A Burden We Are Not Supposed To Carry

July 6th, 2015

balance-scale-unbalancedI like to think I don’t judge people.

Problem is, I like to think a lot of things that aren’t true. Sadly, not-judging is one of them.

I’m thinking about this because our small group is doing a study of the life of Abraham, and I find myself frequently being sure the guy was an idiot. He did all this really dumb stuff, made stupid decisions, didn’t learn from his mistakes…

Like I said, I like to think I don’t judge people.

Ever wonder why Jesus told us to avoid playing judge? I suppose there are a lot of reasons, but right now I’m thinking He wanted to remove an enormous burden from our shoulders.

A fallible, imperfect, human judge carries a huge responsibility. We can’t know all the facts and circumstances, and we certainly can’t see into someone’s heart. We’ll always be wrong.

That’s not a burden God wants us to bear. Judging is God’s job.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

You and I get the chance to live without the horrible responsibility of dispensing justice for everyone else.

Rest. Easy. Light. Free.

Kind of a cool gift, huh?

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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

But What Does the Bible Mean?

July 1st, 2015

Why can’t the bible just mean what it means?

Well, it does. But knowing what the bible means isn’t always quite as simple as it might sound.

My friend Jon Swanson wrote about some words in the book of James. As Jon explains, words often require a bit of digging and wrestling if we want to understand the author’s intended meaning. That’s especially true when the original words were written in a different language to people operating in an ancient cultural context.

For decades, Christian leaders used accepted biblical scholarship to justify slavery. Rather than condemning or dismissing them, perhaps we should ask if we’re missing similar blind spots in our own interpretation.

Too many folks simply accept and repeat what they’re told by “experts.” I’ve discovered it’s possible to find experts with good hearts who honestly disagree. Personally, I’d rather say “I’m not sure” than claim knowledge of a “truth” when I’m uncertain.

The bible does mean what it means. It’s up to you and me to read with an open heart, willing to hear God’s voice even when the message might be uncomfortable.

If nothing ever surprises or challenges me, if it always agrees with my pre-conceived worldview, maybe I need to listen a bit more carefully.

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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

When Life Is Difficult

June 29th, 2015

A young woman lost her husband to heart problems. An older man lost his wife to cancer. A middle-aged woman was in the hospital for major surgery. A second one received a diagnosis of cancer, and a third woman was rushed to the hospital and had a torn aorta. I sat in shock at all that had transpired in one week among my friends of various ages.

Life is fragile. I reached for a box of tissue and went to the Florida room for a time of reflection. As I looked through the window, I saw a male cardinal on the fence and my Nandina bush loaded with bright red berries. Life continued to go on around me.

I wondered about the fear, frustration, anxiety, denial, depression, loneliness, insomnia, numbness, or worry the families might be feeling. They were in my thoughts and prayers.

In view of all that had happened in seven days, I asked myself two questions, “How would my life change because of that news? How would I handle similar difficulties in my life?”

Perhaps you are a caregiver for someone in your family. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one recently. Perhaps you struggle with a life-threatening illness or are in the hospital for surgery. What will you do?

Psalm 62:5: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”

Dear God, please help me find rest in you. Amen.

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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

Application: What will you do this week to accept God’s hope?

A Drop of Water

June 27th, 2015

“Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust! Isaiah 40:15

Within the compass of a drop of water we are told that sometimes a thousand living creatures may be discovered; and to those diminutive creatures, no doubt, their size is something very important. There is a creature inside that drop which can only be seen by the strongest microscope–but it is a hundred times larger than its neighbor, and it feels, no doubt, that the difference is amazing and extraordinary.

But to you and to I, who cannot even see the largest of these creatures with the naked eye, the larger animalcule is as imperceptible as his dwarfish friend–they both seem so utterly insignificant that we squander whole millions of them, and are not very penitent if we destroy them by thousands.

But what would one of those little imperceptible animals say if some prophet of its own kind could tell them that there is a ‘giant being‘ living that would reckon the ‘whole world of a drop of water’ as nothing, and could take up ten thousand thousand of those drops and scatter them without exertion of half its power; that this ‘giant being’ would not be encumbered if it should carry on the tip of its finger all the thousands that live in that great world–a drop of water; that this ‘giant being’ would have no disturbance of heart, even if the great king of one of the empires in that drop should gather all his armies against it and lead them to battle?

Why, then the minuscule creatures would say, “How can this be? We can hardly grasp the idea?”

But when that microscopic philosopher could have gotten an idea of man, and of the utter insignificance of its own self, and of its own little narrow world–then it would have achieved an easy task, compared with that which lies before us when we attempt to get an idea of our great God.

We think of the infinite nature of God in being able to marshal all the stars, and govern all the orbs which bespangle the brow of night; but I take it to be quite as great a wonder that He should even know that such insignificant nothings as we humans are in existence, much more that He should count every hair of our heads, and not allow one of them to fall to the ground without His express decree.

