Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jesus and Your Starting Point, 2016

Got 3 minutes?  As you turn the page to a New Year, you will begin well by agreeing with what Jesus thinks is your starting point.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas, 2015!


To all of our friends, new and longtime, near and far, thank you for caring for us, encouraging and counseling us, and for contributing so much to the richness of our days - Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Good Walk Together

We walk with people, not primarily so their behavior will change but so their knowing will change. Knowing what? That they are loved and safe with us and with God, and that He is perfectly capable and willing at all times. That's a good walk together.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Spoiler!

My daughter, Emma, who is working with a Christian mission organization (YWAM) in New Zealand, has just seen the new Star Wars movie. Having told me all about it, I can tell you that the rumor that Chewbacca turns to the Dark Side is . . . Well, I’m going to leave that Star Wars spoiler right there.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The News


Here’s the news: TOMORROW (Tuesday) is the last day to order my book so you can get it or send it for Christmas! Nina sent this note to me just yesterday: “Thank you SO much, Ralph! I have to tell you... My husband is reading your book "God's Astounding Opinion of You" and is SO very blessed by it! He said: "It's the best book of the year and now I'm reading it for the second time." We read the pages concerning marriage together and I was very blessed by it, too. I want to thank you for that, Ralph. =)”

 While you can get it at Amazon.com, TheLifeBookstore.com, Christianbook.com, and more, in book or eBook format, if you’d like to get it for less than those other places and have me personalize it, click the following link:  http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Conductor's Symphony

There is a lot of time when, frankly, I don’t know what’s going on.  And I have something of a pattern of just keeping going anyway.  Sometimes I just have to—maybe you know what that’s like—but there has to be an interruption in the “I don’t know what I’m doing!”  For me, that’s prayer.

Prayer is not first to get stuff done, but to find out what’s been done already.  That’s important to me because, while the kingdom all around me demands my attention this morning in a way that waking up in the percussion section of a large orchestra with unfamiliar sticks in my hands would—“Quick!  You don’t know the piece, but play something, Ralph!”—the kingdom where God happens most and where I recognize Him best is within.  That’s where I find The Conductor, who knows my perfectly designed, small place in the symphony.  He knows the piece.  He knows the tune.  Prayer is meeting with Him, and discovering again that I fit.  From there, I can tap a drum. 

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians and, after explaining to them his busy involvement with this world’s kingdom, he wrote in chapter 1:15-16, “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me (What for?) so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, . . .”  Oh!  There it is, Paul’s fit!  Preaching to the Gentiles was his part in The Conductor’s Symphony.  And, having had God revealed to him on the inside, Paul’s immediate response “was not to consult any human being.”  Why not?  Because people have a way of confusing God-given simplicity by adding the human complexity of opinion.  In other words, we make up our own symphony and wonder why we can’t find our fit and the tune doesn’t work.

Fortunately, God convinced Paul about design and what had been done for that already, and Paul learned in solitude to keep himself to it.  For the same reason, I treasure solitude prayer, if even in my office or in my car.  God has much to give me!  And much to give you.  Our parts in the symphony are really quite simple, and the notes required are easy.  For me, finding my fit with The Conductor—over and over again—is the first and primary benefit of prayer. 

(For more of my thoughts about prayer, click http://lifecourseministries.blogspot.com/2013/10/lets-have-drink.html.  This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The Conductor’s Symphony,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/npG0EDULEEU, or scroll down this blog page.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Conductor's Symphony

Got 3 minutes?  Do you ever feel like you don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going, but you keep on going anyway?  This short message will help you.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Value

The first thing I value this morning is the righteousness that is already mine. Before I’ve done anything of value, the very righteousness of Christ Jesus—God Himself—is mine as mine. My God. I am saved from the fear of unrighteousness, of failure and shortcomings, because of the grace of righteousness already. His accomplishment is mine.

Philippians 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Government Nativity and Christian Naïveté: Law and Life in Conflict

There is a lot of finger pointing going on about what to do with “refugees.” Have you noticed? On the one hand, “You’ve gotta be uncaring and cold-hearted!” and on the other, “You’ve gotta be crazy or stupid!”

I’ve seen pictures of a lifeless little boy, lying in the surf of a distant beach, with a seemingly finger-pointed quote from Jesus, "I was a stranger and you did not let me in. I was naked and you did not clothe me." Ouch. Did I drown that little boy? It feels like I did. I must be uncaring. I’ve also seen pictures of lots of able-bodied young men behind fences, who were awaiting refugee status and permission so they could continue their trek, with the accompanying question, “Do these look like refugee widows and children to you?” Well, no. They sure don’t. Wow. I’d be a fool to let them migrate to the USA, wouldn’t I?

One of my favorite finger pointing posts uses the ancient story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a means of “shame on you.” It’s right on time for Christmas.

It belittles Christians who will have on display a nativity scene depicting the holy family and holy moment of Jesus’ birth to “Middle Eastern refugees”, because those same Christians will at the same time be demanding that the contemporary equivalent refugees (Syrians) be denied a place here in the USA. With ridicule-laden words, they write, “There’s still no room at the inn.” Beautiful, isn’t it? I think that’s unfair and unwise.

Not only were Joseph, Mary and Jesus not refugees in the beautiful nativity scene moment (their angel-directed flight to Egypt had not yet happened), but also a single family migrating is nothing like the hundreds of thousands now moving across Europe and heading for our shores. To employ the ancient story as a means of belittling and shaming those Christians who are advocating caution in the mass migration is not fair because it’s not the contemporary equivalent. Further, it’s not wise because those administering the scolding have accepted the dangerous position of prosecutor for the government. That won’t work out well for anybody, scolder or scold-ee, liberal or conservative.

In my view, most people do not believe that the government is listening to them and serving them anymore. You know, “a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” kind of thing. Instead, they believe that the government is perishing because the system has reversed: people must do what the government dictates. To many of us, life increasingly feels like it’s about “a people of the government, by the government, for the government,” but we know that won’t work. That will perish. History proves it in an ugly way. That people are raising cautionary Stop signs over it is, I think, a symptom of a larger issue: Government nativity and Christian naïveté. I’ll explain.

Our government was not meant to be the birthplace, the nativity scene of anything, only the channel of the will of the people, and the provider and protector of those same people. That’s what it’s for. The preamble to the Constitution reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What follows is how the will of the people shall and shall not be carried out. To be sure, there is and always has been a hairy fight going on as to who will represent us and our will as our government. But the government must not give birth to a will and direction of its own. We call that tyranny. When and if it does, the people have become its unwilling servant, the people have no voice and no choice, and the hearts of the people no longer matter. That’s going to cause a struggle, which I think we’re seeing now.

Here’s my point: We must not use the same methods of struggle against an increasingly unresponsive and non-representative government as we do in our relationship with Christian brothers and sisters.
For example, if our government, without a vote of the people, decides to bring in thousands of foreigners for whom there can be no real vetting, no determination if they are for us or against us, and you take the government’s side AND use scripture to prosecute against Christians who disagree, you will be in a mixed up world of trouble, even if you’re simply naïve. You will be confusing government with church, and the distinction is vital. Christians are going to love and care for people, whether they are across the street or across the globe, but that is not the role of government.

