Archive for October, 2009

Jesus-A Line In The Sand

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” [John 8:1-11]

HOW DO YOU THINK OF JESUS?

I think it’s interesting that He filled so many varied roles during His life. He was teacher and rabbi, revolutionary leader and religious radical. He was human son and brother and worked at a common trade. He spoke to large crowds and wandered alone in the wilderness. But one activity we take for granted is almost never associated with Him.

We don’t think about Jesus the writer.

When the woman accused of adultery was brought before Him, Jesus stooped and wrote in the sand of the temple floor. It’s the only time the bible refers to Jesus writing.

We don’t know what He actually wrote. Scholars speculate that it was a list of sins committed by the accusers, or that He doodled in the dust to create a pregnant pause. Some even claim to “know” what He wrote based on interpretation and extrapolation from other scriptures. My take is that, since it’s not recorded, the actual content doesn’t matter.

A LINE IN THE SAND

My guess is that, in some way either literal or metaphorical, Jesus drew a line in the sand of the temple floor.

Regardless of its actual content, His message was unmistakable. There is a clear, distinct line between right and wrong, between righteous and sinful. And we’re all on the same side of that line.

I wrote earlier about our obsession with labels and drawing lines. We’re eager to divide the world into “us” and “them,” good guys (us) and bad guys (them). We’ll acknowledge our own mistakes, but we’re clearly not as bad as the REAL sinners.

A BETTER CLASS OF SINNER

We work very hard to draw lines that associate us with a better class of sinners, but we need to understand that our lines don’t matter. They’re a feeble attempt to distinguish evil, really evil, not-so-evil, and just-sortta-evil.

Jesus erased our artificial distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable sin. He ripped the veil from public piety that conceals private failure and revealed the darkness that haunts every human heart. We’re all on the wrong side of His line. His challenge for the person without sin to cast the first stone convicts all of us.

Jesus’ line in the sand makes the only true distinction. He’s on one side, sinless and obedient. We’re all on the other side. None of us is worthy to judge. Under His criteria, only Jesus can throw that initial stone.

BEYOND LINES

But then He did something remarkable. After all her accusers vanished, the guilty woman stood alone with Jesus. She now faced the true judge, the only One on the other side of the line.

He’d banished the pretenders, exposing their false sense of superiority by trapping them in their own logic and legalism. Her accusers were gone, but her guilt remained. She was still on the wrong side of the line, along with me and you.

Guilty. No defense, no justification, no denial, no appeal. The verdict’s in, and we stand before the judge. Doomed.

And the judge says the most amazing thing. “I don’t condemn you. I love you so much that I’ll pay your debt. Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

And just like that, we’re free. The record’s wiped clean. No guilt, no condemnation. We didn’t earn it, don’t deserve it, and can’t really understand it. But we’re free.

That’s what Christians in Recovery® is about. The line didn’t disappear. I’m still on the wrong side, guilty, awaiting sentencing.

You can’t erase your past. You can’t wipe away the worldly consequences of your own errors or obliterate others’ evil deeds. You can’t go back; life doesn’t provide do-overs.

But you can go forward in hope. Jesus says, “I see you as you are, and I love you more than you can imagine. Leave here with a new beginning. Go now, and leave your life of sin.”

“We are all products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” – Rick Warren

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

Inspirational or Crazy: A Thin Line

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

One revolution means so many things to me. One revolution of the handcycle, one revolution of the earth, one lifetime, one moment, one chance to make a difference. Chris Waddell

Occasionally I encounter someone who simply inspires a sense of awe. Chris Waddell is such a person. Chris also exemplifies my belief that a thin line separates “inspirational” and “crazy.”

Chris Waddell just completed a summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At 19,340 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. What’s so remarkable about that?

Chris is a paraplegic. He completed the climb on a handcycle.

Let that fact sink in for a moment. A guy who can’t walk climbed a 19,000 foot mountain on a handcycle.

I can’t add anything to that. I encourage you to visit Chris’ website and let his story inspire you to ask yourself the question: What would I do if I didn’t know I couldn’t do it?

One Revolution
One Handcycle Revolution
One Earth’s Turn
One Lifetime
One Opportunity
One Moment
One Chance
One Change

Chris Waddell

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

Hurricanes that Make Landfall

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:37-39 King James Version

We have hurricanes that make landfall and cause destruction all around us. These hurricanes destroy homes and cars. They injure people and sometimes kill people. There are other kinds of hurricanes that make landfall. These hurricanes are much more destructive than the hurricanes of nature because they make landfall in our hearts.

