Walking Through The Valley of the Shadow of Death

August 21st, 2014

Moses took the rod of God in his hand (Exodus 4:20, NKJV).
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4, NKJV).

I recently had the opportunity to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” with a neighbor named Dave. Dave had never professed a belief in Christ or even acknowledged God at all, except to use His name as a curse word. Apart from that, he was a nice man and an enjoyable neighbor, as well as a law-abiding citizen. When he became extremely ill and the doctor said he would not be leaving the hospital alive, some of his family members who knew I was a licensed minister contacted me and asked me to come and see him.

My husband and I went immediately, and it was obvious the moment we saw him that he was in his last hours of life. Hooked up to tubes and needles and machines, he seemed to be in a coma, though the doctor said he was nearly certain Dave could hear us. I began to talk with him about the only thing that really matters in life, and that’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

His eyes fluttered open, and he gave me a brief smile of recognition. I could tell from his eyes that he was listening. We had a short but meaningful conversation about his need to receive Jesus as his Savior, then we prayed together. I saw a peace wash over Dave’s face as his body relaxed. When I asked him if he understood what had happened and knew Jesus stood ready to walk him through the valley of the shadow of death, he nodded and whispered, “Yes.” A few hours later, he completed his journey through that valley and into the Father’s arms.

Some of his family members and friends came up to me afterward and said things like, “I know Dave is at peace now” or “I believe Dave is in heaven now.” Their reason for believing this? All declared the same thing: “Dave was a good man.”

Sad. Yet how many believe that same lie, that any of us could possibly make it to heaven based on our own “goodness”? Jesus was quite clear when He said, “No one is good but One, that is, God (Matthew 19:17).

Moses came to understand this crucial truth. A former shepherd who was used to carrying his own rod and staff as he protected the sheep in his care, Moses dared not go into Pharoah’s presence depending on his feeble human strength. Instead he “took the rod of God in his hand” (Exodus 4:20) before beginning the process of leading the people of Israel out of slavery.

King David knew this truth as well. Also a former shepherd, the Psalmist declared, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He knew, particularly as he so often faced the threat of death from those who hated and persecuted him, that only God’s road and staff could lead him safely home.

Dave is safely home now, not because he trusted in his own rod or staff of frail human goodness, but rather because he finally put his trust in the perfect goodness of God’s rod and staff. At that point he received comfort and assurance that he no longer needed to fear walking through the valley of the shadow of death, for his newfound Savior would carry him.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here2
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today! Copyright 2009-2013 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

Deliver Me From Evil, (finalist for the Golden Scrolls Novel of the Year Award) and Special Delivery.
No Greater Love, More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

Looking for Opportunities to Reflect the Light

August 20th, 2014

My eyes opened this morning at that magical pre-dawn instant when light begins to banish darkness. It seemed dark, then a moment later no darkness remained.

Last week I was socially captive for a short time and endured a political rant concerning the pervasive death and darkness in our world. Before I could excuse myself the speaker listed Middle Eastern terrorists, Ukrainian militants, and invading illegal immigrant children as proof of the darkness overtaking us.

The thing about darkness is—it’s not a thing, it’s the absence of a thing. Once you introduce even a small bit of light, it’s no longer dark.

I don’t claim to know the political solutions to these and other difficult circumstances, but I do know they’re not caused by too much darkness, because darkness isn’t a thing. Dark is only the absence of light, and none of these problems will be solved by cursing the darkness.

Every long-term solution involves adding more light.

You and I know the source of the light. We’re called to be a prism, to reflect Jesus’ light into a world that desperately needs to see it.

Once there was an empty tomb, containing only a lifeless body. The tomb was apparently filled completely with death and darkness.

And then…a single heartbeat. A spark of light.

With that heart beat, every ounce of death left that place, because death is only the absence of life.

With that spark, every ounce of darkness left that place, because darkness is only the absence of light.

How about if you and I act like the dawn and look for opportunities to reflect the light and life of Jesus to those we encounter?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright 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

 

Do You Speak Kind Words?

August 18th, 2014

Proverbs 12:25: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

I don’t like to take medicine. If a natural remedy is available, I prefer to take it. How about you?

With allergies to several medicines and experience with side effects to many of them, I don’t want to have surgery unless it is absolutely necessary. Can you relate to that?

Before my eye surgery two years ago, I struggled with an anxious heart that weighed me down. My only child had passed away after eye surgery, and I didn’t want to be the next one to die.

