God In the Box

God has a plan and a purpose for each and every person alive on the planet Earth. However, the only people with any hope of fulfilling God’s plan for their life are those who personally know Jesus Christ, are forgiven and are following Him as a disciple doing as He has commanded and as He guides and directs.

These disciples have a song in their hearts that God has placed there. It is a song that God has written that speaks of what His plan is for their life – His purpose for them while living on planet Earth. He wrote the melody and the words and placed them in the disciple’s heart. Only that disciple can sing his or her song. No one else can sing it for them. If you are a disciple of the Lord and truly following Him – you have a song in your heart as well – and only you can sing the words to the tune that you were given. Only you can fulfill God’s plan and the purpose for that plan for your life. No one else can do it for you and, if you fail, no one else will do it after you. It is a unique song for you to sing.

I believe the greatest sin is to die having never sung your song – fulfilled your God-given dream. I believe that if your song is not sung and heard by all then it is because you have boxed God in and limited what He can do in your life. I have always believed that. I believe that too many disciples of the Lord have never let God out of the box that they built for Him. That most have severely limited what they can do for Him and what He can do through them by forming a god of their own imagination and then boxing Him in and not truly living by faith believing that with God “all things are possible.” Many have never said, as Mary said, “let it be done to me according to Your Word.” Many have allowed fear to keep them from stepping out in faith and risking everything – you heard me right … everything – for Him and His cause.

There is this young guy whose book I recently read while flying to Kazakhstan He travels the world encouraging people to believe in the Lord and lives a life of faith and adventure (they go together) and who has learned that with God all things are possible. You see, he was born without arms or legs … no limbs. And yet he has done things people might deem impossible for a man with such limitations. I like what he wrote in his book. He wrote, “When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box. After all, you are His creation. He made you for a purpose. Therefore your life cannot be limited any more than God’s love can be contained.” Nick Vujicic.

I just want to yell – Preach it brother!!!!

So, you what is your excuse for not singing your song and keeping God in a box?

Be a Miracle

Everyone wants a miracle. Everyone has a area of their lives where they need a miracle. Everyone would love to be on the receiving end of a miracle. Many – even non-believers – pray for a miracle. Yet, few miracles are seen. Many are heard about through the Christian press but few are seen. We believe in a miracle worker – His Name is Jesus – but few miracles are seen or received in everyday life.

This does not mean that few miracles are actually happening. I believe many miracles happen daily but we are either too busy to notice them or they are small – although significant – and so are missed. I believe Jesus is still in the business of doing miracles for people and I have seen many miracles over my years of ministering. It would be good if I could say that every time a miracle was needed it was received but that has not been the case. But this I do know – we worship, serve and follow a miracle working God whose Name is Jesus.

Now, it has been said, “If you can’t get a miracle, become one.” (Nick Vujicic). I like that. It takes guts to become a miracle. It means becoming actively involved in your own life – taking responsibility for what is and is not happening. It means overcoming the very dominant victim mentality prevalent in our world today . It means becoming active and even pro-active about situations, circumstances and relationships in your life. It means allowing the Miracle-worker to work in you and as you cooperate with Him actually changing, improving, overcoming, conquering and thus becoming your own miracle.

This is no less God working a miracle. It is simply not instantaneous. It is not “now”. It is not a sovereign move of God. It is a slow but steady change that many miss seeing in you until years later when the change has been so immense that ever a blind person could see it. Sadly, many individual believers also miss this happening in their own lives because they have not made Jesus Lord and given Him permission to make these changes so that they become a walking miracle, a miracle in process.

There is no shortage of miracles in the world today – just a shortage of people willing to work one in another’s life or become one themselves.

Needed to Succeed

As I was growing up my father use to say – “If you make up your mind that you want to do it – you can do it.” In other words, if you want to do something and you decide to go for it – nothing can stop you from achieving what you set your mind to. After becoming a believer I changed it a bit and now it reads like this: “If you have the desire and passion to do something, and it’s within God’s will, you will achieve it.”