Christians gladly give many millions of dollars every year to World Vision and Compassion International, make life-changing use of international adoption agencies, and look magnificent and godly in the process. Why? Because their hearts are engaged by God for people. That’s the church, God’s body, working well. We expect great love, kindness and compassion to come from the church, and when it does not, we take a close look in order to assist it to the grace and outflow we expect. “Since God is in there,” I might say, “there ought to be some evidence. Let me help you to find Him so He can produce it.” That’s a lot of what I do.

The purpose of the government is one thing, the purpose of the church another. Get that confused and the tangle will do nasty things to you, maybe even induce you to do nasty things to Christians. You’ve seen that before, right?

Life in the heart is what Jesus is all about, and I want to encourage you to find, experience and enjoy His life. What comes from there is the evidence of God, and that’s a big deal—the biggest! In that display of God’s grace in a person, laws and decrees are not needed, but are contradictory. God’s life is not created by law, neither should law come from God’s life. They don’t go together.

Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” What grace? The grace of life—the life of Christ in you! He does not come by law or decree, neither does He make them. He, Himself, supersedes law. He is the way, the truth and the life for you, on the inside.

Finally, I want to caution everyone against badly using scripture to manipulate emotion and behavior. When we resort to using the Bible as a cudgel, a weapon, whether it’s wielded by a liberal-leaning or a conservative-leaning person, we’ll stop letting the verses touch us and reveal life in us—the evidence of God at work. Instead, we’ll begin barricading ourselves behind our positions, using verses as bullets to do harm rather than offerings to assist and make well.

I hope this helps.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Government Nativity and Christian Naïveté: Law and Life in Conflict,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click https://youtu.be/lPlvFM0E9dw, or scroll down this blog page. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spbpda/. Title added.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Government Nativity and Christian Naïveté: Law and Life in Conflict

For anybody who has felt the burning heat of debate concerning what we should do about the real cares of this world (from hunger to violence to global warming to refugees), I’ve prepared this message with you in mind. 



Tuesday, December 01, 2015

That's Really Good

The good people at Surrendered Image have just published my short article/video, "That's Really Good." Do you wonder how you're doing? Where you're looking reveals how you're doing, and that's vitally important to your life.

Click the link:  http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/thats-really-good-35688

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In Defense of Black Friday People

I know lots of good, caring and thoughtful people who enjoy shopping on Black Friday.  Can you believe it?  All of them think, plan, budget and maneuver in ways that are wonderfully strategic and beneficial to themselves and to others.  I’m glad.

There are a microscopically minute few people who make a mess of that day, bashing and yelling and pushing their way to the item of their desire, and I want to chew them out and give them a vigorous slapping as a reward.  Because the media searches for eye-catching, sensational moments like that, my local slap-fest would make the news world-over. 

“American Black Friday Shopper Assaults Fellow Shoppers”

There would be eye-rolling, self-righteous laughter, and mocking Facebook posts from all corners of the globe. “Just look at those covetous, violent and stupid Americans!  They’re probably all packing guns, too!”

Give it a rest.  Because you cannot spoon-feed your ridicule to those few deserving of it, consider loving and caring for the overwhelming majority.  We’re the ones who see and hear your message, and we’re just fine—although we could use some encouragement.  You’ll look better and be better for it, too.  Besides, ridicule does not become you.  And this is not an epidemic.  This is not how we are.  It’s not in our Constitution.  Really, we’re good.

Black Friday is an ever-changing, difficult and demanding day that many people navigate, some by choice and some not.  Ridicule won’t strengthen or recover them.  Yes, shame on those who make a mess of the day, but unless you can personally serve your cup of hot, steaming ridicule to a guilty hooligan, consider keeping it bottled.  Maybe let it age in your cellar for a long, long time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Love Is Second

The #1 thing I want is to walk in the Spirit.  That’s where security is, that’s where love is, and that’s where I am most truly myself—with Him, in Him.  I love that.  The #1 thing is not to walk in love, but the Spirit, because the Spirit produces love—pure, genuine and perfect.  I want Him more than anything, and in that wanting I’ll have everything else.  Otherwise, to walk “lovingly” becomes a self-defined action and look that cannot be maintained.  Have you noticed?

We, ourselves, are not the source of love – Jesus is.  God is love, but love is not God.  That distinction is important.  In the same way that water is wet, but not everything that is wet is water (Consider that poison is wet), so it is that not everything that’s described as love or loving is God.  No doubt you’ve made that distinction by now.  In the same way that what goes on around you is described as your life—“How’s your life going?”—you know that when Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full,” He meant on your inside, where He would come to live as the way, the truth, and the life.  Right?

We make that distinction.  So it is with love.  It’s Him.

You and I are invited to know and to drink deeply from the source of love, because love comes from God, as 1 John 4 tells us.  We know that drink will powerfully affect us and those around us.  It’s supposed to—that’s the design.  The affect might be God-produced humility and gentleness, qualities most everyone wants to be around.  Consider what Jesus said we would find if we took His yoke upon us; that HE is gentle and humble in heart, and we’ll find rest.  That’s beautiful.  That’s Him.

Or the affect of drinking from the source of love, God, might be a God-produced, firm rebuke that you give to someone, which might make us nervous.  “Could that happen to me?”  Well, maybe.  But consider how Jesus loved the momentarily deceived apostle Peter.  Remember what He said to Peter?  “Get thee behind me. . .Satan.”  Woo!  That’s strong!  Was it love?  Here’s a better question:  Was it God?  Yes.  It was.  That’s the qualifier.  That’s beautiful because that’s Him.

Look, I want to walk in love – duh.  Don’t you?  But I know that love disconnected from the source all too easily becomes an act in order to secure a desired outcome in a relationship, whether with a relative, a friend, a co-worker, or a refugee.  We might say that, “Walking in love is the key.”  But I think that walking in the Spirit is the key that opens the door in me and in you for love—God’s love—pure, genuine and perfect, for you and for those around you.  That’s the deal.  It’s God Himself.

So drink deeply from Him and enjoy His affect.  Whatever that is, it will be love.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Love Is #2,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this blog page, or click https://youtu.be/rTXr-qgdYAk.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Love Is #2

Got 5 minutes?  There’s a whole lot of talk going on about love, and why shouldn’t there be?   But is it true that “Walking in love is the key”?  Is love first or second?



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Be Careful

Some people take the words of Jesus, Paul, James and Peter, et al, and use them as bricks and whips to bruise, cut and prosecute, while others make them into pillowy platitudes and positive pleasantries, stripped of meaning, power and effect. Their words (and ours) are not letter only, which profits little, but Spirit, which brings life. With that in mind, use them carefully.

2 Corinthians 3:6 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Where Am I Looking?

When I begin to experience the frustration of presumed failure, I may be induced to see myself as a “failure” and outside of Christ.  A different identity is pressed at me and upon me.  If I accept it and do not abide in Christ (which is where I am), the deeds of the flesh will result.  Revival and restoration will not come by conquering failure but by looking again at Jesus, who is my life and who produces true life.

Monday, November 16, 2015

He Keeps Me

I rest in Him and in His ability.  I am convinced, and oh, does that affect me!  Hooray!


Friday, November 13, 2015

A Conversational Christmas With Starbucks

While I am poking fun at the current brew-haha over the once-sacred Starbucks Christmas cup, we live in a difficult tension between the celebrated magnificence of God born among us, and the “merchandization” of the same. This ain’t easy, folks. Maybe it’s not supposed to be.

