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

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

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

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.