Over the last 30+ years of walking with Jesus I have also found it necessary to have a few other attributes that guide and direct my life…

1> A powerful sense of a God-given purpose
2> Hope based in Jesus and so strong that it cannot be diminished
3> Faith in God and that with God nothing is impossible
4> Love and self-acceptance – you need to know who you are and be comfortable and secure in who you are and how you express that in your every day world
5> A positive approach to life which includes a very positive attitude
6> A courageous and adventuresome spirit
7> A willingness to change (daily if needed)
8> A trusting heart
9> The ability to laugh at life and laugh at yourself
10> A mission to serve others first
11> Always taking God seriously and never taking yourself too seriously
12> A hunger to move forward and make something of yourself in life and never settling for the status quo
13> A desire to follow Jesus no matter where He leads you

This baker’s dozen has allowed me to be a success in God’s eyes. I have never worried about being successful in the eyes of the world. Many would look at me and think that I am less than successful and according to many of the standards of the world I suspose I am. But then I decided to never allow my life to be controlled or guided by the world’s standards in any way. I simply gave my life to Jesus and decided to be His disciple and follow Him regardless. It has led to much that I would term “success” and He would be in agreement I am sure.

My point: What or who is guiding your life and what are your goals (hopes and dreams)? And, what principles and inner qualities are guiding your life so that you can glorify Jesus and be a success in His eyes?

Walking My Dog

I have just come back from walking my dog and I felt a blog coming on. So, here I am in my study on a beautiful day (late afternoon) and putting thoughts to paper – or fingers to keyboard – or words on the screen – whatever you call it, I’m writing a blog.

It was poor timing – I ended up at almost the half way mark of the shorter route at the same time one of two remaining schools in my area was letting students out for the afternoon. I usually avoid this time of the day because then everyone wants to talk to and play with the dog. However, I managed to get by the students without too much commotion. One young man stopped and asked if the dog was friendly and yet would not let the dog too close to him. Many kids are afraid of dogs. However, my wonderful best friend was really friendly and didn’t jump up or lick him to death and we went on.

As we turned around to come back we caught up with the same young man and 5 of his friends. So, for a good kilometer they all walked with me (well, face it Ralph, they walked with the dog and tolerated me). My initial contact wanted to hold the leash and walk Cuddles. I let him – teaching him what to do as bikes and skateboarders and teenagers on rollerblades came by. He learned quickly. Everyone but two departed at the main street we cross and the two young men (grade two and grade three in a Roman Catholic school) kept walking with me and walking the dog. They live really close to me in a set of apartments right next to where I walk my dog.

We are talking and sharing and they ask why the dog walks right beside me and I tell them I trained him to do so. But, that when I am away for a few weeks and don’t walk him, I have to remind him about our way of walking but that he re-learns things quickly. And why do I go away so often when I have such a nice dog … I travel overseas to Russia and Ukraine and… That was it. They didn’t listen to another word as one of them came to my nation 3 years ago from Russia and the other young man came to live here from Ukraine 2 years ago. One speaks Ukranian and the other one speaks Russia. I practiced some of the new words I am learning in Russia and then shared a bit of what I do when in their former home nations.

Did I give them the Gospel. Nope! Not in words. But, I did love them by letting them walk with me (and slowing me down), holding the leash as they walked the dog, teaching them about dogs and leashes, and asking about their lives and what they were learning and about their thoughts on their new home nation… I told them that God loves them and that I appreciated getting to know them and hoped we would get to walk together again soon. They expressed the same hope. So, we have begun. And, tomorrow I wil have some of my business cards with me – the ones in the Russian language.

I plan to walk my dog later than normal again tomorrow and wait for them to exit the school grounds and see if they want to join me again on my walk home. Oh, by the way, the dog was thrilled to have young people accompany him on his walk. I normally work with a much older age group than these two young men but I take every opportunity no matter how simple or even inconvenient it may be – I take every opportunity I am given to influence people towards knowing and receiving Jesus. It makes walking my dog fun – and sharing Jesus gives added meaning to all of my daily activities.

Did I ever tell you about the old man with the cane and our conversation the other day as we met each other on the bike path (dog walk) and our dogs sniffed each other? Well, another day…

An Alter Call

No, I did spell that wrong. If you are religious or a church-goer you would think it should be an “altar” call … unless, of course, you don’t spell well. No, I don’t want to write about that “come to the front and get saved” altar call. I want to mention the need within the Church today for an alter call – a call to alter what we are doing.

