Archive for December, 2009

Who Else Wants To Finish Strong?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. [Hebrews 12:1]

Did you make any resolutions this year?

I’ve never been a big fan of the annual tradition of making firm commitments on January 1, falling short within a few days, and then abandoning the whole notion. I have enough shortcomings—I don’t need to artificially manufacture failure.

However, I began this year with a different sort of resolution: Living Intentionally.

I resolved to act as though each day, each moment, matters. Living intentionally, on purpose, means actively choosing what fills the jar. And it means making sure the big stuff gets in first before the space is occupied by smaller, less important stuff.

This week the calendar flipped into December, a good time to refresh my resolution: I want to finish strong. I don’t want to stumble to the end of the year.

For me, that means a renewed focus on the gift of Christmas. I don’t want merely to endure and survive the rush of a holiday season filled with a mish-mash of cultural expectations.

My December resolution is an Intentional Christmas. That means enjoying the love of family and friends, marveling at the wonder and magic of children and Santa, and reveling in the beauty of decorations and lights. It means slowing down to take in the joy and generosity that abound.

But—an intentional Christmas means doing it all with my eyes on the star above a humble stable. It means purposely seeing it all in the context of the love and wonder of the gift of Jesus.

I want to finish the year on purpose. Want to join me?

What does finishing 2009 intentionally mean for you?

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ [Matthew 25:23]

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

Living Intentionally

Monday, December 14th, 2009

A teacher stood before his class. On a table the students observed a large glass jar and a pile of fist-sized rocks.

He carefully placed as many rocks into the jar as possible and asked the students to acknowledge that no more rocks would fit. Then he reached under the table, retrieved a pitcher containing pea-sized gravel, and slowly poured the pebbles into the jar, shaking gently to allow them to settle and fill the voids.

“Is the jar completely full?” Believing they saw through his trick, the students replied that it wasn’t.

The teacher smiled, produced some fine sand, and repeated the process. As he finished, he asked what the students had learned.

“There’s always some empty space. If you try hard enough, you can always fit more in.”

Without speaking, the teacher picked up a second jar and filled it with sand. Then he waited for the students to analyze the results. They gazed at the two jars, the pile of rocks, and the containers of gravel and sand.

After a few moments, a student said, “I get it. You have to put the big stuff in first or it won’t fit.”

I’ve done this simple demonstration with numerous audiences, using the jar to represent a variety of concepts. It’s a great prompt for discussions about priorities and proactive allocation of limited resources. After a little discussion, most groups reach similar conclusions and the following principles usually emerge in some form.

1. The jar is always full. Even if it’s only air, something occupies the space.

2. Everything won’t fit. Before adding anything you must remove something else.

3. You can add small stuff later, but you have to put the big stuff in first.

Each principle implies a related question.

1. Who decides what goes in the jar?

2. What can be left out? What can we remove if we really must add something?

3. What’s the big stuff that absolutely can’t be left out?

What’s the big stuff? Jesus understood the lesson of the jar and the importance of putting the big stuff in first.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6: 33

We fill our lives with so much small stuff. If we’re not careful, there’s no room left for what’s really important. My goal for 2009 is to live intentionally, to make sure that the big stuff in life gets in the jar first.

Question: What’s one of the “big things” you want to put in your jar in 2010?

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

Why Not ME?

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Peter…said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?
You follow Me” (John 21:21-22).

Have you noticed that just when you think you have something nailed…you discover you don’t know it at all?

Nowhere is that truer than in our walk with the Lord. I thought I had learned the “what’s-that-to-you; you-follow-me” lesson, so much so that I wrote an entire chapter about it in one of my books (Beyond Me). But then, just this week, I heard the Lord whisper those very words to me…more than once.

A writer announces the receipt of a coveted award, and I think, Why her, Lord? After all these years…why not me???

And Jesus says, “What’s that to you? You follow Me.”

A friend declares God’s faithfulness in bringing her child into a committed faith walk, and I think, What about my child? I’ve prayed for years!

And Jesus says, “What’s that to you? You follow Me.”

An acquaintance tells of an unexpected windfall of funds, and I wonder, Why can’t I experience that sort of financial return for my efforts?

And Jesus says, “What’s that to you? You follow Me.”