I like dressing up the outside and inside of my house with lights and ornaments, because it’s not only fun, it makes it easier to talk about what we’re celebrating. Christmas decorations have given me lots of opportunities to talk with people about God’s joy in blessing us with unfathomable favor. If you’ve ever walked into someone’s home and verbally marveled over a standout piece of art, furniture or finery you’d never seen before – “Wow! That’s cool!” – then you know what I mean. It begs conversation, and I like that. I have great and happy news to share. “God is with us! God is not finding fault with us! God is here to love us to life!” Yeah, the heralding angels and me. Same story.

So when my wife and I, hunting for our annual Christmas tree ornament, walked into Macy’s last December and found it void of typical decoration, we were bewildered. “What’s happened?” I asked an employee. “Well, corporate decided to be more inclusive this year, and remove anything Christmas related. We’re not too happy about it,” she said. “What are we going to talk about then?” I asked. “One of the big reasons I get to have happy conversations with people about Jesus this time of year is gone,” I said. “Yeah,” she replied. “I’m going to miss that, too.”

Maybe you’re saying that my conversational entry points have been decorated and made possible by the evils of materialism and covetousness that have actually covered over the profound message of Christmas. Okay. You’ve got me there. But I still miss these easy conversations, and see them increasingly disappearing. Am I supposed to be okay with that? I’m not. Will they vanish altogether? I hope not.

“Happy Thanksgiving.” “Merry Christmas.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I Declare: A Father's Manifesto

Because there is such a lack of Parenting material—“How to”—in the New Testament, I have decided to do what many others have done.  I shall minimize the New Testament’s overwhelming emphasis about the gift of Jesus living in me for every situation I encounter and how to discover Him here, inside, perfect for my days, and I shall publish my own thoughts and declarations about how to be a good dad, a good parent. 

I’ve gotten help from the foundational passages of Romans 7:4-6, and Galatians 5:1-6.

Romans 7:4-6 4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 5:1-6 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You may be asking, “What do these verses have to do with being a parent?”  That they have not been important reveals our terrible trouble in every relationship, let alone for moms and dads. These verses are vital for you. 

I am positive that the following declarations will be of no direct help for you.  Really.  They are satirical.  But they might be illuminating and the beginning of something reviving for you.  That’s my hope.  That's my goal.

Here we go.

• I declare that, although I am dead to the Law through Christ, I shall come up with my own laws and standards by which to restrain myself, grade myself and be a good dad.

• I declare that, while laws and standards always lead inescapably to the inner production of “sinful PASSIONS,” my laws and standards shall minimize them into merely sinful ponderings and sinful contemplations. I declare that there shall be no passionate outbreaks of sinful stuff because of my laws and standards.

• I declare that, while the combination of laws, standards and sinful passions ALWAYS “bear fruit for death,” according to the apostle Paul, I shall work them so well that God will accept my work as His own work and His own fruit, negating that whole “always bear fruit for death” thingy.

• I declare that, in this new and, heretofore, futile way of attempting to be justified by law and rule keeping, rather than by grace and the gift of Christ, I shall get it right and succeed. I declare that there is, after all, a first time for everything.

• With lots of books, seminars and sermons available about how to be a good dad for me to depend upon, I declare that they shall become the leading of the Holy Spirit for me, and not at all the dressed-up way of the written code.

• I declare that, while the apostle Paul would surely call this the same old Galatian yoke of slavery updated for the 21st century, I shall prove him wrong and call it “educated,” “responsible,” and “freedom.”

• I declare that, while the noun, “Parent,” is a title and position in which God intends to work and to happily and powerfully reveal Himself in us, His vessels, I shall accept the recently invented new version as a verb, “Parenting.” By this I declare that I and everyone else who becomes a Parent shall become both independent performer and judge of the men and women brought into the same position. I, therefore, declare that “Parenting” shall become a whole new arena for human judgment and human condemnation, disconnected from God Himself.

• I declare that, in my righteous and zealous Parenting efforts, I shall escape the guaranteed frustration, exhaustion and powerlessness of being disconnected and alienated from Christ.

• I declare that, while the apostle Paul declared that all who attempt life in this manner shall have fallen away from the grace of God, my declaration shall cancel his declaration. After all, everybody knows that grace is hard work.

• I declare that, with voluminous volumes of non-biblical parenting material and standards in mind, I shall make myself and my family in my own image—I and they shall become the clay of my effectiveness. I declare that, while I shall be fearful of the results, I shall create my own legacy and be judged by others thereby.

• I declare that, while the pressure and exhaustion of Parenting shall keep me from actually knowing Jesus and of being impressed and satisfied by the Gift, Christ in me for my kids, God shall honor the nobility of my weary, sacrificial efforts, and I will settle for that as my good-enough goal.

• I declare that, although love—deep and true and godly—shall have fairly vanished from my family, rendering our relationships shallow and worldly, I shall accept a lesser valuation of love created by the hidden Satanic goal of fleshly produced, self-righteousness, instead of the Holy Spirit’s spectacular gift and production of love, grace and righteousness in me.

• I declare that, while there is no Biblical precedent, I shall be glad when my children move out and away from me BECAUSE I can then get back to life as it should be, free from the non-Biblical burden of Parenting.

• Finally, I declare that, although this worldly style of being a dad tortures me and my family because it fails to recognize us as the loved and holy new creation, God-indwelt, Spirit led, sons and daughters of God, I shall pass it on to others because I don’t know anything else—and I’m not looking.

I declare that it shall be so.  Amen.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “I Declare:  A Father’s Manifesto,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this blog page, or click https://youtu.be/rnW6xYyVrcg.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Declare: A Father's Manifesto

If you’ve noticed that “Christian Parenting” has not been part of the burden-lifted life Jesus came to give us, and that few people, parents and children alike, are actually enjoying it, then take 10 minutes for this satirical look at how mom and dad have been deceived into a role that isn’t Christian.



Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Puzzle Master

It is very easy to turn to and get fouled up by self-scrutiny in our approach to God. “Is my motive pure? Am I seeking Him for what He does or for who He is? Why am I reading my Bible or praying? Am I trying to get favor with God? Am I doing it right? Oh, I’m such a puzzle!” Frankly, these kinds of questions often tangle me up in the sometimes hidden pursuit of self-righteousness with God. That never goes well—my history shows it. Maybe yours does too.

Here’s the thing: I am often a mess when beginning to talk with God or to read the Bible, and one of my greatest delights is how He restores me to my right mind and brings forth the new creation Ralph. Oh, how I like that Ralph! Fear is gone. Rest is restored. And love, God’s love, fills and moves me again. I think that's a pleasure for Him, too. “Ralph! Look what I’ve found—it’s you!” I have found Him to be perfect with me, so I now care less about why I’m approaching Him and what my motive might be in the deep and dark recesses of my mind than I once did. I care far more about knowing and enjoying Him in any condition I might encounter.

While I sometimes discover that rickety Ralph has been tripped up by fleshly demands that God be more obvious, more helpful, more useful, or more like Santa Claus than He evidently is to me, He fixes all of that craziness in me. He’s cleans up the mess! He is good with me (and with you), and I find all over again that He is the solution—The Solver—of all that confuses and harasses me, Mr. Puzzle, pure motives or bad, honorable intentions or not, doing it right or doing it wrong.