My friends promised to pray for me. Their phone calls and prayers cheered me up. My Sunday school teacher took me to the medical center and prayed for me during surgery.

After a successful surgery, I felt relieved. Friends sent cards or called me. Others brought me meals or a healthy protein drink. I appreciated their kind words and deeds, and they cheered me up.

This morning a friend from my Sunday school class had knee surgery. The members of the class signed a card for her yesterday, and we will take her dinner on Friday.

Do you know someone who could benefit from your kind words?

Dear God, help me be sensitive to a friend with an anxious heart. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to cheer up that person with an anxious heart?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright by 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

The Brambles in Our Lives that Need Pruning

August 17th, 2014

“Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful!” John 15:21

“There is more hewing, and hacking, and squaring used on a stone which is to be set in the wall of a stately palace–than that which is placed in a rock wall. Just so, the vine is carefully pruned–when the bramble is untouched.”

This should reconcile believers to their chastisements. It is a well-worn figure; but it is well put.

Brambles certainly have a fine time of it, and grow after their own pleasure. We have seen their long shoots reaching far and wide, and no knife has threatened them as they luxuriated upon the wastelands.

The poor vine is cut down so closely, that little remains of it but bare stems. Yet, when clearing-time comes, and the brambles are heaped together for burning–who would not rather be the vine?

Ah, Lord! Let me never sigh for ease, but always seek for usefulness.
Square me
until I am fit for a place in Your temple!
Prune me
until I yield my utmost fruit!

~Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

The Devil’s Chessboard

August 15th, 2014

So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes! 2 Corinthians 2:11

“Be watchful; the world is the devil’s chessboard! You can hardly move backward or forward, but he is ready to attack you with some temptation!”

Those who play at the game of chess know that great caution is needed. Your opponent is working toward a design of which you know nothing; and while you imagine that you are doing exceedingly well, he is entrapping you!

The game of life
, as against Satan, is one in which . . .
his maneuvers and artifice,
his long practice and stratagems,
his superior skill and deceptiveness,
and his unscrupulousness–
give him an immense advantage over our poor self-conceited folly!

Lord, help us! You know our adversary; be pleased to deliver us out of his hand.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes!” Ephesians 6:11

~ Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

How Can You Diffuse Resentment?

August 13th, 2014

Judges 8:1: “Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?’ And they criticized him sharply.”

Do you sometimes think you can’t win even when you do the right thing? Gideon obeyed God and fought Midian with the 300 soldiers God allowed him. He knew God won the battle for them.

The Ephraimites were jealous of the victory of their fellow Israelites. Their jealousy and pride prevented them from acknowledging the success of Gideon and the 300 soldiers without their help.

Gideon had a choice to make. His first option was to say they were jealous because they didn’t take part in the battle and couldn’t claim the victory.

His second option was to praise the Ephraimites for all they had done. He chose that option. With a humble heart, Gideon said in verses 2-3, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?”

With divine wisdom and humility Gideon didn’t let the situation escalate. The end of verse 3 says, “At this, their resentment against him subsided.”

How will you respond to criticism?

Dear God, please help me answer with your wisdom and humility when people criticize me. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to diffuse resentment as Gideon did?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright by 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

The Vivid Contrast of “I AM”

August 12th, 2014

A vivid contrast inspires today’s word-of-the-week…

I AM

popeye(Okay, it’s two words, but it’s also God’s name so it counts.)

Has anyone (maybe you) ever said, “Hey, that’s just who I am”?

In Exodus 3, Moses asks God for some ID. In response, God essentially says His identity is self-evident.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

“I AM” is quite a claim. Among other things, it implies permanence, existence beyond circumstance, independence, and completeness. “I AM” sounds like a riddle, but in fact it’s God’s way of setting Himself apart. “I AM” is a name and a description appropriate only for God.

Several decades ago, a famous cartoon character offered a similar claim in his theme song:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I yam what’s I yam, And that’s all what’s I am, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GmUj0cucfc

Popeye’s bold declaration, “I yam what I yam,” reflects the tough, independent American spirit. This is who I am—take it or leave it.

You see the conflict, right?

“I am who I am” is God’s line. He’s the only one who gets to claim permanent, self-evident, independent identity.

Maybe we should let God be I AM. Let’s let go of “that’s just who I am” and ask “who can I become to serve the people around me?”

Do You Have the Courage for God-Inspired Dreams?

August 11th, 2014

committed_01Jesus didn’t play it safe, and He didn’t seclude His closest friends within a protective bubble. “Follow me” includes the probability of risk and sacrifice. Faith doesn’t mean the absence of fear, and fear doesn’t mean we’re on the wrong path.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14: 26-27)

“Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.”