I know. All these confessions make me sound terribly small. But don’t we all have those moments when we feel slighted in some way? And then God reminds of something so much bigger…and everything falls into proper perspective.

A woman languishes in a Chinese prison because she dared to distribute Christian literature to children…

Two young women suffer untold tortures in an Iranian prison because they refuse to deny Christ…

Believers in North Vietnam are known as “running Christians” because they live on the run from officials who wish to destroy their faith…

How often do I think of these beloved brothers and sisters and ask, Why them, Lord? Why not me? Why do they suffer so when I am so blessed and comfortable?

Not often enough, I’m afraid. And yet, if we want to get past the “why not me” stage when we hear of someone else’s success, we must keep in mind the suffering of others and ask the same question. When we do, we will receive the same answer from our Lord: “What’s that to you? You follow Me.”

Our calling and purpose is not to question God about others’ circumstances (or our own), but rather to cling to Him so that we might be found faithful in whatever He brings our way today. When we do that, we will better be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep,” for then we will truly understand that we are one in the blood-bought Body of Christ.

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

Adversity And Gratitude

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

“I realized that my faith was not in my paycheck or in the housing market.”

I read a great article this week about people who have discovered unexpected blessings in the recession.

I admire folks who can see the rainbow while the storm rages. I’m pretty good at looking back and seeing the hidden blessings, but I tend to focus on current struggles while they’re in progress.

The people interviewed for the article somehow discovered opportunities and reasons for gratitude in the midst of trouble. Many rediscovered simple but essential gifts they’d taken for granted. The common themes: Family, friends and faith.

One man who lost his job found a deeper connection to God. “I realized that my faith was not in my paycheck or in the housing market,” he says. “Since the recession, I’ve also noticed a change in the country and how we’ve taken a step back from excess.”

One lady whose family “had it all and we lost it all” says economic woes forced her to seize opportunities she might have otherwise ignored. “If it weren’t for the economy going so bad, I would still be blowing money left and right. I am grateful because of the recession. The recession gave me a new opportunity, hope and purpose.”

Wow. These folks get it, being thankful in all circumstances.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. [Philippians 4:11-13]

Let’s all remember that God is good and that He blesses us in all situations.

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

We Don’t Have to be Afraid

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” Psalm 46:1-3 King James Version

Yesterday, the maintenance people came to fix something in my home. My six weeks old puppy, Prince, looked up at me with trust in his eyes as if he was asking me to protect him from these people. O that you and I would look up at our Heavenly Father with trust in our eyes just as my puppy looked up at me knowing that our Heavenly Father will protect us.

Our Scripture verses tell us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” When we call to Him for help, He is there. We don’t have to be afraid of anything because He will protect us. He answers us immediately and goes to work in our behalf.

The question every Christian should ask himself or herself is “Am I willing to do what God asks me to do immediately or do I put it off until it is convenient for me?” How we must hurt Him and break His heart when we don’t do what He asks us to do. He does so much for us and He asks so little of us. Do you respond immediately when God asks you do something or do you put it off until it is convenient for you?

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for protecting us from the attacks of satan and the world. Thank You for being faithful to us. May we be found faithful to You. I love You, Heavenly Father, and I appreciate all that You have done for me and all that You do for me every day of my life. 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

Who Directs Your Life?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

“My times are in Your hands!” Psalm 31:15

We often think we could do better–if we were directing the affairs of our own lives. We think we could get more happiness and greater good out of life–if things were in our hands. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, with blue skies–and no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers–without thorns or any rough places. Would we not be happier–if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful?

So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world–would be to have the direction of the affairs, and the shaping of the experiences of our lives, put into our own hands!

We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life–there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today–might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.

We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity–but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.

We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle–but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.

We should always remember that the object of living here, is not merely to have present comfort, to get along with the least trouble, to gather the most we can of the world’s treasures, to win the brightest fame. We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God’s will that belongs to us!

There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world–and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life–something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good–and His glory.

It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours, since He is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. It may be painful and hard–but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.

Of course we may not know all the reasons there are in the divine mind, for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God’s design for us in these trials is. Yet without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love–and whose wisdom also is infinite!

When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans–and spoiled our pleasant dreams!

It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor feeble hands–but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father!

(J. R. Miller, “The Lesson of Love” 1903)

Let it be to Me According to Your Word

Friday, December 4th, 2009

And the angel…said to her, “…For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!
Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:35-38).

