Archive for August, 2009

Do You Need Wisdom and Understanding?

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Give me understanding according to Your word (Psalm 119:169).

When the psalmist prayed, “Give me understanding according to Your word,” he obviously knew something that we too often forget: True wisdom and understanding are found ONLY through the eternal perspective of the holy Scriptures.

Trying to achieve true wisdom any other way is futile, and even dangerous, not because there is no wisdom or understanding apart from God’s Word, but because there is. According to James, any wisdom that is accompanied by envy and self-seeking, confusion and evil, is “earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:15). God’s wisdom, however, is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (v. 17).

The world is already too full of earthly, sensual, demonic wisdom, as people everywhere seek to promote their own selfish agendas—at any cost. If we ever expect to see peaceful resolutions to the many conflicts that inundate us daily, we need to seek—and model—God’s wisdom. And that’s not easy, is it?

In fact, apart from God’s Spirit revealing it to us as we read His Word and then planting and growing it in us as we yield to His direction, we can never possess it. We will instead continue to be caught up in that self-seeking wisdom that exalts self, pampers self, pleases self—and yes, even worships self. And that will get us nowhere but across a wider chasm from God Himself.

Beloved, we can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. If we choose to pursue worldly wisdom, we may enjoy a few moments of temporary satisfaction or even fame, but in the end, we’ll be left with ashes. If we choose to pursue godly wisdom through the study and application of God’s Word, we may never be acknowledged or revered here on earth, but we will ultimately shine “as bright as the sky” and “like stars forever” (see Daniel 12:3).

The great King Solomon is often referred to as the wisest man who ever lived. Why? Because he knew enough when offered the wealth of the world to pray instead for godly wisdom. God heard and answered—and rewarded him with riches as well.

May we too make the choice daily to seek after God’s wisdom, as we search and memorize and meditate on the Scriptures, for it can be found nowhere else. Rather than lamenting the tragic state of the world around us, may we dedicate ourselves to growing in the wisdom that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (v. 17), and then sharing it with others as we lead by example.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Macias
Copyright 2009 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books. Her newest books are:
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”


and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”
(New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

Asking The Right Questions

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my introductory Sunday school class I always begin with this premise: God welcomes our sincere questions.

I find that many people are surprised by the notion that faith and uncertainty can coexist. I think we sometimes imply that people of true faith don’t have questions. This false message squelches the expression of honest questions and creates significant guilt.

Many people avoid church because, at a crisis moment, their questions were dismissed. Death, illness, divorce, and other struggles raise questions about God’s character and presence. We cannot bring people closer to Him by marginalizing these very real doubts.

New believers especially feel that their faith is inferior because they experience doubt. I think it’s essential to clearly express our acceptance of questions if we want people to expand and deepen their personal relationship with Jesus.

However, the nature of the question determines the kind of response we receive. There are not necessarily any “wrong” questions, but some questions certainly provide much more useful answers.

JESUS AND QUESTIONS

Jesus was intolerant of insincere questions, especially from religious leaders.

    One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

    He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?”

    They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

    So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”

    Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Luke 20: 1-8)

He recognized that they weren’t trying to understand, but that their question was designed to trap Him. To expose their evil motives, He responded with a question that they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer because they were afraid of the truth.

Contrast this with Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well. She asks two different questions, and both times Jesus answers directly.

    The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

    Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

    “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

    Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:9-14)

    When she questions His identity, He’s not offended because He sees that she’s legitimately confused. So He offers her an answer that expands her understanding.

    MOTIVES

    For Jesus, the key wasn’t the words, but the motivation behind them. At the end of the encounter with the teachers in Luke 20, Jesus says, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20: 46-47)

    “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

I’m convinced that God wants to talk to us about our questions and doubts. When we go to Him with open hearts, He always finds a way to provide the understanding we seek.

EMPOWERING QUESTIONS

If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. I think of the “right” questions as empowering questions because they direct toward growth, wisdom, and insight. Here are a couple of examples:

  • “When will this ever matter to me?” leads to reasons why it doesn’t matter. “What’s interesting about this?” causes deeper investigation and understanding.
  • “What’s the use?” elicits a list of reasons to quit. “How can I do better?” prompts you to ponder ways to improve the situation.
  • “Why is the bible so inconsistent?” blocks further investigation because the conclusion’s already been established. “What’s the over-arching story?” or “What’s God’s eternal nature?” open the door to new and deeper interpretation.
  • QUESTIONS AS STATEMENTS

    The elders asked Jesus, “Who gave you this authority?” He knew that they already had their own answer, that they were really saying, “You don’t have authority.”

