Are You Afflicted? Grieved?

April 16th, 2015

“I am the man who has seen affliction!” Lamentations 3:1


Like the rest of Adam’s discontented family, I am often . . .
grumbling at my griefs,
complaining of my afflictions, and
on the brink of quarreling at the conduct of Providence itself!

To be without afflictions is impossible here below, where man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Not to feel when afflicted, is a stoical, impious stupidity. But to sink under troubles of any kind, is beneath the character of the Christian. Yet, when I reflect on that eternity of bliss which is before me, on that world of glory of which I am an heir–I wonder that my afflictions are not more.

Is it too much for me to stumble among the ‘rough stones of adversity’–to have my flesh pricked with the ‘thorns of trouble’–who shall so soon walk the golden streets of Heaven, and wear a crown of immortal glory?

Though the whole earth should rise up against me–if Heaven, and the God of Heaven are for me–I am in perfect safety in the midst of all the storms and tempests, whirlwinds and hurricanes which can blow!

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that . . .
neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present,
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height,
nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8:35-39

~ James Meikle, “Converse with the Unseen World”

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What does “Blessed” Really Mean?

April 13th, 2015

The word “blessed” in the Bible is a translation of a Greek word meaning “very happy.” Our Lord, in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), tells us what true and great happiness means.

Although He spells it out plainly, people still have problems and will then insist that they are not blessed if they mourn, are persecuted, if they hunger and thirst after righteousness, or have like trials.

Our problem is simply this: we believe that we are blessed or very happy only if we get what we want, and what we want is to be indulged, to have things made easier for us. This, obviously, is not our Lord’s view of blessedness. In fact, what we call happiness can be a curse at times. Thus, the Psalmist in Psalm 106:15, in describing the condemnation of the older generation in the wilderness journey, declares of God, “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”

We need to assess our idea of happiness. Is it humanistic? Does it simply involve getting what we want, with little or no thought of God? But we are God’s property, and we cannot live as though His total claim upon us were nonexistent. Our God is Lord, the absolute owner of all things, and all things must serve and obey Him. For us to seek happiness, or blessedness, apart from the Lord and His purposes is to deny Him and to claim a nonexistent independence from God. To deny God is finally to deny life and happiness and to choose death (Prov. 8:36).

Moreover, happiness on our Lord’s terms is more than simply problems and battles; it is also victories, as the Beatitudes make clear: theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; the meek shall inherit the earth; they shall be filled and comforted, and so on.

Are you seeking happiness on your terms, or the Lord’s?

Taken from Volume 6 of the series

A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life.

~ * ~
Reprinted by permission of the Chalcedon Foundation.
Copyright by the Chalcedon Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freedom From vs. Freedom To

April 10th, 2015

chainIt is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

There are two kinds of freedom.

Freedom from allows life without oppression, injustice, tyranny, abuse, or violence. Freedom from insures my right to live my life as I wish as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others.

Freedom to is about opportunity to serve, to use my gifts, to make a difference in the world.

I think Galatians 5:1 refers to freedom to.

Freedom from, it seems, places the focus on me and my rights. Freedom from is worldly freedom.

Freedom to is about what’s right. It’s about sacrifice and service.

Interesting to note that Jesus willingly sacrificed freedom from. He invites us to join Him on the journey of freedom to for which He died.

But let’s never forget that God values worldly justice for the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized.

Learn to do right; seek justice.    
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

Seems to me that justice happens when those who understand freedom to deploy it, regardless of consequences, to ensure everyone’s access to freedom from.

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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

The Importance of Affirming One Another

April 6th, 2015

A visit to a wonderful community brings today’s word-of-the-week…

AFFIRMATION

In September we were honored to speak to a group of folks at a homeless shelter in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. We gathered in a circle before the meeting began and read the following affirmation in unison.

We gather as family and as friends.

We make this space safe, caring, and welcoming.

We listen to each other with unconditional acceptance.

We lift each other up; we do not hold each other down.

Life is a struggle, and we are here to help each other through it.

We cannot control others but we can control ourselves.

We are not homeless, for there is a place in this world for us.

We will get where we are going, even if we do not yet know where that is.

Each moment is another chance, and we can always begin again.

We will fail and make mistakes, but that is how we grow and understand.

We are here, and we are worthy of love and belonging.

So let us own our own stories.

And in owning our stories, let us find the courage to share our stories.

And in sharing our stories realize we are never alone.

This was a circle of people with lots of reasons to complain and mistrust society. Yet they sat in a circle and affirmed each other. In a community with very little, they had a lot. They were being Jesus for each other.

I can’t help believing that some other communities would benefit from taking this kind of affirmation seriously.

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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

Finding Common Ground

April 1st, 2015

A comment from my wise wife brings today’s word-of-the-week…

COMMON


“The way you share your story creates common ground.”

Becky consistently guides me back to the central importance of relationships. She says my story removes barriers because it includes elements with which everyone can identify.

Someone asked me recently how I can work with the men at Harvest Farm when I don’t have any experience with addiction, homelessness, violence, or jail. My answer is Becky’s wisdom: I take time to form relationships.I go to their place and spend time with them and get to know them. I focus on what unites us instead of what makes us different. I don’t offer easy answers to hard questions.

It’s not magic. Like Becky said, it’s all about finding common ground.

We shy away from speaking up for communities of which we’re not members. We wonder if our sincerity will be questioned, if we’ll use the wrong words, if we’ll offend someone, if perhaps things would be better if we remained silent.

The truth is, your sincerity WILL be questioned, you WILL make mistakes, and if you’re committed those aren’t reasons to stay on the sidelines. But to increase your effectiveness, you need to engage.

Form relationships. Step beyond your own familiar comfort zone. Go to their place. Get to know them. Learn their stories. Know in advance it’ll be scary and rewarding.

