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In your growth in Christ, there are significant pieces that will be of great help to you.  LifeNotes is one of those important additions. By requesting LifeNotes, each week you will receive an encouraging article from Ralph.  In all of them, his goal is to assist you in your ongoing desire to know the truth, particularly the truth which revives your heart and changes how you live.


By now you must know that, while your days are busy and filled with loads of images and information, there isn’t much which truly builds you up.  That’s LifeNotes.


To get an idea about what a LifeNote is like, scroll down and you will find a few examples from the past.  You may request these weekly encouragements by clicking here and asking for them, and you’ll find lots of previous LifeNotes and more by visiting Ralph’s Blog


We think LifeNotes will come to mean a lot to you.


Looking Into Heaven



"We’re on approach. Flight attendants prepare for landing."


As the aircraft pitched slightly from left to right and back again, I was relieved to hear the captain’s voice over the loudspeakers. There were a few more horizontal adjustments, a wah-whump, whump, and we were rolling safely on the runway in Vancouver, British Columbia. At last.


I was there to assist men in their journey with God in the hope that, in addition to growing more confident in Christ, they would discover what it’s like to live by the Spirit. By Sunday afternoon, they had.


A particular passage became beautifully clear:


For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,. . .(Romans 8:5,6 NAS)


To demonstrate this passage, I asked a young man (Zach) to join me up front, and then asked the men at the retreat to tell me about Zach—as though I had never met him. “He’s fun!” “He’s smart!” “He’s a good friend!” “His wife needs prayer!” And on it went. Then I asked, “Now that I know what Zach is like, tell Zach who God says He is. Tell it directly to Zach. And don’t rush this; there’s no hurry.”


Silence.


And then this: “Zach, you’re a holy man.” “Zach, you’re righteous.” “You’re perfect.” “You’re blameless.” “You’re forgiven.” “You’ve got God living in you.” “All of heaven recognizes you as a son of God.”


And that included us. We saw Zach.


No one moved. It was amazing. No, it was more than that. It was sacred. When I asked what the men were feeling, somewhat breathlessly they said, “I feel like I’m looking into heaven.” “I feel hope.” “I feel life.” “I feel great.” “I feel peace.” “I feel like I’m really seeing Zach.” “When we changed our minds from looking at the visible to looking at the invisible, everything changed from shallow and fleshly to deep and true.”


They felt God.


Romans 8:5-6 came alive in that moment as we turned our minds away from what was visible to what was invisible. We thought of Zach and addressed him according to what the Bible says God has made of him, and Zach was illuminated to us and to himself. And we felt it. We felt “life and peace,” the kind of life and peace produced by the Holy Spirit whenever we turn our minds toward Him.


For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Gal 6:8)


It was tremendous and Zach was a little overwhelmed. He felt the conflict between the flesh and Spirit, but he, too, chose to sow to the Spirit, reaping what God has promised. “I feel holy. I feel clean.” Indeed, he was—indeed, he is.


Approaching or addressing someone as they have become in Christ causes us to change our minds. We go away from the mind of the flesh and begin thinking according to the mind of the Spirit. You can feel the change! This isn’t a game you play or a way of pretending your way through life. A worldly curtain is drawn back to reveal the true image behind—and that’s more than a bit dazzling! I don’t recommend that you immediately begin addressing all the Christians you know as Holy Hannah, Righteous Rudy, or Forgiven Frank, because that makes a methodical mess out of the holy and sacred. You might silently think of them as the holy, blameless and forgiven sons or daughters they have become, and then see what the Spirit gives you or where He leads you. You won’t have to be creative when God is at work. He’s pretty creative already.


An added benefit of setting our mind upon the Spirit in addressing a brother (as we did with Zach) is that we experienced a sort of mini revival. In looking at Zach, we found ourselves too. (Surprise! The Super Heroes of God.) We reaped life, the Spirit invigorated us, and we were deeply encouraged by God. The men knew that they could do this at home with their families, at work, at church, by phone or email, even while driving on the freeway. With all that goes on around us, we’re always on approach. Take advantage.


Setting our minds upon the Spirit is our new normal way of living in this world. We’re not of it—we’re a heavenly colony on earth. But since we’re in it, we do well to see it as He sees it, and to approach it from there. We’ll be looking into heaven.



Single Christian Women—My Heroes



If I had the chance to stand up and praise the heroes in my life, I suppose it would take a while. And if I stood up today, perhaps I’d give the most time to a specific group of heroes—single Christian women. From Zagreb to Georgia, and Barbados to California, I admire and respect them deeply. They’re incredible.


While they have become the righteous and holy, new creation daughters of God, they nevertheless endure the faulty, measuring scrutiny of the world. Even from the church.


Even though the apostle Paul suggested we would all be better off single rather than married in our service to God (1 Cor 7), nowadays we don’t actually believe it’s true. Think of the single Christian women in your church and tell me they don’t endure endless prescriptions from well meaning, but Bible disbelieving people as to how they can “be healed” of their infirmity—singleness. Spoken or implied, we mostly think of them as incomplete or crippled, and shuttle them off to Children’s Ministry where they can at least partially fulfill their presumed destiny.