They are the hurricanes of criticism, sarcasm, judgment, rejection, ridicule, unforgiveness and hatred. These hurricanes cripple us emotionally. These hurricanes are so devastating that they kill our self esteem and cause us to start thinking about committing suicide because the pain is unbearable.

While it hurts terribly when one of these hurricanes makes landfall in our hearts, we are sometimes guilty of causing hurricanes to make landfall in our families and our friend’s hearts. May God have mercy on us and forgive us if we have caused one of these hurricanes to make landfall in someone’s heart.

It makes Jesus very sad to see you heartbroken and hurting. When you cry, He weeps with you. He loves you. The next time these devastating hurricanes make landfall in your heart, allow Jesus to comfort you as only He can. If you will listen with your heart, you will hear Him say “I love you. Peace, be still”.

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

Unconditional Respect

Monday, October 12th, 2009

I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. Jackie Robinson

Do you believe everyone deserves respect?

I do. I sincerely desire to treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect. And I frequently fail miserably.

I’m pretty good at spotting this deficiency in others, not so proficient at catching it in my own attitudes. I’m trying to figure out why such a basic personal approach to others is so difficult to attain consistently.

    * I think we confuse respect with approval or agreement. Of course it’s much easier to respect those with whom I agree, but easy isn’t always the goal. Respect isn’t earned, it’s the unconditional right of every individual.

    * I don’t have to like someone to regard them with respect. I like some folks more than others—nothing wrong with that. But I get caught occasionally in the trap of gossiping or otherwise disparaging someone simply because we aren’t buddies. That’s disrespectful, and it’s not acceptable.

    * I also think we confuse respect and trust. Trust is most certainly conditional. It’s earned, and once violated is difficult to regain. Only a fool trusts someone who’s demonstrated a lack of trustworthiness. It’s difficult, but I believe I can respect even someone I don’t trust.

To me, respect involves my belief that every person is a child of God. Jesus specifically tells me to love everyone, even (and especially) those I don’t like very much.

I don’t think respect for everyone comes naturally to most people—it certainly isn’t part of my natural instincts. Respect requires a conscious choice; it’s part of living life on-purpose.

We must build a new world, a far better world—one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected. Harry S. Truman

What am I missing? Why is respect such a difficult attitude to demonstrate?

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 Kind of Love?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life
(John 3:16).

Has there ever been a topic that has launched more books, songs—and yes, even ships—than love? Not a chance. Conversely, has there ever been a topic more blamed for such tragedies as broken hearts, devastated relationships, and destroyed lives? Again, absolutely not.

Realistically, however, what sort of love most inspires songs and at the same time destroys lives? Certainly not the kind of love that is first characterized by selfless giving, as in God’s love so clearly depicted in John 3:16. The God of Love, who is Himself the only source of all selfless love, does not break hearts or destroy relationships. God’s love gives; it doesn’t take. And the result is everlasting life. That’s the sort of love that should epitomize our lives as self-proclaimed believers in and followers of the John 3:16 God of Love.

But does it? Speaking for myself, I must admit that far too often the sort of love I model to others is not selfless or God-honoring, but rather a self-centered love that’s all about feelings and circumstances. And that’s the kind of love that will disappoint and let us down when we need it most. Selfless love, on the other hand, simply because it flows from the heart of a loving God, cannot be modeled in our lives apart from a vital, ongoing relationship with the Source of that love. We cannot manufacture it on our own. But as we grow in our appreciation of and recognition of our need for that love in our own lives, we will more readily exhibit it to those who also need it even as we do.

And that’s everyone—friends and foe alike. If we want to meet that need for selfless love, if we truly want to be effective witnesses to a world awash in self-centered pursuits, then we must first immerse ourselves in God’s love and learn to walk in it daily. That is my prayer for each of you today, beloved—that His love will overtake you at every turn and that it will flood you to overflowing until there is no room left for anything else. For who can resist a love like that?

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

What Choice Will You Make?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Psalm 109:2-4
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful
are opened against me:
they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They compassed me about also with words of hatred;
and fought against me without a cause.
For my love they are my adversaries:
but I give myself unto prayer.

