Archive for January, 2010

Foxhole Prayers

Friday, January 15th, 2010

“When they had pasture, they were filled;
they were filled and their heart was exalted;
therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:6).

Many times I’ve heard the term “foxhole prayers,” meaning that people tend to turn to God in times of extreme trials. But is that such a bad thing? After all, if we never experienced trials or tribulations, the vast majority of us would never turn to God at all.

Hosea spoke of that common human condition. “When they had pasture, they were filled,” he said. Translation? When things were going well, they had everything they needed. But as a result, what happened? “Their heart was exalted.” They were full and complacent; they were foolish enough to think they had no needs and everything was under control.

Ever been there? Of course you have. We ALL have. And in our broken, sinful, self-centered condition, we promptly went on to the next phrase in Hosea: “therefore they forgot Me.” Is there a more tragic statement anywhere in the Scriptures? God blessed His people by meeting all their needs, but instead of giving Him thanks for the undeserved blessings, they took the credit themselves and forgot about God.

True, we as believers don’t wipe God from our memory banks when things are going well, but those times of fullness and blessing can be a danger that draws us from dependence on God to dependence on ourselves. And that can be deadly.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons James instructed us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2), for when we are in the midst of trials and difficulties, situations that are completely beyond our ability to “fix” or control, we instinctively turn to the only One who can rescue us. And isn’t it better to be in a helpless state, dependent upon God and focused on Him, than to be fat and full and content—and not even mindful of the Supplier of our needs and the Deliverer of our soul?

If you’re in a hard place today, beloved, rejoice that God has allowed the circumstances of your life to keep you focused and dependent upon Him. If not and everything is going well, rejoice…but also make a concerted effort to keep your heart and mind directed toward the God who has so blessed and loved you….

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

Looking Forward by Looking Back

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. [Isaiah 43: 18-19]

00Can looking backward inspire dreams?

Does the past reveal aspirations and goals, the sort of impossible dream that spurred Don Quixote to attack an unbeatable enemy that appeared to everyone else as a windmill? Can you discover that unreachable star in the rear view mirror?

I get a lot of inspiration from my pastors, but I wondered a bit this weekend as we were invited to look forward by looking back. I know it must be difficult to come up with fresh sermon ideas, but this one seemed initially to be a bit of a stretch. As he read these verses from Isaiah 43, I was skeptical. How did he intend to dredge a New Year’s message from some “new thing” God was doing twenty-five centuries ago?

The conventional view holds that you dream big by looking forward, by imagining a future that’s seemingly beyond your grasp. Kennedy inspired a nation by directing our gaze toward the moon and encouraging us to reach too far. His dream required innovation, imagination, commitment, courage, and sacrifice I’m sure he didn’t envision when he spoke the words that sent us on a ten-year journey to another world. (If you like, you can read those famous speeches here and here.)

In those speeches, Kennedy set the stage for his proposed vision by first examining the course of history. He discovered direction for the future in the past, and that’s what God was saying through Isaiah.

Perhaps conventional wisdom is wrong. Maybe you can look forward by first looking back.

I want to see where God wants to take me. Perhaps a glance back will provide a glimpse of what He intends.

A Decade Ago:

I wallowed in depression, still struggling in darkness following a paralyzing injury. I perceived no hope, no way out, no possibility of joy or light.

I was alone. A horrible confluence of bad decisions, unfortunate circumstances, and personal failures left me isolated and incapable of imagining love.

Relentless Grace wasn’t even a dream. I couldn’t see God’s persistent pursuit of a lost, wandering soul. Depression and anger clouded a horizon of hopelessness.

Writing a book, sharing an improbable story, hadn’t appeared on the radar. I was a math teacher—that was my identity, my destiny. I didn’t want, and couldn’t imagine, anything else.

I hadn’t reconnected with Becky. The notion that we would be together, married, exploring a deep, loving, fulfilling relationship, was simply unimaginable.

But …

In one short decade, those “impossibilities” became inevitable realities. Looking back reveals an improbable, unimaginable path through an incredible landscape of indescribable wonder. Looking back shows me that God is always at work, always doing a new thing, even when I do not perceive it.

I don’t know where the next decade will take me, but looking back encourages me to look forward with excitement and hope, to dream big, and mostly to know that whatever I imagine is far too limited in comparison to the new thing God has in mind.

