Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God & Ralph, The Pizza

This is not heartbroken; this is heart revealed.  This is not empty; this is full.

Sitting in the Helena, Montana, Regional Airport, I have just wrapped up my second “Goodbye Event” of the summer, and I am tired.  I am a jumbled mess.  I am full of love and full of sorrow, and the two combined have rendered me as a sort of emotional pizza, with everything on it—even anchovies.  Nobody likes anchovies.

I delayed saying “Goodbye” to my youngest daughter, Emma, for as long as I could.  I even threatened to not conclude her wedding at the end of the ceremony that I officiated.  “I don’t want to say ‘Amen’”, I said to Emma and Ben, standing regally in front of me and the audience—not because I had any reservations, but because I knew it was a huge part of the Goodbye Event.  I felt like if I did, I would be the guy christening a fancy new ocean liner with a bottle of champagne—“Enjoy your maiden voyage, but I’m not going with you anywhere anymore.”

Full of love and full of sorrow, I somehow said it.  And she was gone.

And now it’s Ellen.  In the same 24 hours that Emma left me, my wife, Sarah and I learned that Ellen would also be moving.  Not to New Zealand, but to Montana which, if it can’t be in her bedroom in my house, is just about as far away.  Together, we’ve crammed in movies, peach hunting, carp bombing, car repairs, road trips, fly fishing, grizzly bear avoidance singing, and home furniture shopping.  Frankly, if she had asked me to shop with her for some fresh, heather scented wall spackle, I wouldn’t have missed it. 

But this morning, I hugged her 817 times and sobbed all over her.  She did too, so that seemed about right.  And then we said it:  “I love you.  See you on FaceTime.” 

Since then, eight people related to the airport have asked, “How’re you doing?” as a way of greeting.  I blubbered my response to the first two:  “I’ve just moved my daughter here, and I’m going home without her.”  I didn’t even finish what I really wanted to say because I couldn’t.  Now I have modified my response to grunts and nods in the attempt to indicate, “I’m fine.  Don’t ask anything more.  You have been warned.”

Maybe by now you’re thinking, “Geez-Louise, Ralph!  Get over it!  Buck up, man, and be thankful you’ve had your daughters around for as long as you have.  You’ve given them roots, now give them wings!”  I don’t blame you, if you are.  But one of the greatest treasures I have ever found is how God is with me when I’m a mess—an extra large, everything-that-shouldn’t-be-mixed-up-on-a-pizza, mess.  “Nobody’s gonna want to deal with that!  Change your mind!  Get a new attitude!  Re-order your life, Ralph!”

But while there’s certainly a time and a place for that kind of thing, I’m “dealing with this” not by changing my mind, but by directing my messy thoughts and feelings to the Holy Spirit.  In my mind, I’ve yelled, “Come on!  I hate this!  If I have to give them wings, is it wrong if I clip them short—you know, like parakeets?  Then they can only fly around my house, but not to freaking New Zealand or stupid Montana!” and “Jesus, I didn’t have kids for this!  What were you thinking, hooking me up with that woman, Sarah, who wanted them in the first place?!” and “Bleeeeeeeep!  I hate this!  What are you going to make out of this, anyway?  I don’t care about nice places to visit, I want them near, where YOU put them in the first place, where they’re supposed to be!” 

And in the combination of love and sorrow expressed to Him, emotions and thoughts all jumbled up and ugly, the Spirit appears in the mess, and comforts and loves me.  He knows that I’m not heartbroken, but that my heart is revealed.  He loves that!  He knows I’m full, and He’s all about love and sorrow and repairing people leaving each other—for good and for bad reasons, leaving jumbled, emotional pizzas behind. 

And—shocker—when I don’t tidy myself up and pull it together, bad stuff doesn’t happen!  My mind says it will be bad, but the Spirit is attracted to such neediness.  He’s better than anyone or anything in it.  And because He has shown Himself to be so good with Ralph, the pizza, I’m going to tell you what I’ve found when your mess emerges from behind the curtains of your attitude.  Or bursting out, as it is with me. 

He’s not telling me to tidy up—He’s telling me that He is with me.  Right here, inside—for the long haul.  For what’s to come.  For the dad I will be now.  Dad at a distance.  DAAD.

