Monday, July 31, 2017

More & Less

If we are going to live by the Holy Spirit (and, it seems to me, that is the way for a new creation), then we’ll need to think of love more as a person—Jesus—and less as a behavior. Otherwise, love easily becomes a burdensome imitation, a copycat, rather than the genuine article—the real deal—alive in us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life Around Home

Remember:  you are God’s temple, His sacred home.  You are not empty, you are not trashy, you are not messed up, you are not hopeless—you are where God lives.  Thinking about how He made that happen will re-attract you to Him, and He will make sure you know what life is like around home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Stop Right There

In the darkness of the middle of the night, I was wielding a baseball bat and chasing burglars through unlit hallways and across a rooftop.  It was 1986, and another pastor and I lived in a church that had been burglarized earlier in the day.  Separated from my fellow pastor, I pursued several fleeing figures that I could barely see, hoping to get close enough to . . . I don’t know what.  Turning a faintly lit corner, I came face to face with a police officer, his gun drawn and pointing at my chest.  “Stop right there!” he commanded.  I did.  “Who are you?” he demanded.  Raising my hands and baseball bat above my head, I stammered, “I’m a pastor—Ralph Harris—and I live here.  My roommate must have called you.”

I have never forgotten the feeling of grave danger and of being out of control.  My life was on the line, unless and until I answered that question adequately and the truth made the difference.  It did.

I want you to stop, at least for a moment, and answer the question, “Who are you?”  However you answer that question will reveal what you think will save you because your life is on the line.

There is an awful lot that suggests an “awful you” or a “lesser you,” one that bears little resemblance to who you are because of how you’ve been made—or re-made by God.  And if you’re reading this, chances are good that you know what I’m talking about:  the new creation you.  I’m not talking about the businessman or businesswoman you, I’m not talking about the student you, the employee you, or the father, mother, son or daughter you.  Those are all tributary identities to the primary identity—to the source identity—to the “you” you truly are.  I’m talking about the you that is clean and holy and perfect, the Spirit-born you, an actual son of God, a light in this world, in whom the Kingdom of God dwells, God having seen to it, God having seen to you, through the new birth in Christ. 

I’m talking about that you.  And I simply want to remind you today that sometimes you’ve got to stop or be stopped (as it was with me) in order to think again about who you are because it can seemingly get lost in the things we do.  And if we have been made to live by faith in Christ (that He was who He said He was and who He says He is, perfect God toward man) and that you and I are who He says we are (perfect sons and daughters), then we’re going to have to answer that question, “Who are you?”  We’ll even have to ask it of ourselves so we can proceed in our days and live from the answer.  Only then can our tributary identities receive and be influenced from the source.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to ask that sort of question of myself all the time.  As perfectly united with God as I am, having Him now inside of me, when I wake in the morning sometimes it seems as though God and I did nothing together at all yesterday, or that He doesn’t even exist, which puts me in serious trouble.   I’ve lost my identity and am subject to the lesser ones of this world.  There’s a lot of grief and twistedness there.  But He does exist, and I am well with Him; it’s just that my thinking needs a repentance—a “WAKE UP!” call.

And then I am revived.  The Holy Spirit in me sees to me, takes care of me, and together we can do all things.  So can you when you’ve had your wake up call.  Maybe this, “Stop right there!” will serve that purpose.

But just in case:  “Who are you?”

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Happy Audience

Sometimes it occurs to me that I’ve got a bigger audience than I think. 

Whatever is tempting me, whether fear, lust, covetousness, envy, pride—whatever—how excellent it is to offer myself to God, now inside of me.  You’ve got to know that the angels rejoice whenever they see me doing that, not only because they know that recovery is beginning and that I believe that Christ is inside of me (I’m living by faith), but they also know that my friendship with God is proving to be as good as they know it is.  I think they love that.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The God Who Doesn't Pay Attention

I have a question for you today:  Do you know “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention”?  Do you know that God? 

