Friday, May 30, 2014

The Encouragement Tour

In case you were wondering, my summer is all about “The Encouragement Tour.” I will be on the west coast and east coast of the US and all parts between, from now through September. If you’re interested in having me speak and encourage your group or church, just ask. I’ll do my best to make it happen.

To be clear(er), I don’t often post my schedule because many of the meetings I have are small affairs, private and personal.  It’s not just about the big meeting, but the small, across-the-table conversations.  While I sometimes speak with a large-sized group when I’m on a trip, I have more meetings in people’s homes, over a meal at a restaurant, for an hour at a local brewpub, or wherever and however I can best join people in their day-to-day lives.  I enjoy speaking at large meetings (I’ll be doing that this coming week), but I love the value I find in face-to-face small gatherings—even just two of us.  It’s indispensable and unforgettable.

So for those in Maine, Arizona, Oregon, Kansas, Arkansas, etc., who are wondering where I’m going to be speaking, maybe it’s just with you.  What I need are invitations, and I’ll work to get enough in a particular area to make my coming possible.  I’ll do the best I can to get to you.  It’s what I love.  It’s what I do.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love & Hate In A Facsimile World

I know there are many people who are anti military, and they are not without reasons.  Perhaps last weekend in the United States was difficult for you, when the majority of people were honoring soldiers who gave their lives in sacrifice for our country’s freedom and strength and pro-liberty effort around the world.  Maybe even now you’re bothered by what I’m writing.

The thing is, all of us are put into a difficult situation when we’re compelled to thank (or condemn) an entity in which people are actively giving themselves.  Frankly, I’m not thankful for what a bunch of liberal organizations have done and are doing in this country.  I’m not thankful for MoveOn, Occupy, Planned Parenthood, or SEIU, to name a few.  However, there are those who could offer a similar list of conservative leaning organizations for which they are not thankful either.  They might list Cato, Heritage, Military, Tea, and the great Satan, Fox News, which I would counter with CNN.

The problem we’re having is that we’ve been induced to bypass or forego the people of those organizations and to, instead, have a relationship with a media representation, a facsimile, a fake, and that’s easy to support or to get mad at, depending upon our beliefs and desires.  That’s not always wrong, but it is always wrong to stuff all of the people of those organizations into a facsimile because we remove them from our heart, where Jesus lives and does His best work.  That’s going to hurt us and keep us from the pleasure of His life and evidence found there—Christ in us.

Frankly, I sometimes feel more like Satan than Jesus when it comes to people I don’t like or agree with, and I don’t even know them!

Let me put it this way.  I do not know George Soros, Al Sharpton, Harry Reid, or Edward Snowden, but each of them draws a response from my flesh—sometimes a powerful one.  I do not know them, but I think I do—that is a facsimile relationship.  I have too many facsimile relationships that are sometimes more powerful than the ones right in front of me, or the ones I have in my own home.  And I want those!  I can get used to living from the power of a facsimile relationship, confusing it as most authentic to my heart.  After all, it lights me up!  Maybe anger becomes a more common feeling, a more common motivator than love.  When that happens, love becomes the put on, a fake, and anger becomes the genuine.  That’s the proof that I’m living more from facsimile relationships than from the real deal. 

To see if you’ve fallen to facsimile relationships and the power found in the fake, let me ask you:  Do you know Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, George Bush, or either of the Koch brothers?  Or how about a soldier?

Look, I am thankful that my country’s military is the strongest and best in the world because I believe that what’s behind it and what motivates it offers a better hope for liberty and prosperity than any other military.  I shudder to think what would happen if our country’s influence and military support in the world were to fall from the top.  Does anyone believe that the void created would be better filled by Russia or China?

There’s my conservative viewpoint.  Did you miss it?  Probably not.  That aside, I know more than a few soldiers who got caught up in less than beautifully motivated efforts in foreign lands.  It is what it is.  And that’s why not everyone easily thanks organizations or the military.  I know.

