Archive for May, 2010

WAIT

Monday, May 31st, 2010

This week’s word-of-the-week is …

WAIT

We live in a culture of urgency. It’s all about pressure and hurry, get-it-done, checking stuff off the list as quickly and efficiently as possible. If it’s not screaming for attention it gets pushed to the back burner in favor of something more pressing.

The tyranny of urgent leads to a focus on short-term results. It forces us to make choices without sufficient consideration and consultation. Urgent promotes the lie that any action is better than inaction. Urgent tells us to do something, even if it’s wrong.

I’m thinking that “urgent” is usually a bad reason for a decision. Unless it involves blood loss or some other life-and-death issue, most things that are really important are important enough to wait.

Wait is different than procrastinate. Wait doesn’t mean deny or ignore or put off. Wait means taking the necessary time to make a considered, long-term decision that supports our core values. Wait means making certain that we can commit to a course of action even when it might be difficult.

In our rush-rush culture, we often substitute urgent for important, but they’re usually very different. Few issues are truly urgent AND important.

Don’t allow the tyranny of urgent to force a bad or unconsidered choice. As we begin a new week, try to keep in mind the distinction between urgent and important. If an issue is really important, it might be important enough to wait.

What’s an “urgent” issue that’s pressing you for a decision? Is it important enough to wait?

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

Do You Have Noble Motives?

Friday, May 28th, 2010

But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands (Isaiah 32:8, NASB).

Of the many rave reviews (and a handful of not-so-rave reviews) I’ve received on my two new novels, No Greater Love and More than Conquerors, the most meaningful came from a young man in his mid-teens.

“I just finished reading No Greater Love,” he told me. “I really liked the story, but the best part was that it helped me understand what noble means. And now I want to be noble too.”

Wow. I felt like raising a “Mission Accomplished” banner! If ever our young people—or we as a country/nation/world—needed a fresh challenge to nobility, it’s now. The word “noble” has nearly vanished from our vocabulary, and I believe that’s a tragic loss. One of the meanings of this seldom used word is “of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” That’s exactly what that young man was referring to and what he aspired to become. And shouldn’t we all?

The Scriptures tell us, and logic confirms, that someone who is noble “devises noble plans.” What other sort of plans would a noble person devise? In keeping with his character, the person makes plans that are based on high moral or mental character. Further, the Scriptures assure us that plans built on that sort of foundation will enable the planner to stand firm and not fall.

Of course, the opposite is also true. Plans that are not noble but rather self-centered and devious do not create a firm foundation. When the winds of adversity blow (and they will!), the ignoble foundation will surely fall.

As Christians we must lead the way when it comes to seeking nobility. Though the word is also used to denote being born into an earthly ruling class or royalty, it more surely denotes being born into the greatest royalty of all—the Kingdom of God. If we are born-again children of God, then we have been born into nobility, a royal bloodline, and our lives and plans should reflect that. May we, like the young man who gave me such a brief but excellent review of my book, be known by all who meet us as those who devise noble plans and therefore stand strong when the winds of adversity blow!

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”

Her new novels:
No Greater Love
More than Conquerors
The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

_

What do you reflect to the people you encounter?

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I read an interesting study comparing two classes of fifth graders. One class heard several messages about the problems associated with litter. They saw pictures of ugly, littered landscapes and wrote essays about the importance of not littering.

The other class heard from a variety of sources that they were exceptionally neat and orderly. The janitor commented that their room was the neatest in the building, the teacher commented on their tidiness, the principal made a point of observing and remarking on their neatness.

Any guesses about which approach resulted in less littering?

I was reminded of this lesson as I rode me bike past a local high school and saw several kids sitting across the street smoking cigarettes. Both of my parents were heavy smokers, and both died horrible, painful deaths from lung cancer. I wondered how these bright, healthy young people would intentionally, unnecessarily engage in such destructive behavior.

LACK OF INFORMATION?

Like the first fifth grade class, they know the facts. Every kid in America knows the health risks of smoking. They’ve seen the nasty examples of blackened lungs, examined the statistics; unlike my parents, they know exactly what they’re doing to themselves.