Mary was one special lady, wasn’t she? Imagine, being a young (teenaged) virgin engaged to be married, going about your daily routine, when suddenly an angel appears to you and announces that you are favored by God and are about to bear His Son. Stunned, Mary—a devout and practicing Jew—senses God’s presence and listens with an open heart, believing the angel’s amazing words, even as in her humanity she wonders how it can be so. When she voices her question, the angel gives her a brief answer, pulling it all together with “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Mary’s response at that point is one of the most faith-filled statements ever made: “Let it be to me according to your word.”

If we as believers learn nothing else in our earthly sojourn, we will be wise indeed. For the great truth in this angelic-human exchange over-arches any problem we will ever face.

Not enough money? Nothing is impossible with God. Therefore, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Health failing? Nothing is impossible with God. Therefore, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Family not walking with the Lord? Nothing is impossible with God. Therefore, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Once-solid governments and familiar lifestyles collapsing around you? Nothing is impossible with God. Therefore, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary understood that regardless of seemingly impossible circumstances or insurmountable obstacles, God was greater than anything she could ever face, and His Word would prevail when all else had passed away. As a result, she was privileged to be called and chosen by God to bless the world with Immanuel.

God has called and chosen us to do the same. May we do so with uncompromising faith—throughout this Christmas season and for as long as we walk upon this earth.

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

_________________________________________________

Elevator: Learning a Principle of Recovery – Part 2

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

This is an excerpt from
Relentless Grace
.

Note: This is part 2 of my initial unassisted encounter with an elevator( You can read part 1 here.). It’s a great reminder that even the simplest tasks can be overwhelming in the center or the storm.

Conquest instantly reverted to defeat.

Most people don’t even notice the tiny crack between the floor and the car, but my attention now focused on that insignificant crevice that suddenly swallowed my front wheels.

The automatic doors began to close. A sensor and halted the motion. After a few seconds the mechanism made another attempt. Over and over the doors would close a bit and then part once more.

Stuck in the elevator doorway, in the bulky chair, in the hospital, in my miserable broken body. Stuck and trapped, a perfect metaphor for what remained of what was once a life.

I saw no escape from this unanticipated ambush. The doors continued to open, try to close, then stop and open again.

I honestly do not know how I finally managed to become unstuck. But eventually, somehow, I managed to free my wheels from their snare and rolled into the elevator.

Success! I’d entered the elevator completely by myself. It wasn’t smooth, it wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t efficient. But I’d overcome a significant challenge without help.

I then encountered another truth that I would rediscover repeatedly over the next months. A triumph always fostered other, more difficult challenges. In a frustrating but inevitable cycle, the celebration of advance inevitably preceded the frustration of a corresponding retreat.

Eventually I learned that I usually moved a bit farther forward than back; continuous effort created slow but unmistakable progress. But it took a long time to discern this pattern of gain and loss and to accept this nearly imperceptible advancement as my new version of “normal.”

As I rolled into the elevator I faced a serious tactical dilemma. The controls were right there, behind me, over my left shoulder. I needed to turn and get beside them.

Before I could solve this newest problem the doors closed and the car began moving. Well, that wasn’t so bad. After all, I couldn’t get lost. There were just five floors plus the basement where the clinic was located. I figured I would just push to the back of the car and spin around.

I was moving on my own! Nobody lifted or pushed or helped. Until you’re unable to move yourself you cannot appreciate the sense of freedom that accompanies independent motion.

I rolled slowly to the back of the car, and the advance/retreat principle reappeared. I couldn’t turn around within the confines of the elevator! The big clunky chair was too long, and the back hit one wall while the footrests banged against the other. I was stuck. Again.

I remember just wanting to quit right there. All I’d overcome that day—long corridors, pushing buttons, picking the winning door, somehow escaping that crack. So many obstacles surmounted, and what had I accomplished? I was stuck in an elevator, facing the back wall and unable to move, dead-dog tired and discouraged. The frustration encapsulated my vision of the rest of my life. I would never be able to do anything.

Hopeless.

Down and up, then the doors opened and someone boarded. Moved again, stopped, doors opened. People entered and departed behind me. I tried to ask for help, but the noise of machinery drowned my hoarse whisper of a voice. Life continued behind me while I remained jammed between the walls, locked rigid by the halo, staring at the blank rear wall.