While it is a powerful temptation, the flesh that plagues me cannot be solved by me. That fact makes room for my sometimes reckless and rickety approaches to God, who then emerges in me as The Righteous One, The Rescuer, The Victor and The Solver of the lifelong puzzle that is Ralph Harris. Maybe you’re that puzzle for God to solve, too. He doesn’t mind. He’s The Puzzle Master, and He’s good with bringing you together—especially when you know you cannot. Right then.

During those times when your puzzle pieces are scattered all over the place and the picture, the puzzle box top of how you should look and how you should be is condemning and eluding you, those times actually keep you to the free and fabulous effort of God in you—the Spirit of grace. Those crazy times keep you from believing the lie that you’re supposed to have this all figured out: “Move your own pieces into place, for God’s sake!”

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians about the danger of trying to do everything right and of not needing Jesus:

Galatians 5:4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.

I know that I eagerly wait sometimes, don’t you? Well, that’s a good thing!

If just now you’re a puzzle box of craziness, don’t worry about how to do anything properly with God. Simply tell Him what you’re thinking and feeling, however reckless, rickety and ugly it might sound. He’ll put you together because He knows the fit. He’s great at it because He’s your Puzzle Master.

(This is a transcript of yesterday's video, "The Puzzle Master," and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, scroll down this blog page, or click https://youtu.be/9-2l32OrSoE.)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Puzzle Master


Got 6 minutes?  If you’ve ever felt like a crazy box of puzzle pieces, here’s a helpful look at how God sees you and how you might more easily let Him put you together. 


Monday, November 02, 2015

The Gospel Works

Just as breathing, drinking, opening the eyes, movement and learning to speak is normal for a child and not work, so it is for the Christian. Hearing and reading the magnificent gospel encourages and stimulates us to listen and read all the more, and to pray and share what we find. These are not works, but fruit of the Spirit's work in us. When we seem to be without works, our first response is not to works, but to get some gospel—the good stuff. God knows how the gospel nourishes and works for us, and, like babes, we're growing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Christian Marriage, Part 3

Finally! I’ve completed part 3 of a video series about Christian Marriage, and uploaded it so the good people of Barbados Grace Fellowship can get it for their church services.

In case you’ve wondered, this is the kind of thing I do (topical video messages for groups and churches), along with free videos at my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU0vzTvP_wD3Q59QDl9hx7w), live video meetings via Skype and FaceTime (http://lifecourse.org/Face_To_Face.html), written posts here and at my blog (http://lifecourseministries.blogspot.com), and traveling and speaking at churches and with groups all over the globe (http://lifecourse.org).

I will be in Charlotte, North Carolina, most of this week, speaking with the staff, members and students of Grace Ministries International. How cool is that?

Flawless

This was my sunrise this morning. While each dawn is different to me, my Shepherd carries on the same, perfectly.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Turning Zombie

“For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’” (Romans 1:19)

Well, now that we’ve made it past the end of the world—pat yourself on the back—an even more confusing season of lunacy draws near.  The passion of apocalyptic sign reading that afflicts and affects us Christians about every ten or fifteen years or so, is today fading away in favor of another mind-numbing, life-draining effort:  our search for the best sounding just-right political candidate.  It’s going to get ugly.

You can see what’s happening:  we’re turning from real life and true love found with Jesus and the gospel, which results in beautiful evidence and offerings to others of the same thing—life and love—because we’re drawn away by the entrancing scent of the rotten meat of politics.  And we’re turning zombie. 

For those who don’t know what zombies are, they are fictitious, lifeless and loveless, used-to-be-humans, who often gang-up together to overwhelm, feast upon and make converts of those who were before alive.  In the movies featuring zombies, entire communities are converted; life and love vanish, except in those who are prepared.  The survivors insist upon life—they fight for it—and they fight for each other.  They cling to a new kind of family and wisdom, because know what life is and what it is not.

It matters how our government works and how it doesn’t.  It’s important to know who people are that want to direct the affairs of our communities and nation and how they’re going to do it.  I know.  Really.  But the smell of this world’s wisdom—here’s how to make things work—is not as enticing to me as it once was.  Look, I’ve turned zombie in the past.  I’ve gotten ugly.  I’ve felt and behaved like the lifeless and loveless, walking dead, trying to convert anyone I could find with the wisdom of my argument.  I also found the company of other zombies to do it with me.  You know, Republican zombies trying to make converts, while Democrat zombies try to make converts.  (Think of the political parties in your part of the world.  Same thing, right?)  It’s quite an ugly competition.

I can still get that beckoning whiff of political meat and become nearly convinced that it’s perfectly seasoned, filet mignon, with just a little pink in the middle.  And I start to turn.  “Come and get it, zombie breath!” 

But I am not a zombie, and if you’re still reading this, you aren’t either.  Life Himself has come to you, and He has made you like Himself—loving

Since you and I are alive and not zombie, let’s watch over each other with the wisdom that comes from God, which has everything to do with His power and life for us:  the gospel, the good news about Jesus for us.  And, unlike in the movies, the gospel is the wisdom and power of God to convert zombies into fully alive, Spirit-born humans.

Listen to what Paul wrote to the zombie-wisdom threatened Corinthians: 

1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

So if you’re looking for real wisdom and power, and if you’re looking to help others with real wisdom and power that brings and keeps bringing life and love, then speak Christ, write Christ, offer Christ, share Christ and news about Him, even in the midst of zombies.  After all, the gospel is the power—the antidote—for them, too.  And you will help keep us who are beleaguered by the wisdom of this world from turning zombie.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Romans 1:18

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Turning Zombie,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/m1ctlhaXpJg, or just scroll down this blog.  Photo is from https://www.flickr.com/photos/looking4poetry/, with text added.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Turning Zombie

Got 5 minutes?  There’s a growing threat coming at you, one that will harm and hinder you, robbing you of life and love. While it comes in the form of wisdom, it leaves you amongst the educated dead.  Your relationships will suffer.  Here’s how to see it and prepare yourself.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Inside Struggle

Today I am identifying where the inside struggle comes from, just as the apostle Paul did. Without Paul’s perspective that commandments empower sin (Romans 7:7-13; 1 Corinthians 15:56 “. . . the power of sin is the law.”), and that it is no longer he, himself, that is the sinner (Romans 7:17-18) because he is a new creation (“the old HAS gone, the new HAS come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17), we will lead terribly confused and powerless lives and, thinking we are still evil and unchanged, attempt life by commandments — the very thing finished by Christ.

Life for new creation sons, who still know the struggle of the flesh, is by grace and the Spirit because we are now spirit—in union with God—and not flesh. The good news is that good, and it’s vital we have it.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Guns and Weapons, Life and Death

I was especially saddened by the recent mass murders at the college in Roseburg, Oregon.  The terrible event has renewed the debate about gun control, as you might expect.  People are being shot, so we’ve got to do something, don’t we?  What’s your opinion?  What’s your take?  Almost immediately after the shootings, great and loud voices were heard seeking to manipulate public opinion.