Your relationship with this god goes something like this:  you make a deal with him, you put together some kind of covenant, with really good stuff in it, like reading the bible all the way through in a year, supporting a missionary or a child in India, talking to people about Jesus and sharing your faith, giving up alcohol or chocolate for a year, etc., so that god will give you something better that you don’t have now.  You know—like a better job, a better car, a better home, a better spouse(!), or a better something.  And you follow through but God doesn’t.  You keep your end of the deal (you actually start supporting a missionary), but God doesn’t come through with his.  That’s “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” and that’s what I’m talking about.  Naturally, you struggle with this god, trying to figure out what kind of agreement or what kind of covenant you can make with him that he’ll honor and actually complete.

After all, you’re trying to work with him.

And somewhere in the course of your struggle with “The God Who Doesn’t Pay Attention,” it occurs to you that maybe God isn’t bargaining with you, that maybe he’s not playing the covenant game with you at all.  Keep that thought.

In fact, God is not making covenants with people at all.  He’s not doing it.  The truth is that God is paying attention to only one covenant now, and He made it with Jesus only—you simply get all of the benefits and blessings of their covenant.  God kept you out of the covenant equation and the pressure to keep it so He can give you everything as a gift forever.  Eternally.  For free.

Hebrews 9:15 says that, “. . . Christ is the mediator of a new covenant (He’s the one who brings us together with God and keeps us together, no matter what), that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  (Parenthesis mine.)  It’s all a gift.  Forever.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.


So the next time you think that God isn’t paying attention to your attempts at bargaining for yourself, of making an agreement for yourself, remember this:  You’re right.  He isn’t.  He’s paying attention to Jesus, and you’re far better off because of it.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Two Words of Encouragement

People commonly attempt to encourage by extolling our great possibilities because of our great potential and the virtues of all that we can do, which is a good thing.  But sometimes I’m better built up by remembering how very little I actually need to do.

To illustrate, consider two of my favorite words:  “Rahab lied.”  There you go.  How does that make you feel?  Off the charts with encouragement?  Over the moon? 

Well, think about it.  Rahab, the hooker, is on the short list of the Biblical Hall of Fame, found in Hebrews 11.  Maybe you know who is in the Hall of Fame:  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses (“Let my people go!”), Gideon, Samson, David and Samuel.  If you’re aware of the story of their lives, then you know that they had weaknesses, but that didn’t stop God with them at all.  He did great and miraculous things with each of them.

What was Rahab’s signature moment that boosted her into God’s Hall of Fame?  She lied!  Joshua, king of Israel, sent spies into Jericho to see how things looked just over the hill.  However, the king of Jericho found out about the Israelite spies, and sent some of his soldiers directly to the one person’s house that would know about any men who were new to the community.  Who was that?  The town prostitute.  Of course.  She’d know.

What did our little Hall of Famer do?  Having hidden the spies on her roof under the camouflage of some branches—certainly no one would think to look up there—she cooked up a story.  A fabrication.  You know—a lie!  “Um, yeah, the strangers came to my home, but I didn’t know who they were.  And they left just before dark.  I don’t know where they went, but if you hurry, you can probably catch ‘em.”

And there it is, Rahab’s Hall of Fame moment.  Woo-hoo!  Congratulations.  Well done, girl.  Gimme five!  Confetti everywhere.

Yes, Rahab believed that the true God had sent the people who were on their way to Jericho and whose spies were hunkered down on her rooftop.  That was as much as she had.  On the strength of that, did she go out and evangelize the neighborhood to prepare for their coming?  No.  Did she pass out flyers inviting them to a potluck?  No.  Did she spend time in anguished prayer?  No.  Did she get rid of everything unclean and non-Jewish in her house before the people of God came for their visit, I mean, their invasion?  No.  Did she spend time in worship, or did she reach out to the poor and needy to earn favor with God before the invasion came?  No.  Rahab lied.  Nothing else. 