I wish I could relate a courageous conclusion, a clever escape from my predicament and a triumphant return to the rehab unit as conquering champion of the elevator. I’d like to claim some sort of inspirational moment of enlightenment when I suddenly realized I could achieve anything to which I set my mind. But that’s not what happened.

Once again I failed to discover lessons embedded within this discouraging incident. I just stared at the back of the elevator, convinced I was destined for a life filled with struggle and failure. I envisioned someone discovering my body days later, riding up and down those six floors.

Finally someone entered and decided to check on me. He helped me get back to the right floor. I rolled out into the hallway and paused beside a window, watching a parking lot and the street beyond. People walked along, cars came and went as the traffic light demanded.

Didn’t they know life had ended? Didn’t they know the world was reduced to pain and frustration and loss? How could they just keep on as if nothing had happened?

DIDN’T THEY KNOW?

I struggled back to my room that day convinced I’d never make it, angry with everyone for making me try.

I eventually conquered the elevator and other more difficult and fearsome obstacles. Thank God they didn’t just leave me alone; despite my anger and disbelief, they kept me going.

When I’m at the hospital, I often ride that same elevator. I laugh when I recall riding up and down, convinced my skeleton would be discovered after years of staring at the back of that stupid elevator.

I tell this story frequently, and I honestly think it’s pretty funny to. The account always elicits a good laugh.

Of course, I don’t include the part about the window and the cars and all of those who went on their way, oblivious to the fact that the world had ended.

That part wasn’t so funny.

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

ELEVATOR (Part 1) – Learning a Principle of Recovery

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Excerpt from
Relentless Grace.
. I hope you enjoy them, and that you’ll encounter God’s invitation to give hope another chance.

Note: This is part 1 of my initial unassisted encounter with an elevator. It’s a great reminder that even the simplest tasks can be overwhelming in the center or the storm.

A hospital elevator appears easily accessible. Smooth floors, wide entrance, clearly labeled controls installed at the proper height. No sweat, right?

I eased up to the call buttons and maneuvered until they waited directly in front of me at eye level. But with my halo brace and lack of stability I couldn’t reach forward to press the button without falling on my nose. I needed another approach.

I backed up, much more difficult than going forward, and turned until I sat beside the buttons.

Uh-oh. Pushing buttons required a new set of movements. My arms still lacked complete control, especially when I reached away from my body. I braced against the armrest, reached out, and—my fingers didn’t work. How do you push a button without using your fingers?

I could use my thumb a bit. Braced again, zeroed in on the “DOWN” arrow, and stabbed. A few misses, and then—SUCCESS! The button illuminated. I heard the mechanism, responding to the call of my wavering arm and barely controlled thumb.

Two chimes signaled the elevator’s arrival. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the car in front of me. I heard the doors open behind me as I struggled to back up.

The elevator waited a few seconds, declared a false alarm, and moved on. I turned just enough to see the doors slide shut.

I rested a few minutes. Moving the chair quickly made shoulders burn and arms ache. While I waited, the elevator returned, and a man in hospital scrubs emerged. Do you need a hand? Hold the door for you?

No. I didn’t want him to watch me struggle. I flailed my arm to wave him on.

Ready for another attempt, I rolled beside the controls and stabbed at the button. My fumbling thumb hit the “UP” arrow. Oh, well.

Quick! Back and turn. I heard the car moving. Back a little more, and I was in position directly front of the doors. The bell chimed once, but the other set of doors opened! I hadn’t anticipated that possibility. I turned and pushed forward, but as the doors closed I sat several feet away.

Why are these elevators so hard to use? Why don’t they wait longer? I’ll never get off this floor without help! This isn’t fair!

I decided I’d have to press the button, choose my door and push toward it immediately. I moved too slowly to wait and see which car arrived.

I teach math. I’ve made up all sorts of silly probability questions using marbles, coins, dice, buses and elevators. Who cares? Well, now I cared. Which one would arrive next? The score was two to one. I’d ask my students to calculate experimental probabilities, graph the data, and make a prediction. Which one should I choose?

As I stabbed at the button again I decided to bet on the car in front of me. Each door is equally likely, and I could get there faster because I didn’t have to back up.

