Tuesday, February 28, 2017

You Reign

Romans 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Original Production

Teaching that persuades us to become preoccupied with the fruit, benefit and look of knowing God—“Here’s how to be nicer, feel better, and look like Jesus”—but not with the reality must be avoided. There are those who will demand exceptions for “holding people accountable,” and for prescribing avenues for better behavior, better marriages and better results, but transformed lives come by looking at and considering the cross, resurrection and person of Jesus Christ—knowing Him—not from the attempt to impersonate Him.

The Christian life cannot be summed up as the attempt to “be like Jesus.” Not only is that the same lie with which Satan lured and stole the pleasure and benefit of knowing God from Adam and Eve in the Garden, but it has the same ruinous effect today.

The life of “Christ in you” is truly Jesus, and recognizing Him in you is the greatest thrill there is. That knowledge results in the pleasure of opening your behavior to Him and what He wants to do as He furthers your experience of His grace and love for you and others. You and I are His workmanship, and that’s the plan because that’s life.

(P.S. The above embodies what my next book is all about.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A God-Given Unveiling

One of my favorite events is God’s unveiling of me to me.  He unclutters my thinking, He detoxes my mind, particularly regarding how He and I are doing together.  And I’m amazed by God.

If that seems selfish, bear with me.  Oftentimes the pressures and strategies of this world result in a virtual blindness of ourselves to ourselves.  This is not pleasing to God, who has made an incredible change to us through Jesus’ cross and resurrection.  He wants everyone to know!  To the extent that we remain unseeing and unconvinced is the degree to which we are hindered in our love affair with God and in our approach to people.  What’s the cure?  A proper view of His mercy and grace that pulls the cloak off of our minds, revealing the transformation. 

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Italics mine.)

What’s God’s favorite event of the day?  It might be revealing you to you.  He’s rather pleased with His work. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Truth Speaking

In a recent private message, I was asked, “Aren’t we Christians supposed to be nice to everyone, Ralph?” Because I was short on time, I had to be brief—which is sometimes a good thing for me.  :)  The apostle Paul wrote that believers must grow up in Christ and as His body by, among other things, “speaking the truth in love,…” (Ephesians 4:15). I believe that truth speaking can be filled with emotion—heat, conviction, intensity, calmness, passion, tears and more. Truth speaking is not necessarily “nice speaking,” as we (and I!) might ordinarily want. Love means respect and value for everyone, which should be evident in the one speaking, particularly the one wanting to assist people growing in Christ. Truth writing is different from truth speaking and can be even more challenging, because one’s face is not involved; neither is there volume or inflection which might clarify emotion. Take care.

Finally, the apostle Paul was juxtaposing the lives of those building each other up in Christ (the church) with those not yet part of it (non-believing “Gentiles”). It’s okay to be really mean and awful to non-believers—just kidding. I think the same foundation of love, respect and value should shape the words we speak and write to non-believers. They may well be different words, but offering the life of God through the gospel is a sacred thing, and that should be evident.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

You've Got It All

“Location. Location. Location.” Jesus is the ultimate relocation real estate agent. He takes you from a dark and perilous neighborhood, where everything is at risk, and moves you to a neighborhood that is forever secure and out of this world.

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.

You Look, He Works

If you're God's workmanship (and, indeed, you are - Ephesians 2:10), then your part isn't to work but to relax and know Him and how He is with you.  Jesus is your focus because you're His focus.  He'll take care of the building and the result, because He knows what He's doing.  You don't have to.  He's the Expert.  That's why you feel better after looking at Him or talking with Him.

You look, He works.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

God & The Past that Haunts Us

I think we've all got a little of "the past that haunts us," whether that’s from yesterday, last year, or decades ago.  The good news is that the more years we live, the more room there is for the haunting.  Ha!  Just kidding.  I’ve got some of that haunting, but I'm so glad that the Spirit, who is always concerned with my well-being in Christ, captures my attention and convinces me that the past I remember is not the past He recognizes. 

