Thursday, February 25, 2016
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. Life is with Jesus, and it’s Him you want. If you’re missing life—life on the inside—go get some Jesus.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
How about when you fail? What happens to that poster, that picture of you on God’s wall? Have you ever thought that, in failure, you’d fallen away from His favor? Fallen away from grace?
It is unbiblical for us to say that when we fail we have “fallen away from grace.” In fact, it is accurate to say and believe that we have fallen INTO grace—even super-abundant grace. The best there is. That’s when the reign of God’s grace—His efforts, His success, His faithfulness, His love, and His display—is most evident in life.
Consider what the apostle Paul wrote: Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
That’s good news! Now, shall you go on sinning that grace may abound? Of course not! You don’t live there anymore. You’re in Christ, with a new life, and God’s grace reminds you that you are for Him and His ability.
If just now you’re the pictured poster boy or girl for God’s grace in a way you’d rather not be, then accept the gift that glorifies Jesus and be thankful that it was always intended for you. Because God looks good even now in you.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “God’s Poster Boys and Girls,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click https://youtu.be/0qw8fWqPmSw.)
Friday, February 19, 2016
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Way back in the murky years of elementary school, it occurred to me that I liked it when girls liked me. It felt good. And I wasn't dumb about it—I took note of what girls liked. When I was funny, they liked it. When I was caring, they liked it. When I made a good play in sports, they liked it. When I looked good, they liked it. It wasn't long before I had a storehouse of knowledge concerning what girls liked. Pretty useful, I thought.
Through the ensuing years of wanting to be liked, I brought out of my storehouse whatever I thought was best for the situation. I wanted this girl or that girl to see me at my best, so I offered a bit of caring here, some physical prowess there, and perhaps a witty phrase or two to really dazzle. And I figured out a very useful equation: She sees me + she likes me = Valentines galore.
What did I do when I wanted God's love? Well, I thought the same thing would apply. Right? I wanted Him to see me doing the things He liked—reading the Bible, witnessing, giving, caring, comforting, not sinning, etc.—so He would like me. Right? So I worked a similar equation: God sees me + God likes me = Valentines galore. It works with women, so it must work with God. “It's the way of love.” Or so I thought.
But ever since God and I really got together when I was twenty-four, God, who sees me at every moment, loved me for no reason that I could see. Before I could bring out one speck of Valentine worthiness from my storehouse, He dazzled me with love. And I have never been able to motivate Him to love me from that day to this. He has never once conveyed to me that He loves me now more than He once did. Not one time has He told me that His love for me is deeper, better, seasoned, more fun, more reliable, or more secure. I haven't done a thing to bring about anything any better. Maybe that will be my claim to fame, or maybe it will be on my tombstone: "Without doing anything to deserve it, Ralph knew God loved him like crazy.”
If you asked my wife, Sarah, why she loved me, she would give you some good reasons. She would say, "I love Ralph because . . . he's witty, he's smart, he's caring, he's good looking, etc." But if you asked God why He loved me, His response would be nothing like Sarah's. There would be no “because.” That's something that has confounded and fascinated and drawn me to Him ever since He first wooed me to Himself.
God is love! (1 John 4:8) God's love doesn't ebb and flow, rise and fall, motivated by the subject or the moment—God is love. And have you noticed? He's wild and reckless with it! When you consider who He loves, don't you come to the same conclusion? He doesn't keep His love only for the loveable—not for a moment! He lavishes His deep and lasting affection upon the best and worst of us—without regard. And, try as we might, nothing can ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing. God shot my love equation all to hell. Really. He did it for love, and a re-write of what I thought love was.
And now? I’ve got a new equation: God's love + God's grace = Valentines galore! The very best of true love.
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:4-9).
Friday, February 12, 2016
The lie of religion suggests that while God has already given us everything in Christ, we might have lost a little of the all we never earned—here’s how to get it back. Slaves are made in the "here’s how." So evil and destructive is this suggestion that the apostle Paul made a wish for those who spread the lie.
