Archive for April, 2010

Sins Of Righteousness

Friday, April 16th, 2010

prodigal elder brotherWhat’s the ultimate sin?

I’ve always figured sin was sin, none any better or worse than others. I’ve always wondered about folks who seem to categorize sins and set themselves apart as though there’s something admirable about belonging to a better class of sinner.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that my small group is studying The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. Last night we discussed Keller’s assertion that one sin underlies all of our other sins and our righteousness—in his words, “the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord.”

We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope and trust in things other than God, and that in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things. [p. 78]

Keller maintains that even when we do right, we’re doing it for wrong reasons. While we’re busy patting ourselves on the back for our generosity or service, we’re ignoring our self-serving motivations. To the extent that we’re doing right in order to earn something, we’re setting ourselves up as self-saviors. And whatever we earn cannot replace Jesus.

This challenges me. It forces me to acknowledge that I being nothing to the table. No matter what I do, even when it’s exactly the right thing, falls short.

This was Jesus’ message to the Pharisees, and it’s his message to me. Any time I place my security anywhere but the cross, I miss the mark.

The parable of The Lost Son commonly involves understanding the unmerited forgiveness that’s showered on the returning wayward son. But that lost son understood and admitted his mistakes.

The older brother is much more difficult to understand because he represents those who stay home, follow the rules, and are every bit as lost. That brother couldn’t see his hardened heart and his sense that he’d earned his father’s love by following the rules and meeting expectations.

Neither brother could earn his father’s love because he already loved each completely and unconditionally. And that’s how God sees me in Jesus. Neither my bad deeds nor my good ones get me a single bit farther from—or closer to—God.

He’s right here, because of the cross.

Do you struggle as much as I do with perceiving the sin beneath your righteousness?

If you haven’t seen yet, may I suggest this short video showing an imaginary, but all-too-real, conversation in the context of The Lord’s Prayer?

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

Nothing Less than the LIVING Christ

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

If your faith stops at the cross–it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!

You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you–but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship.

You need a Savior who can hear your prayers, to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.

You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.

You need a Christ who can be a real friend–loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.

You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past–but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.

A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead–and is now alive for ever and ever!

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!” cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ–that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love–a bosom to lean upon, a hand to touch ours, a heart whose beatings we can feel, a personal friendship that will come into our life with its sympathy, its inspiration, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us!

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” Revelation 1:18

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

Lessons From The Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.

SunriseNow what?

Remember the feeling of December 26th? The big buildup, the anticipation, and the excitement of The Big Event, and then—what?

Disappointment? Disillusionment? What do you do when the day after the big day is just like any other day?

Easter always feels like that for me. The full parking lot and the overflow crowd at church, the incredible music, a special sunrise experience, a wonderful meal.

Christos Anesti (Christ is risen!)

Alithos Anesti (He is risen indeed!)

And then suddenly it’s Monday, and the traffic’s congested and my friend’s grandpa dies and my talk for next week isn’t coming together. Nothing’s changed.

Now what?

It’s so easy to get excited by the “mountaintop experiences” that transport me to another world. An inspiring retreat, a special vacation, a holiday—I want to think that I’ll carry that special feeling back to the real world. When I’m up there it’s so easy to feel God’s presence.

But then Monday arrives and I quickly fall back to the same routines. It’s hard to even recall the feeling of the mountaintop. Why couldn’t I stay there forever?

In Colorado we’re blessed with many literal and virtual mountaintop experiences. And I always notice that the view from the top is thrilling, but nothing lives there. No plants, no animals—it’s barren and desolate.

An occasional visit to the mountaintop inspires, but real life happens in the valley.

God doesn’t live on an isolated peak or a quiet church on Sunday morning. He’s present in the everyday details, the traffic and frustration that conspire to conceal Him and the noise that obscures His voice.

The challenge isn’t to escape in order to encounter Him. The real challenge is to see Him everywhere, to remember that He lives in my heart even, or perhaps especially, when circumstance draws my focus to other things.

Jesus left the glory of the mountaintop and walked in the confusion of the valley. He entered the day-to-day tangle of relationships and fear and sorrow. I don’t need a special place or The Big Event to encounter Him, because He wants to walk with me right where I am.