But what we’re left with are the men and women who were involved in those efforts.  Frankly, we need them and they need us.  We need them to become bigger in our hearts than the media-fed facsimile offered to us instead.  Double frankly, I need MoveOn and Occupy loonies and they need me.  I know a few, and I’m focused upon their hearts, which can take effort because I’ve got to climb through the stuff I don’t like to what I do like.  So I’m focused upon their hearts because that’s where authenticity is, that’s where reality is—for me and for them—that is where Christ is looking, and that is what is normal and healthy for me, too.  It’s genuine.  It’s my view and it’s your view, and that’s how life works for us, and how we avoid the fake-out of facsimile love and hate.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Love & Hate In A Facsimile World,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click, or simply scroll down on my blog.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Love & Hate In A Facsimile World

Have you got 6 minutes to find out why you sometimes feel more like Satan than Jesus?  And why relationships you’d like to cherish suffer nevertheless?  See if this little video doesn’t help clear some things up.

Oops. I got my holidays mixed up. On the last Monday of May, my country (USA) honors those who gave their lives via our military. That’s Memorial Day. Veterans Day honors the service of all U.S. military veterans, and is marked each year on November 11.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Build It, & They Will come

And somewhere in the wilds of Wyoming, a genius spoke and an idea germinated: "Put them together, and they will come." Slogan: "Home of the washed and sloshed."

(I'm traveling with some of my family toward Salt Lake, Utah, where I will officiate at a wedding.  We came across this in Wyoming.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How To Get God To Be Quiet

My short message today is:  “How To Get God To Be Quiet.”  It’s based upon Hebrews 10:16-18 NAS:

This is the covenant that I will make with them.
  After those days (the first covenant days, which came to an end at Jesus’ death), says the Lord:
 I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them, He then says, 17 And their sins and their lawless deeds 
I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.  (Italics mine.)

That’s staggering.  That’s amazing. 

No more sacrificing animals for the Jews, and no need for the believing Gentiles (everybody else) to plead or to speak of their sins.  They’re gone.

So here’s how to get God to be quiet:  Try having a chat about your sins with Him who remembers them no more.

Crickets.  Silence.

If you’ve been throwing a lot of words at God but not hearing anything in return, watch your language.  Is your attempt at conversation based upon what you’ve done, or is it based upon what He has done?

(This is a transcript of June 2013 video, “How To Get God To Be Quiet,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see and/or to subscribe to these videos, click

Hand Waving For Jesus

Are you a hand-waver? Here's how to become one if not. (Because you know you want to.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pogo Stick Jesus

It’s impossible to rest securely as a Christian if God retracts His blessing and grace like an earned benefit.  Does He motivate people in the same way one might motivate a donkey pulling a wagon—with an occasional carrot?  Read on to find out how you are part of God’s scandalous parade of those who enjoy unreasonable and outrageous grace.

One of the most hurtful deceptions plaguing us is, “The Pogo Stick Jesus Syndrome.”

Are you familiar with the recreational toy?  As a boy I’d set my feet on the pedals and grab hold of the handle bars, thinking that maybe I could even spring over my dad’s car if only I could get enough bounce on my pogo.  I had a lot of fun, except when I got a little sideways and ended up in the thick (and painful) hedge along our driveway.

“Ralph, why is your shirt torn?” my mother asked.  “Ah, my pogo threw me in the hedge,” I answered.  With a nod of her wise head, my mother concluded, “Maybe you should take it easy on that thing.”  That was good advice.

In the years since, I have often found that many people think they have a sort of pogo stick relationship with God.  Make the right move, do the right thing, and God is in their life along with all of His benefits.  Do the wrong thing—pop out a swear word, raise your voice in anger, give in to lust or greed or envy—and He’s out.  Pogo stick Jesus.  However, you could get Him to pogo back in response to a proper sin confession or a heartfelt re-commitment, and, tah-dah!  God and favor restored all over again.  He had pogoed back.