Oh—one more thing. Looking back takes me to the last page of Relentless Grace where I recorded the scripture my friend Al used to bless our marriage:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. [Isaiah 43: 18-19]

Looking back—what new thing is God doing in your life?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Pick Us Up and Hold Us

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-36 King James Version

Annie Hawks wrote a beautiful song which I believe, if we are honest with ourselves, is the cry from the heart of every Christian “I Need Thee Every Hour”. When our hearts are breaking and we feel like we can’t give another smile or take another step, we need Jesus.

O how we need our Saviour to pick us up and hold us when we grow weary. We need His tender kisses and His compassionate arms to hold us close to His heart. My puppy gives a good illustration of how we want Jesus to hold us when we get tired of the struggles of this life.

Prince wants me to play with him several times a day. He gets excited and starts running through the house barking. However, when Prince is tired of playing and wants to rest, he sits at my feet and looks up to me as if he is saying to me “pick me up and hold me”.

I think there are many times during the day when we sit at the feet of Jesus and look up to Him and say “Pick us up and hold us”. If today you are hurting, weary and lonely, sit at the feet of Jesus and look up to Him. He will pick you up, hold you close to His heart and comfort you. What a comforter we are privileged to have, this Jesus of Nazareth!

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

Encourage

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Ladder of CourageENCOURAGE

This is a follow-up from last week’s word, courage: the willingness to act for right regardless of risk.

One of the most important aspects of courage is encourage. To me, that means you give courage to others.

So encourage means helping others discover and develop the willingness to act for right, regardless of risk. It’s an act of service that helps others extend their limits.

When you encourage someone, you help them climb the ladder and move closer to their full potential.

Who will you encourage this week?

The people who are lifting the world onward and upward are those who encourage more than they criticize.
~ Elizabeth Harrison

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Representing Jesus

Monday, January 11th, 2010

FISHAm I a Christian?

Yesterday I wrote about labels (What’s Your Label?) from my perspective as a wheelchair user. One commenter observed that labels make it easier to navigate our relationships. Once I know you’re one of “those” I automatically respond in a certain manner. While that may not be right, it’s probably realistic.

But it got me thinking—how do my behaviors define and represent the labels I stamp on my own forehead? For example, when I see someone apparently abusing one of my personally-labeled blue parking spaces, how does my response influence that person’s perception of other wheelchair users?

Earlier this week I read a wonderful story called Who Is A Christian? posted by Lori Laws. It’s pretty short—if you want to read it now go ahead—I’ll wait.

Too frequently I forget that I represent Jesus to the people I encounter. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen me for that position. However, as my friend Jeff Lucas points out, God uses sinners like me to accomplish His work because we’re the only kind of people He has. With all of my faults and imperfections, I’m directed to be “Jesus in a t-shirt and tennis shoes” (or in my case, “Jesus in a wheelchair”).

Representing the King of creation is a daunting task. There’s no shortage of advice on how to fulfill that role, and no matter how hard I try I know I’ll fail. If God asked my advice (He hasn’t) I’d tell Him to publish a list of Ten Sure-fire Ways To Represent Jesus. I’m sure it would be a best-seller, but for reasons of His own He chose a different plan.

So, after trying to do it my way and wondering why I seem to miss the mark so badly, I seek some advice.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“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: 35-40]

That’s it—love? All I have to do is value and model authentic relationships with God, others, and myself? If only I’d known that’s all there was to it.

And then all I can do is paraphrase the father’s plea in Mark 9:24: I do want to love; help me overcome my inability to love the way You love me.

The next time I see someone misusing one of those blue parking spaces, help me reflect Your love.

What’s a specific situation in which you struggle to represent Jesus?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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 Your Label?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

“Once you label me you negate me.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

#1What do you want to be called?

As a wheelchair user, I encounter this question more than most folks. Sometimes it’s directed toward me personally, but more often it comes up in an article or interview. The question-behind-the-question is really “How can we label you in the least offensive manner?”

Of course I have my own sarcastic answer …

#2But the question-behind-the-answer is “Why do I need a label?”

I get that labels have their uses—they need something to put on those cool blue signs that keep people out of my personal parking spaces. But relationally, labels divide the world into “us” and “them.” They’re an artificial way of identifying good guys and bad guys and obscuring the individual behind the mask.

You’re a conservative—okay, now I know everything about you, right? You voted for him—and now I know whether we’re friends or enemies. You drive this kind of car or belong to that organization—now I know whether to invite you for dinner. Really?

I think it’s a lot more complex than that.

JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

In twenty-two years of teaching math from a wheelchair, my students taught me a priceless lesson. They cared much more about how they were treated than whether the teacher stood or sat. When I approached them with dignity and respect I had a chance to impact their lives.