    As a math teacher I heard this question hundreds of times: “When will I ever use this stuff?”

    Sometimes it’s a legitimate inquiry, an attempt to connect new material to the real world. But most of the time questions like this are statements: “I don’t think I’ll ever use this.”

    I learned through experience that any attempt to respond to a statement-as-question is pointless. “Why would a rational person believe in God?” is really a statement, and it can’t lead to new insight. A more empowering approach might be, “How can I believe in God without denouncing rational thought?”

    REALITY

    When relationships collapse, finances are in shambles, or past errors make every step a nightmare, doubts hide in every shadow. Everyone occasionally wonders WHY when God’s ways don’t make human sense. Questions are a normal, real part of our walk with Jesus.

    Faith and uncertainty walk hand in hand.

    Ask your questions with an open heart. He’ll listen, and he’ll answer.

      It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. ~James Thurber

    What’s a question you have for God?

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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

    Survive or Thrive?

    Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

    If you’re new to THE CRAZY QUEST, you may wish to read about it here. Basically, I’m tracing my journey as I attempt to answer the question: What would you do if you didn’t know you couldn’t do it?

    This week of training: 108 miles (and some vacation/R&R)

    SURVIVE OR THRIVE

    When I began riding my hand cycle, it was all about survival.

    SurviveI didn’t try to ride well, or ride fast, or even ride better. I simply tried to get to the end of the ride. It didn’t really occur to me that it might be any different. I was, after all, a quadriplegic. I was weak, I couldn’t use most of my body, and survival was about all I could expect. If I got where I was going, the ride was a success.

    I think a lot of people live their lives like that. They’re just trying to get wherever they’re going, and as long as they’re reasonably upright they’re satisfied.

    It took me a long time to learn that cycling, and life, didn’t have to be about survival. After a lot of years and miles of just crawling along, maintaining a minimal pace but not really trying for anything more, I magically discovered that riding could be about more than minimal survival.

    SURVIVE TO STRIVE

    I discovered that I could work on technique, get stronger, and push myself even when it hurt. And it did hurt, but each time I pushed past the pain I realized that it didn’t kill me. I learned that I could work, I could try, and it actually felt kind of good.

    I moved from surviving to striving.

    I didn’t instantly ride much faster. Massive shoulders didn’t magically materialize. In fact, at first there really wasn’t much observable change in my performance, but it still felt good. And that taught me something important.

    Striving involves its own intrinsic value. Even when progress proved ponderously slow, it still felt good to do something besides simply surviving. I think it’s part of the Substance Or Style discussion, the idea that the value lies more in process than in results. As soon as you focus on results, you get disappointed because it never happens fast enough.

    I think striving is an important part of a substantial life. It’s okay to progress slowly, or even to fail. But to live a life of substance, you have to try. It’s got to be about more than simple survival.

    SURVIVE TO STRIVE TO THRIVE

    In the past year I’ve increased my normal riding speed more than 20%. I’m still painfully slow by regular cycling norms, but the improvement feels like thriving to me. I used to struggle to survive a ten-mile ride. This summer I’m riding 25-30 miles per day 5-6 times each week.

    The point that seems important is the progression, from survive to strive to thrive. The middle step is the critical one, and in cycling and life we tend to want to skip it. But the middle step is the process, and you can’t skip it.

    SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS

    First, you gotta survive, take the initial blow, and get back on your feet—or, in my case, get your backside in a wheelchair. It’s painful and difficult, and it takes time. Most of us understand that part.

    But then the culture messes us up, because the messages jump to results. Shake it off. Get back in the game. Just do it. Quit surviving and thrive—right now!

    New diet? The weight will disappear in a few days. Beginning a workout program? You’ll have a cover-model body quickly in twenty easy minutes per day. Finances a mess? Call for our simple five-step plan to wealth, risk-free.

    We want to skip the striving, the struggle, pain, and risk. We want it all, and we want it now. That’s the way it happens for everyone else, right?

    I think that’s a big problem with how I pray. I ask God for the results, like He’s some cosmic gumball machine—stick in the right words, pull the handle, and out pops my wish. Except that’s not how it works.

    God cares more about my character than my accomplishments, and character’s about the striving. Perhaps if I prayed for persistence and patience I’d feel a bit less like a kid sitting on Santa’s lap.

    My cycling is thriving right now. It’s better than I ever imagined, and maybe I’ll write a book—TWO YEARS TO INSTANT SUCCESS!