The DOWN arrow lighted again. First try! I rolled forward, turned, and faced the doors. The signal sounded. I looked up and the other doors opened, waited those few miserable seconds, and closed.

With any thought at all I would have just stayed where I was. Someone eventually would have emerged from that car, and I’d have been ready to jump through the doors.

Unfortunately, stubbornness and frustration supplanted clear-headed reasoning and problem solving. So I struggled around in a half-circle and prepared for another try. The score stood three to one. Should I change my bet?

I decided to stick with my initial guess. I probably wouldn’t reach the alternative anyway because of the backing-up thing. I was becoming a fairly proficient button-pusher. I pressed and scrambled to turn, the car arrived, and now it was four to one. The doors opened and closed. They probably just appeared to smirk as they eased together.

Now what? What are the odds? As the wrong car appeared and departed once more, I slumped in defeat. If I hadn’t been so angry and frustrated I might have chuckled at the thought of students dutifully taking notes while I assured them that elevators don’t know the odds and can’t remember the five to one tally.

I wasn’t changing, committed now as a matter of either principle or stubbornness. Besides, I would really feel stupid if I switched and my original choice appeared.

Turn, stab, light, scramble. I heard the whir of machinery, but which one would appear? I stared at the lights, expecting another failure.

A double chime signaled an arrival and a victorious adrenaline rush accompanied the parting of the shiny silver doors before me. I couldn’t stop to rejoice. I rolled forward, prepared to celebrate my triumphant passage through the winning portal.

Instead, I encountered once more a basic principle of my recovery process: no important gain would ever happen easily.

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’s The Cost?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

How much does it cost?

I read an article this week that estimated the cost of raising a child to age eighteen. According to a study, the average parent will spend about $250,000 just to get a child to the point where they can incur really serious debt for college.

The writer speculated whether this data would have serious impact on family planning decisions. I don’t think it will, and her question reminded me that we frequently set goals or commit to obligations without really considering the costs.

We claim the freedom Jesus conveys, but we forget sometimes that being His apprentice carries a price. Following Jesus isn’t free.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:25-33]

Jesus employed hyperbole to make a point; He certainly didn’t teach that we ought to literally “hate” anyone, but He was clear that God’s Kingdom involves a radically altered set of priorities.

So what does it “cost” me to follow Jesus? I thought it might be interesting to list at least a few lines in my own itemized price list.

* Revenge. Instead or retaliating when someone hurts me, Jesus tells me to forgive when it’s the very last thing I want to do.
* Superiority. I want to be right, win the argument, and crush inferior ideas, but Jesus reminds me to keep my eyes on the concerns of His Kingdom and to avoid foolish quarrels over foolish things.
* Power. Rather than demanding that others meet my needs and fulfill my desires. Jesus tells me to adopt an attitude of humility and service.
* Control. When I demand the right to establish my own rules and follow my own path, Jesus says, “Obey God.”
* Judgment. I want punishment for those who break the rules, but Jesus says it’s not even my place to judge.
* Attention/admiration. When I want others to know what a good guy I am, when I desire extra credit for all of the wonderful things I do (J), Jesus tells me to do my good deeds in secret.
* Security. While I worry about the future and plan for every contingency. Jesus tells me to trust that God will provide.
* Ownership. I worked for it, I earned it, and it’s mine—and Jesus reminds me that I’m just a steward, that none of it belongs to me.

My incomplete list mostly reminds me that I’ve done little to demonstrate that I’m willing to pay the price of discipleship. My debt increases moment by moment along with awareness that I’ll never be able to pay.

I desire to do better, but I already know I’ll fail. I can’t possibly meet the standard. I can talk about surrender, but I’ll never achieve it. Following Jesus carries a price tag that I’m unable and unwilling to pay. I might as well just give up. It’s hopeless.

And as soon as I acknowledge that I can’t meet the requirements, He reminds me that He already paid the price on my behalf. That’s the wonder of grace—amazing grace, Relentless Grace, unmerited, infinite grace.

It’s not hopeless, because He knew the cost of obedience and surrender, accepted it willingly, and settled my debt. He went to the cross so we could receive the benefits of an apprenticeship we can’t possibly fulfill.

Two questions: First, what would you add to my list of costs? Second, what’s your response when you realize that He paid the price for you?

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