As I view it, history reveals great swings for civilian life in communities and countries where weapon ownership is allowed for everyone, compared for when it is allowed only for the ruling government.  Most every continent has this swing on display in its history.  If stopping weapon violence and mass killings from weapons is the goal, what does history show is the better position?  Simply put, neither one.  When everyone has a weapon, people die; sometimes lots of people if groups form and fight against each other.  On the other hand, when only the ruling authority has weapons, just as many if not more people die.  That’s history, and this is the tension that we are living in today.  Many of us will at least come close to choosing a position and a side:  weapons for all, weapons for only a few.  It’s the choice of history.

Which side did Jesus support?  Maybe you know the answer:  neither one.

Jesus did not see government, a ruling authority, as the solution to anything, neither did he support the absolute rule of the individual.  Jesus did not come to give us a way to get along with each other, weapons or not.  His purpose was to move us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light by giving us life — His life.  Not only at the cross, but also in you.  When once you have received that life, your identity and perspective have been radically changed, even if you don’t know it.  To become embroiled in the issues of this world as though there had been no change to you threatens to ensnare you in a way that twists you—even if you don’t know it.  You’re manipulated.  The debatable causes of this world are not entirely unimportant, but in those causes there is no solution, there is no healing humanity’s wound of lifelessness. 

If you have received the life of Christ, then the life of Christ is your cause.  You see “life” as the solution, and you point people to life in Christ.  Where and when people go crazy and do crazy things, you know that they either have no life or they have been manipulated by and into the causes of this world.  They’re confused about life.  They’re twisted, and they act like it. History shows that’s what happens.

The book of Ezekiel, chapter 37, tells of how God led Ezekiel in the Spirit to a valley of dry and lifeless bones, and I can only imagine what Ezekiel might have thought:  “This is not the kind of Spirit-filled day I was hoping to have.  I mean, what am I supposed to do with this?  Shall I stack up the bones and make a monument?  Shall I dress them up, arrange them, and make them look good?  Will that please you, Father?”  Perhaps you know what God had in mind for the dry bones:  life.  His life.  God led Ezekiel to speak to the helpless bones about God’s life because it was the solution.   It was the only thing that would work. 

I’m saying that that is our approach today.  Life.  It’s where our hope is.  It’s what we speak about.  It’s what we write about.  Life—God’s life—is the solution.  Knowing about God’s life.  Growing in God’s life.  Sharing God’s life.  We help people who are ensnared and twisted by the false hopes, lesser causes and solutions of this world, not by choosing a side and joining them, but by recognizing that what we all need is God’s life.  Jesus.  He is the way, He is the truth, and He is the life.  That’s why life showed up 2000 years ago to the troubled people of this world and refused to be dragged into their causes, however good they seemed.  He didn’t join us to choose a worldly side and beckon us to follow Him. 

Jesus said of His cause, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

In my experience, the thief, Satan, the biggest mass murder in history, steals life not all and at once, but incrementally—a little here, a little there—and leaves in the void a substitute, a pretend and false life that is not life and is no cause.  All too often, the absence of life becomes a wound we accept and put up with.  But if we will see the limp and feel the wound, the substitute is exposed and life, God’s life, becomes for us the cure that it is.  After that the substitute is seen for what it is:  this world’s attempt at life that leaves us wounded.  Having found life and healing, we become far less likely to accept the perverted substitute of the thief.  Instead, we find our calling:  to life!  And to the One who gives it.

That’s our cause:  to help each other to God’s life, and to help each other enjoy it to the full, especially wherever we’re limping still.If you want, choose an opinion about guns and weapons.  If you want, choose a political candidate.  If you want, choose a position about abortion, gay marriage, marijuana, taxes, GMO’s, the Middle East, global warming and what team is going to win the World Series.   But beware of arranging dry bones when life, God’s life, to begin with and to be continued in, is the only actual life.

(This is a transcript of the video, "Guns and Weapons, Life and Death," and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this blog page, or click:  https://youtu.be/GRNwJaZjzvM.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guns and Weapons, Life and Death

It’s a hot debate:  What do we do about guns?  How can we keep people from killing each other?  Take a few minutes with this video and see if there isn’t another side, a different issue you haven’t considered.  It’s life changing.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

The End?

In preparation for the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it tonight, I’m going to watch three episodes of the television show, “Fear The Walking Dead.”  If this is the end, then what better way to prepare by watching a documentary that’s all about it?

Pardon my sarcasm. 

While I am not as educated about "end times prophecy" as some people are, my understanding of scripture, my now lengthy life experiences, and knowing Jesus and life by the Spirit tells me that this "September Doom" message—perhaps you’ve heard it—is yet another harbinger of what life is like without knowing that the New Covenant in Christ’s death (with far better promises for Jew and Gentile alike) ended the former covenant, ended what life was like without knowing Jesus Himself, and ended what life was like without being led by the Spirit, who gives us trust and rest and a future. 

Maybe this angers you, and I’d understand if it did.  I’m not saying that people who are caught up in the “September Doom” message are not Christians.  I am saying,however, that they are likely dazzled and entranced by information bombardment that has led them to make certain signs-of-the-times conclusions that have many people running for cover. 

You probably know what information bombardment can do to us, inducing us to near panic buying of dried foods, batteries and lanterns, guns and toilet paper, water and propane.  Does anybody remember the book, “88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988”?  Or how about the follow up book, “89 Reasons”?  Or how about Y2K, the turning of the calendar from 1999 to 2000, when all of the computers would supposedly malfunction and shut off electricity the world over?  Many of us in the church were fixated upon these and other dire predictions over decades past of impending doom, because information flooded the bride of Christ.  We were attracted to the flood itself, which swamped one of our most prized possessions:  intimate communication with God Himself.

Info bombardment makes us crazy, mostly because we become more attracted to it than to what the Spirit Himself is doing with us and telling us.  I submit that that’s what’s happening now.  It has happened in the past, and it will happen in the future.  I might even be able to cause some of it.  Have I told you that I’m writing a hot new book called, “Why the Donald is God’s Anti-Christ Trump Card In 2016”?  I mean, the book I was going to write, “Why Obama Is The Anti-Christ” is so yesterday.  See what I mean?  How many of us get flooded-out by this kind of stuff?

It’s not at all because we’re stupid.  I think it’s because we were made with passions coming from beliefs that lead us to causes.  That’s not a bad thing, but it can become one.  I totally want Jesus to return because that’s going to be the best thing, but I’m not looking at the heavens to try to figure out the exact date.  He lives in me, and I know Him because He and I talk together.  We have a relationship, and His calendar is busy already through the end of the month.  At least.

(Please, I do not mean to be critical of those who are harried and worried about this end-times stuff. I have my own memories of similar concerns years ago that influence me now. I wonder, however, what will become of those disillusioned by the “wise” teachers and speakers they’ve been following? How will they recover by and to the truth? Will their despair lead them to doubt Jesus and the Bible? How hurt will they be? Or will there be people who will gently and calmly tell them that error is sadly normal, and that they will recover? That would be good. That would be God.

