Archive for March, 2010

Tranquility

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

In case you haven’t noticed, the world isn’t an especially tranquil place.

Wars rage in many corners of the globe. Anger, conflict, and hostility seem to permeate media, business, and even many personal interactions.

Tranquility is something more than a basic absence of conflict. That’s certainly a good thing, but it’s not really what I have in mind.

I’m thinking more about an inner attitude of tranquility. It’s about internal calm regardless of external circumstances.

This sort of attitude requires significant discipline and courage. It’s easy to become trapped in the current of external commotion.

I believe we’re targets of an enemy who works tirelessly to plant seeds of inner turmoil. He tricks us into internalizing the anger and conflict that surrounds us and spreads the lie that we must engage in the culture’s pervading aggression and antagonism.

My wish for all of us this week is more than cessation of hostilities. I hope we all find some measure of internal stillness and serenity that surpasses the noise and upheaval that characterizes so much of daily life.

Wishing you a week of tranquility.

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

Toughest Forgiveness

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

man-mirrorForgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.

Is there someone you just can’t seem to forgive?

For some reason, forgiveness is on my mind lately. I’ve written a couple of posts  (The Real Power Of Forgiveness and Forgiveness isn’t …) but it’s still poking at me. After some conversation with God (prayer) I realized that there’s one person I cannot quite seem to forgive.

This person has harmed me more than any other individual. He’s caused more hardship and failed to meet my expectations more than anyone else. He’s messed up my life at nearly every opportunity. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that his sole mission is to make me miserable.

Do you know someone like that—someone with a seemingly infinite capacity for making everything about your life harder and more painful than it ought to be? I’ll bet you do.

He’s called myself. Do you struggle with forgiving yourself?

Forgiving myself seems a lot harder than forgiving others. I carry back-breaking grudges against myself, stubbornly lugging around an unbearable weight of self-punishment.

I’m not exactly sure why myself is so difficult to forgive. But since I think lots of us struggle with this, here are some of my reasons. Perhaps you’ll consider leaving a comment with your personal thoughts.

It’s difficult to forgive myself because …

I really don’t want to accept responsibility. If I’m going to forgive myself, I first have to admit my mistakes and bad choices. I need to take an honest look in the mirror and acknowledge that I’ve hurt and disappointed people who trusted me. I’ve fallen short of my own standards. I’ve missed God’s mark.

As long as I’m deflecting responsibility and working hard to blame someone else, I’ll never be able to forgive.

In the hospital following my injury, I heard an obscure country song that resonated with my feelings of guilt and regret. The words stick with me more than twenty years later (you can listen to the song here).

Sometimes I laugh when I look way back to find out who stole all my dreams.

I wish it was easy to face the fact that there’s nobody there but me.

It’s an unpleasant reality; when I honestly seek the source of my failures, disappointments, and unrealized dreams, I often find that there’s nobody there but me. I’d rather avoid that reality.

It feels like taking the easy way out. Why should I get to forgive myself? Especially if others haven’t forgiven me, why should I be able to release myself from further punishment?

I don’t think I deserve it. I haven’t earned it. I need to do more and suffer more. But somehow it’s never quite enough.

Forgiveness isn’t deserved and can’t be earned. It’s a gift, given graciously because it’s the only path to healing.

I think forgiving myself is an event. I forgive, wave the magic wand, and suddenly it’s all supposed to be okay.

Of course, that doesn’t happen. That’s because forgiveness is a process rather than a one-time event. I forgive, the anger and resentment return, and I forgive again.

I think forgiveness is a feeling. When I forgive, I somehow think I should feel something different. When that doesn’t happen, I conclude that forgiveness didn’t really happen.

Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s a tough, intentional choice. I don’t forgive because I feel like it; I forgive because it’s the only way to move forward in love.

Forgiving myself

I think forgiveness is a gift of healing. It heals the giver when it’s offered freely and graciously. It heals the recipient when it’s accepted humbly and gratefully.