Beneath their cliques and weird hair and self-defining clothing, they understood that I was much more than my mode of transportation. Sometimes when I listen to the divisive political rhetoric I wonder whether we’ve advanced beyond eighth grade in our relationships.

If someone wants to know how I describe myself, here’s my answer:

I’m a guy with gifts and challenges. To navigate life effectively, I must find ways to capitalize on the gifts and overcome the challenges.

And I’d add a question: How does that make me different than you or anyone else?

Defining The Circle with labels seems artificially exclusive. That’s why I don’t describe Bouncing Back as a “Christian” blog. I certainly write from a Christian worldview, and I don’t disguise or apologize for that. But I want a broader circle, which is why I prefer Expanding My Circle with an attraction model composed of broad principles. Some folks still choose not to join, and that’s okay. Any worthwhile circle needs a defining boundary that people may not wish to cross.

But I love it when people who aren’t sure about Jesus show up and enter the conversation. I’m not trying to change or fix them, and I certainly don’t want to label them. I simply wish to connect, engage, and see what we can learn from each other.

The great part of an attraction model is that you don’t need to obsess about those outside the circle. You get to be inside, which means you live within the core values that matter most to you.

And you get to trust that, somehow, the folks who show up are the ones who are supposed to be there.

What labels tend to artificially separate you from others?

Man is the only critter who feels the need to label things as flowers or weeds.


Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Following in His Footsteps to the End

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Having loved His own who were in the world,
[Jesus] loved them to the end (John 13:1).

If our desire is to be more Christ-like, then we must become people who see things through to the end.

That’s what Jesus did. Immediately following His birth He was placed in a rough wooden manger; thirty-three years later He died on a rough wooden cross. As a child He was about the Father’s business, even teaching the elders in the Temple; hours before His crucifixion, He taught the disciples the deepest truths of the Scriptures, taking the time to impress upon them the need to walk in selfless love, in unity with one another and with the Father.

Jesus loved “His own…to the end.” He saw His commitment through, even as “His own” deserted Him when He needed them most. I don’t know about you, but that cuts me right to the heart. In a culture when we celebrate “all about me living” and the spirit of abortion invades every aspect of our lives, cutting off the life in others so that we can more readily and conveniently celebrate our own pursuits, Jesus’ model of loving His own right up to the end is a stark contrast, isn’t it? And yet, isn’t it the sort of love we all crave? Don’t we desire and need that type of selfless, unconditional love from others, despite the fact that we so seldom give it in return?

Loyalty and commitment are rare commodities, and yet necessary ones if we are to call ourselves followers of a loyal and committed Christ. In this New Year, may we check our hearts and ask God to forgive and change us into those who would love others “to the end”…regardless of the cost. After all, could there be a greater price than that which was paid by Jesus Himself?

As our beloved Savior hung on the Cross in agony, His thoughts were of us, as He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It wasn’t just the Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders who nailed Him to that cross; it was us. You and me. His own. But still He loved us.

Give us that kind of love, dear Lord, that we may truly walk in the footsteps of the One who loved us…to the end!
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

Knock at Mercy’s Gate

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

“All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind!” Isaiah 64:6

Holy Father, Almighty God,

…We are blind–be our light.

We are ignorant–be our wisdom.

We are steeped in selfishness–pluck all SELF out of us.

In the deep sense of our guilt–we fly for refuge into the wounded side of Jesus! Be merciful, be merciful unto us–whose only hope is in Your unfailing mercy.

Our sins rise higher than the heavens–but Your merits in our behalf surpass the very heaven of heavens!

Our unrighteousness would weigh us down to hell–but Your glorious righteousness exalts us to Your heavenly throne!

All things in us call for our damnation–but all things in You demand our forgiveness

We appeal, then, from Your throne of perfect justice–to Your throne of boundless grace!

Blessed Jesus, we hide ourselves in the sure covert of Your wrath-appeasing wounds!

Grant us to hear Your voice assuring us: that by Your stripes we are healed; that You have been bruised for our iniquities; that You have been made sin for us–that we might have Your divine righteousness; and that all our vile and grievous iniquities, are forgiven and buried in the ocean of Your sin-concealing blood!

We are guilty–yet pardoned!

We are lost in ourselves–yet fully saved in You!

Enable us to cling firmly to Your cross–even as we now seek safety and repose beneath its sin-atoning shelter!

Let floods of sustaining grace from Your inexhaustible treasury, enrich our poor and weary souls.

