Saturday, December 31, 2016

Starting Point, 2017

As we turn the page and move into the New Year, I want to remind you of your starting point. If you’re considering a New Year’s resolution, here’s where faith starts and get’s you moving in the right direction. While it’s true of the New Year, it’s also true of every day, even every moment. These are the essentials of being and living new, as you are in Christ.

With Jesus, you don’t start incomplete; you start complete. You don’t start empty; you start full. You don’t start wounded; you start well. You don’t start broken; you start whole. From your new birth in Christ, your mind is catching up to the truth of who you are as a new creation—a perfect son, a perfect daughter of God already. That’s your starting point! If you’ve been thinking or speaking differently, consider the truth, especially when confronted by your feelings. They’re not always your friends—they can lie—and the Holy Spirit with the truth will help you. That’s what He does.

Colossians 2:9-10a “For in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been brought to fullness.”

Fullness.” What’s missing from fullness? That’s not a trick question. Nothing! Not a thing. That happened at the start He made for you. That means you’ve got no room for more because you have everything already. You are starting full-up! He did it. He’s done. And so are you. I know your fleshly mind will tell you otherwise, but that is your starting point.

I want to thank you for your love and care and the many ways you support me and this ministry. Thank you for sharing in the ride that was 2016. Here’s to navigating 2017 together.

Speaking In Kentucky

In two weeks I will be speaking in Hardin, Kentucky, at this fantastic annual retreat. These good people have given me 7 speaking sessions--7!--which is a little like offering to some of you the keys to Disneyland for a weekend. What a thrill ride it will be!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

He Is Always Home

When you receive Jesus, He brings all that He is to you—perfect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—not eventually, not occasionally, not fractionally (“Sorry, Ralph, but I’m holding a little bit of myself back”), but all the way, at all times, at every moment, in every situation. Right now. He is the Treasure you’ve been looking for, He is the Reward for which you long, He is the Performer you’d like to be. And He is in you. Jesus is the Favor you want, the Success you were made for, and the Glory now in you.

If just now you’re suffering or enduring hardship, avoid the temptation to work up more fleshly strength (you’re already exhausted), and beware the thoughts that assign you to the failed scrapheap of humanity. That’s a lie. You were made exactly for Jesus, and for Him with you—exactly. His glory, the incredible evidence that He lives within you, is best seen through suffering, most obvious in calamity, and most triumphant in hardship. I know.

So I talk with Him—sometimes I talk at Him more than I talk with Him—and He doesn’t mind! He knows that He’s my best friend, and He’s not threatened by my struggles. Right? I tell Him all of my troubles, I talk with Him about my longings—even the fleshly, ugly ones—and the crazy things that go on in me, including the struggle I feel between the Spirit and flesh that confuses me as to what to do.

And because I’m chatting at Him, whether silently or audibly, it equals what the Bible calls “offering myself to God.” The offering to God is not to “God out there,” or to “God, who will meet me over there,” when I finally make it or when I finally arrive. No. My offering is to “God in here” now, to God who has arrived in me.

The old way of offering our self to God, the Former Covenant way, was to think of yourself as separate from God, who would lead you because He was ahead of you or “over there.” He had to induce you to come after Him. The pressure was on you to follow, and to keep offering to follow. The New Covenant way of offering our self to God is to believe what God knows is true: “Jesus, you and I are together now; you’re in me. I don’t have to look for you over there or just up ahead, because now you’re in here all of the time. You don’t take vacations, you don’t run off or find a better place to live. You’re being yourself with me in here all of the time. You and I are at home together.”

How good is that?

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Those desires are not like you. They’re not your desires.) 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Italics mine.)

And where is that grace centered? Where is that at home? In you and in me.

So offer yourself to Jesus. And where is He? That’s where you make the offering—to the inside, to Jesus who has made you His home. Listen for Him and look for Him there.  He’s great company, and no matter what, He’s always home.

(This is a transcript of the video, “He’s Always Home,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click, or scroll down this blog page. You may also subscribe to these regular videos at that link.)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Life With Us!

Jesus is the best treasure we have, and treasuring Him gives the best benefit and adventure we will ever know. If we will help each other keep the focus and intent of our days right there, we will endure far less bickering and worldly angst and enjoy far more love and miraculous grace. That’s the lasting intent of Christmas—Christ with us. Life with us.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

New Life & The Messiah

When I was newly a Christian, there were fascinating and surprising ways by which the Spirit made Himself obvious to me, and how united we were in this new life. 