I’ve got that to look forward to, and He will be with me in all of it, mess and all.  I’m on my way home, now.  It’ll just be Sarah and me, but I know—I KNOW—we’ll be good because He is with us.

P.S. I made a little slideshow of events beginning in early summer. It's set to a song written for one woman, but frankly, my dreams came true in three.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It Just Seems True

When using certain terms that “just seem true,” think of them in relation to the cross and resurrection before using them.  Those two events changed just about everything, and led to God’s new creation sons and daughters.  There hadn’t been any of those before then. 

For example, to say, “God takes all of His children through the Refiner’s Fire,” might imply that God wants to cook off what bothers Him about you.  ONLY THEN, having burned off your many impurities, can He FINALLY make you something He likes.  But nowhere in the New Covenant do we read that God refines US.  Instead, we read that He has ALREADY refined us, and He is now working to refine our BELIEFS—from lies to truth.  (See Romans 12:2.)  That’s important.

In the New Covenant, heat and our performance in it has nothing to do with changing who we are; faith in Jesus Christ has everything to do with who we are.  God is not heating you up and scraping off your impurities SO THAT He can eventually see His reflection in a finally nice human mirror—He already lives in you!  You’re His perfect house.  He already got rid of anything offensive or impure through including you in the cross and resurrection of Christ.  He thinks that actually worked!  What do you think?  (See Romans 6:1-11.) 

In those times when hardship and difficulty press down upon you, God is not refining you—He knows exactly who you are as His new creation—He is assisting you to know what He knows.  And that takes some refining.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Catch The Pattern

--> In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

One comes to take and to damage thereby; that’s the pattern. The other comes to give and repair; that’s Jesus’ pattern.

I want to remind you today simply that Jesus is not asking you to give Him your heart – He has given you His. Jesus is not asking you to give Him your life – He has given you His. That’s the pattern.

The rest of your days will be about exploring how good He is for you so He can do and give and repair more and more for you. That’s life by Jesus. You like life that comes from Him, right? And He likes giving and repairing. That’s what He’s like. That’s the pattern, and you’re set up for that.

If you’ve been hearing or giving yourself to a contrary pattern, no matter where it comes from, no matter how you hear it, there will be no life in it, and there will, consequently, be no repair. It’s not for you. It’s not from Jesus. One pattern is from this world—take and damage. The other is from Jesus—give and repair. That’s Him.

Catch the pattern. It will help you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lost in Lust

What’s the problem with lust?  Why is it such a big deal?  Evidently, it’s really bad to us since we are so strongly warned about it in Galatians 5:16-17, as well as in 1 John 2: 

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

I think that the lust we are warned about is the drive to find our identity—who we actually are—completed by a person, a position, or a possession because we don’t know or have forgotten our identity given to us by God.  We are the miracle-born sons of God.  Perfect.  Made by Him.  And the love of God reminds us of that all the time so, convinced about it, we live as He intended—by faith in Jesus.

If any other identity (husband, wife, businessman, ministry leader, etc.) becomes primary, then we are in trouble because we will stop being our true selves in the attempt to become something else, something that seems to work and get us what we want.

What cripples us is that we work to get our identity, that which says we are complete and right, another way than what God has revealed, and it’s the way of the lie:  “You are not complete, you are not good unless you can get him, get her, get that job, buy that car.”  Played out, lust says that you’ll be complete if you can keep getting what identifies you well, so become whatever is required to win your identity.  That is from the world around you—it’s not from the Father, and it’s not from the Spirit who lives in you.  The ones following after lust will be daily traumatized by wondering if they’re doing everything right.  In the inner trauma, love from the Father will be strangled, and they will act like it.

And the bigger problem?  They’re no longer themselves.  In their effort to complete their identity, they’ve become a slave to the lie that they don’t already have one.  They’re lost—not to God, but to themselves.  The wonder of the new creation escapes them, even while they are part of it.  What they are attempting to get is “passing away” each day, and must be recaptured and lost, recaptured and lost, again and again. 

That’s the ugliness of lust. 