Courage is the willingness to face fear and move forward. Jesus wasn’t telling them they shouldn’t feel fear. He’s telling them not to allow the fear to control them, that they won’t have to face their fear in isolation. “I am” reminds them that they’re not alone.

(Rich) A dream is the God-inspired desire to share your unique gifts and passions to serve and make a difference in the world.

God-inspired dreams require courage. Dreams are God’s invitation to step out of the boat and imagine something bigger than ourselves and our capabilities.

If you’re not afraid of falling, if there’s no risk of a skinned knee or a wounded heart, perhaps your vision isn’t big enough. Perhaps you’re limiting God and His inspiration to your safe little comfort zone.

I believe dreams are God-inspired because He asks us to trust Him, to operate on faith. We can’t follow Jesus while insisting on a safety net.

If you step out in faith you’re going to visit some scary places.

“Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.”

I think He’s still saying that to us.

What are some traits God might value as much as, or perhaps more than, your personal comfort?

How might our concern with comfort get in our way?

Discuss this idea:

God wants me to dream big dreams and live a story worth telling. Stories worth telling are rarely comfortable.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright 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

Are You Afraid To Listen?

August 8th, 2014

facing fearThe guy at the retreat answered a question about fear in a brutally honest manner. “I’m afraid if I really listen to God, He might tell me to do something I don’t really want to do.”

Lots of folks grumble that God never speaks to them. What if the real problem is that we’re afraid to listen? What if we intentionally keep God at a distance to avoid disrupting our self-created illusion of security?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I.
Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Most of the guys around the fire that night agreed. We seek to serve—when it’s convenient, when it fits into the schedule. We’d love to serve or do a mission trip, but that vacation gets in the way. We want to finish well—but we need to guard the 401(k).

What if we want to follow—on our terms?

What if we’re not-so-secretly afraid that Jesus was serious when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

What if our efforts to follow Jesus in a safe, sanitary manner actually cause us to avoid God because we’re afraid of what He might say?

Are you ever afraid God might ask you to do something you don’t want to do or give up something you really want to hang on to? What are those times/things for you?

What are some of the excuses we use for not listening?

How do you know if it’s God’s voice or your own wishes?

Often we think of “being sent” in terms of big stuff like going to Africa (or doing a bike tour). What are some more everyday circumstances where God might send us if we’d listen a bit more closely?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright 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 God not listening? Does He not care?

August 7th, 2014

If you’re anything like me (and something tells me that’s the case since we all have the same Creator), you often find yourself fretting over why you haven’t seen an answer to a particular prayer. Is God not listening? Does He not care?

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. (Luke 22:41-43, NKJV).

Jesus is our perfect example in this instance. The One who truly had the Father’s ear and certainly had an urgent petition as He knelt in the garden just prior to His arrest did not insist God answer His request a certain way. In His humanity, Jesus did not look forward to the torture He was about to endure. As a result, He asked God to take it away from Him IF it was the Father’s will. And then He added, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” It was at that point of complete submission to God’s will that an angel came to strengthen Him. Speaking for myself, I know that’s where the problem usually lies for me. I spend my time begging and pleading and even strong-arming God into answering my prayers according to my will rather than His, and then I wonder why an angel doesn’t appear from heaven to strengthen me. Peace evades me. Joy is but a memory. Can you relate yet? My favorite cartoon of all time is one of Dennis the Menace, kneeling at his bedside, his hands folded in prayer as he says, “I’m here to turn myself in.” When I’m struggling with yielding my will to God, the memory of such a simple cartoon can call me back to the place of submission. Dennis the Menace didn’t put any stipulations on his prayer; he knew he had done wrong and he was there to “turn himself in” and ask for mercy. That’s the stance we all need to assume (and maintain) when we come to God in prayer, whatever our petitions may be. The very fact that we call Him “Lord” should remind us that we must remain submitted to His will, for how can we call Him “Lord” if we’re still trying to run things ourselves? Anyone who has ever lived in a feudal situation knows that the “lord” is in charge and the subjects have no say. Thankfully, we who have received Jesus as our Savior have a loving and merciful Lord and don’t need to fear His will for us. Like Dennis the Menace, we simply have to come and present ourselves to Him, trusting that He will do what is best for us, exactly as He did for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’m ready to turn myself in and get my peace and joy back, aren’t you? Maybe we’ll even be visited by an angel in the process.