Additionally, what will we do with the teachers who have been at the forefront of this “September doom”? Do we give them a pass? Do we accept some kind of “Well, because we prayed enough, God decided to forestall the day?” I hope not. Frankly, I hope we mark them as in error and as teaching error, and then kindly assist toward repentance and silence. Maybe they will come to their senses. Perhaps they will accept their own fallibility and become well acquainted with it—even laugh at their weakness and become better at being with people in authenticity and love. That would be good. That would be God.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

New Living

If you’re trying to stop sin, you’re presenting yourself to it. You’ve got it backwards and it won’t work. You’ll inflame the power that is sin by paying attention to it. Sin will not master us because we conquer it, but because Christ conquered it, and He is in us. The new way of living is to offer ourselves to Christ in us—to Him—and He produces righteousness and life. That’s the wonder of Christianity and life by grace: Christ in us. You’re going to like Him in you.

(For more about this, read Romans 6, and see my book: http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sin & Life

As long as we think of sin as the breaking of a moral standard, a law or a commandment, instead of an inner power which induces us to attempt life apart from God and His grace, disconnected, we will exalt moral compliance as the goal of life, guaranteeing our frustration, and miss the One who is Life, and who happily takes up residence within us.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

None

“What is ‘None?’” – During a heavenly-oriented Jeopardy game, this is the correct question to the answer, “How many sins you would visit if your Savior were to take you on a tour of them.”

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

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?  The good people at Surrendered Image have published my article, so click below to read more.

http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/if-i-could-only-change-35337

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Your New Track Record

The good news is that God remembers my track record no more.  (And likely not yours either.)  While the world obsesses upon how I’m doing and how I’ve done, He doesn't ever point to it and say, "See?  This is why you're such a success.  Pat yourself on the back!” or “This is why you’re such a loser.  Pull it together, man!"  Instead, God points to Jesus and says to me, "I have given you His record as your own, and it is flawless.  It is perfect.  His success is yours; it belongs to you now.  Get used to that—I’m going to be telling you all about it all the time.  It will change your life."

Speaking of the religious busy-bodies and track-record accountants of his day, the apostle Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 3:

7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

So, look behind and you’ll see that you’ve got a new track record—perfect.  Look ahead, and the race, the effort is to know Jesus, who has everything for you already, even before you’ve taken a step.  You win.  That is your new track record.

(See Philippians 3:1-14; Colossians 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:1-10; Romans 4:23-5:2.)

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your New Track Record,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/Sz4xtwPcLuk, or scroll down this page.) 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Your New Track Record

Got 3 minutes?  When God examines how you’ve done and when He thinks about how you’ll do, what forms His opinion?  If God knows the ultimate reality, how does yours look? 

Christianity

Christianity is not just about Jesus; Christianity is Jesus. Christians do not believe in a set of spiritual principles or rules by which to live, making it a faith similar to other faiths. Christians believe in and know Jesus Himself. When you encounter Him, everything changes because everything changes in you—without trying to make change happen. He does it for you. That’s Christianity—Jesus for you. And love, true and wild and reliable, happens, again and again and forever.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

He's In Me

All of the fruit or production of the Spirit is as much the working and evidence of God in a believer as is hearing his voice. Have you thought of that? If you’re feeling joy or peace, if you’re knowing love or patience toward someone, if you’re enjoying gentleness or self-control, or any of the other graces of God, that’s God in you. Him!  That’s pretty fantastic. You’re knowing and feeling God in you. Give Him your attention, and enjoy!  What an idea—Christ in you. “How amazing, Father! You’re in me and I’m in you.” (Matthew 1:23; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 1:27)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Antidote for Weakness

Think of the weaknesses that you have:  the flaws, the failures—especially the ongoing ones—and the ugly things done to you that have caused you to attempt a projected strength, making you hide on the inside untouched in weakness. 

Jesus is the antidote for weakness because He takes the hate out of it; He takes the poison and uselessness out of it because He shows up in it.  If we’ll turn to Him on the inside and listen, even just a little bit, then we will notice that He jumps on the stage inside of us and says, “Here I am!  I am the one for this, and I am with you.  I find no fault with you!  Have you forgotten that I am easy to be with and gentle with you? I’m not ever here to put burdens upon you; I’m here to remove them!  Always.  I am and will always be all about security and rest with you.  You can count on it.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That’s how it is with Jesus on the inside.  We’re not empty.  We’re not helpless.  We have Him, and He is the antidote for weakness.

(For much more about the “benefits” found through weakness, see Chapter 13 in my book (God’s Astounding Opinion of You), “The End of Pretending” – Receiving Frustration’s Gift to You.)

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The Antidote for Weakness,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this page, or click http://youtu.be/x4kIgaXWq8Q.)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Antidote for Weakness

Got 2 minutes?  If you don’t like and resist weaknesses but suffer from them nevertheless, you’re set up for something terrific.  This is for the weakness sufferers—you and someone you know. 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ushers In The Pain

With this world’s financial markets faltering again, and with some people in religious circles proclaiming doom in the month of September, I am reminded that we are not here to avoid the pain of this world, try as we might.  We are here to walk with people, to care for them, to tell them the truth about Jesus, and to usher them through their days and onward.  We are The Ushers of this world, and we’re going to be needed.  I don’t mean the ushers that greet you at the door with a big smile and who help you find a seat and a classroom for your kid.  Not those.

The loudest voices of this world right now will shout about what we should have done to avoid this pain—what you should have done to avoid this pain—and how you can avoid it in the future.  If you listen long and believe it much, you will sink into a snare of despair that will falsely identify you as being of this world, and your only hope will be like theirs:  claw your way out of this pain.  Do whatever it takes.

But you are not of this world; neither is your hope, neither is your mission.

My finances are hurt today.  Yours might be, too.  The money we thought we had, we don’t.  We share that pain.  But let’s usher each other through the pain to the identity and security that’s never threatened and from which we get everything:  sons of God and life in Christ.  That’s who we are.  That’s where we are.  That’s what we have.  And that’s what works for us.

So do what you must with the stuff of this world; that’s important.  But you and I cannot get life, we cannot get power, we cannot get grace on the inside from the outside—by managing the outside.  It won’t work.  It’s a deception, and nobody lives well in deception. True satisfaction and effectiveness for you and for me is with Jesus on the inside.

Jesus feels our pain today.  Jesus hears the voices that shame us and falsely identify us, and falsely identify our security and our way to it.  And Jesus ushers us through it, empowering us, gracing us to usher others too. 

Here’s a big chunk of scripture that has influenced and affected me many times:

2 Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

So on you go, ushers in this world, ushers in the pain.  Usher on, my friends.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Ushers In The Pain,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this page, or click http://youtu.be/qRj8Pcdoegw.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ushers In The Pain

Are you feeling the fear and pain of this world?  Do finances and End Times have you on edge?  Take 5 minutes to clear your head and free your heart from the craziness that has no place with you.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Best

Knowing Jesus is the best adventure and treasure we have. If we would keep the focus and intent of our days right there, we'd engage in far less bickering and worldly angst and enjoy far more love and miraculous grace.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Church

Some of my friends are very angry at the “institutional church,” and not without reason. I’ve felt it, too. But I deeply love the church and many of them regularly collect inside a building. That's not a problem, but sometimes stuff happens to them while there that’s the problem. I say, know who the church is and love wildly. That's going to be wonderful and that's going to hurt. Both. But there’s nothing new about that. So we’ll need regular care from the Holy Spirit, who reveals to us the beauty of people as well as the mud that smears them, concealing them even to themselves. We are His workmanship, even in the institution.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Make The Distinction

If you accuse me, a new creation son of God, of being prideful, deceptive, covetous or arrogant, then I am not who you think I am and you cannot help me. On the other hand, if you accuse me, a new creation son of God, of being struggled with flesh-born pride, deception, covetousness and arrogance, then you've got it right and you can help me. The former misidentifies the source of the problem and only frustrates me, while the latter knows and prefers the new creation me, being fouled up by the flesh, which is not me. Make the distinction and you can help me. . .and a lot of other people, too.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Starting Point

Here’s something to remember: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That’s your starting point today, and really, every moment of every day.  If you’re hearing or feeling anything else, it is not from God because He always begins with what He has done for you.  That’s always His starting point with you every day, throughout the day.  That just might make a difference for you in those days, don’t you think?