However, those of us who believe that God has given us an identity worth cherishing, an identity that means He has made us exactly as He wants us, an identity in which are all the blessings of Christ, that belief is the will of God.  And that means eternal life—God’s life given to you and me. 

Stay there.  Keep getting that identity from God, and you won’t get lost in lust.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

I have important news for you:  you are not indebted to God.  You owe Him nothing.  He likes it that way, and works to keep you convinced of it. 

The attempt to “pay Him back” for all that He has done for you is an unintended rejection of His intention with you:  to prove how perfect He is toward everyone by His undeserved and lavish generosity with you. Parading you is how He gets credit.

So when people introduce obligation between you and God—“After all God has done for you, how can you not give your all for Him?”—not only are we robbed of the fullness and joy of God’s grace, but so is He.

The apostle Paul wrote that God “canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:14-15).

God went public!  How cool is it when we do too?  In other words, He has taken away everything against you, and He wants everyone to know all about it—heavenly rulers and authorities, as well.  Jesus took away not only your debt, but also the laws you broke which would have proved it.  There is no evidence of you ever being a law-breaker, of you ever being in trouble with Him, or of you ever owing God anything.  He did that at the cross!

God’s grace never creates debt; God’s grace always pays debt.  Knowing that is the perfect motivator for you, His new creation.  Maybe you’re feeling joy and freedom right now because I’m reminding you about how awesome He is toward you.  That’s how He sort of “comes alive” in you and to you—and to others.  So let’s not introduce anything that diminishes God’s triumphant grace parade.  You’re front and center, and He’s got you parading in front of an important audience.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Your Place In God’s Parade”, and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/xghbA7u56cw.)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Your Place In God's Parade

You are not indebted to God.  Why not, and why is that important?  Spend 3 minutes with me to find out what fun God is having with you.  You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, August 04, 2017

We're Under Grace

I don’t know what you’re doing with your life as it involves others, but for the rest of my days I promise to keep everyone accountable to the grace of God.  Grace is for life—the length of it and the enjoyment of it.  Romans 6:14 reads, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

I know that the word “accountable” might be an odd word to put together with “grace,” but it comes as something of a response to the legalistic “accountability police”, who seem always to be prosecuting even Christians with the word.  “You’ll be held accountable for that,” they might say.  That always makes me shudder . . . and maybe want to vomit . . . on them.  Is that wrong? 

“Grace” doesn’t mean that nothing matters; grace means that Jesus matters.  He’s got us, and He’s given us all of His righteousness and holiness.  I’m going to hold you to that, because believing it, over and over again, is how you live by grace.  Jesus was successful for you two thousand years ago, and He is successful for you and with you today.  Believing that will have an effect because grace always works.  You’ll like it, and Christ in you will be in evidence.  Others will like that, too.

But keeping yourself in the crosshairs of your own gun—“I’ll be held accountable”—or turning it upon others—“You’ll be held accountable”—is not Christian living.  It may seem to help people by temporarily altering their behavior, but it actually hurts them by pushing them toward fleshly living.  Choosing your own behavioral righteousness over the gift of His will immerse you into foreign territory, where you will be unrecognizable to yourself.  In other words, you won’t work right.  And I don’t like that at all.  That’s why I don’t like the accountability police.
However, if grace is grace, then it’s for them, too.  So I’m going to hold them accountable to God’s grace. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

It is far better to tell Christians that they have been changed than it is to tell them to change.  Only then can they live by faith in what Jesus did, rather than by faith in what they must do.  That distinction is crucial!  Marveling at the change that took place for them and to them is the only way of hope for the uncertainty of their days in this world. 

Get that order out of order (which we all-too-often have), and life by works is the unavoidable result.  That won’t work.  Not for anybody.  It’s not supposed to.  Life is by faith that Jesus was successful for you and with you—that’s the gospel.  It’s fantastic news!  And that’s where the power of God is.

Stay there, and works will follow.

(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Where Is The Power of God?” and is for those who might rather read than watch.  To see the video, click https://youtu.be/w-AJGGrkU-U, or simply scroll down this blog page.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Where Is The Power of God?

Got 1.5 minutes?  A lot of us are worn out and wondering what we’ve done wrong to become so, . . . blah.  We’ve got a power-outage.  The solution is better than you think.