My challenge is to invite Him in and let Him be a partner in whatever I’m doing.

I guess that’s what’s next for me. How about you?

Step over each pebble as you encounter it and you will find that you’ve crossed the mountain.

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

Gentleness: Can Real Men Co Gentle?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

TP 1What do you think? Can real men do gentle?

For most of my life, “gentle” described one thing.

Toilet paper.

Toilet paper was supposed to be gentle, and we all know what happens to toilet paper.

I grew up in a blue-collar family. The adults in my life scrapped and fought their way through Depression and war. The values were hard work, self-reliance, sacrifice, and hard work. You made your own breaks and earned your own way. You got what you wanted by working harder than everyone else. If someone stood in your way you shoved them aside.

Sports, school, and life were about competing, winning, knowing that nobody’s going to give you anything. If you want it you have to take it, most likely from someone else. If you don’t fight for it, someone else will. You’re either a winner or a loser.

Impose your will. Bigger, faster, stronger, smarter—and did I mention hard work?

In certain situations you were supposed to “be a gentleman,” which generally meant displaying good manners while crushing the opposition. Be polite, open doors for women, wear the right clothes. Make sure you wear clean underwear—not quite sure how that’s connected, but it was always in there somewhere.

Real gentlemen shook hands with their opponents—after defeating them. Gentlemen were just a bit more polite about fighting their way to the top of the ladder. But it was always clear that a gentleman wasn’t a gentle man.

Gentle was for sissies. Gentle guys stood back, gave in, let others get the girl or the money or the trophy. You pushed your way to the front because tough and aggressive marked the only path to success.

WHAT’S GENTLE?

In THE MESSAGE, gentleness is rendered “not needing to force our way in life.” The dictionary uses synonyms like docile, soft, delicate, and mild-mannered.

Toilet paper.

Coaches and teachers, men in my family—the “real men” I admired weren’t docile, soft, or mild-mannered. They intentionally and proudly forced their way through life. And if that took fighting or yelling or swearing, that’s what you did.

In that context, here comes this guy named Jesus who wants me to follow Him, and He says crazy things like this:

“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.” [Matthew 11:28-29]

He’s okay for quiet Sunday mornings, but you can’t compete and win in the real world by following a guy who’s weak. Bosses, leaders, men who really accomplished something—they trampled guys like Jesus.

Gentle Jesus—nice thought, but not the leader to follow to success. Everything I knew told me Jesus was a wimp, a ninety-eight pound weakling who’d get sand kicked in His face.

Of course, everything I knew—or thought I knew—was wrong.

Can a real man follow Jesus?

Yes—but it ain’t easy.

Following Jesus requires hard work and sacrifice. His followers delay gratification and focus on principles and long-term goals rather than short-term results.

Jesus’ followers must stand for what they believe in the face of fierce opposition. They risk interim defeat and failure in pursuit of big-picture aspirations. They’re willing to sweat and work hard to build something meaningful and lasting.

The world screams that power is achieved through force and violence. But control gained through yelling, fighting, and intimidation is a weak man’s imitation of strength.

Gentle isn’t just for toilet paper. Gentleness isn’t about fear or giving in. True gentleness requires character, commitment, and courage.

FOLLOW ME

Following the crowd is easy. Anyone—even a coward—can do what everyone else is doing.

Following Jesus is hard.

But one thing I learned as a kid is certainly true: real men—and real women—don’t run away just because something’s difficult.

The stream is gentle, flowing around obstacles, following its own path. But if you try to steer it you understand its power.

Do you struggle to remember the difference between weakness and gentleness?

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

Inspiration

Monday, April 12th, 2010

What inspires you?

I’m inspired when I see someone take a risk, overcome obstacles, and accomplish something great. That sort if example makes me want to step out of the shadows of my tendency to seek safety and predictability.

Inspiration comes from the same root word as respiration. To inspire is to literally breathe life into yourself or another.

Inspiration drives us to seek higher purposes, to be our best selves. It encourages us to dream impossible dreams and aspire to goals that seem beyond our reach.