It is time for an alter call, but this one needs to be a little different. It is an alter call to the world, an invitation to see a new kind of Christianity and to hear the confession of a church on its knees asking your forgiveness for the mess we have helped to create by our lack of love …

It is an alter call to the Church, to alter our vision from the patterns of this world and create new ways of living. It is an alter call to approach the world with the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom and do so in a non-defensive way. To invite people who are not in agreement with us and even oppose us to enter into conversation with us about significant and spiritual issues. To understand that the narrower the truth we proclaim the greater the grace needed in the proclamation (more on this on June 9th’s blog). It is time to change how we do what we do because it apparently is no longer working and certainly not working for those between 18 and 38 who are generally not interested in anything we now currently offer.

As I speak to young people – believers and non-believers – I am amazed at what non-believers really think about the Church – when they think about it, which is seldom to never. I am even more amazed what they think of Jesus, His identity, His life and His ministry – both then and now. I am amazed at the spiritual hunger these young people exibit and note, with regret, that they are not looking to the Church to satisfy that hunger. I see that they have a sincere interest in a “faith” that is real, authentic, powerful, and demands something of those who believe in it. In general, they fail to see it in us and so we need to alter things.

As I speak to believers who are attending Church, Bible study, even prayer meetings … I am amazed at what they believe and the fact that they truly think what they believe is based in their Bible. There is so much that is cultural in the beliefs being expressed. A North American gospel, so-to-speak. And, there is a tremendous amount of the teachings of Jesus that are simply being glossed over and / or just ignored. We, of course, then look like, live like, and sound like the world around us and no longer a “holy nation within the nations” as Peter by the Holy Spirit told us we are to be.

So, my point: It is time to think about altering the Church and as we are the Church it is time to invite the Holy Spirit to make some major changes in us – in what we believe, how we live, and what we do in and for the King of the Kingdom.

The Bible says that we have entered a time of great change and a time of divine shaking and I believe this is God inviting us to respond to the changes He is wanting to make in us and in our churches. I don’t believe we have a lot of time to think about it … I don’t believe He is giving us an option … I don’t believe He will hang around if we fail to respond. Listen to His words:

So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words … One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern. The phrase ‘one last shaking’ means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered.” (Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version).

It is time for an alter call.

We Have a National Health Crisis

We are being told that we have a national health crisis – our children are obese – massively overweight – past fat into gross. Any wonder – look at their parents and many of the adults of today. Now, before you say – yes Ralph, but being slight or next to thin is simple for you because you have a high metabolism, are very active, and have a natural tendency towards thin. Utter and total nonsense. I just simply watch what I eat and how much I eat – in relationship to how active I am in that season of the year. I watch what I eat as well – not just how much. Why so much effort? I don’t want to be overweight as it is bad for your health and a terrible witness as a believer. Remember – our lifestyle speaks louder than our words.

Here’s a crazy statistic. In the United States, less than 6 percent of the world’s population consumes nearly half of the world’s resources, and the average American consumes as much as 520 Ethiopians do, while obesity is declared a “national health crisis.”

Evagrius of Pontus – 4th century monk and desert father once made a list of 7 deadly sins – gluttony was one of them. Maybe it was a problem back in his day as well. Maybe it is not a new issue but it should be declared a major issue for those who are calling themselves disciples of the Lord today. We are called to follow Jesus and thus influence and impact the world in which we live. And, I repeat myself, our lifestyle often speaks much louder than our words.

Each of us is called to disciple others … Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples. When you win someone to the Lord it is your task to then build a relationship with them and disciple them in the basics of the Christian faith. Like Paul you are truly saying, “follow me as I follow Christ.” You are saying, believe as I believe, do as I do, become what I have become.

Ask yourself, would someone really want to follow you and thus become what you have become? Would you really want someone to at this point in your life? Are there some things that need to change in your life so that you could honestly state. “follow me” and be comfortable with having said it? And, when someone looks at you are you someone who instills confidence and a sense of mission in others so that they would want to follow you?

Let’s broaden it past our eating disorders and whatever the roots of that disfunction are … does your overall lifestyle, your words and your actions instill such confidence in people that they would want to follow you and become like you?