We might dismiss this as simple youthful indiscretion or their natural perception that they’re indestructible and immortal. But that ignores the huge proportion of kids who avoid various forms of self-destructive behavior. And it certainly doesn’t explain the actions of adults who adopt and persist in actions that they know to be wrong and hurtful to themselves and others.

As I worked with kids for thirty-five years, I concluded that the best, most compelling information does little to alter behavior. Same thing’s true in my own life—I made harmful, destructive choices along the way, and I cannot claim ignorance. I KNEW exactly what I was doing; that knowledge simply didn’t impact my behavior.

Let me say that again, because I’d really like to hear your responses: The most complete and accurate information, by itself, does little to alter behavior.

I’m sure there are complex psychological explanations for this counter-intuitive, illogical phenomenon, but I think it’s rooted in the fact that most decisions involve a significant emotional component.

And in case you haven’t noticed, emotions ain’t logical or rational.

Remember that second fifth grade class? They were simply praised for doing the right thing. The adults around them reflected an image of neatness and orderliness, and the kids knew their behavior was noticed and appreciated.

WWJD?

I’m thinking about this in the context of following Jesus. If I want others to know Him and His freedom, what should I do? What did He do?

Jesus debated theology and confronted the hypocrisy of the hard-hearted religious leaders, but that wasn’t His style of evangelism. Facts and knowledge don’t impact choices; neither do nagging or threats about the certainty of eternal damnation.

Jesus hung out with people. When they looked at Him they experienced the reality that God loved them. He reflected God’s grace and truth, and they moved toward that image.

I think it still works like that.

How can you reflect Jesus to the folks you encounter?

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

Little Slips

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

“Whoever is faithful in very little–is also faithful in much; and
whoever is unrighteous in very little–is also unrighteous in much.”
Luke 16:10

We are apt to under-estimate little failures in duty.

It seems to us, a small matter:
that we do not keep an engagement,
that we lose our temper,
that we say an impatient or angry word,
that we show an unkind or harsh spirit,
that we speak uncharitably of another,
that we treat someone with discourtesy, or
fail in some other way which appears trivial.

We think that so long as we are honest, faithful, and loving in the larger things–that it of small importance, that we make ‘little slips‘.

But we never can tell what may be the consequences of our failure, in even the most minute duty.

A little slip hurts our own life! It leaves us a little weaker in our character, a little less able to resist the next temptation that comes at the same point. It breaks our habit of faithfulness, and makes it easier for us to break it a second time. We sin against ourselves, when we relax our diligence or our faithfulness, in even the least thing!

Then, we do not know what the consequences to others will be–when we fail in their presence. An outburst of temper in a Christian, may hinder many others in their Christian life. The failure of a Christian minister to pay a little debt, may destroy the minister’s influence over many in his church.

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


What’s Your Theology?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

What’s your theology?

We were discussing a potential workshop opportunity, kicking around big ideas about goals and outcomes. This question plopped on the table, and I almost rushed to concoct some sort of intelligent-sounding answer. If you’re going to lead a Christian workshop, that’s the sort of question you’re supposed to be able to answer, right?

Instead, I did something better. I asked him to clarify his question. “Tell me what you mean by ‘theology.’” It was a good move, because the question he asked was much different from the one I would have answered.

Technically, theology derives from theos (divine) and logos (knowledge, reason, study). So theology is the study or knowledge of God.

There are lots of “-ologies.” Many of us took courses in biology (knowledge of life), psychology (mind), and geology (earth). We’re probably less familiar with apiology (bees), speleology (caves), or conchology (shells).

So was this guy asking me to explain my knowledge of God? Better get more coffee—this might take a while.

But that wasn’t his question at all. Theology can also denote a particular system of religious thoughts, principles, and traditions. There’s Christian or Jewish theology, there’s Roman Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist theology. There’s liberal or conservative theology.

That’s what he meant. His real question was, “Which bucket contains your religion?”

