Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stay Free

When trying to get along and have good relationships, please remember that you are a son or daughter of God first—in casual relationships, in friendship and marriage—having that as your true identity. Stay right there, and work from that foundation. Otherwise, the attempt to be what someone else needs may induce you to give up who you are—your identity—and make you a slave to the lie that you have to achieve an identity.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beware Fake News

Okay, there is a lot of crazy, gobble-dee-gook stuff going around that’s being passed off as “truth” and Christian gospel, but it is ridiculously far from Jesus and will take you far from God and knowing Him.  It is not the gospel news; it is fake news.  Some of these deceived purveyors of anti-Christ lies share Facebook friends with me, so please be alert. 

While there are plenty of examples, here’s a quote from a deceiver from this morning: 

“Our concept of a ‘personal’ God will at some point of maturity come more to the understanding of the vast, empty, open, universal knowing or consciousness we call ‘God.’ There is nothing there but Itself.  And as you read these words, the ‘You’ who understands them, is consciousness itself...the very BACKGROUND of all that you perceive and every activity you engage in.”

Rubbish.  Anything that essentially gets rid of Jesus Christ by offering such things as an “empty” “Itself” as a replacement, a “universal knowing” instead of a specific revelation of God in Christ Jesus, is horribly deceived and targeting you for the same.  Don’t go there!  This kind of attempted deception is nothing new.  If Satan has one wit of smarts, he’s going to use someone he has deceived into offering you a diminished or unnecessary Jesus (i.e., He wasn’t God, He didn’t need to die, etc.), a needless, bloody cross and resurrection (i.e., there was no need for either, because there was never anything wrong with you and God), and no need for faith in Jesus because He isn’t the only “way, truth, and life”.

This is not the gospel I know and love and teach, and this does not offer you Jesus, who alone gives eternal life.  You and I are in a long line of those challenged and reviled for the gospel of Christ, but this persecution is not an insult, it is an identification.  Stand firm in the gospel that has made you free and secure; it is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.  People will be glad you did.

2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Keep to the gospel, my friends, and beware fake news.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Love & Lars

For those who think that I might be a little/lot loony, you do have reasons after all. I'm watching the movie, "Lars and the Real Girl" for the, um, like, fifth time. Or so. Don't judge me. Well, okay, judge me. But have you seen it? It's all about love: how far will we go, loaded by God as the love-compelled lovers of people, how far will love move us to rescue someone who is lost? According to this stellar, quirky, kind, ridiculous, and noble movie, rather far.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Leaving the Shallows for the Deep

Many of us have learned to live on shallow opinion, much of it formed not by empirical, personal experience, but upon the presumed research and oftentimes money-driven point of view of someone else.  If it fits with our worldview (however that’s been formed), we buy it and tout it and support it as though it were our very own.  But it’s not.  We’ve grown accustomed to accepting fast-food fare, prepared and packaged by someone else, and wonder why we’re malnourished.  We’re starving but demanding more.  We’ve gotten used to media-served, shallow satisfactions because they flame-up quickly, and we think the heat validates the source.  It doesn’t, but I’m afraid we’re addicted. 

Turning it off might cause initial withdrawals, but in the void you will see the ruse, you will know you’ve been conned, and your deepest and truest longings will redirect you to what truly satisfies.  And then you will no longer be empty, but full and free of shallow satisfactions. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring!

So remember! Spring up! Spring on! Spring tight! Spring all over the place! You can do this.

The Shack -- My Comments

I liked the movie. I loved how the lead character, Mack, was entirely free to express his thoughts and feelings with God—in fact, he couldn’t do it without Him—and in that safety, Mack was delivered from imprisoning fears and guilt. In the movie, not only is God magnificently approachable, He is liberating. That’s the God I know, and true love breaks through with Him, as it did for Mack. I really liked the garden scene, a depiction of the messy beauty of Mack’s days, as well as the days ahead. I liked the cave scene where wisdom personified led Mack through a sequence that helped him to realize that human judgment is impossibly limited; no one is capable of true judgment, let alone bearing the weight of it. It makes us miserable, even if we don’t recognize the ugly twist. The acting was better than I thought it would be. Hooray for that.