The Infinite is as much known in the ‘small’ as in the ‘magnanimous’, and God may be as really discovered by us in the drop of water as in the rolling orb. But this is astonishing of God–that He even observes us!

(Charles Spurgeon, “God’s Estimate of Time” 1862)

Are You Open to Questions?

June 23rd, 2015

question-marks1I’ve learned everyone doesn’t share my love of authentic questions.

I guess I understand, since questions are often thinly-disguised weapons.

“Why did you do it that way?” may be a sincere inquiry. Or it may be an attack…”That was a dumb way to do it!’

At some point you make a choice. You can live in fear and suspicion. You can imagine that every question conceals evil intent and that you’ll look foolish if you don’t immediately produce the right answer.

Or you can understand that questions are a great way to learn, and sometimes the questions matter more than the answers, and the best questions don’t have “right” answers.

Jesus asked lots of questions, not because He wanted answers but because He valued conversation.

It’s not about knowing. It’s about going and seeking.

Let be open this week to the questions we encounter.

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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

What Really Matters?

June 18th, 2015

What do you see when you approach a staircase?

Me? I see a diabolical obstacle designed to keep me from reaching the other level.

Of course I don’t believe the builder intended to frustrate me. I’m simply seeing the stairs through my personal biases.

I know the creator of this sign meant well. I’m sure he didn’t intend the chuckle as I picture myself rattling down 15-20 flights of smoke-filled stairs because “the sign told me to do it!”

The stairs are a good reminder for me when I’m tempted to pound on my bible because “it says what it says.”

In my experience I’ve known people of good will who love Jesus with all their hearts, and yet have studied deeply and reached different conclusions about certain theological issues. They read the same words, follow the same Lord, but hear different results.

Augustine said: In the essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity (love).

I often picture the folks I spoke about above sitting in a room. Certainly they’d disagree about important issues–how could it be different in a room filled with smart, educated people with their own biases, backgrounds, and life experiences?

But they’d agree about love, about service, about placing God at the center. They’d agree that following Jesus comes first, that the CHURCH is more important than any individual church. They’d agree on grace, forgiveness, gratitude, and hope.

Those are the essentials, the things the world needs from us.

I don’t read scripture in a vacuum. The bible says what it says, but what I hear is colored by my biases and preconceptions as well as those of my teachers.

I believe God wants me to think, to study and listen and reach conclusions. But I always want to hold my ideas lightly, without the need to be right or win the argument.

I hope I listen before I speak. What unites matters more than what divides.

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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

Making Sense of Scripture

June 15th, 2015

A really smart leader once told a class, “If you want to make sense of scripture, THINK HEBREW.”

He wanted us to remember that scripture was written to an audience in a context. We understand scripture when we put ourselves in the sandals of those to whom it was originally written. When we immediately imagine that ancient words were intended for a 21st century audience, with no interpretation or discernment, we leave a good deal of room for error. We need to “think Hebrew.”

I thought about this earlier this week as our small group discussed a foundational passage in Genesis 12.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

I’ve heard people extract all sorts of meaning from this passage.

  • We’re all supposed to leave our homes and follow some invisible call to an unknown land.
  • This is a prophecy about the United States.
  • I’m a Christian, so anyone who opposes me (curses me) is automatically cursed by God.

These are, to be kind, something of a stretch.

God spoke to a man in a particular circumstance. He used Abraham’s obedience to establish Israel and, ultimately, the church. If we “think Hebrew” we’ll understand that ancient Hebrews valued community much more than individual. Abram would have heard the “you” in the blessing in a corporate sense.

Certainly we can take valuable lessons from this story–once we understand it in its proper context.

  • When God calls, listen and obey, regardless of cost.
  • We’re indeed blessed, both corporately and individually–so we can reflect that blessing into the world. It’s not about me!

Some things never change.

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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

Forgive and Forget?

June 12th, 2015

“I can’t forget how my dad treats my mother,” Bridget screamed in her counseling session. “So how can I forgive him?”

“Why not take this situation one step at a time?” I asked the young woman.

Bridget raised her brows and said she didn’t understand.

I suggested she first walk through the truth of her father’s verbal and physical abuse of her mother and how much that hurt her.

Her eyes moistened with tears, and soon she sobbed. “He scared me. I hated all the commotion. Worst of all, Mom’s taken it for years.”

Bridget shook and cried again. She said that her dad also mistreats the kids. “I can’t stand his screaming, cursing, and temper tantrums.”

With a gentle tone, I explained that forgiveness is a process and takes time, especially when a person has been traumatized. Bridget nodded and leaned back in her chair.

“In the Bible, God tells us numerous times to forgive, but he never says, ‘Forgive and forget.’” I paused for Bridget to think about that. “If you forget, you may place yourself in a dangerous situation with your father and subject yourself to more abuse.”