Forgiving is never easy, but forgiving myself is especially difficult because I must occupy both roles. Generosity and grace, humility and gratitude, all at once—that’s almost too much for a broken-down old bald guy.

Fortunately, I don’t have to do it alone, because forgiveness is a spiritual issue. It’s the reason Jesus lived and died. If I want to forgive, I believe He’ll help me find the strength and courage I need.

Do you struggle to forgive yourself? Why do you think it’s so difficult?

Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively. ~David McArthur & Bruce McArthur

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

The Real Power Of Forgiveness

Monday, March 29th, 2010

forgiveness

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.  Lewis Smedes

A few days ago I posted an article advancing a revolutionary notion: Forgiveness isn’t … easy.

No kidding.

We all struggle to forgive when we’ve been hurt. That’s sort of obvious.

So here’s a question: If it’s so hard, why bother? Why go to all the trouble of forgiving?

Why not get revenge? Why shouldn’t I make that other person suffer? Why just let it go and let him get away with it?

I know the bible tells me to forgive. I know Jesus talked about forgiveness. I know I’m supposed to forgive. But why?

RTM

Designers frequently answer basic operational questions with the acronym RTM: Read The Manual. When I’m not sure what I ought to do in life, I sometimes imagine Jesus smiling and whispering, “Read the manual.”

I think the bible is a sort of “owner’s manual” for humans, written to help us understand how we were intended to function.

An owner’s manual doesn’t provide arbitrary instructions. The designer carefully explains proper operation and maintenance to achieve optimum performance. I don’t follow directions just because the manual says so—I do it because I believe the designer knows best.

I think many of God’s commands are like that. He doesn’t arbitrarily tell us to do stuff just because He can. He gets no thrill from controlling or threatening us. He doesn’t sit around dreaming up ways to make our lives more difficult.

He wants us to live in the freedom and joy He intended for us. When He points in a particular direction, it’s because He knows that’s the path to true freedom. He’s the designer.

Why do I have to forgive?

It’s like asking why I have to put oil in my car’s engine. I don’t HAVE to do it, but things aren’t going to work properly if I don’t.

We like to imagine the other person suffering as we cling to our anger. We stubbornly embrace the pain, believing that the knot in our gut will somehow translate to theirs.

Does the other person lie awake at night as you endlessly rehearse those cutting remarks that’ll help you get back at them? Do they churn uncomfortably as you relive the painful events?

When you desperately hold on to the anger and resentment, who’s really harmed?

Refusing to forgive is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to suffer and die.

It’s a trick

I think our enemy wants us to focus on revenge. He wants us to remember the wrongs and center our attention on the pain. I think forgiveness is the very last thing he wants us to consider.

Why? Because he knows how we were designed. He knows that a desire for retribution takes our attention away from Jesus. He knows that we were designed for agape, and he’ll do anything to divert us from the path of love.

The enemy’s goal is our confinement. He knows that refusing to forgive traps us in a self-constructed prison of anger and pain.

It’s not easy

God doesn’t command forgiveness from afar. He’s not like the teachers of the law to whom Jesus said, “… you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” [Luke 11:46]

God forgives me at the price of His Son. Jesus forgives me at the price of undeserved suffering and death. Forgiveness isn’t easy or free.

God forgives sacrificially, out of love, because love is His character.

Don’t seek to forgive because you’re supposed to, because God says so. Forgive because He first forgives you, and because it’s the only path to the freedom and intimacy for which He designed us.

When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free. Catherine Ponder

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

Where is Our First Allegiance?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

For our citizenship is in heaven… (Philippians 3:20).

A couple of years ago I was reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and came across an amazing story of a Roman legion (6600 men known as the Theban Legion). Though valiant warriors, they were also committed Christians. When asked to sacrifice to the Roman gods or be killed, they chose martyrdom rather than deny Christ. They were loyal to their country, but their faith in God came first.

Where is our first allegiance? I wonder at times. True, I’m a flag-waving American from a long line of military heroes, including my Vietnam vet husband and two grandsons currently serving in the U.S. Navy. But do I truly understand that my citizenship in this great country is only temporal, and that my true, eternal citizenship lies elsewhere?