But maybe you’re asking, “What about when I fail?  What about when my behavior stinks or my thoughts about myself and about you are terrible and ugly?  What then?  What happens when, after the 438 time that I’ve promised to not do something (or to do something, as the case may be), I blow it again?  What then?  What’s my starting point with God?” 

Same place:  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Same starting point. 

Of the New Covenant letters, 19 begin with essentially the same vital truth that we do well to remember and to emphasize for each other:  “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Everything starts with Him, so it’s wise if you start with Him, too.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Starting Point,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click http://youtu.be/aULNZciNi7U.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Remember Your Eyes

With all of the information and opinion bombarding you every day, here’s a quick refresher that will help bring you back to health and sanity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finding Superman

A friend recently asked if I would explain the ways Christians put themselves under the yoke of the law, please the flesh and fall from grace.  That’s a huge question, one that I’ve written about extensively in my book, “God’s Astounding Opinion of You,” but here’s my short answer.

If a Christian believes that he is the flesh, instead of believing that he has been made a new creation spirit who experiences the flesh, then he will regularly make war upon his presumed self (the flesh) as a means toward spiritual growth—a way to become better.  You might hear this in sayings like, “I’ve got to put myself on the cross,” or “I’ve got to deny myself,” or “I’ve got to surrender.”  These kinds of sayings often indicate that the Christian believes he is still a bad self, and has to do something dramatic to that bad self. . .because Jesus’ giving him a new self was insufficient or ineffective?  So the old self didn’t go, and the new arrive?  Do you see how twisted that thinking is in light of what happened to us in Christ at the cross and through His resurrection?  (See 2 Corinthians 5:17.)  Are we new or not?

When this thinking takes on form and becomes how he navigates his days, he falls from grace.  In that template (war), he will measure himself by fleshly successes and failures, which are the measurements of war and legalism, while his true self, the one created in the likeness of God and which is discovered and matured in knowing and enjoying Jesus (in other words, faith in Christ), that self languishes and is frustrated.

Do not attempt life at the command of the remnant of your former self, the flesh, which always and only corrupts.  Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and put on the new and true self.  Walk in who you are.  Think of Superman, jumping into a private place or a private inner moment, not in order to change but to come forth again—to announce—who he actually is, and you’re heading in the right direction.

Grace is not only a perfect position in which we live, but a perfect power that works in us.  Christians have become obedient from the heart—it already happened—from within, from our true self (see Romans 6:17).  So it’s vital that you know it and take advantage by seeing to your heart.

The real you is not the one you see, nor the one you can command to behave righteously.  The real you is the one you received at new birth, which this world cannot see and cannot touch, but which is empowered by the Holy Spirit in you as you offer yourself to Him, whether by reading or by talking with Him or by singing, anything like that toward Him because you know about Him, and you know where He is and where you are with Him—on the inside, together.  He is there, and so are you.

I hope this helps.  See you later.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Finding Superman,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this page, or click: http://youtu.be/Aroc-hj4DnQ.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Finding Superman

Got 4 minutes?  “If I’m so special to God, then why do I feel like a Super Loser instead of a Super Hero?  What’s making me weak and miserable?”  Have a look at the latest from my video channel.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

The End & The Beginning

I spoke at New Hope Church, Penasquitos, California, last Sunday, and am thankful that they let me speak for over 50 minutes – whoa – on a topic of great importance to me. If you’re looking for a message this weekend, consider this one. You can download it at: http://www.newhopechurch.com/media.php?pageID=41

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Keep Using Your Eyes

Don’t let anyone focus you where God is not focused.  Don’t go into their blindness.  Trying to see life in the way that someone who is focused upon passing away things does will not work for you, since your vantage point is far better and true.  Listen to people, but don’t exchange your vision for theirs.  In other words, keep using your New Creation eyes.  They work.

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Repenting of Ace Ventura

Is there a way to enjoy God and to rest in confidence about Him that you can find in your daily life?  There is, and God is working to help you enjoy freedom from useless labors that hijack you and carry you into fear and anger. Find out what Ace Ventura has to do with it.

http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/repenting-of-ace-ventura-35049

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

God's Plans For You

Wonder why you can’t hear God in prayer?  Stop talking at Him all about your unforgiven sin.  Instead, ask Him how effective his plans were for you:  relocation (you’re in!), redemption (you’re perfected and secure!) and forgiveness (you’re clean!).  And listen up.

Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Nation of Never-Ending Favor

A friend recently told me that her church leaders were saying that America was in danger of losing “God’s hand of protection” because, as a nation, we are not upholding His commands.  Presumably, our government’s position and action on abortion, immigration, gay marriage and the like is in danger of causing our otherwise beneficent and gracious God to throw up His hands and say, “I can’t help you.  In fact, I am against you.”  Whoa.  What trouble that would be.

Frankly, I don’t see God as having a hand of protection that can be moved or removed by a worldly defined, boundary drawn nation of people who earn or lose His favor by the behavior of everyone within it.  That might have been true for the vagabond nation of Israel and the Jewish people during the first covenant, but that covenant was for them alone and it’s over now.   It’s finished.  It’s all done.  Further, those of us who are Gentile (and that likely includes you) were never part of that (See Ephesians 2:11-12).  Now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female—only sons and daughters of God (See Galatians 3:28-29). 

In Christ, we have how many things?  We have all things, every perfect gift and every aspect of His favor.  We have become His heirs (See Ephesians 1:3-13), and that cannot be reversed, making us “un-heirs.”  Our inheritance can never perish (it’s not going away), our inheritance can never spoil (there will never be any rot threatening it), and our inheritance can never fade (it will never lose any of it’s luster), and our inheritance is kept for us—it is preserved and guarded for us by God Himself (See 1 Peter 1:3-5).  Can we lose what we never earned and what is not ours to secure?  Can God’s gift to us in Christ be taken away?  Fortunately and evidently, no.  In every way we are secure because we have been secured by The Security Expert.

Can individuals do foolish things and look lousy while still having all things, every perfect gift and every aspect of His favor?  Yes, they can.  Yes, we do.  Look around you.  Isn’t it true?  God’s favor goes to everyone, especially to those who deserve it least.  Maybe that bothers you, maybe that bothers some church leaders and speakers, or the authors of the books you’re reading, but it’s still true.  Grace, or favor, if you like, is freely and magnificently given in Christ, but that’s such a bother, it’s such a confrontational collision to our better sensibilities.  You know, our “just look at our behavior—you know what we deserve.  God ought to give it to us.”  These “better sensibilities” become easy avenues to target and by which to motivate us—falsely.  Poorly.