Why do I tell you this?  Because much of our fretting and worrying is over how seemingly meager our service or sacrifice for God is when looking over our past—that it all fails to amount to anything significant.  We remember great motivational sermons to do great things for God that drew from us great pledges of great commitment to great adventures of service to our great God.  It felt GREAT when we did it. But the years since have not revealed greatness.

Confronted by failed greatness, maybe we’ve closed off just a bit on the inside.  Maybe we’ve sort of turned off the lights in our heart, and we’re quietly disillusioned with ourselves.  “Greatness is for someone, but not me,“ we might think.  “What have I ever done that really matters to God?”

So, to answer that question, I have one for you:  What did Rahab do to get into God’s Hall of Fame?  On the count of three, what did Rahab do?  1, 2, 3:  “Rahab lied.”  She is the brilliant epitome of mustard seed faith; the tiniest little seed of faith in God, clumsily planted, and the mountain that was Jericho began to move.  Wow.

In our day we’re so caught up with doing things right that we miss, sometimes entirely, what God holds dear and values, which would set us free from much of the fear that plagues us.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the fearfully perfectionistic, rule-enamored Galatians: 

Galatians 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit (In other words, ‘Did you get God”) by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? . . . 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law (because you do things right), or because you believe what you heard?  (Parentheses mine.)

We know the answer.  If you were to scan the great and worthy days of my life in order to figure out my lineage, my relatives, I know you’d find that Rahab types figured prominently.

God measures in ways far better than we know.  I can’t imagine that Rahab thought much of her lie that night, but God did.  You may rest today, knowing that on the day you meet Jesus face to face on the other side, you will receive a rich inheritance that is imperishable, un-spoiled and fadeless, kept for you by your Father, who is pleased with His Son, who provided it all for you.

(This is a transcript of the video, “Two Words of Encouragement”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

God Bless America

While we struggle like other countries, our struggles are not hidden because common men and women—the “everybody” of our melting pot—gave rise to our nation’s birth. Like them, we are actively assessing the needs of people near and far, citizen and foreigner, and laboring to choose our country’s approach to tomorrow. While some may fault us, I’m glad for our inventive and courageous heart that often struggles for the benefit and freedom of others. No other country does it as well as we do. That’s amazing and scary at the same time, but we’re all involved. We’re all responsible. It’s the greatest profit sharing plan ever. God bless America!

The Look That Works

There are many common ways by which we are measured and by which to measure ourselves, right?  What pressure that is.  What a lot of work it all is.  Have you noticed?   If we attempt to manage ourselves by those measurements and we interpret our success in that light, we darken and do not receive grace.

If, however, our “measurement” is God’s gift of never-ending righteousness in Christ, His gift of “It is well, and you are too,” then we will enjoy the fact that we have been taken from the kingdom of darkness and put into the kingdom of the Son.  That’s where we are.  Only by believing (and sometimes newly believing again and again) that we are where God says we are, and that we are how God says we are can we accurately measure ourselves.  In other words, only then can we live with the person we think we are!  It’s the only way—the only true way.  And that’s when the pressure eases, because we’re enjoying the riches of our inheritance—the gift—given to us in Christ. 

The GOOD NEWS, the big deal, is that we had nothing to do with achieving or earning the gift; we are happy receivers only and always.  And by looking at it, by enjoying the gift, we are built up and encouraged in Him.  That’s how this all works—that’s how WE work—by looking at the gift.  God set it up for us.

I know it doesn’t fit with the pressures and measurements of this world, and, really, you can keep immersing yourself and swimming in the crazy currents of this world’s identity measurements if you like.  But the truth is, they don’t work.  And you don’t fit.  Jesus took care of all that by taking care of you.

Now watch this—pay attention to how you feel as you read the following, which was written for you: 

“ . . . joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified you (in other words, He has made you right! It is well, and you are too.) to share in the inheritance (the gifted inheritance) of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 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.  (Colossians 1:12-14, parenthesis mine.)

Already and all done!  You’re in and you’ve got it all.  No worries.  Remember?

(This is a transcript of the video, “The Look That Works,” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video and/or to subscribe, click