My answer: none of them.

Theological systems made a lot of sense when bibles and education were scarce. Most individuals had access to neither the time nor the tools to investigate complex theological topics. You went to a church, the priest or minister taught that church’s theology, and that’s what you adopted.

But that’s changed. In much of the world, bibles are readily available in readable, understandable language. The Internet offers access to unlimited information and study tools. We’re no longer dependent on a single “authority” for our knowledge of God.

I believe we’re each responsible for our own theology.

That doesn’t mean we have to construct our understanding of God from scratch. It does mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) expect to sit passively while someone else dumps their canned theology into our heads.

  • We each need our own basic principles. As a simple guy, I begin with “Jesus loves me” and an understanding of agape. I’m carefully skeptical if someone promotes an idea about Jesus that conflicts with this principle.
  • We should listen openly. That one of the things I love about this circle. When I say something outrageous, you don’t automatically click away. You listen, reflect, and challenge your own understanding. That requires courage.
  • We should listen critically. Even our most trusted sources or authorities are still human—biases and blind spots color their perceptions. That’s another thing I appreciate about all of you—your questions, challenges, and alternate ideas help me and everyone else to see a broader perspective. That’s how we learn and grow.
  • We need to pray. Meaningful theology rests on a personal relationship with Jesus, and relationships require conversation. Prayer is that constant, intimate, ongoing conversation that allows the Spirit to fill and form our hearts.
  • Theology should be a work-in-progress. Like any relationship, our walk with Jesus is constantly becoming deeper and more intimate. Jesus is the incarnate Word (logos). As we know Him better, our theology grows and develops.

Plenty of people want to tell you what to think, feel, and believe about God. Sometimes their motives are pure, sometimes not so much. Doesn’t matter.

Let God tell you about Himself. Read His word. Invite Him into your heart. Listen.

What’s your reaction to my claim that we’re responsible for our own theology?

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 Avoid Spiritual Debt

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Don’t let your heart write a check that your head can’t cash.

I’ve been thinking a bit about my graduation advice (What Would You Tell A Graduate?).

  • Do what’s right.
  • Don’t make choices based on fear.
  • Be gentle with yourself.

I’m wondering why I chose those particular bits of wisdom. I think it involves something analogous to debt. I don’t think of myself as an especially disciplined person, but I do have one good habit.

Somewhere along the road I learned to avoid the lure of consumer debt.

“Buy now—pay later” just never made much sense to me. That surely doesn’t mean I live a life of material deprivation, because like most of us I still have too much stuff. I’ve simply managed to avoid buying stuff I can’t pay for.

I wish I could make a similar claim about debts in the really important aspects of my life. My balance sheet is littered with emotional and spiritual debt.

Emotional/spiritual debt operates on the same illusion as the consumer variety. I sacrifice long-term principles for perceived immediate gain. I convince myself that present gratification justifies potential future sacrifice, usually by minimizing or ignoring the overall payments that continue long after temporary excitement recedes.

Is this analogy making sense? Can you see places where you’re still “paying the bill” in an emotional/spiritual sense for a choice that involved a lot more shine than substance?

I’m thinking of a few common examples—not that I’ve ever done any of these, of course.

Gossip. You know, that excited tingle of being an insider, sharing the imaginary camaraderie that seems to justify betraying a confidence.

Little white lies. It doesn’t have to be a real lie—maybe it’s just telling the convenient portion of the truth, or withholding uncomfortable material by rationalizing that “it’s for the good of” the other person.

Passion. Have you ever done something with the thought “I don’t care what happens”? It might be overwhelming love or irresistible anger, but that intense, compelling feeling obscures any rational consideration of future consequences. In the immortal words of Mr. Miagi in the movie The Karate Kid: “Never trade principle for passion. Even if you win, you lose.”

I think you get the point.

Any time we succumb to the allure of immediate satisfaction at the expense of ignoring deeply-held beliefs, we sign an emotional/spiritual promissory note. The bills will arrive, along with interest and fees that dwarf those of the most predatory financial institution.