Although many failed to get the hang of the pogo stick Jesus game and gave up on Christianity (or what they thought was Christianity), some people learned to live a sin-focused life of confession.  I’m not kidding.  In essence their behavior and their ability to regulate it determined God’s level of comfort and happiness with them—and His presence and blessing.  If either went missing, one had only to figure out what offense had sent Him pogoing away.  This terrible pogo stick theology made them responsible for God (they had to be entirely vigilant upon themselves) and accountable to themselves.  “Did I blow it and lose His blessing?  Has God left me?  How have I upset my very sensitive God and frustrated His plan for my life?”

I don’t mean to imply that pogo stick Christians are foolish or stupid—they’re not.  I do want to save them from a deception which denies the grandeur of the gospel and the greatness of the new covenant, and which robs them of relaxing with Jesus and resting in Him. There is no rest for anyone trying to bring to pass or to accomplish what God already has.  Right?

To be clear, sin is no longer the defining aspect of our relationship with God—Christ is!  Grace is!  God did away with sin, yours and mine, by the sacrifice of His son.  We have been brought into union with Him and nothing, NOTHING can separate us from Him ever again.  He has already given us every good gift and perfect fullness in Christ.  What’s left out of every and fullness?  I can’t think of anything.  God has made His home in you and in me, and He will never, NEVER withdraw Himself or forsake us.  He has made us righteous royalty in His family—No kidding!—and even if our radiant robes should drag in the mud of this world, like the father of the prodigal, He will never lawyer-up and prosecute us for waywardness or distant country visitations. 

Has it occurred to you that the prodigal’s father never even asked a question of his returning pig crap encrusted son?  Not one!  There was no interrogation.  Nothing had changed about his father and what he knew to be true of his son.  He had the truth in his mind all the time.  The only thing different was that the son was home where dad could again lavish himself upon him.

While the son might have believed the lie that his terrible behavior and return home would change the way his father treated him, would throw the farm into shocked chaos and force his father to make a harsh and disciplined example of him (early pogo stick theology), his dad was unaffected—except for the party! In my view, the only protestor in the family of such unparalleled largesse was the elder brother religionist.  “He can have his hollow party.  I’m going to earn mine.”

The lie of religion (which is what that is) suggests that while God has already given us everything in Christ, we might have lost a little of the all we never earned—here’s how to get it back.  Slaves are made in the here’s how.  So evil and destructive is this suggestion that the apostle Paul made a wish for those who spread the lie (Galatians 5:12).

The lie says, “Well, yes, grace is great, but it doesn’t come with an unlimited warranty.  Here’s what you’ve got to do to keep up your end of the deal.”  Do you recognize it?  In two words, that’s pig crap.

Our Father tore up the records and every regulation!  No debt remains.  We cannot pay Him back, neither does He want it.  That would be insulting to Him and the staggering display of His love and grace, which He still likes displaying.  It’s His thing! Have you noticed?  It’s the new covenant.  (And our Father asks no questions.)  At the risk of adding to the story, the prodigal’s father threw a parade in front of the neighbors as if to say, “He’s MY son!  He is for me, and I’ll give him all that I want no matter how scandalous it seems to you!” 

“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  (Colossians 2:13-15, italics mine.)
That’s the parade!

Essentially, the good news is this:  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:25).  If you believe that by bringing your sins before God you’ll get Him to pay great attention to them, think again, pogo stick breath.  He already did.  And He’s pretty satisfied and happy with what He has done about sin.  If you believe that behaving perfectly will earn favor with God that would otherwise be threatened, think again.  You’ve got Jesus on a pogo stick.

He’s not there.  He’s settled and happily at home in a perfect and extravagant environment.  He’s at home in you.

Everlasting Grace

Here’s where I’ll be speaking next: The Everlasting Grace Conference, in Fort Collins, Colorado. I’m excited to be a part of this, an annual event that draws together people with different backgrounds and viewpoints, who are all growing in the grace of God. For information, go to:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Accountable To Grace

I don’t know what you’re doing with your life as it involves others, but for the rest of my days I promise to keep everyone accountable to the grace of God.  Grace is for life—the length of it and the enjoyment of it.  Romans 6:14 reads, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

I know that the word “accountable” might be an odd word to put together with “grace,” but it comes as something of a response to the legalistic “accountability police,” who seem always to be prosecuting people with the word.  “You’ll be held accountable,” they might say.  That always makes me shudder . . . and maybe want to vomit . . . on them.  Is that wrong? 

