What’s Easter Really About?

April 18th, 2014

What’s your personal enduring image of the whole Easter story?

Of course the cross and resurrection reside at the center of history, but for me a smaller, more intimate moment captures the essence of what Jesus was trying to tell me.

In the midst of the chaos and turmoil and fear, He stopped to wash His disciples’ feet.

It’s difficult for us to get our heads around the significance of foot-washing in first-century cultural context. Men walked unsanitary streets teeming with beggars, diseased folks, and livestock. Foot-washing was a dirty, stinky task, usually consigned to the lowest of servants.

This was the world-famous neurosurgeon performing routine physicals in a remote village, the race track CEO mucking horse stalls, the country club president digging in the mud to repair sprinkler lines—not as a photo op but as a routine act of generosity and service.

My friend Bob Goff was in Orlando to speak at a conference. When it was time to leave, the organizers arranged a car service to drive him to the airport. During the trip he struck up a conversation and learned the driver was two weeks from retirement. Now Bob’s a bit mischievous, and he had a “Bob thought.”

“Have you ever ridden in the back of this limousine?”

“No, sir.”

“Pull over.”

“I can’t, sir. I’ll get in trouble.”

“Pull over! What are they gonna do, fire you?” Bob thinks like that.

So they changed places. Bob took the man’s limo driver cap and opened the back door for him. The driver settled into the seat he’d never occupied in all those years. And Bob drove him to the airport.

I don’t need to do big stuff to capture this image of Easter. Maybe it’s as simple as letting go of the notion that I’m too good to drive so someone else can relax.

You too?

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Why you’re here

April 17th, 2014

We attended a friend’s photography exhibition Friday evening.

Rebecca’s mostlyself-taught—started snapping photos, enjoyed the results, bought better equipment, discovered she has a special eye, and developed her craft. Then she had the guts to share her art with the world. You should check out some of her stuff.

Here’s the thing—building, developing, and sharing are hard. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, whether people will like it.

It’s much easier to be a critic, to point out the flaws in someone else’s creation. Less work, less risk, less buy-in. Critics tear down and destroy.

Jesus was the artist, the Creator, that guy who made beautiful work where others saw piles of junk. And I think He wants us to be apprentices. He wants to share His secrets, form relationships, and invest in our work.

Art doesn’t have to be photography or painting or music. I worked with teachers, carpenters, and bricklayers who were all artists. I know business leaders who create and serve every day.

What is it that you’re good at, that you love, that serves others? Perhaps that’s what you were made to do. And perhaps whatever you were made to do is your art. And perhaps that’s part of why you’re here, because we need your art.

It’s Monday. What would happen this week if you had the courage to do a whole bunch of your art and share it with the world?

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What If Scripture Is A Participation Sport?

April 16th, 2014

god talkHave you ever questioned an expert’s version of “what the bible says”?

Yesterday I compared church to a football game: a lot of people who desperately need exercise sit around and watch a small group of people who desperately need rest.

We’re especially in that mode when it comes to interpreting scripture. We often accept without question or research some expert’s spoon-fed scripture interpretation.

I decided a while ago to be responsible for my own theology. For me, here’s what that means.

I know several pastors from a variety of backgrounds. They all love Jesus, and if they gathered in a room they’d agree on many theological principles: the trinity, we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus, we’re called to love our neighbor, and lots of other stuff.

For me, those are the core principles, those on which virtually all followers of Jesus concur. They’re the “majors,” the principles that define what it means to follow Jesus.

My friends would also disagree on some issues. Honest, prayerful scholarship can lead people of faith and good will to different conclusions on certain matters. When I’ve discussed these points, my friends frequently (not always) say things like “here’s the best conclusion I can reach right now” or “this is how it seems to me at this point.”

To me these are important but less essential issues. They’re the “minors.” They do not in any way separate me from other followers of Jesus. And since my pastor friends disagree, it’s my job to either let these issues go or figure out where I stand.

I want to major in the majors and minor in the minors. In the words of Augustine:

In the essentials, unity.
In the non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

You and I can disagree about a particular issue, even if we both believe the bible and love Jesus. In the context of a relationship we can discuss and learn without arguing, but no positive purpose is served by name-calling or labeling. Disagreement doesn’t make either of us wrong.

We’ve seen recently (in the World Vision fiasco) the devastation and division that results when one side of an issue is labeled “bible-believing.” Whenever you see two people who seem to love Jesus and hold different views, I challenge you to transform scripture interpretation into a participation sport.