    My life’s thriving as well. Only took twenty years to figure out that I can do more than survive the ride. Finally, I learned that I can get past the pain and fear, that failure doesn’t kill me (I’m not skydiving), and that it feels good to work on stuff I enjoy, to help others, and to define success in my own terms.

    I hope you’re thriving—but I hope even more that you’re striving.

    What’s an area where you can shift from surviving to striving?

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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

    I Am not Through Cleaning You

    Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

    Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 King James Version

    This morning as I was walking back to my trailer from the mailbox, I saw a cat cleaning her little baby. The kitten kept trying to get away from the mother but the mother held the kitten so she could finish cleaning it. Just as the cat held her kitten so it wouldn’t run away, so Jesus holds us as He tells us “I am not through cleaning you.” When we invite Jesus into our hearts to be our personal Saviour, He gives us a new heart and we are clean.

    However, because of all of the vicious and poisonous darts that satan hurls at us through people, we allow our hearts to become filled with resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy and hatred. We need Jesus to clean our hearts over and over so that we will be in right standing with Him and we will be able to serve Him like He wants us to serve Him.

    None of us want to hurt Jesus and fail Him, but we do every day of our lives. There is always another email or letter that we could have sent or a telephone call that we could have made to people who are lonely and need encouragement. They may be feeling suicidal and they desperately need to know that somebody cares if they live or die.

    Thank You, Jesus, for keeping us from falling and thank You so much for the promise that one day You will present us faultless before the presence of Your glory with exceeding joy. O how I long for the day when I will see You face to face. I love You.

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    JoanneCopyright 2009 by Joanne Lowe, all rights reserved.
    Used by permission. http://joanne-freedominjesus.blogspot.com/
    http://christians-in-recovery.org

    God Will Make a Way

    Monday, August 10th, 2009

    Daniel 2:6 KJV
    But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and reward and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.

    Genesis, one of the five books of law, talks about beginnings. Life in recovery is a new beginning for Christians. Sometimes, that new beginning could mean living in a clean and sober house or a treatment program.

    A faith based treatment program is a safe and understanding environment that supports Christian beliefs of being clean and sober. It provides the framework of the 12 step program and the relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There are many stories in the bible that can be a watershed of hope for men, women and children alike that either have lost their way or do not know that there is joy in celebrating a true and living God. Luke 15:24 tell us about the prodigal son who was lost and finally found his way back to the reality. Does that sound anything like steps 1, 2 and 3? Step 1: powerlessness and unmanageability; going astray; step 2: belief in restoration to sanity through a higher power; asking for help to come 3 making a decision; coming back home after being lost.

    If a Christian decided to relate those step to this parable how would that go over in a program that uses a global spirituality? Christians deserve to have a program that supports their spiritual walk with God while they work through issues in recovery. It can be difficult to continue to focus on the core values of recovery in a program that does not allow you to praise God from whom the blessing of recovery flows.

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Cathey
    Copyright 2009 by Jimmy Cathey, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
    Jimmy Cathey is a substance abuse counselor and educator. He founded Support Systems, a substance abuse education program that helps families learn about the negative consequences of addiction and the rewards of life in recovery. He was a staff consultant to small and emerging non profit organizatons at Management Center in San Francisco, California. Email Jimmy Cathey

    To Everything There Is A Season

    Friday, August 7th, 2009

    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

    My dad passed away about one month ago. I haven’t said much about it to anyone, mostly because I’m not quite sure what I feel about the whole thing.

    Dad and I weren’t really close. No animosity, just distance both physically and emotionally. I don’t think I’ve processed his death, partly because it was expected after a long illness and partly because we just never shared a lot.

    But still, now that both parents have passed away, there’s a sense of being a little more alone in the world. He didn’t want a formal funeral, so we didn’t have the opportunity for closure that accompanies those sorts of rituals. When this article appears, I’ll be on the way to a small family memorial.

    Part of the closure involves recalling the joys and laughter of a long, productive life. One of my cherished childhood memories occurred the night before my grandpa’s funeral, when his brothers sat around and drank and told stories and everyone laughed.

    I remember asking my mom if laughing was okay, and she assured me that’s exactly what grandpa would have wanted. I think that’s what Dad would want as well, so I hope we’ll tell some of the jokes and funny stories that brought him so much pleasure.

    Another part of closure involves the sorrow of loss, and for me I think that means acknowledging some regrets.

    I’m sorry we weren’t closer, though I have no idea how I might have changed that.