Our country is currently in upheaval, with political and ideological divisions causing deep rifts among its citizens. It is obvious that both sides believe strongly in their viewpoint, and both sides include those who claim the Name of Christ as Savior. Though understandable that even Christians can differ on this worldview, it is not understandable (or acceptable) that we allow it to divide us. True born-again, blood-bought believers know that, in the words of the late E.V. Hill, “This ain’t it!” Whatever happens here is but a breath in time, a blip on the eternal radar screen. Long after America has ceased to exist (and it will!) and our temporal relationships have gone the way of all things, Christians from across the centuries and from all walks of life will still be joined together in the citizenship of heaven. Manmade differences will no longer divide us, as we gather together around the throne and worship the one true God and Father who sent His only Son to redeem us from this sin-stained world.

So where is our first allegiance? Does our loyalty to our country (or worldly ideology or pursuit of pleasure/treasure or other temporal possessions) take priority and control our lives? Or are we, like the Theban Legion, committed to giving temporal loyalties second place behind our first allegiance to Christ?

Remember, beloved, whatever else happens around us, Christ’s own “Church triumphant is alive and well,” not because of us, but because of Him.Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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

Faithful And Lacking Faith

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

trust2

FAITHFULNESS

For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.
~John Ortberg

“What’s it about?”

That’s one of the questions you hear a lot when you publish a book. Experts advise creating a compelling, one-line response that fosters an irresistible desire to read the story.

Relentless Grace is the story of God’s perfect faithfulness in the face of my incessant lack of faith.

I’ll wait if you suddenly experience an overwhelming need to learn more about the book …

When I hear the word faith I tend to think of belief. But I never stopped believing in God or wanting to follow Jesus. He certainly doesn’t need to believe in me. So faith and faithfulness must involve something more than belief.

… my incessant lack of faith.

I always believed. The problem was (and still is) that what I believe doesn’t impact my behavior. I believe, but I don’t trust.

When things get tough, I too frequently default to self-reliance. If it’s going to get fixed, I’d better draw the plans and get out my toolbox. I’m going to do it my way. I’m supposed to have all the answers.

I once described this repeated pattern to a friend/pastor who “sympathetically” replied, “So, how’s that working for you?” When you get to know them, pastors can be sarcastic.

But he was right—my lack of trust doesn’t work all that well. I stumble along on my own. I congratulate myself when I accidentally cross the correct path, certain that I’ve finally got it figured out. Then I wander off course once more, crash into another obstacle, and wonder why God doesn’t help.

God’s perfect faithfulness …

When I started arranging the episodes of Relentless Grace to create some sort of coherent story, I thought I was tracing my journey through recovery from a devastating injury. I had this image of somehow giving the reader a sense of hope by revealing my own weakness. I wanted to say, “If I can do this, you can as well.”

A single-sentence synopsis of the story I envisioned: Rich recovers from tragedy despite incredible stubbornness, resistance, denial, and stupidity.

Doesn’t that get you scrambling for the Amazon listing?

But the account I planned wasn’t what emerged. Turns out—amazingly enough—that the story really wasn’t about me at all.

As I read my own words, I watched in amazement as the unmistakable pattern of God’s faithfulness unfolded on the computer screen.

God refused to break His promises. He pursued me despite my best efforts to drive Him away. His faithfulness was relentless.

The Message describes faithfulness as “involved in loyal commitments.” That’s how God’s worked in my life.

I make a commitment and break it; He always does exactly what He’s promised. I can’t trust; He’s right there, just as He said He’d be. I grope along in self-imposed darkness; He patiently shines His light and points to the path.

My lack of faith, always overwhelmed by the grace of His perfect faithfulness.

We often think of great faith as something that happens spontaneously so that we can be used for a miracle or healing. However, the greatest faith of all, and the most effective, is to live day by day trusting Him. It is trusting Him so much that we look at every problem as an opportunity to see His work in our life. Rick Joyner

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

Optimism

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

OPTIMISM: an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.