“Grace” doesn’t mean that nothing matters; grace means that Jesus matters.  He’s got us, and He’s given us all of His righteousness and holiness.  Believing that, over and over again, is how you live by grace.  It will have an effect!  Grace works.  You’ll like it, and Christ in you will be in evidence.  You’ll like that, and so will others.

But keeping yourself in the crosshairs of your own gun—“I’ll be held accountable”—and turning it on others—“You’ll be held accountable”—is not Christian living.  It may seem to help people, but it actually hurts them and pushes them toward fleshly living.  And I don’t like that at all.  That’s why I don’t like those who do it to them.

However, if grace is grace, then it’s for them, too.  So I’m going to hold them accountable to God’s grace. 

(This is a transcript of a June 2013 video, “Accountable To Grace,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the 3 minute video, click:

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

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.  Wearing German uniforms, 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 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 are the problem.  You’ll believe that you are the one who is blowing it all the time. And, in some way, the enemy will be invigorated because you'll be motivated against yourself.

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 (1 Corinthians 6:17), and the way for you to live now is by believing, knowing and trusting Him, which keeps you in step with the Holy Spirit.  That’s important because you’re family.  Yes, you’re family!  This is the new way forward in Him, 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 you are God’s biggest trial and difficulty(!), 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 a May 2013 video, “The Enemy Within,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video and others like it, click

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Is There Such A Thing As 'Hyper-Grace'?

Reading the 7 sentences included here will motivate some of us to listen to this important message. I recommend it.

"One of the foundations of legalism or works-based doctrine is a lack of understanding regarding the two covenants. Gentiles were never under the first covenant, we've only been under the second. The Jews were freed from that old covenant when the new covenant was ratified at the death and resurrection of Christ. The new was not an addition to the old, it completely replaced it. Legalists think the moral code of law (commandments) will reduce sin when in fact the scripture is clear that it will increase sin. It brought bondage and death and caused sin to revive. So what is the remedy for sin if it's not following the moral code? It's grace!"

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Update About My Next Book

(Here’s an excerpt from my allegorical book, “The World According To Perfect.”  It features Elliot, a boy of about 12, and a character who reveals his name as Perfect.  It’s the most challenging and captivating thing I have ever written, so would you support me with your prayer?  I’m struggling to be immersed in it, which is what is needed.)

The fear of failure and punishment were constants to Elliot, no less so than on this, the weekend when his parents could be gone for the whole day.

“It doesn’t feel like they trust me,” said Elliot.  “It feels like they leave everything to me so they can go do what they want.  If something bad happened around here, well,  . . .” His voice sank, and his eyes fell toward the muddy ground.  “I understand,” said Perfect.  “They do the best with what they know, Elliot.  But I don’t trust you that way.  I trust you with my life.”  Lifting his gaze from the ground to meet Perfect’s eyes, Elliot asked, “But how can you?  Who are you to trust me?  And why would you trust me?”  “More good questions, my friend,” he replied.  “Walk a bit with me, won’t you?”

Together they walked from the barnyard in the direction of the well.  As they did, Perfect said, “I am one who serves.  I am one who gives life and who does not ask for it in return.  I am one who loves.  What do you think of that, Elliot?”  Making no effort to hide his wonder, Elliot said, “I—I don’t know what to say.  I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean, but I think I believe you.  Why is that?” he asked.

Swinging up into the saddle, Perfect grinned, and said, “Until tomorrow, Elliot, when we’ll talk about that.”  “You have to go?” asked Elliot.  “But there’s so much I want to ask you, so much I don’t know.”  Looking kindly upon him, Perfect said, “You will enjoy the truth, Elliot.  You were made for the truth.”