Overall, I am glad for the book and the movie.  Years ago, Jesus broke through my ignorance and inner isolation, and freed me to life and love that I had never before known.  Before that, the life and love of God were vague promises only, printed on pictures and framed on walls in children’s bedrooms.  Since then, the life and love Jesus came to accomplish and to offer to all has been the motivator and director of my days.  College friends of mine, who knew me before and after I met Jesus, would say something like, “Ralph wasn’t the same after that.”  Some of them have also happily discovered the Jesus I found, and some of them have not.  I want Jesus to break through their ignorance and inner isolation, and to free them with the life and love for which they were born.  This movie gives them an opportunity to want that meeting. 

The Shack, for all of its theological fuzziness, offers a story and a view of God, who is the Liberator and Satisfier of the heart of man.  For those who think God is distant or demanding or cruel, this movie offers a far more accurate view of God than that.  For those who grew up thinking that God is “a crutch” for weak people, a useful concept for money loving church leaders, a motivational construct for control loving, do-gooders, this movie presents a far more accurate representation of the God who is love Himself.  I would like them to see it and have what He offers.  Maybe some of my college buddies will. 

The apostle Paul wrote to the life and love starved Corinthians about something they must have—not something they must do, but have—the love of God.  In the first verses of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes that people could accomplish incredible feats and even do fantastic things for people, yet if they didn’t know the love of God Himself, they were trapped with nothing.  In the movie, that was empty Mack.  By the end, Mack was free and had everything because, as he said, “I met God.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 …if I do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Are there Biblical inaccuracies in the movie?  Yes, there are.  But, hopefully, those of us who deeply care will come alongside the people who begin their adventure with God because of the movie, and, in the safety and love of Christ and His Word, we’ll work those out together.  I hope this helps you to meet God.  Maybe for the first time, maybe again.  Either way, you will enjoy your meeting.  And if I can help, I will. 

P.S. I got all choked up, for sure, but it was because I swallowed a handful of popcorn the wrong way, and coughed it up for the next five minutes. It was quite an event for my seat neighbors.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Shack Attack

Well, somebody pray for me. My backslidden wife has convinced me to go see the movie, “The Shack,” and since International Day of Women was just a couple of days ago, I have relented. It has a kind of Garden of Eden feel about it; you know, “Here, Adam, have a bite of this apple from that tree over there” kind of thing.

My hope is that the movie will answer longtime questions I’ve had such as, “What exactly is Ezekiel’s Wheel?” and “Was it a whale or a big fish?” and “Why didn’t we get to see Jesus’ face in the original Ben Hur?” and “Why did the Israelites go in and out of captivity nine times in the book of Judges—couldn’t You have interrupted that at, like, four times?” and “Was it Welch’s or Woodbridge?” and “Was it really a rib or just a McNugget?” and “What did Paul’s prison earthquake register on the Richter Scale?” and “Did Peter always smell like fish?” and “Did Samson use bobby pins or hair product?” and “What were the expressions on the faces of those watching King David dance naked?” and “Did John dip the locusts in the honey, or did he eat ‘em straight up?” and “Was Jesus a cute baby, or did He grow into His looks?” and “Did the more vocal Pharisees have a Bronx accent?” and “Did Daniel know that a diet plan would be named after him?” and “How long before someone figures out that I’m kidding, and rebukes me?”