Show that you’re willing to risk of taking the time and doing the hard work to find common ground.

Kind of like Jesus did.

Reconciliation with God, Others and Yourself

March 30th, 2015

Reconciliation has many aspects: reconciliation with others (who you have offended or who have offended you), reconciliation with yourself. Reconciliation with God.

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as:
1. The act of reconciling parties at variance; renewal of friendship after disagreement or enmity.
Reconciliation and friendship with God, really form the basis of all rational and true enjoyment.
2. In Scripture, the means by which sinners are reconciled and brought into a state of favor with
God, after natural estrangement or enmity; the atonement; expiation.

— How do you define reconciliation in your own practical terms?
— Has it been missing from your life and/or recovery?
— What issues and difficulties have you encountered finding reconciliation with:

** God
** Others whom you have hurt or who have hurt you
** Yourself

— Do any scriptures speak to your heart regarding reconciliation?

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How Will I Ever Get It Done?

March 27th, 2015

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Yesterday afternoon I thought about four major projects I need to finish in addition to every day tasks. I asked myself, “How will I ever get done?”

Maybe I can’t get done. Maybe I’ve taken on more than I can do.

As I stared out the window, I thought about running away but laughed. That was not an option. I considered dropping one of my goals. Sadness and disappointment set in. That wasn’t an option either.

Finally I pleaded, “God, help me. What can I do?”

The answer came. I looked at the project that is due first. As I read the guidelines, I noticed the project consisted of five steps. I sat at the computer and put in two dates on my calendar to work on that first step.

With wisdom from above, I realized I could focus on the first project and dedicate time weekly to work on it. The second project is due by the end of June. I can work on that afterward.

After the completion of the second project, I can tackle my third and fourth projects, which are similar. I can work on them at the same time.

What do you do when you worry about getting a job or a project done?

Psalm 107:6: “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”

Dear God, I cry out to you in my troubles, and they are many. Amen.

Application: When will you allow the Lord to deliver you from your distress?

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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

What is it to follow the Lamb?

March 23rd, 2015

“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes!” Revelation 14:4

What is it to follow the Lamb?

To follow the Lamb wherever He goes–is to follow Him in four things:

1st, We follow the Lamb in His COMMANDMENTS. “If you love Me–you will keep My commandments!” John 14:15. “You are My friends–if you do what I command you.” John 15:14. Oh, beloved, we cannot follow the Lamb wherever He goes, unless we follow Him in His commandments! True Christians take as much delight in those precepts that enjoin holiness–as in those promises that assure happiness.

2ndly, We follow the Lamb in His TEACHING. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me! But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:5, 27

3rdly, We follow the Lamb in His PROVIDENCE. Through all afflictions, all straits, all discouragements and sorrows whatever, though it is the way of death! We must forsake all to follow a crucified Christ, a condemned Christ, in bloody paths of sufferings–if He calls us to it! “For,” says Paul, “I am ready not to be bound only–but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!” We must be willing to venture the loss of all for Him: our liberty, our estates, our relations, and our life itself! “We have forsaken all–and followed You!” Matthew 19:27

4thly, We follow the Lamb in His EXAMPLE. “I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” John 13:15. “Christ has suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21. To follow in Christ’s steps–is to take Him for our example. We must not follow wicked men’s example, who walk in the broad way that leads to death, for “They are the children of their father the Devil, and they love to do the evil things he does!” John 8:44. But we must follow our head Christ, who went about doing good, Acts 10:38.

Now this is to follow the Lamb, wherever He goes:
in His commands,
in His teaching,
in His providences,
in His examples.
~William Dyer, “Follow the Lamb”

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New Life – Available to You

March 20th, 2015

A visit this morning to an amazing place inspires today’s word-of-the-week…

BRAND-NEW

We’re headed to the Teen Challenge Ranch in Phoenix this morning. If you want to see a real, tangible, living-breathing-right-in-front-of-you example of the “new life” described in scripture, this is a great place to go.

At the Ranch you meet men who’ve come from the toughest backgrounds imaginable. Homelessness, incarceration, violence, addiction, anger, hopelessness—these guys arrive from places and experiences most of us, by God’s grace, haven’t encountered.

And at the Ranch you’d really have little clue of the circumstances that hammered these men to the point of surrender. You’d notice tattoos and a few weathered faces, but mostly you’d meet men who’ve found a new life. You’d wonder how these individuals could have been in those places because, well, they’re not the same people any longer.

These guys got a two-for-one. Jesus came so we all could be re-born spiritually.  But because of the work of His followers, these men got a brand-new life in this world as well.

Same thing’s available to each of us, no matter where we’ve been.

Pretty cool.

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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 Lose yourself in Him?

March 19th, 2015

Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God! Psalm 90:2

Seek to fill yourself with thoughts of the Almighty. Lose yourself in the impenetrable tracts of His Glory!

“Can you by searching find out God?”
Can the insect fathom the ocean?
Can the worm scale the skies?
Can the finite comprehend the Infinite?
Can the mortal grasp Immortality?
We can do no more than stand on the brink of the shoreless sea, and cry, “Oh the depth!”

“From everlasting to everlasting, You are God!”
Shrouded in the great and amazing mystery of eternity,
before one star revolved in its sphere,
before one angel moved his wing–God was!

His own infinite presence filling all space. All time, to Him, is but as the heaving of a breath–the beat of a pulse–the twinkling of an eye! He was as infinitely glorious when He inhabited the solitudes of immensity alone–as He is now with the songs of angel and archangel sounding in His ear!

This is the Being to whom I can look up with sweetest confidence, and call “My Father!”

This is the Infinite One, whom “the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain,” whom I call “My God!”

“This God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even until death!” Psalm 48:14

John MacDuff, “The Night Watches”