I don’t experience optimism naturally. Somewhere along the line I learned to anticipate the worst. It’s a tendency that’s caused me a lot of problems, but old habits die hard.

My head knows that I’m better off assuming best intentions and expecting good things. I treat other people more respectfully, take more risks, and challenge myself to do my best work. When I intentionally look for goodness, generosity, and love I usually find them.

And on top of all that, an optimistic attitude just feels better.

I’m doing better, but I still find that I have to work at optimism. I have to battle my default position of pessimism. I don’t think I’m alone in that battle.

Let’s encourage each other to seek out and focus on the good things that surround us and anticipate the best possible outcomes.

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

Are there Jebusites in Your Heart?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem, to fight against the Jebusites who inhabited the land.” 2 Samuel 5:6

The Jebusites still held a stronghold in the heart of the country, never having been dislodged. Just so, there are ‘Jebusites’ in every Christian heart!

In every heart, there are little ‘Jebusite strongholds’, which it seems impossible for us to conquer. Sometimes it is a secret sin which lives on, unconquered, amid the general holiness of a life. Sometimes it is a remnant of the old nature–such as pride, worldliness, selfishness, lust, or bitterness. There are many other such citadels of evil, which rear their proud towers and defy conquest.

“We all have our faults!” we say, and under this ‘cloak’ we manage to tuck away a large number of dear idols that we do not want to give up!

We ought to give attention to these unsubdued parts of our life–that every thought, feeling, and temper may be brought into subjection to Christ. It is perilous to leave even one such unconquered stronghold in our heart!

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!” 2 Corinthians 10:5

(J. R. Miller, “Miller’s Year Book–a Year’s Daily Readings”)

Forgiveness isn’t Easy

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

forgive … isn’t easy. When someone hurts me, my natural reaction is not forgiveness. How can I forgive something this bad?

Have you ever heard (or asked) that question?

Forgiveness isn’t our first impulse. We’ve all been hurt, and “letting it go” isn’t programmed into our menu of responses. We want to fight back, to hurt the one who hurt us.

The common phrase “don’t get mad, get even” sounds clever, but there’s really no such place as “even.” Revenge only perpetuates a hurtful cycle. To paraphrase Ghandi, eye for eye and tooth for tooth leaves us with a world full of toothless blind people.

Hurt people—hurt—people. Jeff Lucas

Until someone stops the cycle, all we have is a bunch of hurt people.

Forgiveness means letting go of anger, resentment, and desire for revenge. We don’t just forgive because it’s the right thing (it is) or because Jesus commanded it (He did). We don’t even forgive because we’ve been forgiven (we have).

We forgive because it’s the only true path away from the pain. As difficult as it is, the only way to let it go is—to let it go. It’s hard and it doesn’t seem fair and we don’t want to do it.

I don’t think we really understand forgiveness. I think we tend to confuse forgiveness with other notions that make a difficult process even more difficult.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean …

forgetfulness. Sometimes people think forgiveness means they’re supposed to wipe away the memory of horrific pain or terrible wrong. But that’s simply not possible. Pretending to forget the unforgettable creates unhealthy denial, while refusing to remember may increase the likelihood that some tragedy will be replicated.

Forgiveness means none of that. It means intentionally releasing the pain, refusing to dwell on wrongs that limit possible futures.

approval. Nothing about forgiveness implies condoning or accepting wrong. Forgiving certainly doesn’t mean hurtful actions may continue or recur.

understanding “why.” We seem to believe that knowing the rationale behind a painful event will make it easier to forgive, but I don’t think that’s usually true. Pain is pain, loss is loss, and knowing “why” won’t change those difficult realities. The demand for a reason only causes us to cling to painful events that frequently have no logical explanation anyway.

weakness. The greatest coward can seek retribution. Anyone can react impulsively when they’re hurt and lash out in a knee-jerk desire to get even. Forgiveness requires significant strength and courage.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It demands intentional patience, wisdom, and practice. None of those are demonstrations of weakness.