The bills continue, day after day, long after the short-term rewards disappear. We pay dearly—in tarnished relationships, lost trust and integrity, guilt, and regret—for junk that simply wasn’t worth the price.

That’s one of many reasons I’m thankful for Jesus’ message. He paid my bill. If I accept His gift of forgiveness, I can shred those past-due spiritual invoices. He paid the principle, the interest, and the punitive fees. Because of His sacrifice, grace wiped my slate clean.

I still face the worldly consequences of my short-sighted choices–those don’t disappear. But I can claim His promise of a new beginning and go forward in freedom.

Has your heart ever written a check that your head didn’t want to cash?

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

Redeeming Our Time

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Walk in wisdom…
redeeming the time (Colossians 4:5).

It’s been a busy week, but that seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days. And something tells me that every one of you can relate! Life is flying past us at warp speed, and we just try to run a little faster so can go with the flow. But does a life lived in “emergency mode” allow us to “walk in wisdom…redeeming the time”?

I log a lot of activity in my everyday life, including writing books and articles; appearing on radio and TV; teaching at conferences and retreats; making sure Facebook and Twitter and my blog are all updated; checking and answering emails…well, you get the picture. Many of you have similar schedules, or worse.

In the midst of all that I am determined and disciplined to maintain my quiet times of communion with the Lord—and I do. Yet I sometimes worry that I allow that time to be reduced to the level of some of my other must-do activities.

And then along comes a God-ordained encounter like the one I had this week, and it puts everything else into perspective. Did it take place at a Christian conference or a book-signing, or during an especially meaningful radio interview? No. I was running some errands with my mom and had stopped to pick up a few groceries. Mom stayed in the car to read while I ran into the store. In the express check-out line, the woman in front of me seemed to take longer than any twelve people should, and I was feeling more than a bit frustrated when I finally emerged with my single bag of groceries. As I stepped out into the sunlight and headed for my car, I heard these words: “Ma’am, can you spare some change?”

My natural inclination was to ignore the interruption and get into the car and drive away. But a still, small voice said, “Stop. Look at them.” So I did.

The thin, dirty, disheveled young couple, carrying what was no doubt their only earthly possessions in satchels on their backs, broke my heart. They could have been my children—or grandchildren.

I asked them to wait while I put the groceries in the car, and then I returned to hand them a few dollars. “May I pray with you?” I asked. They readily agreed.

As I laid my hands on their shoulders, I felt the young woman tremble as a sob escaped her throat. I prayed that God would reveal to them how very much He loved them, and that He would hold them in His hands and draw them to His heart. When I finished, the girl looked into my eyes and I knew that she had walked with God at one time. It was obvious she had recognized my words and remembered the unconditional love that fueled them.

I have prayed for that young couple many times since that brief encounter, and I will continue to do so each time God brings them to my mind. I will also thank God for allowing me to have that redeeming moment in my otherwise busy week of hamster-cage activity. It was the highlight of all I experienced these past days, as well as a reminder of why I’m here and why I do what I do. Whether it’s writing or speaking, praying or teaching, we’re here for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission, of completing the ministry of reconciliation. If we want to see that purpose fulfilled, we need to “walk in wisdom…redeeming the time.” We can only do that when we heed that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Look at them.”

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”

Her new novels:

No Greater Love

More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

What Would You Tell a Graduate?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

It’s graduation season.

Parties. Silly-looking hats. Transitions. Excited students, proud parents.

And advice—what would graduation be without words of wisdom from those who’ve gone before?

I’ve never been big on giving advice. Usually it’s a statement of “what I would do if I were in your shoes” when I’m not in your shoes. That sort of advice is cheap, since I don’t have to face the consequences of my proposed path. So mostly I prefer to share my experiences and let others learn what they can from my errors.

But a friend asked me the other day what two things I would tell someone who’s graduating. I’ve been thinking a lot about my response. I guess I’m intrigued by the challenge of distilling my thoughts into two big ideas.

So, here’s what I’d say if someone asked.