Look, I absolutely revere the scriptures and love God madly—I’m a goner!—but I haven’t found anyone, watched any film or read any book other than the Bible that has everything all together, all wrapped-up and complete about God. Many of us are relative experts on the Bible, and we still are wrong about God in some way. Maybe you’ve noticed that there’s more than a little disagreement over stuff. Frankly, there’s no way I’m going to agree 100% with what I see or hear as Sarah Harris and I watch “The Shack.” For sure we’ll talk about it afterwards, and that’ll be a healthy thing. I expect something like 55% biblical accuracy (as I know it), and maybe 70% relational relevance—with points deducted because nobody in the Godhead is a Mexican or an Eskimo or a Canadian or—Whatever were they thinking?—a Caucasian, so God cannot possibly know how to relate to me. It’s so wrong.

Kidding.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

He Is All That

Since Jesus is and will always be “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6), our troubles begin by believing anything that suggests He is not. Beware that lie.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Seems Like A Plan

If, according to the apostle Paul, a routine of rule keeping familiarizes us with sin and all of its misery (Romans 7:7-13), then it is no wonder that people are running to grace and to grace teachers, grace books and grace movies.  Shouldn’t they?  A life by grace in Christ is the only way to know that we are, indeed, dead to sin and alive to God, now in us (Romans 6:13-14).  What’s not to like about that?  And the point of it all?  We get to know the mystery—Christ in us—and He gets to impress us and those around us with how good He actually is.  Seems like a plan to me.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Knowing the Voice & Thoughts of God


Some have asked, “Ralph, how do you know the voice of God?” “How do you know the thoughts of God?” I think what they’re really wanting is to know is, “What is God saying to me? It must be important.” That’s no small thing.

Because the way that God communicates with each of us is often different—in fact it’s supposed to be unique and a private experience of the gift of God to you—let me answer the question this way:

If God long ago bore all of your iniquities and failures, and ransomed you from sin (according to Isaiah), if He stepped into the human real estate market and bought and paid for you, making you His own home, His perfect dwelling place (according to Matthew), if He secured you for heaven and forever life with Him, and if He rescued you from this present evil age by putting you into Jesus Christ, where you have all things (according to Paul), if that has all been done, then you’ll be able to discern the voice of the Liar whenever you hear anything different, anything contrary, even if it comes from someone you might otherwise believe.

Knowing the truth of what God did through the cross and resurrection for you will help you, even cause you to expect to hear and know from God directly the truth of what makes Him so happy about you. He’s not quiet about it! He has made you nearly ridiculously well off with Him, and He loves to convey that to you. It’s His favorite thing!

This will also help you to hear and know God’s voice, words and thoughts of truth, freedom, love, correction, direction and encouragement—right to your heart, where it counts. It will sound and be like you’d think Jesus would sound and be, looking right at you, right into your eyes, since He knows all about what He has loved doing for you, as well as what’s to come for the two of you together.

Can you grow in knowing the voice and thoughts of God for you? Yes. In addition to collecting and thinking about the foundational truths of the gospel (some of which are mentioned above), I encourage you to ask God if you might send something along those lines to a friend; to ask Him if one of those truths is especially important for you today; to ask Him if there’s something He wants to show you about how a lie has hindered you or someone you know; to ask and listen, ask and listen, ask and listen again. You might write down some of what you hear and know. Making mistakes is normal—okay? I’ve made a bunch, and God didn’t beat me up about it, right? Fortunately, I make far fewer now.

Becoming familiar with the Truth is like opening a doorway to Jesus and His involvement with you. What’s better than that? After all, He doesn’t just tell you about the way, the truth and the life—He is the way, truth and life. There is, however, something that will become increasingly bothersome as you go forward; lies and half-truths will be to you like fingernails on a chalkboard and torture you inside. It won’t be comfortable. That, too, will work together as a good thing since you will give your attention to the Spirit in order to see if there’s anything for you to do about it with Him.

And that’s when your days become what He intended: a set up for you to know Him. His is the voice you will know. His are the thoughts you will recognize. He will see to it with you—He’s rather fond of you! Count on it.


Freedom In Christ

Got 1.5 minutes for an invitation to freedom?