If the enemy approaches, quicken our steps to flee into the wounds of Jesus as our sure refuge! Sheltered in the ark of safety, may we cease to tremble at all alarms. May the good Shepherd lead us this day into the green pastures of His refreshing Word, and cause us to lie down beside the rivers of His divine comforts.

These prayers we humbly offer in the name of Jesus Christ, and trusting only in His saving merits. Amen.

(Henry Law, “Family Prayers”)

How To Expand Your Circle

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Campfire3-mHow do you expand your circle?

If you’ve followed along for a while, you know that I think about this community as a circle. The basic idea is that the circle defines whatever the community’s about—core values, mission, goals, stuff like that. You can check out the about page or Defining The Circle for some info about this particular circle.

So in my visual, people inside the circle are folks who buy in to what the circle represents. A particular circle might be a business with employees and customers, a church or other ministry, or even a neighborhood. Some circles, such as a business, are tightly defined. Others, like a neighborhood, might be more loosely defined.

If I haven’t lost you yet, stop and think for a moment about one of your circles and the values, mission, and goals that define it. Then ask yourself how you might go about expanding the circle. Basically, I think about two models which I call push and attract.

pushPUSH

Pushing people into the circle looks like this. It’s basically about coercion, and it’s built around selling, convincing, and persuading.

  • It’s a talking model—it says, “You listen, and we’ll tell you what you need and why you should do it our way with our program.”
  • It’s very difficult and expensive to sustain. There’s little incentive for those who are forced or coerced to become loyal supporters and promoters, so you must constantly prowl for new victims.
  • It requires incredible persistence, because the moment you stop pushing they’re likely to leave.

Most importantly: To push people into the circle, you must stand outside the circle and shove people in a direction they may not really want to go. Do you see what that means symbolically? Leaving the circle means abandoning the very values you’re trying to promote.

PullATTRACT

Attracting people to the circle is like being a magnet. It’s about doing things that people want to be part of, built around modeling and meeting needs.

  • It’s a listening model—it says, “Tell me what you need and we’ll work together to meet those needs.”
  • Because it’s an attraction model, it’s much easier to sustain. People who are excited about the message and programs will remain without coercion and will willingly recruit others.
  • This approach says we’re on the same journey, and we’re all learners, helpers, and facilitators with common interests.

The key difference for me is that you pull people into the circle from the inside. They enter and remain willingly. Symbolically, that means we bring people into the circle more with our actions and attitudes than our words and expertise. So you attract new members by living and being the values you’re promoting.

INCLUSIVE/EXCLUSIVE

The push model demands exclusivity. If someone resists, you simply move on to the next prospect. You spend your time sorting people into prospects (worthwhile) and non-prospects (not worthwhile).

The attraction model invites inclusivity. You spend your time building relationships, listening, and figuring out how to help people.

That doesn’t mean that everyone will be in your circle. Some will make different choices, but you always leave the door open if they are attracted to what’s happening in your circle.

What’s your take? Can you see how this applies to your circles? How will you expand your circles 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

Always Available

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”  Psalm 121 King James Version

Have you ever called someone about something very important only to be told that the person you needed to talk to was not available?  There is someone who is always available to us seven days a week, twenty four hours a day and His name is Jesus.

We don’t have to wait until we have something important to discuss to call Jesus.  He is waiting for us to call Him as He longs to fellowship with us.  When is the last time you picked up your spiritual telephone and called Jesus just to tell Him you loved Him?  He is always awake and He is always available to us.

If you are a parent, then you know how good it would feel if your children would come to you and say “I love you” without asking for anything.  However, the same is true with our children.  They also need to know that they are loved.  When is the last time you told your children “I love you” without asking them to do something?

We never have to make an appointment with Jesus.  When He was here on earth, He was human just like we are yet nobody ever had to make an appointment with Him.  I believe that sometimes our appointments and busy schedules hurt Jesus because He is ignored and neglected.  He was busier than anybody has ever been or ever will be when He was here on earth yet He always had time for everyone.

Jesus is always available to us.  The question every Christian should ask himself or herself is “Am I available to Jesus when He calls me or do I tell Him to call back because I am too busy to talk to Him?  May God have mercy on us and forgive us if we are hurting Jesus by not being available when He calls us.

When Jesus was born, there was no room for Him.  Will you make room for Him, not only in your heart, but also during the day in the midst of your busy schedule and appointments?  If we are too busy to talk to Jesus, then we are too busy and we need to prioritize our schedules.

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