How?

So how do we do this very difficult thing? How do we forgive what feels unforgivable? How do I do what I’m supposed to do when it’s so hard and I really don’t feel like doing it anyway?

Personally, I’m trying to learn to be a bit gentler with myself. I’m trying to reduce “should’s” that weigh me down with impossible expectations. Instead of telling myself I should forgive and then beating myself up when I fail, I’m trying to say, “I want to forgive, but it’s really hard. Please help me.”

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (The Lord’s Prayer) [Matthew 6:12]

It seems that a sincere desire to forgive is what I need to bring to the table. If I do that, I’m confident that Jesus will help me with the rest.

For you, what’s the hardest aspect of forgiving?

The person who refuses to forgive burns a bridge which he himself needs to cross.

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

How to Get Out of the Pit

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:13).

Let me start this week’s devotional with the words to a chorus God gave me when I was in the pit of self-loathing and condemnation:

I remember, Lord, the joy of serving You;
I remember, Lord, when all I knew was You;
Flowing through me, calling to me,
Lord, please use me once again!

Ever been there? Of course you have. We all have, and it’s one of the toughest places to escape, isn’t it? We have this innate need to punish ourselves and then attempt to climb out of that pit of self-loathing and condemnation on our own. But each futile attempt results in our slipping back to the bottom, more frustrated and discouraged than before.

Now I know this won’t come as any great revelation, since we all know this fact, but perhaps it will be the reminder you need today to STOP TRYING TO CLIMB OUT OF THE PIT! It’ll never happen. No one has ever done it before, and no one will ever do it in the future. As we lie there in our own filth, bemoaning our helplessness and depravity and remembering with great sadness and regret how God once used us and the joy that accompanied that service, may we also remember the great truth that only God can pull us out of that pit—and He stands ready and willing to do so.

Joel 2:13 reminds us of the stunning yet never-changing character of the God who has redeemed us: He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” In other words, He’s not like us. He doesn’t hold a grudge or run out of patience or love. He doesn’t take pleasure in punishing those who have wronged Him. His grace and mercy are never-ending, and He longs to extend it to those who have fallen so that He can restore them to service once again.

Each of us who has received Jesus as Savior and been assured of spending eternity with Him has also been called by God to serve Him and others. We will never do that if we remain in the pit of our own sins and failures. We all land there on occasion, but WE DON’T HAVE TO STAY THERE! In fact, we are disobedient if we do. God calls to us, even (and especially!) while we’re in the pit. He wants us to reach up to Him, to ask and receive His forgiveness, and to allow Him to lift us from the pit and place us back on solid ground.

Allow Him to restore to you the joy of His salvation and once again use you in His service. There is no greater joy, beloved.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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

Discernment

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

This week’s word is discernment.

I encountered this term last week in a wonderful workshop offered by Gus Lee. Gus talked about courage and leadership, and one of his key points was that courageous leaders must exercise discernment.

In this context, discernment implies searching beyond what is obvious or superficial. It’s developing and exercising the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent.

Discernment seeks to understand what’s right, true, and best. It searches deeper than what’s expedient or acceptable.

I think I was struck most by Gus’ statement that discernment isn’t values-neutral. It operates from the premise that absolute truth exists. In a culture drowning in moral and ethical relativism, discernment involves the difficult quest to know what’s really right.

Discernment thinks long-term, digging to uncover elusive eternal truths that supersede cultural norms and rules. It recognizes that such a search involves life-long learning and a willingness to grow and learn as wisdom develops. It demands change in the face of new discovery and understanding.

Here are a couple of ideas I scribbled as I thought about being a person of discernment.

  • What’s right? is a better question than What’s legal?
  • What’s true? is more useful than What’s everyone else believe?
  • What’s best? is better than What works?
  • Good enough is never good enough in matters of truth.
  • Wisdom is more important than knowledge.
  • What’s right? gets me closer to truth than What are my rights?

Discernment isn’t easy or comfortable. Worthwhile goals seldom are.

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