Tough questions – but ones I believe we all need to think about. We are not just in a national crisis – the church is also in crisis and needs to do something about the impression we are leaving with those who do not know Jesus. We have a credibility crisis.

Like a Mustard Seed

Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God – to which we belong if we are disciples of the Lord – is like mustard, which grows like a wild bush (Matthew 13:31-35).

Farmers in His day would tell you that mustard was like kudzu. Kudzu is a wild vine that vigorously takes over an area. Rather unassumingly, it can blanket entire mountainsides, smoother trees, and crack cement buildings. A city preacher would compare it to the wild weeds that grow out of the abandoned houses and crack the sidewalks in a downtown area. The mustard seed’s growth would have been familiar to first-century Jews and its symbolic meaning unmistakably clear. It may have even been growing in the wild around them as Jesus spoke.

Jews valued order and had very strict rules about how to keep a tidy garden, and one of the secrets was to keep out mustard. It was notorious for invading the well-trimmed veggies and other plants and for quickly taking over the entire garden. Then they would be left with only mustard! Jewish law even forbade planting mustard in the garden. When those first-century peasants heard Jesus’ images, they would have giggled, or maybe they would have told Him to hush before He got killed.

Here He is using this infamous plant to describe God’s Kingdom subtly taking over the world. You see THE JESUS REVOLUTION is not a frontal attack on the empires of the world. It is a subtle contagion, spreading one little life, one little house at a time. Isn’t it interesting that Saul of Tarsus went door to door (Acts 8:3) trying to tear up the contagion like it was a cancer? But the harder people tried to eradicate it, the faster it spread. And, in the end, even Saul caught the contagion. The mustard weed grabbed him and he became Paul the apostle.

The Kingdom of God is like a little seed that gets planted in people’s hearts and lives and slowly but surely takes over and claims everything in its path. It is this Kingdom Jesus came to preach. It is the Kingdom Jesus left us here to share and plant everywhere we go.

Narrow Truth – Wide Grace

The September 27, 2010 issue of Newsweek (American edition) cited the statistic that 80 percent of Americans believe people of other religions can get to Heaven. But at least 100 verses in the New Testament either directly or indirectly state that Jesus is the only way. Obviously there is a direct disconnect here.

Something I am learning – so excuse me if in this blog it is not a fully developed idea. Here is what I am thinking about as I sit in my backyard in the late afternoon sunshine early in the month of June, 2011. The harder the truth, the narrower the truth, the more the truth excludes – the greater the grace needed by the disciples of the Lord.

So, if Jesus is the only way to Heaven and the 100+ verses in the New Testament are correct in stating there is absolutely no other way – pretty narrow truth. No wobble room here for arguments. Fairly black and white. Not easy to find an alternative or an exception to that statement. So, as disciples of Jesus believing that He is the only way … the narrower the truth the greater the grace needed to handle it.

That means we need tremendous grace to handle people who do not believe as we believe – even though the Bible would say that we are right. Because the truth is narrow does not mean the grace needs to be narrow. In fact, quite the opposite. Because of truth’s narrowness, grace needs to be exceedingly wide. And it is indeed possible to believe the truth while at the same time radically loving and embracing those who choose to believe otherwise. And, being willing to openly dscuss the truth with those who don’t agree without becoming defensive and obnoxious.

So, we believe as disciples that homosexual behavior is outside of God’s will for us. Narrow truth. But, at the same time we can radically love and embrace those who still choose to live that way. We can express great grace by loving them, accepting them as people made in God’s image and offering them the forgiveness that we have received and understand is found only through Jesus.

We need to surprise them that with a grace that is exceedingly wide and unafraid in its embrace. We ought not to let anyone’s lifestyle or any sin in a person’s life get in the way of our radical love towards them and acceptance of them as people Jesus died for. We must not let anyone’s lifestyle or beliefs get in the way of our radical love toward them – Jesus didn’t. Remember, for while YOU were yet a sinner, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

That’s narrow truth, radical love and wide grace – Jesus didn’t wait for us to get our lifestyles in order before His died. He died that we would be able to get our lives in order. That’s what makes God love and grace so amazing and also desperately needed when presenting the truth.

So, just because the truth is narrow does not mean the grace has to be. Afterall, Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” So we must go the same way – full of grace and truth.