Instead of accepting what you’ve always heard, do some research on other perspectives. Don’t read opinions, but find responsible scholarship that looks at biblical interpretation at deeper levels. Remember that scripture is God-inspired, but understanding scripture is an imperfect human activity. Beware of anyone—not named Jesus—who claims to have THE answer.

Occasionally Jesus’ answers are kind of surprising, but you almost always have to ask questions first.

Oh, and you have to listen.

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Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Decisions! Decisions!

April 15th, 2014

Psalm 143:8b: “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

Do you ever feel unable to make a decision? I do. If I shop for clothes, I want them to be on sale, made well, washable, no iron, and in red, hot pink, or royal blue.

When it comes to electronics, I’ll talk to dozens of people before I make a decision. I’ll wait months even two or three years before I decide.

When I bought my laptop, I waited and waited.

Finally, I did what I should have done first. I prayed and asked God to “show me the way I should go.”

I also asked God to have that laptop on sale. I told him I wouldn’t buy it unless it was on sale. Then I stopped thinking about the laptop.

About seven months later, I went to the pharmacy near an electronics store. Since I was already there, I walked inside the store.

I heard an announcement over the intercom that the Apple laptops were on sale, and they had only four left.

As I raced to the computer department, I thanked God for the sale. I bought my laptop and thanked God again.

Sometimes God says, “No.” Sometimes he says, “Yes.” Other times he says, “Wait.”

 Dear God, show me the way I should go. Amen.

 Application: In what decision will you wait to hear from God?

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Copyright 2010-2013, Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

“Servant Leader” is More than a Catchy Phrase

April 14th, 2014

I’ve noticed something lately that prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

TIME


I notice two distinct groups of leaders with a large gap between them.

In one group I find people who acknowledge others mostly when they need something from them. They talk about servant leadership, but careful observation reveals that they’re not spending much time with anyone who’s not doing something for them or feeding their agenda in some manner.

They’re insulated by an inner circle whose central function seems to be to guard their time.

Folks in the other group spend a lot of time asking, “What can I do for you?” They answer their own phones more often. They return email and phone calls.

They’re far less likely to be shielded by an assistant with an ironclad schedule and a possible opening in a few weeks.

These groups of leaders aren’t distinguished by the size or success of their organizations. Some in the second group lead large, complex teams, while some in the first group lead relatively small teams. Both groups include leaders from business, non-profit, ministry, and civic organizations.

The difference, from what I can tell, is the way these people spend or invest their time.

The first group regards time with a scarcity mentality. They hoard it as though it can only be shared with special, important people.

Folks in the second group regard time with an abundance mentality. They don’t waste it, but they’re not afraid to spend it, either. And they’re certainly not handing it out only to those who “deserve” it.

They almost lavish time on others as though it was love.

It’s not my place to tell others how to manage their time. But this is a good reminder for me, because I want to be in the second group.

I don’t want to be the guy who has time only for those who can do something for me in return.

It’s Monday. Might be a good day to remember that “servant leader” is more than a catchy phrase.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Can Our Rights Be Wrong?

April 10th, 2014

bill of rights“I have the right to ______.”

You fill in the blank—the possibilities are nearly endless. We’re all about defending and demanding our rights.

A few days ago I read an article about human trafficking in which the author cited compelling data linking prostitution, pornography, and the meteoric increase in internet trafficking of minors. In a comment, one guy angrily defended his constitutional right to view pornography, affirmed by THE SUPREME COURT! (his caps.) He went on to express his anger at “self-righteous Christians” trying to take away his right to do whatever he wanted in his private life.

Personally, I’ve no interest in limiting anyone’s rights. Passing a law might make us feel better, but it’s actually an extremely ineffective way to change “moral” behavior. Want examples?

  • Prostitution is illegal in every state. Does anyone believe those laws stop paid sexual activity or its horrible side effects
  • Slavery and human trafficking are illegal in every country. Nearly 30 million people live in modern-day slavery, and human trafficking is the second largest worldwide organized crime activity (behind drugs).
  • Illegal street drugs proliferate in every community despite massive law enforcement campaigns and billions of dollars wasted on a virtual revolving door of incarceration involving a huge portion of our population.

Jesus refused to deploy power or fear to control behavior. Paul frequently deferred his rights as a Roman citizen, accepting illegal beatings and imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. He wasn’t interested in his rights, but in God’s notion of what’s right.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

Just wondering how different things would look if every follower of Jesus surrendered our “right” to judge those who disagree. What if we gave up our right to fight back, to shout for our political beliefs, to edit the truth to fit our version of reality?

What if knowing Jesus mattered more than getting our way? What if loving our enemies was really more important than winning? Would things look any different?

Do you think we could change the world if justice—setting things right, from God’s perspective—was more important to us than our rights?