Here’s the question:  if lousy-behaving Christians collect themselves together and the misbehaving continues, is there anything they lose?  Well, yes.  They lose the enjoyment of God and of His people. That gets all tangled and fouled up.  You’ve probably noticed that before.  But they do not lose what they have been given in Christ.  The collected Corinthian Christians went temporarily nuts (their behavior reflected it), and Paul wrote a letter to revive them, but not to tell them that they’d lost anything (See 1 Corinthians 1:4-8).

So, believers are secure in Christ, having all things in Him, and are not identified by this world’s lineage or geography but by heavenly.  We’re in Christ, we’re born of Him, we come from His lineage and are His family now, and we’re His holy nation—on purpose, with purpose.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

God sees “a holy nation” not according to worldly boundaries and geography, but heavenly.  All over this world people are going nuts and doing nuts.  You’ve no doubt noticed.  There’s a parade of it on television every night.   And God’s holy nation—likely you and me—is right there with them, no matter the desert, no matter the valley, no matter the plain, no matter the mountain.  We are His nation, His chosen and royal people, never changing, who inhabit ever-changing, worldly boundaries, which do not and cannot identify us.  We will endure what they endure:  nuttiness affects everyone—you and me—and that’s why we’re here.  We are secure; they are not.  Let’s help them to life.  Let’s help them to The Security Expert—to Jesus.  Nuttiness proves the need.

And the next time you hear or read about God’s hand being lifted from our nation (or the nation you’re from), taking His favor and blessing with it, remember your heavenly geography.  Don’t look to the boundaries of this world to find it.  You’re in Him, and you’re good.

(This is a transcript of yesterday's video, "A Nation of Never-Ending Favor," and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, scroll down this page, or click http://youtu.be/Gj5EGNwa8sA.)


Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Nation of Never-Ending Favor

“God is going to remove His hand of favor from this nation!”  Have you heard it?  In 8 minutes you’ll find out why it isn’t true because of what IS true.  It’s good news. 


For my Southern California friends, I will be speaking at New Hope Church of Penasquitos (http://www.newhopechurch.com) on Sunday, August 2, at 10:00am. I love these people and their Pastor, Joe Rhodes, and I hope you can join me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Re. Prayer Request

Sarah has been doing well since her shoulder replacement surgery on Friday. Here at home, she has endured weird feelings, bursts of fever and odd sleep demands, but she has done well. She/we are about to enter a new phase in which the powerful pain blocker administered by pump runs out. The transition from automatic to manual pain management will be awkward. Our journey together goes on. We appreciate you very much. You know?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Prayer Request

Would you pray for my wife, Sarah?  She will be having shoulder replacement surgery tomorrow morning (Friday, July 17) from about 8:30 - 11:30am, Mountain Time. I love my woman, and would deeply appreciate your support.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How To Escape Corruption

When those crazy thoughts and feelings threaten to drag you into something you really don’t want, here’s how to escape the moment by enjoying God with you.

http://surrenderedimage.com/Blog/how-to-escape-corruption-35025

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stand Up, Jesus

One of the biggest problems you’re going to have in listening to sermons—maybe this weekend—is that the speaker does not start from a Christian foundation that will affect you beautifully, as God intended.

Because of the constraints of time or the desire to be immediately effective, the speaker will identify a problem in your life that needs to be fixed, and then give a prescription to overcome it.  It will conclude with a kind of “get to work now,” as you go out the door. “How practical!” you might say.  But you’re in danger if you accept it.  Let me tell you why.

No matter what the preacher says, no matter how well he or she says it, you won’t be able to conquer sensual cravings with sensual abstinence. You won’t be able to overcome sexual immorality with sexual morality.  You won’t be free of anger, jealousy, hatred, envy or impurity by praying hard and by building barricades against them.  None of that is how a Christian lives.  Not really.  All of it will stumble you because all of it is by the flesh and by works, and not by the Spirit and by grace.  It won’t work. 

The everyday foundation upon which you and I rest and from which our messages and sermons must proceed if we’re going to do well, could be summed up this way, from Romans 5:25:  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If we truly start there, we’ve truly started well, and everyone benefits.  Anything else is a bad beginning.

I’ll show you.  Pretend my sermon began with the above verse, and follows below.

According to the verse, all of your sins—every one of them—He forgave and took, as though they were always His.  You cannot have them back because, as far as He is concerned, you didn’t do them.  He became your sin, and there’s nothing you can do about it now.  Besides, they’re gone—no matter what, even if you do more.  His act was both retroactive and future.  You’re never going to sin-up-a-mountain-full and be identified by God on the basis of what you’ve done; He knows you only on the basis of His life and your birth.

Your being “okay” with God is forever secure and out of your reach.  You cannot improve it, you cannot worsen it, you cannot change it—it’s perfect!  100% stellar.  Jesus earned it.  He did pretty well, didn’t He?  And He gave it to you.  Not only has Jesus’ resurrection made you as having never once sinned—you’re a sin virgin—but He has made you as having always done everything perfectly right.  That is your past and that is your future, because of Jesus.  Yeah, you actually are a perfectionist.  You’ve been given a score of 100% on every test, all of the time.  That is justification!

That’s how it is.  The Great Sin Thief has forgiven and taken your sin, you’ve been justified by the Righteous One Himself, you’ve been made at peace with and by God, and you’ve been brought into harmony and compatibility with and by God.  He did it!  It’s over!  You’ve got it.  What did you have to do with it?  Zero.  Zip.  Nada. 

“Amen,” sermon over.  How do you feel right now?  Pretty good?

Pop Quiz:  What are the odds on you running out right now and sinning up a storm?  Poor, right?  Why?  Because you don’t want to!  You have no taste for it, because grace is working right now in you.  In other words, you and I have been looking at and marveling at Jesus and His grace (all that He has done for us) in a single verse, and—Oops!—He is at work in us!  We feel great about it, too.  And it was easy, wasn’t it?  According to Jesus, isn’t it supposed to be?  You know, that whole “my yoke is easy, my burden light” kinda thing.  Right?  All we’ve done here is look at Jesus and what He did for us through the cross and resurrection, and He has done the rest.  He’s done you!  And He has done me.  Aren’t we glad?

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.

But, and it’s a big but(!), if the message you hear—maybe this weekend—doesn’t start from Jesus as your foundation—that He has forgiven and stolen away all of your sin, and that He replaced all that with His life and righteousness—then you won’t be built up in Christ, you won’t be attracted to Him, who is happily inside, and Jesus, Grace Himself, won’t be standing up in you, capable and trustworthy and evident. 

Instead, you’ll have work to do, principles to apply, promises to keep, integrity to worry about, and “Christian responsibilities.”  And that won’t go well.

Here’s our picture of Grace at work in us: 

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation (or “soundness”) to all people. 12 It teaches us (literally, “Grace stands up inside of us”) to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Italics mine.)

That’s you!  And Jesus is inside, the one who stands up when we look at Him, when we marvel at Him.

What you want and what you’re fit for is to wonder at Jesus . . . at what He did, at who He is, at where He is, and how compatible the two of you are right now.  He did all of that!  Take a look, and He will stand up in you and work, just like He always has.  That’s the deal.  It’s pretty good, right?