How many times have you felt attacked by the words of others? What was your response? My initial response has been to fight back with hateful words. If someone attacks me, I will fight back!

But this is not what Scripture says. The psalmist says “I give myself in prayer.” Instead of lashing out , we are to get on our knees in prayer.

What good will that do?

It does several things First, by getting on my knees I humble myself before God and submit to Him in a physical manner. This in turn, affects my mental attitude. My emotions are redirected from anger at my adversaries to respect for God.

As I pray, I start by praising God and thanking him for the many blessings I have. My thoughts turn from the injuries I have suffered to thankfulness for God’s grace and mercy in my life. Sure lots of bad things happen but I have far more to be grateful for. I choose to focus on the positive as I pray. As i do that, the injuries I have suffered are washed away. Hate and anger are displaced by peace and serenity. God’s peace truly is beyond all understanding and it is very real.

The next time anger and hatred rise up inside of you what choice will you make?

Stumbling Isn’t Falling

Wednesday, October 7th, 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 wasn’t a good week for The Crazy Quest.

I only rode one day, a grand total of thirteen miles. If you’ve been following this adventure, you’ll know that a real slide from a normal 5-6 days and more than 100 miles.

I could offer many excuses. Bad weather, didn’t feel really good, writing deadlines—but they’re just excuses. Fact is, it was a week of backsliding.

Backsliding happens. Whatever your particular quest, it’s a fact of life. Maybe it’s a diet or a workout program or a struggle to kick an addiction. Maybe it’s daily prayer and quiet time with God, or reading the Bible. Doesn’t matter—for most of us, backsliding is a reality at some point in the journey.

The real problem isn’t the momentary slip. On a long journey, times of struggle are inevitable. The real issue is what happens in my thinking. I let it slide one day, then get frustrated with my lack of discipline. Frustration allows me to slide a bit more, and suddenly the voices tell me I’ve failed.

I start to pout, tell myself it’s no use. This week’s a loser, and now the whole thing’s screwed up. I’ll never make it. I don’t have the discipline. I’m a failure.

Might as well quit.

Falling off the wagon temporarily is just that—it’s temporary. It’s a momentary setback on a long, difficult road. Falling isn’t failing unless I refuse to get up.

I messed up a week, lost some fitness, maybe missed some in-progress goals. That’s not good, but the bigger picture’s still out there. The Crazy Quest is much larger than a single week.

So this morning I get back on the bike. I’ll grumble at myself, probably ride slower and struggle more. But I can’t go back and recover that lost week. I can only go forward, and that’s what my commitment to living on-purpose requires.

If you’ve stumbled, keep going. If you’ve fallen, get up. Don’t allow that momentary setback to become a permanent obstacle.

Are you backsliding in some aspect right now? What can you do to begin moving forward again?

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

Anchor Your Hopes on Jesus

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:19-20 King James Version

Priscilla Jane Owens who taught Sunday school penned this encouraging song “We Have an Anchor”. These words should bring encouragement, hope and comfort to our hearts “We have an anchor that keeps the soul, Stedfast and sure while the billows roll, Fastened to the Rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”

There are times when we anchor our hopes on our families, our friends, our jobs, our money and our possessions instead of on Jesus. These things are temporary and they do not give us a real and lasting hope. The only real hope we have that is permanent and one that we can depend on is our solid rock, our precious Saviour.

When we are grounded firm and deep in our Saviour’s love, we will have a peace that the world can’t give us and the world can’t take from us. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6).

Heavenly Father, thank You for opening Your heart of love and compassion and sending Your beloved Son into the world to not only be our Saviour, but also to be our anchor of hope. Jesus, thank You for being here for us when all hell comes against us and we feel like we are going under for the last time. We love You so much and we appreciate all that You do for us. Amen.

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

Complex Simplicity – Life is Complicated but Jesus Gets It

Monday, October 5th, 2009

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40]

A couple of weeks ago, Becky and I visited a gorgeous historic hotel in the Colorado mountains.

Designers restored and modernized this majestic treasure, including remarkable accessibility, while maintaining its unique charm. In one spot a small patio sits at the bottom of a steep slope with stunning views of surrounding landscapes. At the top of the slope, neatly hidden from sight, is a modern parking lot. The challenge: how to allow visitors to change levels without destroying the beauty of this secluded oasis.