Jesus gave His life for that principle.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

One Pesky Word Changes A Lot

April 9th, 2014

mt 6.33I used to think preachers were bragging a little when they talked about Greek or Hebrew translation. Frankly,I figured it was one way of quashing disagreement and showing who’s really the expert.

But as I learn, I’m amazed at how frequently a careful look at original words reveals a different understanding of an important point in scripture.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a surprising (to me) assertion in a sermon. The preacher said, “Biblically, there’s no distinction between righteousness and justice.”

I thought that was a rather bold statement. His claim rested on a translation issue. Turns out there’s one Old Testament word—sadaq—and one New Testament Greek word—Dikaios­for righteousness and justice. So while we may consider them as two separate notions, the writers of scripture didn’t.

Justice is righteousness. Righteousness is justice.

Does that seem awkward to you? It did to me.

I think this changes a lot, but one thing it changes is: you can’t define these words differently. Whatever one means, the other means.

What’s your definition?

To me, justice means setting things right. Does that fit with righteousness?

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

So, seek first his kingdom and his justice…how does that change your understanding of this familiar verse—or does it?

This was an eye-opening notion for me. I’m still digesting.  More next time.

Your thoughts?

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Something Beyond Worry

April 7th, 2014

Too much “tomorrow” brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

Spring’s coming. Easter’s in a few weeks. Lots of stuff to get ready for the bike tour in three months. Goals, plans, all sorts of interesting, fun stuff on the horizon.

What about NOW?

Am I the only one who gets so involved in what’s coming that I tend to forget about savoring what’s in front of me?

I can’t imagine floating through life with no objectives. It’s good to aim at worthy targets and have some idea where we’re trying to go.

But—I think there’s something to balance, and I notice lately that I’m focused maybe a bit too much on what’s down the road. Spring’s a season for that, so maybe you’re there as well.

Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) Perhaps He was talking about something beyond worry. Perhaps He was talking about focus, concern, or attention. Maybe He was suggesting we keep our heart centered a bit more on the day before us.

Today’s Monday. It might be good to start the week with a commitment to now, to make sure this week doesn’t pass without notice. God’s got something remarkable in mind for the next few days. Let’s not miss it.

Have a great week.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Is there anything we can do to keep our feet from slipping?

April 3rd, 2014

When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the one who holds his hand.
Psalm 37:24

I love this verse; it is so encouraging; it settles my heart into a deep peace with the Lord. When we fall we are not hurled headlong… but is there anything we can do to keep our feet from even slipping? Let’s study Psalm 37 for an answer.

Open you Bible to explore Psalm 37, a spiritual warfare psalm from start to finish. As you read, put it into spiritual context by seeing the “enemy,” the “wicked,” and “evildoers” as not people, but as forces of Darkness, Satan and his demons. See the “land” as territory in your heart. Recognize that the battle is for that territory in your heart.

“Don’t fret” is a repeated theme. “Fret” (or “worry” in the NLT) is charah in the Hebrew, and it means “to blaze up with anger or jealousy, to burn, to be incensed.” Remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). In verses 1and 2 of Psalm 37 we are commanded not to waste our time and energy blazing up with anger, for their time is short (Rev 12:12).

So what do we do with our energy instead of being incensed? Go on to verses 3 through 6 for the answer… and I’ll let you continue prayerfully through Psalm 37 from there. Let me know what God shows you through this psalm – and if there is anything we can do to keep our feet from slipping.

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~ * ~

Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.

Whose Plan are You Following?

April 2nd, 2014

,I think sometimes we forget that only the Potter knows how to fashion us to suit His purposes. We think we know our purposes here on this earth, and what we need to fulfill them. But the Lord says in Jeremiah “I know the plans I have for you” (emphasis on the “I”) (Jer 29:11).

Or maybe we get some great ideas and plans, run off to implement them, and then ask God to bless them. But Corinthians says that the thoughts of the wise are futile (1 Cor 3:20).

Or perhaps God has revealed some of His plans for us, and we think we know how to bring them to fruition. But He says in Isaiah His ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55:9).

I think that we rarely know what God is up to. Only He knows the intimate details of the plans, the step by step journey that He has planned for us. Only He knows the upcoming battles we will face. Only He knows the current state of our heart, and His desired state of our heart. Only He knows what equipping will be required.

He loves us so much, He is so fiercely protective of us, He will not send us into battle unprepared. The battle is the Lord’s, and His plan is victory. Our equipping is critical if we want to partner with Him in victory.

Does it frustrate you, or bring you comfort, that God is the only omniscient One who knows how to shape us to fit the plan?

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~ * ~

Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.