living within—God on the inside.  And together they’ll read of how happy He is to be inside, how capable and perfect He is inside, and how easy He is to find.  Imagine how good that would be for both to read together.

While writing it is a work out, I’m mostly loving it.  And God has me involved and focused in the story, which is why I need to get low profile for a time.

Writing a book and getting it published is a time-consuming and expensive effort, as you would suspect.  I ask for your prayers for me and for my family, as well as any financial contribution you’d like to make if you want to be a part of bringing this book out.  You’ll see a link at the end of this note where you can easily make a tax-deductible donation.  I would appreciate it.

So, while I won’t be entirely absent (I’m not going to vanish), I won’t be as engaged because I’m going to be deeply involved elsewhere.  And I hope my “elsewhere involvement” benefits you a lot.  Wouldn’t that be good?

Thank you.

To contribute, go to lifecourse.org, and click Giving, or simply click this.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Where’s Ralph?” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/zaztZVi0ANc, scroll below.)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Where's Ralph?

There’s something I must do, something I’m engrossed in that I’d like you to know about.  It explains my absence and my hope.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

What's The Difference Between Law & Jesus?

What’s the difference between Law and Jesus?  To answer that, let’s look through the lens of another question: What’s the difference between diagnosis and remedy?  You have some experience with that, right?

For a long time, the Law of God proved the diagnosis that man was heartsick and could not heal himself.  It was Diagnosis, not Remedy.  The Law was perfect in proving man’s need for life—Jesus—on the inside. He is The Remedy.

Those who have Remedy (and are forever free of Diagnosis) may, nevertheless, become entranced and entangled by Diagnosis.  You know how that goes—they get confused because the only true way to life—God’s life—is through Remedy and what He gives and does by grace and for free.  Diagnosis is merciless.  Have you ever been examined and exhausted by it?  I bet you have.  In the same way that you cannot live just by knowing what’s wrong with you, Diagnosis is worthless except it points to Remedy.  The only thing Diagnosis has ever done well is to be the set-up for Remedy.  Remedy ends Diagnosis in the same way that Jesus ends Law.

If Diagnosis has been busily proving failure and sickness to you, be done with it. It’s not for you and it won’t help.  You know who The Remedy is—it’s Him you want.  Tell Him.  Talk with Remedy. Turn your faith to Him and how He is, because that’s how you live.  He is the life for you and your heart.  He has everything you need for free—and He makes fantastic house calls.

(See Romans 7:4-25; 8:1-4; 10:4; 1 Corinthians15:56; 2 Corinthians 3:6-8; Galatians 3:23-25; 5:1-25.)

(This is based upon a March 2013 video, “What’s The Difference Between Law & Jesus?” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/hbLIsCgUA9Y.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Stupid Days Stuck In-Between

How do you deal with tension?  Do you always remain calm and cool, or do you get irritated, and maybe bust loose now and then?  Here’s how God’s care is particularly evident in our blow-ups and neediness. Click on the link below.

Stupid Days Stuck In-Between

Stuff Jesus Never Said

Every now and then one of these strikes me right. A simple and clever reminder.