Growing up, I heard Handel’s Messiah blasting from my family’s living room stereo many times.  (My father thought that anything worth listening to was worth playing loudly and on a good system.  I agree.)  My opinion of Handel’s work then was that it was old, but probably talented and fairly timeless if you liked that kind of thing. 

Some six months after being born again many years later, I decided to do an adult thing and take a date to the Pasadena Playhouse production of—you guessed it—Handel’s Messiah.  I bought tickets and wore a tie.  Anyway, without anybody telling me what it was all about, I was drawn by the lyrics from the get go.  And then this thing happened, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  The thousands of people in the auditorium utterly disappeared to me, and I jumped to my feet, thrusting my hands skyward…or heavenward, if you like.  I was gone…in another place…in another land…and I was alive in a way I had never known.  Tears poured, and I erupted into a personal chorus, a shouted declaration of “Hallelujah!” over and over again.  I was undone, lost to those around me, and didn’t care.  Actually, and looking back, I was not lost but found amongst the heavenly choir, of whom I am now part, having been moved into heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6).  That was one of the first times I knew that heaven had already become my home.  I fit!  And I knew it.

From that evening to this morning when I played this video, I am profoundly moved in my thinking by Handel’s Messiah from this passing away world where I am a stranger, to the world where I was welcomed and now belong as a son of God—a member of the choir.  “Praise God!”  Or, in this Hebrew rendition, “Hallelujah!”

Revelation 19:5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”


The Day of Maturity

When the delight and effect of God’s love for you becomes a distant enough memory that all you’ve got left is the staged look of it upon your face—and you realize and dislike it—that is the day of hope, that is the day of maturity.  Knowing for real that you cannot do anything apart from Him—and that you don’t want to—is a very great relief, because you’ve been proven and revealed as an authentic son or daughter of your Father.  You miss Him!  And what a good “missing” that is.  Your efforts toward anything in the future will be properly qualified by your effort to know Him.  Oh, how good and necessary that is for the children of God.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “The Day of Maturity”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click, or simply scroll down this blog page.)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Day of Maturity

Got 1 minute? There is, perhaps, a kind of maturity that you've overlooked or not recognized. This is it, and it's good.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

New Covenant

Some things almost yell at me, "Are you glad to be a New Covenant baby rather than an Old, or what?!" Absolutely. Phew!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

How to Abide in Christ

A few people have recently commented upon how important it is to abide in Christ. “Ralph,” they ask, “how can you be sure you’re abiding?” That’s a little like asking how blood in my body abides in my body—what work must it do to abide? And, of course, the answer is that the blood, which is an integral part of the body, simply let’s the heart push it around. It goes where it’s pushed, and does what the heart has intended.

A Christian already abides in Christ. That’s an accomplished fact. It’s a done deal.

All of the “abide in me” verses in the book of John were a set up for what was to come but had not yet – the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Through faith in Jesus and in those acts, the set up is now complete; we are in Him, abiding securely. Not only did you receive Christ through faith, but He received you through the cross and resurrection. It’s not just that you’ve given your life to Him, it’s that He’s given His life to you—you’re in Him and He is in you.

Thanks to Him, all we need do now is think about where we abide in order to appreciate our home the most. And when we appreciate where we are, the benefits become more evident and powerful because we’re living by faith in what Jesus did.

But if I think of myself as a transient, a vagabond in Christ, having to ask Him to secure me all the time or if I’m abiding the right way right now, then I’m likely not going to enjoy my home and all that’s there for me. I might even think the benefits moved away or were stolen since I feel so insecure. In fact, I am completely secure and abiding in Christ, since He put me there, but I don’t think I am or that He did. “What must I do?” becomes my question.

And that is where the trouble shows up. Doubt in what Jesus did is poison to our life with Him because we cannot go forward in faith that He was successful. We become susceptible to the lie that we’ve got to do something that He left out, so the flesh offers it’s alternate route of works and self-righteousness. If left unchecked, a cycle of self-centeredness and failure ensues. I know what that’s like. Perhaps you do too. It’s actually crazy—we’re induced to accomplish what He already has. That’s not going to go well.

If you’ve ever fallen prey to that lie, what rescued and revived you was not works—because they never do—but believing the truth about Jesus. You believe that the Son of God was successful at the cross and resurrection, so He now lives in you and you in Him, abiding together forever, just as He wanted.

1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Jesus did the work so that you may abide. Close your eyes and think about that—and enjoy your home.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “How to Abide in Christ”, and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click, or scroll down this blog page.)

Friday, December 02, 2016

How to Abide in Christ

Got 4 minutes?  There’s a lot that makes us feel insecure with God, and that causes us to worry.  But what if we’re better off than we think?  Might life be easier if so?