Motivation is different. Motivation is the drive that pushes us to do the work. We can be motivated by positive elements like generosity and service, but motivation can also arise from negative sources. Fear and threats motivate, as do intimidation, guilt, and pain. Greed, selfishness, and materialism are powerful motivators.

Leaders inspire. They literally breathe life into others and prompt a desire to be their best selves. Leaders speak and act in such powerful ways that others want to follow.

Let’s seek powerful sources of inspiration this week. Even better, let’s find ways to inspire those around us.

Who will inspire you this week? Who’s looking to you for inspiration?
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

Extreme Devotion

Friday, April 9th, 2010

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12).

I’ve been asked a lot of questions lately about how/why I came up with a new fiction genre that my publisher (New Hope) calls “fiction with a mission.” Let me answer that by telling you the name of the series: “Extreme Devotion.” This particular series has to do with Christians in other countries who often pay a great price for their faith, but the term “extreme devotion” applies to anyone, anywhere, who is so in love with Jesus that all else pales by comparison.

Now if we claim to have that level of love for Christ, that should mean that we are ready at a moment’s notice to lay down anything or everything to follow Him. Anything? Everything? Really? Words may come easy, but actions are a bit tougher, particularly when those actions include following a Savior who had little or no earthly possessions, always put the needs of others ahead of His own, and then willingly died an excruciating death to purchase freedom for those who hated Him.

Hmm. Sort of stops us in our tracks and makes us think a bit, doesn’t it? And yet we know that the very same Jesus who lived and died so selflessly then rose from the grave and ascended into heaven to rejoin His beloved Father for all eternity. If we are committed to following after Jesus in life and death, then we can be assured that we will follow Him right into eternity with the Father.

What on earth could possibly compare to that? What temporal gain is worth trading for that eternal promise? If the Son of God is truly our Savior, then we already have eternal life; if we reject Him, we are dead even before we breathe our last.

It’s all about extreme devotion, living each day with the reminder that He is all and everything, and we need nothing else. What freedom and joy that knowledge brings! May you increase in extreme devotion to Him today, dear friends.

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

Thinking Big

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Ladder of CourageWe must become the change we wish to see in the world. Ghandi

What’s required to change the world?

Let’s think big, beyond small-time issues like economy and war. What do you think it would take to really change the world?

Visionary leader Gus Lee believes significant, lasting change occurs only through courageous leadership based on character.

I’m currently participating in a year-long program designed to foster courageous leadership. It’s a wonderful opportunity to study and apply the principles from Gus’ book Courage: The Backbone Of Leadership. I’m inspired to re-evaluate my own values and priorities.

Gus doesn’t advance simplistic, pie-in-the-sky platitudes. He’s a pragmatic, no-nonsense former prosecutor and airborne military officer. When you jump out of airplanes into harm’s way, you learn something about courage.

As Chair of Ethics and Character at West Point, Gus trains leaders to face critical, life-and-death choices. He’s also a committed follower of Jesus. Although he doesn’t phrase his ideas in church language, everything he advocates rests on Jesus’ teachings.

He supports his position with significant objective data. Multiple long-term studies demonstrate that all types of organizations guided by character and principle out-perform competitors in every important metric. The information’s been there for nearly two decades in best-sellers like Built To Last and Good To Great. The data is unequivocal, the conclusions are clear.

AND THE RESULT?

On any meaningful scale, it’s been ignored. Nothing has changed.

In fact, as we understand the greed and fraud that underwrote the recent global financial meltdown, one might argue that we’ve regressed even further. Highly intelligent, powerful people pursue disastrous policies in the face of overwhelming evidence that there’s a better, more productive, way.

Why?

I’m sure the reasons are varied and complex, but I believe much of this failure traces to a single, simple principle.

THEY

I call it THE “THEY” PRINCIPLE: WE are the good guys; THEY are the bad guys.

WE aren’t perfect, of course, but WE have the right motives, believe the right things, and have the right answers. If THEY would listen to us, WE could help them improve their character and halt their destructive behavior.

The REAL problem is THEY.