"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Galatians 5:12
"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" Galatians 5:12
Saturday, February 06, 2016
First, beware of acquiring so much information about relationships that you treat people as case studies for the templates you access in the file cabinets of your brain. Do you have some of those? I sure do. Those templates, whether they involve children, adults, co-workers, love-interests, relatives or strangers, can easily get in the way of Christ in you and the leading and evidence of the Holy Spirit in you. Plus, you’ll not as easily get to know God, who is all about relationships and is rather good at them. While relationships get our interest—and they must—they are the playgrounds of God with you. Keep the truth of the gospel in the center of your relationships, reflecting upon it and the immediate presence of the Spirit, and you and yours will know “the power of God.”
Let me show you this from the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 2:1 “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
That makes a difference, right?
So why was the great apostle Paul afraid and trembling when with the Corinthians? Well, certainly the Corinthians had a not-so-good reputation for decent and hospitable behavior toward others. Paul likely knew that. However, I think Paul trembled because he didn’t erect and rely upon a personal façade, a kind of “Here’s-the-image-I-want-to-project-to-the-Corinthians” template to get them to do what he wanted. He had nothing to hide behind. No personality to push at them so they’d understand better. No excessive happiness (“You Corinthians are the greatest people in the world! You’re my best friends!”), no professional demeanor (“Please take your seats, Corinthians, and I, apostle, professor, bishop, reverend, ex-Pharisee, brother Paul shall bring you the gospel hidden for thousands of years.”), and he had no promise of prosperity following his ministry among them if they tithed (“You’re on the gravy train now, Corinthians! The wealth of Rome is on its way to you!”). No, he had none of that.
Among the Corinthians, Paul believed that knowing Jesus and that He had been crucified for them all was the best way to navigate relationships—elbow to elbow, face to face. No façade. No show. No template. When he could easily have put up a front that conveyed confidence and authority, he chose instead the defenselessness of knowing Jesus right then, whether Jesus gave him anything to say or not. That is scary. And that is where the evidence of Christ in you is uncovered. Is it mysterious? Of course it is! It’s white knuckles sometimes! It’s choosing an uncertain blindness to what fills the eyes for what fills the heart instead—and that’s God. But unless you choose it, you may not find how good life in the heart really is.
When you refuse the flesh’s diversionary tactic of relational templates because you believe that Jesus is in you, and that the Spirit’s great delight is to make Him evident and known in you (and maybe through you, in this fruit or that fruit), that is life—real life—by the Spirit. That is what you get with Jesus. It’s yours. And that is how He is formed in you, it’s how He becomes evident to you and through you.
When you do this you may find yourself saying a lot less, actually. I have. You may find yourself caring a lot more. You may find that you see people differently—better, more truly. You may find that it gets easy because it’s with Him, and that’s the point of Christianity—with Him, who comes to live in you. You may find that what you do say to people is right from your heart to theirs. And that is going to count.
That is why a godly trembling might be just the thing for you right about now, a holding back from the old relational templates of days gone bye . . . when you didn’t have more, when you didn’t have Who you have now. It will mean that God is calling you to the playground. A little “Come away with me. Let’s do something for people. You and I, we’re good at this together.”
And because of Him, you are.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “On The Playgrounds With God,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click https://youtu.be/Q18hkO6_tEw, or scroll down this blog page.)
Friday, February 05, 2016
Got 7 minutes? Many people tell me that, while they enjoy knowing Jesus at home and at church, He sort of disappears amongst all of the people and all of the work they have to do outside of home. Here’s an amazing and daring way to “find Him” everywhere and with everyone.
Wednesday, February 03, 2016
It’s not so much about trusting God with my life given to Him; it’s about trusting God with His life given to me. After all, Jesus didn’t accept my life when I gave it to Him, I accepted His. Kindly and graciously, He crucified my life and gave me another—His. I’m learning to trust Him in me. What a wonder that is.