Camping Anyone?

In an age of million-dollar mansions for God, it’s hard to imagine that our God prefers tents and has always had a thing for camping. In the Hebrew Scriptures, such as in Exodus, God “tabernacles” with the Israelites, a word that essentially means “sets up camp.” In the baby refugee Jesus, God becomes Emmanuel (“God with us”), crashing in the manger. And it is in the life of Jesus that God puts skin on to show us what love looks like. John’s Gospel calls this incarnational act “pitching God’s tent among us.” And then God wanders the Galilean countryside with “no place to lay His head,” a stranger looking for a house of hospitality to welcome Him.

Despite the fact that God’s Word insists that “God does not dwell in temples built by hands,” we insist that God should. Our God wants not to be shut-up in a “house” called the temple or the Church … I am not against having a building that we meet in as disciples of the Lord. I have bought and sold several in my time and still appreciate having a building to met in as we worship and follow the Lord. However, I am against calling them a “church” building. As I learned in Sunday School – the church is not the steeple but the people … the church is not a building where we gather but the people who come together to be equipped and then scatter – taking God with them outside the building and into their everyday world. The church – gathered and scattered.

God does not live in buildings – He lives in the hearts of His people. These people – disciples of Jesus – gather in buildings or homes and then scatter to influence and impact their every day world. We are His tents today. We are His real “house” today. God is still without a “home” because He wants to be nomadic and move from place to place with His people where we live, work, and play. He is wanting us to take Him into all the world and not simply leave Him in the building to return next Sunday to honor Him once again. He wants to be “out and about” working through you and through me every day, everywhere.

So, let’s move Him out into our everyday world and watch what He can and will do. Let’s talk about Him with others and watch them come to know Him. Let’s pray to Him and watch Him heal the sick. Let’s confront the darkness in His Name and watch demons leave and people come into freedom and the light. Let’s believe what Jesus said and “go into all the world…” knowing that He goes with us all the time, everywhere … “and I am with you even to the end of the (church) age.” Let’s believe Him when He states that “the things that I do you will do also…” and let Him work through us to do just that.

It is time to believe that truly God dwells in His people and not in buildings made by human hands and begin to go camping with Him on a daily basis.

Is It a Boy or a Girl? We Are Not Telling!


I was quiet about Oprah retiring and the fact that the “queen has left the building”. I never comment on Elvis sightings either since the “king left the building.” But, this one I need to comment on – GENDER COACHING.

A few days ago I was driving to a mentoring situation at a local Daily Queen and on CNN or Fox the news came on that in California they now have gender coaches for the pre-high school students in their public school systems. These Gender Coaches, of course, did not exist back when I was in school. Back then your parents spoke to you about the “birds and the bees” and did so because this is a family issue and should be dealt with on the family level. However, this was before feminism, the sexual revolution (more like a slide into the sewer than a revolution), the birth control pill, free sex, and big brother becoming involved in each and every aspect of your life. Now we need Gender Coaches. Interesting.

And what are they coaching pre-High School students about? Sex, of course. But it is hidden a bit at first – the talk about the fact that every person is different and unique. Sounds good. That we must be tolerant and accepting of people. Okay, I can buy that. That every person has a right to be who they are. Excellent! However, it goes further than that – much further.

It is basically pushing a gender-neutral agenda. You don’t raise your child as a male or a female but as neutral. Now you can have a boy, a girl or an it. You allow your child to develop his or her (oh, sorry – that was not gender neutral) own sexual preferences, expression, and lifestyle.

Thus you let a child decide who they are sexually without parents creating their sexual preferences by dressing them in blue or pink as babies … These Gender Coaches teach that all sexual preferences are okay and right – if you should chose to become one of them. Even if it is contrary to your parent’s spiritual understanding of sex and sexual expression. Remember, these are pre-high school students. They are being advised that it is normal to be homosexual or bi-sexual or trans-gender or have a sex change or have multiple partners or even indulge in group sex or…

Boy (whoops, did it again – sorry) if we think we are sexually messed up now and living in a bit of a sewer – just wait for the gender neutral babies to grow up and become teens and then enter their early twenties. You want to see crazy – you will have to redefine the word.