At the end of the session, Bridget left with a journaling assignment and a Bible verse to meditate on and memorize.

Your circumstances may not be the same as Bridget’s, but you may also struggle with forgiveness. You may think you can’t forgive unless you forget.

Forgiveness won’t change the past. A healed memory doesn’t mean you develop amnesia about it.

Proverbs 22:3: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Dear God, help me understand forgiveness isn’t forgetting. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to begin your process of forgiveness.

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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

It’s Your Fault Not Mine!

June 10th, 2015

Margaret sat down in my office and said, “No matter what happens in our marriage, my husband says, ‘It’s your fault not mine.’”

I sat in silence and waited for her to say more. Her dark brown curly hair touched her shoulders, and her light brown eyes moistened with tears.

“Last night he cursed and screamed at me, ‘It’s your fault not mine. If you had served a better dinner and on time, I wouldn’t be angry.’” Margaret sighed, shook her head, and said, “Are all men like mine?”

“No, some are but not all of them.” I thought of similar incidents on my caseload, but I didn’t share those with Margaret. Instead I told her about a man named Aaron who was left in charge of a group of people and led them into doing wrong. When the leader returned, Aaron blamed the people.

Margaret laughed and said, “That sounds familiar.”

“What’s sad is that Aaron told the people to take off their gold jewelry.”

He told the leader, Moses, “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

After we both laughed, I said, “Imagine that. An idol came out of the fire, but it wasn’t Aaron’s fault.”

“Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughing stock to their enemies” (Exodus 32:25).

Dear God, when I’m wrong, help me admit it. When I’m not, help me admit that too. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week not to enable someone to get out of control and blame you?

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

How Critical is Your Value to Jesus?

June 8th, 2015

Can you indulge me a moment of what may seem to be a hyperbolas overstatement? Okay, here goes. You cannot exaggerate how critical your value is to Jesus. His Message hinges on you and me believing the Gospel for ourselves in every moment of every day! Apart from faith, believing and trusting His Message we have no hope of truly knowing or sustaining our accurate value and worth.

Our value is not measured by our performance, intellect, position, titles or pedigree. Thank God it isn’t! Instead, our value is revealed in the exchange rate of our purchase! In Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father exchanged equivalent value to redeem us to himself.

Their act of redemption and reconciliation is the mandate of our worth and ministry. (The word, ‘katalasso’ translates as reconciliation; a mutual exchange of equal value.) That makes our value the same as Jesus’! Hold on, before you declare that statement of fact as blasphemous-remember that is God’s opinion and declaration.

“This is radical! No label that could possibly previously define someone carries any further significance! Even our pet doctrines of Christ are redefined. Whatever we knew about him historically or sentimentally is challenged by this conclusion. By discovering Christ from God’s point of view we discover ourselves and every other human life from God’s point of view!

In the light of your co-inclusion in his death and resurrection, whoever you thought you were before; in Christ you are a brand new person! The old ways of seeing yourself and everyone else are over. Acquaint yourself with the new!

Jesus did not reveal a “potential” you, he revealed the truth about you so that you may know and believe the truth about yourself and be free indeed!

Too now see everything as new is to simply see what God has always known in Christ; we are not debating man’s experience, opinion, or his contribution; this is 100% God’s belief and his doing. In Jesus Christ, God exchanged equivalent value to redeem us to himself.” 2 Cor. 5:16-18, The Mirror Bible

(Again, the word ‘katalasso’ translates as reconciliation; a mutual exchange of equal value.)

This is the divine exchange: he who knew no sin embraced our distortion. Even though He appeared to be without form; this was the mystery of God’s prophetic poetry. He was disguised in our distorted image, marred with our iniquities; he took our sorrows, our pain, and our shame to his grave and birthed his righteousness in us. He took our sins and we became his innocence. 2 Corinthians 5:21, The Mirror Bible

Just what is the exchange rate of our value to God? Isaiah hit the nail on the head of our genuine value:

The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10

Just as many were astonished at you — so was he marred in his appearance, more than any human, and his form beyond that of human semblance — so will he startle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of him; for what had not been told them they will see, and what they had not heard they will understand. Isaiah 52:14-15

Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But surely he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we ourselves are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

He was not bruised by God but by the very humanity he was about to redeem! Romans 8:30

Jesus reveals that man pre-existed in God; he defines us. He justified us and also glorified us. He redeemed our innocence and restored the glory we lost in Adam. The fundamental question is can you and I walk by faith in our redeemed innocence while we are feeling the sting, failure, shame and stain of our vain attempts at self-improvement?

Faith the Divine Exchange,

Ron Ross

Copyright by Ron Ross.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Rev. Ron Ross is a pastor, author, teacher, and counselor.
As founder of NET Casting Ministries, he equips the church
around the world to care for the wounded and addicted.
Ron is a cofounder of the NET Training Institute.