God took all of my failures—every single one—and gave me as a gift the perfect righteousness, life and success of Jesus—as though I have loved God and served my neighbor as myself all of my days, without ever failing.  Frankly, “as though” misses the mark, because to God, I have actually succeeded.  It is not “as though” I loved and served perfectly, it is “I did!”  His removal of what was and His gift of what is—the life and success of Jesus—is that true and real.  I am actually heading toward the success of Jesus in the days ahead for me.  (You are too.)  That’s a marvel!  And that’s life in Christ.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have consequences from failure and the failures done to me that require my involvement; I do.  But I don’t deal with them alone, or under the scrutinizing view of an angry God commanding me to fix things before He will fix me.  That’s not the gospel.  That’s not the truth.  In all things, He is with me, His son, and we are perfect together—just right—even in the fallout of past failure.

My life—all of it—is hidden in Him, so whenever the haunting returns, I talk with Him, my faithful Friend, who comforts me and takes the trauma out of the past.  I have been redeemed by the Redeemer Himself—He succeeded!  It worked!—so I trust Him to walk with me whenever the past returns to haunt, and I am saved again.

To the Christians at Philippi, Paul writes about his past and his future with Jesus:

Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (In other words, they are for Him to do something about.) 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss (good, bad, everything) 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 (in other words, a relationship of doing the right thing in order to get God to give him something, which is over), but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (the gift!). 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.  (Parenthesis mine.)

Life is with Jesus—today and tomorrow, and concerning the haunting of the past.  You’re good with God.

(This is a transcript of yesterday's video, "God & The Past that Haunts Us," and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, scroll down this blog page, or click

Saturday, February 18, 2017

God & The Past That Haunts Us

Got 4.5 minutes?  Most of us have a history littered with failure—our own, as well failures done to us.  What does God do for us about that?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Start With What God Did

As you go into the day, remember: you begin with God, who has given you everything for nothing—free—and with whom you will always be at peace, since He achieved and gave that to you in Christ. Start with what He did, and you’ve started well. (Most of the New Testament letters begin with this very truth: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Earning Is Over

Jesus earned entirely everything for us for entirely nothing from us. In Him we have been given every blessing already. (See Ephesians 1:3-8.) Believing that fact is the challenge—earning it is not. Anything that teaches less than that makes us crazy.

The gospel loses its majesty when Christians believe they must work or serve or tithe in order to earn blessings from God. We become like elder brothers of the prodigal, working in the fields to earn what we have already been given. However, we live best when we live by faith in the complete sufficiency of what Christ did for us.

So if you’re a little bit crazy lately concerning how you’re doing with God, consider that you may have taken up earning and performance as a way of estimating your worthiness. That’s not for you because that’s not Christian. The earning is all done, and all is given. You can rest.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Makes A Difference

If being in the right place is important, and realtors have had it right all these years—“Location. Location. Location.”—then consider the following verses as you go about your day:

"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." Ephesians 2:4-7 (Caps mine)

Doesn’t where you are make a big difference? God sure thinks so. What do you think—because that makes a difference.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

What If?

What if Jesus, rather than walk up to you this morning and have something to say, instead made you aware of your surroundings—that He doesn’t have to walk anywhere to get to you because you are in Him? What then?

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

God On Super Bowl Sunday

During today’s Super Bowl, I’m going to be with a lot of people.  I will also be with God when I’m with people, which is why I am one of God’s favorite meeting places when there’s a crowd.  I’ll bet you are, too.  You can’t avoid fellowship then, and God takes advantage of the party.  So I love listening and looking for the Spirit’s leading and fruit when with people, and I expect some truly great moments will happen today…even as the Falcons beat the Patriots.  You didn’t think I’d go there, did you?  Anyway, heads up, people!  God is getting crowds together today.  Have fun noticing Him. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Escaping the Captive Maker

Perhaps you’ve noticed that we’re having a well-publicized, loud and angry fight here in the United States. Not since I was a boy in the 1960’s have I seen such ugly division. My friends, on both sides of the political divide, publicly lament losing friendships amidst fiery arguments, while expressing supreme frustration that their former friends are so clueless and ill-informed that they can’t help them and remain close any longer. “I can’t stop them if they’re going to be such idiots!” some have said, and away they go, torn apart.