THE MESSAGE

Work through this with me. Choose a focus—economics, religion, politics, business, family—and see if you don’t agree with the following statements:

  1. The culture is somewhat adrift.
  2. We’ve sacrificed eternal principles to chase fleeting, short-term results.
  3. Long-term principles yield greater success than a focus on immediate results.
  4. The significant problems we face are moral problems.
  5. Principle-centered leadership is the only way to solve moral problems.
  6. Wisdom and discernment are more important than knowledge and information in determining what’s right.
  7. Wisdom and discernment require character.
  8. Character can be developed over time.
  9. Significant courage is required to do the right thing in the face of opposition and fear.

10.  Courage can be learned. It’s a skill.

Do you agree?

So last week Gus taught the principles and skills required for courageous communication. He emphasized that everything was based on demonstrating unconditional positive respect for others.

We observed, studied examples, and practiced. And the very first question from the crowd was: What if the other person doesn’t respond like I want? Further discussion among participants revealed THE “THEY” PRINCIPLE at work.

What’s the point of leading if THEY don’t follow and change? Another item was added—implicitly—to the list.

11.  We need to help others to perceive their deficiencies and begin doing the right things.

OOPS

Do you see the not-so-subtle shift? Gus talked about developing our own personal leadership based on character and courage. He emphasized that it’s a journey of personal growth and change founded on respect for others.

Suddenly we’re focused on what THEY are doing wrong. If only THEY would think a little differently, behave a little better, or pay a little more attention to us, life would be good.

THE “THEY” PRINCIPLE degrades courageous leadership into a cheap imitation, a manipulative management trick designed to herd rather than lead.

Sadly, I frequently catch myself in the grip of THE “THEY” PRINCIPLE. Instead of becoming the change I wish to see in the world, I lament that THEY won’t listen.

I lead from the front by inspiring and trusting others to follow. Leadership requires courage, creativity, commitment, and respect.

I herd from the rear by nipping at their heels and coercing others onto my pre-determined “right” path. Herding involves manipulation and force.

And it changes nothing.

You don’t lead by hitting others over the head. That’s assault, not leadership. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Do you lead or herd in your important relationships?

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

When We Grumble

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

“The Lord has heard all your grumblings against Him!” Exodus 16:8

Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?

Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . . .
about the hard winter,
about the late spring,
about the dry summer,
about the wet harvest?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about the frosts,
about the drought,
about the high winds,
about the storms?

Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about my circumstances,
about the hardness of my lot,
about my losses and disappointments?

If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak–would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?

We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?

“I tell you this–that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!” Matthew 12:36

“He who complains of the weather–complains of the God who ordains the weather!” William Law

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

Lessons from a Service Dog

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

It’s Awfully Easy to be Judgmental

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. ~Carl Jung

king

He saw me glaring at him.

As he walked slowly and deliberately to his car in the handicapped-reserved space beside mine, I did everything possible to silently display my contempt. He obviously didn’t need that spot. I wanted to make sure he knew that I knew and that I disapproved.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to be the parking space police that morning. I was having a particularly hard time getting my chair situated beside my car, and I guess I wanted to vent my frustration on someone else.

I thought to myself that I wasn’t demonstrating much Christian charity, but he had no right to abuse that sacred spot. Even in a church parking lot, you just have to let people know when they’re doing wrong.

He watched me as he opened his car door, so I intensified my defiant stare. I wanted to make sure he experienced the full weight of his guilt. I probably made a bigger-than-necessary show of fussing with my chair just to make sure he got the point.

He was almost ready to sit, and then he changed course. He turned, slowly walked around the car, and stood in front of me. He reached down and pulled up his right pants leg, revealing the artificial limb that explained his slow, measured pace.

He didn’t speak. He simply returned to his car, climbed in, and backed away.

It’s awfully easy to be judgmental. How could I, of all people, so easily forget that many special needs are invisible? How could I subject that man to the indignity of displaying his disability to satisfy my self-righteousness?

I rested my head on my steering wheel in shame.

I forget so frequently that we’re all broken and disabled by God’s standards, ignoring the 2×4 in my own eye while condemning a non-existent speck in someone else’s. I’m thankful for this reminder of my own weakness and the grace that gives me another chance.

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