    I’m sorry he never had the opportunity to read Relentless Grace. I guess when you publish a book you want your parents to read it. Mom would have like it, though she missed the publication date by almost thirty years. She would have appreciated the message of the story, the assurance of hope that springs eternally from God’s perfect faithfulness.

    I’m not sure Dad would have understood what I was trying to say. Our relationship didn’t include conversations on that level, so I really don’t know what he would have thought. I’m sorry he didn’t get to hear that side of my story.

    Death is such an elusive experience. We all experience it, but I doubt if anyone truly understands it. We plan for it, and but I don’t think it’s ever quite what we imagine. Like most sons, I always saw Dad as a bit larger than life. It’s still difficult to get my mind around the reality that he’s gone.

    The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 observed, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Among the specific seasons, he mentions:

      A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

      A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

      A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

      A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

      A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

      A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

      A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    Dad didn’t care much for Pete Seeger (songwriter), the Byrds (performers) or for this sort of music in general. But memorials are a time to mend and express what sometimes can best be expressed in music. So with apologies to Dad:

    Byrds: \"Turn, Turn, Turn\"

    This is a time to mourn; I hope it’ll also be a time to laugh. We all have a time to die; for those of us who remain, and for Dad, I pray that it’s a time for peace.

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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 Seeking God?

    Thursday, August 6th, 2009

    O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Psalm 63:1 King James Version

    Are you seeking God and looking to Him for your happiness or have you been looking for happiness in the world? You will never find happiness in the world. True happiness only comes from God. There is no happiness to be found in drugs, in sex, in alcohol or in any other worldly pursuit.

    O you may experience a temporary high but that is all that it is, a temporary high. The happiness that is found in the world is not true happiness and it will not last. Only the happiness that God gives us will last. The happiness and fellowship that God gives us is not only lasting, it is the only thing that will satisfy our lonely and hungry hearts that are starving for real love and acceptance.

    You will only find real love that is unconditional and lasting as you seek God with all of your heart. You don’t have to go through this life with a thirsty heart. Ask God to fill your heart and your life with His water of unconditional love, happiness and acceptance. Once you have experienced His love, you will understand that only God can satisfy your heart that is hungry and thirsty for love, acceptance and happiness.

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    JoanneCopyright 2009 by Joanne Lowe, all rights reserved.
    Used by permission. http://joanne-freedominjesus.blogspot.com/
    http://christians-in-recovery.org

    Sign Up or Show Up

    Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

    “God doesn’t want us simply to sign up. He wants us to show up.” — Pastor Dary Northrup

    I’m kind of a “sound bite” guy when I listen to sermons.

    I seem to recall the central points of a message when I can distill them into a single statement. This notion of “signing up vs. showing up” summarizes a lot of thinking about service.

    I wrote last week about living a substantial life. It seems like “showing up” might be one mark of substantial living.

    Signing up is easy, partly because it focuses on results. Would you like to see an end to childhood hunger? Sure—who wouldn’t? Do the elderly need help with household chores? Obviously. World peace? I’m in!

    The same principle works on a personal level. I should spend more time reading scripture. I need to weigh less, eat better, get in shape. All desirable results—pretty much everyone agrees.

    Showing up is different. Saturday morning raking leaves for the widow next door interferes with the tee time. Quiet time with God’s word means getting up earlier, and I’m already sleep-deprived.

    Health clubs thrive on this results-focused mentality. Signing up for the membership is easy; showing up each day is a different matter. Substance abuse rehab programs are filled with repeat clients who want the results but don’t know how to show up when it gets hard.

    Showing up is about the process, the small steps that feel insignificant in isolation. It requires doing the right things, being the right sort of person, even when the results are uncertain or seem impossibly distant.

    I want to follow Jesus. Great—I signed up.

    How will my life be different? What commitment will I make to serve when it’s tough, to love someone who’s not very lovable? What sacrifice will I make to show His face in my everyday interactions? How will I show up?

    It doesn’t do much good to have a leader who walks on water unless you’re willing to follow in His footsteps.

    What’s your take? How do you experience the difference between ‘signing up’ and ‘showing up’?

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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 would you do if you didn’t know you couldn’t do it?

    Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

    This is a big week for me.

    On Friday I completed the final day of a thirty-five year teaching career. I’m officially retired, a former teacher. And since I’m making the formal transfer from one phase of life to the next, this is the perfect time to announce my CRAZY QUEST.