Single Christian women live with the not-so-subtle prejudice that there is something wrong with them, something that can only be cured by a ring on their finger and a man in their bed. Do you think my words are too strong? Then accept my challenge: ask them. Ask them if they believe they are seen and valued for who they are according to God, or if they are seen as something less, something different. Ask them if they feel revered because they remain single. And not just the nineteen year olds; ask the thirty-eight year old single Christian women. Ask them.


While I don’t recommend a curative prescription of giving single Christian women new places of prominence and authority as a way of proving our repentance, I do believe that we need to look anew at our saintly sisters. Do you see what God says is true of them? Do you believe that each is His chosen dwelling place, the modern-day Holy of Holies, made pure and faultless? They don’t need to be fixed-up in order to be useful and whole, they’ve been separated single unto God, at least for a season. How fantastic! For some, it will be a life-long marriage to the One we cannot see.


But can you see them anyway? Can you, by the eyes of faith, see them for who they are—the chosen, twice born, holy and blameless, radiant daughters of God? If you can, I’m certain you will see similar “invisible traits” emerging from the rest of the church too. The temporal shadows of this world—clothing, physical looks and abilities, status, etc.—hide the sons of God already, even from themselves. But you and I see according to The Truth, even when the suggested truth of this world says otherwise. The Truth directs our thoughts about God, and it directs our thoughts about each other. It must.


If we would approach each other according to the truth—let it begin with our single Christian women—then the revival many of us hope for would begin with us. We would thank them for the great example they are to us in their single-hearted, undivided devotion to the Lord. We would encourage the single Christian women to “go for it” with God, to run off at His leading, to be daring and adventurous in their godly situation, unencumbered by the challenges Paul says marriage brings. We would think of them as the royalty they are, instead of the royalty they could become . . . if only.


Knowing something of the struggle they face, we would be their cheerleaders—our team is on the field! Hooray! for single Christian women.


You’re my heroes.


(An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:34b-35)



The Incredibles


One of my family’s favorite films is “The Incredibles.” We love the characters (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, Helen Parr/Elastigirl, Violet and Dash) with their unique powers and personalities, as well as how each one grows in his or her respective gifts. Each was born incredible and each has to grow into it.


If you’ve seen it, you recall that early on in the movie The Incredibles were really struggling because, under pressure, they had chosen to live unlike they actually were. No lifting cars, no running through walls, no stretching an arm twenty feet to catch a cat falling out of a tree, and no rescuing people in distress. They were so different than everyone else, but, feeling the pressure of that uniqueness, they attempted to fit in and blend in and to find happiness and fulfillment in the act. They believed they could do it.


No chance.


They grew terribly bored and frustrated since they were stifling themselves, choosing to live a lie. Mom and dad, brother and sister fought among themselves at home, yet kept up their false appearance (“We’re doing fine!”) before everyone else. They could make that choice only so long.


Strong and persistent inner urgings in keeping with their supernatural identity urged them to live in the truth of who they were, no matter the consequences. When they finally threw off the lie of pretending, they grew and started doing incredible things…and they grew happy through the consequences.


I suppose I am not the first to liken you to one of The Incredibles. But perhaps it’s time to take another look at who you are so you can live as you are.


Right now God thinks pretty highly of you. Because you believed in Jesus, and because He included you in His crucifixion and resurrection (Romans 6), God dealt with the former you (crucified) and birthed the new you, a true son of His, righteous and holy, blameless and anointed, gifted and graced, as alien in this world as Jesus Himself, recognized throughout the heavens. (John 17:16) As Jesus lived in this world, so do you, in close relationship with God with whom you’ve become intimately compatible. You’re the best. You’re incredible.


But what if being incredible is a hassle? Or what if for some reason you become disillusioned regarding your incredibleness, and sort of let it go by the way side? What if most everyone around you isn’t like you, so you start becoming like them? Wouldn’t it be tempting to just do as well as you can amongst everyone else, and kind of leave all that super-human stuff at home? Let it out on the weekend? You could be okay, couldn’t you?


No chance. Bored, frustrated and stifled, you’d wear out trying to resist those strong and persistent inner urgings.


If, like everyone at one time or another in the family of Incredibles, you’ve become bored and frustrated, having allowed yourself to be cloaked in the mediocrity of this world in order to fit in, it’s time to grow. And happiness comes through growing in who you are – your birth cannot be ignored!


As it was in the film, I suspect it will be with you. Events will conspire to bring out the real, incredible you; God will see to it. You will be needed, someone will cry out, a situation will demand the real you, and you won’t be able to act in keeping with this world any longer.


Those around you will see an Incredible, and the glory of God will be evident in you.


More and more you’ll begin to feel and satisfy those true inner urgings, and, in keeping with who you are, you’ll do incredible things. You’ll know God, you’ll believe God and you’ll follow Him into His glory. After all, it’s not your fault that God has made you what you are – an Incredible.


 

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