Engrossed by the importance and power of the argument, they are blind to their own captivity.

For us, this is a type of war—right now—but because many are missing the real fight, they are actually powerless while making great effort. Too many of us have grown accustomed to fighting battles by the enemy’s terms, which are these:

“Do not let people think of the gospel as indispensible, powerful and daily good news from the real and eternal world. Instead, let them think of news from the passing away world, the one right in front of them, as most true and most vital. Transfix them, make disciples of them, and own the world. Do not let those in Christ see and think as He does, lest they avoid the world’s passionate argument of right versus left, conservative versus liberal, good versus evil, and instead, choose what’s already theirs: the inner transformation and power that comes from a renewal of their minds and life in the Spirit of God.

“Do not let them see that moral debate is most often an empty meal of self-righteousness, while the gospel of grace and life in Christ fully satisfies. Do not let them see that they are actually the body of Christ Himself, and so realize the love of the Father that compels them to walk and live as Jesus did—offering life and sight to the dead and blind. Instead, keep them captive to lesser identities of politics, gender, cravings and tradition, where arguments will force them to divide and become alienated from one another. In those divisions, disciples can be made and taken captive through passionate beliefs, and through their captivity, influence and power are taken from them and become ours.

“Do not let them see themselves as captive to a system of futility by rewarding them with the trinkets of gold and false nobility, lest they see the wealth of their reward and true nobility already secured and given to them by Jesus. Keep them camouflaged, disguised to themselves, and they will be made disciples in the dark, even though they are the sons of light.”

This is what I think is happening in our day, on a much bigger scale than ever before. The media and those who use it, clamor for our attention and allegiance. If they can have your mind, they can have you. And if you’re a Christian, that ownership will pervert you.

You have been designed and privileged by God to be daily transformed—brought forth and revealed, especially to yourself—by the renewing of your mind through the gospel of Jesus. But if you are not renewed in your mind for transformation, you will be transformed and crippled by the degrading of your mind.

You won’t see and know things as Jesus does, even though you are fit for Him. Instead, you will see people and situations as they appear in this world, cluttered and twisted, including yourself. And you will be drawn into the fleshly pursuit of correctness and righteousness, a little “Here’s how to get it right, people!” the result of which will be, “hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy,” rather than Spirit produced “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:19-23). If you’re feeling more of the former than the latter, please consider what’s filling and degrading your mind.

You are meant for the gospel and transformation.

When Jesus was transformed or transfigured before Peter, James and John, in Matthew 17:1-8, His face shining as the sun and clothes as bright as the light, He was revealed in stunning, heavenly majesty. He did not change and become anything He was not already; rather, the surface clutter of this world, which distracts and commands our attention, was removed—and there He was. God in man.

What I am saying is that Jesus’ disciples—you and me—need ongoing transformation through the renewing of our minds for us to know and for the world to know, God in us. Christianity. Through personal renewal and transformation, we are revealed to ourselves as heaven-born majesty, serving those who are not yet, and escape the corruption, the twisted captivity of this world’s Deceiver, Discipler and Captive-Maker. Through transformation, we know we’re alive, we’re aware and filled with Him, and we see beyond the cluttered, chaotic surface. We know as He knows. We feel as He feels. We do as He does. And that’s when the glory of God shared with us is unveiled to the world, and people are rescued.

To be sure, we are in a valiant struggle, but we do not wage war as this world does—only torture and diminished lives await that war, even while we hurl ourselves into the inviting fight.

Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, and develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

Consider what I’m saying, and renew your discipleship to Jesus Himself. You’ll escape the Captive Maker.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Escaping the Captive Maker”, and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, go to: https://youtu.be/6sB2DaKoRvA, or scroll down this blog page.)