    After my injury in 1987, I wasted about a decade in anger, denial, depression, and hopelessness. When I finally got tired of being pitiful, I began to seek an outlet, a hobby, something outside of my career to which I could devote some passion and creative energy.

    I discovered hand cycling.

    I’ve added THE CRAZY QUEST as a category for this blog, and I plan to write about once per week about what hand cycling has taught me about my injury, about life, and about resilience. But today I want to get this insane idea out there before I lose my courage.

    Ever since I began riding more than ten years ago, I’ve fantasized about an extended, cross-country style trip. Of course, such a project is impossible. The list of practical obstacles is virtually endless. Some of the obvious issues:

    * Time. I can only ride forty-fifty miles on good days, and they’re not all good days.
    * Logistics. For a quadriplegic, extended travel presents logistical challenges involving specialized equipment, accessible facilities, medical care, and transportation. A military regiment moves with fewer organizational headaches.
    * Finances. I can’t afford the costs for several weeks’ lodging, food, transportation, and equipment. Most inexpensive options such as camping or staying with friends are impossible due to accessibility issues.
    * Support. I couldn’t make such a trip alone. Whenever I mention this idea, my wife simply smiles and changes the subject, hoping that I’ll forget this insane notion.

    Clearly, it’s simply not feasible. Can’t be done. I need to forget about this dream and scale back to something more realistic. It’s just nuts to imagine that an old, bald guy who’s paralyzed below his chest can cycle from, say, Denver to Chicago.

    So that’s my CRAZY QUEST, and that’s all I know about it right now. I don’t have a route or destination. I have no clue how I’ll accomplish it, who will help me, or how I’ll pay for it. I only know I want to make it happen sometime in 2010.

    Every journey begins wherever you are. Right now I can’t control all of the visible and invisible obstacles, so the only thing I can do is begin training. I’ve already traveled 500 miles since January, and my goal is to reach 2,500 by the end of the year. Since my previous yearly record is about 1,500 miles, I’ve got some work ahead.

    Why am I telling you about this nutty idea? Because I think we all need dreams and goals and challenges, and I’m inviting you to join me in stretching yourself a bit. I’d like to share my experiences in making my CRAZY QUEST happen, and I hope those experiences will spur you to think outside the box and ask yourself this question:

    What would you do if you didn’t know you couldn’t do it?

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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

    Compass Or Map?

    Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

    Yesterday I wrote about Substance Or Style.

    I was struck by how frequently Christians get caught up in style and forget substance. At times we all become immersed in form and doctrine and liturgy, and we lose sight of Jesus’ simple message of love. But especially for people who struggle for freedom from a tragic past, the awareness that God values essence over appearance might be overwhelming.

    HOPELESS

    I’ve heard it dozens of times. “If God really knows me, then He knows all of the junk inside, all of my past mistakes, all of the horrible events that I can’t erase. And if He can see all of that, it’s hopeless.”

    Completely transparent intimacy intimidates everyone to some extent, but that sense of total vulnerability can overwhelm someone who faces despair and regret. When I’m ashamed of the past and depressed about the present, how can I possibly look to God with hope?

    Jesus proclaims, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14a) Then, in verse 16, He continues, “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

    What good deeds? What light? He must be talking to someone else. When the past contains only sorrow and the present is shrouded in darkness, how can I possibly let my light shine?

    A COMPASS

    I’m absolutely convinced that God cares more about where we’re going than where we are or where we’ve been. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He’s concerned with direction rather than location. To me, God’s more like a compass than a map. The map reveals how I arrived at my current position, but the compass points north from any situation. Jesus is the direction to freedom in every circumstance.

    Songwriter Don Francisco phrased this idea beautifully:

    I don’t care where you’ve been sleeping; I don’t care who’s made your bed.
    I already gave my life to set you free.
    There’s no sin you can imagine that is stronger than my love,
    and it’s all yours if you come home again to me.

    Does God care what we do, or that we do our best? Of course. “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

    But He cares much more about motivation. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (Psalm 127: 1)

    As I said yesterday, the end doesn’t justify the means; instead, the means change the end.

    God values character more than accomplishments, who we’re becoming more than what we’re doing. As Rick Warren said, “We’re human beings, not human doings.”

    You can live a life of substance in any situation. Let go of the map.

    Follow the compass.

    Within you is a limitless, unborn potential of creativity and substance, and the present experience can be your great opportunity to give birth to it. Disadvantage can become advantage, failure can become opportunity, and disappointment can become “His” appointment.

    Do you have trouble following the compass rather than the map?

    Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

    Dixon
    Copyright 2009 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