Do what’s right. I haven’t always followed the path of “right.” Even when I didn’t get caught, those are the choices I really regret.

This means doing the best right you can determine at the time. As you gain wisdom and experience you may look back and see better choices, but that’s just what learning is all about. You’re going to make mistakes, but if you do what you sincerely believe to be the right thing you’ll be able to look in the mirror with a peaceful heart.

Remember that just because you have the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do. “My rights” and “what’s right” will often take you down substantially different roads.

Too many people are paralyzed by the question “How can I know for sure what’s right?” The answer is that you can’t; that uncertainty is part of being human. If the path of right was always clearly marked, we wouldn’t value wisdom and experience so highly.

So seek guidance. Pray. Look deep inside.

But when it’s time to decide, do your best to do what’s right.

Do the right you know, and I believe you’ll learn the right you need to know.

Don’t make choices based on fear. Fear is our most powerful emotion. If you allow it to dictate, nothing else will matter. Fear will lead you to violate your most sacred, deeply-held principles and values.

Develop the discipline and habits required to identify and face your fears. While you may not like the potential external consequences of confronting fear, I promise you’ll hate even more the certain internal results of decisions that flow out of fear.

Choices that confront fear require courage, and a courageous life isn’t easy. However, a life ruled by fear is much more difficult.

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling afraid. Fear is a natural emotion, sometimes denoting real danger. So don’t deny or cover up your fear. Learn to distinguish the authentic threats from the imagined ones, and face them both appropriately.

Facing fear doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks. Intentionally entering dangerous circumstances just to prove bravery isn’t courageous—it’s stupid.

But the right thing isn’t always the safe thing, either. Sometimes you have to choose between right and comfortable. Choosing right requires courage.

Courage is doing what’s right, regardless of risk to self. Gus Lee

Be gentle with yourself. (Okay, I know that makes three things. But it’s my advice.)

You’re going to make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will have painful consequences for you and those you love. Forgive yourself, learn what you can, and move forward.

***

So that’s my advice right now. It’ll be interesting to re-visit this question in a year or two and see if anything’s changed.

What would YOU tell a graduate?
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 My Prayers Seemed Unanswered

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me! But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you–for My power is made perfect in your weakness!’ ” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Many prayers which seem to be unanswered–are really answered. The blessing comes–but in a form we do not recognize. Instead of the very thing we sought–something better is given!

The burden is not lifted away–but we are sustained beneath it.

We are not spared the suffering–but in the suffering we are brought nearer to God, and receive more of His grace.

The sorrow is not taken away–but is changed to joy.

Our ignorant prayers are taken into the hands of the great Intercessor, and are answered in ways far wiser than our thought!

Instead of earthly trifles–heavenly riches!

Instead of things which our poor wisdom sought–things God’s infinite wisdom chose for us!

Instead of pleasure for a day–gain for eternity!

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

ADAPT

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

This week’s word comes from the amazing story of Aimee Mullins and her commitment to …

ADAPT

Our society celebrates power. We idolize bigger, faster, stronger, smarter.
But if you look carefully, those aren’t necessarily the attributes of the most effective, happy people. Those who rely strictly on natural talent often fail to compete with other, less gifted individuals.

Life doesn’t happen according to our plans. Finances, relationships, health, and external circumstances often take unexpected—and undesired—turns. Those who survive and thrive are not the most educated or physically capable.

I adapt to my injury by using a wheelchair. A friend adapts to job loss by changing career paths. Another friend grieves the loss of a spouse and asks for help to manage unfamiliar tasks.

Sometimes the “good old days” were really good. Often they were simply old. Either way, they’re gone. We may look back with fondness, but the future doesn’t occur in the rear view mirror.

Truth is eternal; right is always right. Beyond those principles, life is about change. We succeed and move forward in the face of change based on our ability to adapt to new situations.

As we begin a new week, let’s seek ways to adapt our thoughts and behaviors to the exciting new possibilities that we’ll encounter.

What’s an “old way” that isn’t working any longer? How can you adapt?

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