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, 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: 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

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.

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!) 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:

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.