A simple set of steps solves the problem for most folks, but they’d be an intrusion on the natural environment and wouldn’t allow easy access for all. Instead, architects created a curving, gently-pitched path that winds down the hill. Benches, trees, and strategically-placed colorful plants guide visitors to the bottom along a series of small pools connected by bubbling waterfalls. The solution is simple and elegant and enhances the space.

It’s the perfect answer to a difficult problem. Someone worked hard to create this unobtrusive, peaceful complexity that almost disappears into the background.

Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.

In the scripture above, Jesus is asked for the first priority in His teaching, and I don’t think the first word He spoke was an accident. “Love …” The answer is so simple. Like that gentle path on a steep hillside, He distills centuries of scholarship into a single word. “Love …”

And we reply, “Yeah, but …”

You can almost hear their response. “Love? You want us to solve everything with love? You have no idea how complicated our lives can be. It’s just not that easy!”

And He smiles gently and says, Really? You think I don’t understand?

When we encounter adversity, pain, grief, and unbearable despair, life seems much too complicated for such a simplistic response. We need a pragmatic answer, something that works in the real world. When the past covers you with a blanket of shame and guilt, the present spins out of control, and the future looms in darkness devoid of direction, Jesus doesn’t seem to get how impossible it all seems.

And He smiles gently and points to the cross. He gets it.

When God first greeted Adam and Eve in the garden, He pointed to the wonderful complexity of all He’d created. His command was simple. Live in loving relationship with each other and with Me. Enjoy it all, but don’t mess with this one tree.

Their disobedience cluttered the world with the complications of sin and polluted God’s simple design. He made it complex—we made it complicated.

Jesus gets it, and He still stands and points to the cross.

“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]

Easy? Light? Rest? What about all of that theology and religion, the books and the study? And what about all of the junk that the world dumps on us, not to mention our own mistakes and failures? What’s so light and easy about any of that?

And He smiles gently. The religion, theology, and sin aren’t His stuff. That’s all ours, the product of our own silly attempts to do it our way. In fact, I love the way this passage is expressed in The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus lived simply, but His message certainly isn’t simplistic. He doesn’t promise an easy life; in fact, His life was hard precisely because He chose the simple truth of love.

But my way’s hard too, and seems only to surround me only with more and more levels of complicated, tangled messes that become ever more snarled as I struggle to free myself. Jesus didn’t design this jumbled confusion, but He does understand it. He lived it, and He knows the only effective escape strategy.

The simple question isn’t whether He understands. He does. The only question is whether I believe enough to trust His elegantly uncomplicated guidance.

And I echo the man from Mark 9: I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:13]

Faith, hope, and love. Simple—but not simplistic. Complex—but not complicated.

What’s an aspect of your life that seems overwhelmingly complicated? Does any of this make sense in that circumstance?

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

God is Good. He Never, Ever Changes!

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed,
O sons of Jacob. (Malachi 3:6)

I know autumn officially began in September, but October always signifies the changing of seasons to me. Summer is now officially over in my book, and because I live in the Southern California desert, that’s a change I enjoy.

There has been a lot of talk about change lately, though that in itself is nothing new. We who walk this planet in our temporal “body suits” know that change is just something that happens—good, bad, or indifferent. Just when everything seems to have fallen into place and we’re zipping along enjoying life—wham, we get broadsided and everything changes. Conversely, when circumstances are about as bad as they can get, we cling to the hope that eventually things will change for the better.

But isn’t it wonderful to know that in the midst of a world that changes with the prevailing winds, God never changes? The same God who promised the Jewish people in the Old Testament, “For I am the Lord, I do not change,” also says in the New Testament, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If we are clinging to anything else, placing our hope anywhere but in the unchanging nature of a loving and merciful God, we are setting ourselves up for the worst disappointment imaginable.

The greatest benefit to us of God’s unchanging nature is that because of it, we will not be consumed, or destroyed. Do we deserve to be consumed? Absolutely! But God’s unconditional love and mercy, which does not change, so far surpasses our ability and propensity to separate ourselves from Him through sin that the chasm between us has been crossed. Our unchanging God walked across that bridge built by His own Son’s blood to reach out His hand in reconciliation and offer to walk us back across so we can sit at the very throne of the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. If we celebrate nothing else today, may we rejoice in the fact that God is good—and He never, ever changes!

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