Archive for July, 2010

Seek First His Kingdom

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Matthew 6:33: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When we start a new year, some of us make resolutions, such as “I’m going to lose the weight I gained over Christmas” or “I’m going to pay my credit card balances in full and not charge anything any more except emergencies.” What about priorities? Have we made a New Year’s resolution about them? Jesus told us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. I’ve made my resolution to seek his kingdom and his righteousness first. Please join me in that. Please seek personal revival with me.

Some of us may think we don’t need personal revival. However, if we go through our planner or calendar from the past year, will we find evidence that we sought the Lord first? Did we start or end our days in prayer and Bible study? Where did we spend our money? Did our checkbook indicate that God came first?

Perhaps last year we fell short of seeking his kingdom and his righteousness first, but we are still alive. It’s not too late to get our priorities in order. This week we can sit and figure out how much time we will allow for prayer, Bible study, praise and worship, Christian fellowship, meals, sleep, work, exercise, family, and friends. My experience has been that when I put God first, he multiplies my time and my money.

In the second half of Matthew 6:33 Jesus promises, “And all these things will be given to you as well.” What things does he mean? If we look at the context of Matthew 6:33, we see that Jesus told us not to worry about what we will eat or drink and what we will wear. He reminds us that our heavenly Father knows that we need these things.

We can decide to worry less and seek the Lord more. Instead of an endless search for power, position, and prestige, we can focus on a closer relationship with our heavenly Father. Rather than a race for more material possessions and the latest technological gadgets, we can devote our time and energy to make Matthew 6:33 a reality in our lives.

Dear God, help me seek first your kingdom and your righteousness . In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: What will I do today to make the Lord my first priority?

Copyright 2010, Yvonne Ortega, , LPC, LSATP, CCDVC
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Yvonne is a Speaker, Author, Counselor, Cancer Survivor and
serves on the Board of Directors of Christians in Recovery.
She is the author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.
Visit her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Today

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

What’s special about today?

Well, it’s the only shot we get at this day. Once it’s gone, that’s it. No way to recover those twenty-four hours.

As a kid that doesn’t seem like a big deal. There seems to be an endless supply of days, and you don’t worry much about squandering a few of them.

You get a little older and realize the number of days is limited, that maybe you ought to value each one a bit more. But that’s not the reason I’m thinking about “today” as an important word.

Today’s important because it’s a gift from God. He created this day and gave it to me with a purpose in mind. When God gives you something, it’s a good idea not to throw it away.

I don’t know what He has in mind for this day. Perhaps it’s intended as a rest day, a time to laugh, or a time to confront some important challenge. Maybe I’ll never know for sure, but I’m pretty certain He didn’t intend for me to waste it or wish it away as another unbearable Monday or Tuesday or whatever.

Here’s what I do know: today is a day to love, to value and nurture relationships, and to be grateful. If I somehow manage to keep those in front of me I’ll probably do okay.

God gave us today. Let’s use it well.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24]

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

Labels And Super Glue

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5:1]

Is anything still enslaving you, even after Jesus sacrificed Himself to set you free?

This week we’ve talked about the labels we use to categorize others. We’ve looked at Labels And Averages and Labels as Excuses.

Today I’m thinking that labels have varying degrees of stickiness. Some come off easily, while some take a lifetime to scrape away.

Glue or Velcro?

Kids apply a lot of their own labels with Velcro. This year he wears shorts and a t-shirt every day, then over the summer he discovers girls and shows up next year with a bit more fashion consciousness. One day the hair’s blue and disheveled, the next it’s all neatly arranged. Labels like these are easily peeled away and replaced with something new.

Some labels aren’t so easily removed. During my second year of college I took an intermediate composition course. Almost everyone in the room was an English major, and some of them were amazing writers. I was a math major who thought I might like writing, but I’d always been pigeonholed as the math-science guy.

The graduate-assistant teacher didn’t want to bother with my unpolished writing, so he gushed over the work of those who already knew about writing. After a few classes he called me aside and asked what in the world I was doing in his class. I was too intimidated to tell him I came with the silly notion that he might help be become a better writer. So I mumbled something and sat quietly in the back for the rest of the term, certain that I just wasn’t cut out to be a good writer.

I only remember one detail from that class—the instructor insisted that we address him as “Charles,” because he intended to be a famous poet. I wonder what ol’ Charlie’s up to these days.

The labels applied by others can be tough to shed. But you can peel them away, and with time you even learn that nobody can attach a label without your permission. Others’ labels can be painful, but you don’t have to live by them.

Super Glue

But one kind of label comes with super glue. Once attached, only the most determined folks can remove this kind of label.

The worst, most difficult-to-remove labels are those we apply to ourselves.

Some know-it-all self-proclaimed-expert writing teacher named Charlie tells me I’ll never be a writer—that’s tough to shake. But once I internalize that message, tattoo on my heart that I’m just not a writer, that becomes a self defeating prophesy. Once I KNOW I can’t do it, I stop trying.

Prison

We all live in jails more confining than anything constructed of bricks and iron bars. The walls that limit our true freedom are built from I can’t, I’ll never be able to, and I’m no good at. The bars are formed from I’m a failure, I’m worthless, and I don’t matter. The door is fashioned from guilt and shame, and the lock consists of my own conclusion that I have no hope.

The prison we build for ourselves from our own labels stifles our dreams and squeezes our hearts until we struggle for enough air to simply survive. Disabled—oops, can’t go that way. Divorced—uh-oh, that door’s closed. GUILTY because of past mistakes—up goes another wall. And pretty soon I’m boxed in, trapped by my self-applied limiting labels.

And the enemy of my soul laughs, because he didn’t have to do anything except whisper in my ear until the lies became real enough to deny the freedom God intends.

In Luke 4, Jesus announces Himself as the One sent by God “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” He wasn’t talking about worldly jails of brick and mortar.

God sent Jesus to dissolve the super glue and peel off the labels. He wants us to live without the restrictions of artificial categories that divide and confine. He wants that so much that His Son wasn’t too high a price to pay.

I am free. I encourage you to repeat that, out loud if possible.

You and I are not our labels and limitations. We’re not what others say we are, and we’re not what we think we are.

I want to strip away the self-applied labels and live in freedom. I only want one label attached to me: Jesus loves me.

What labels have you glued to your heart? How do they limit you?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:18-19]

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

Labels And Averages

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

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

What are you?

Does that question even make sense?

This weekend I discussed cycling with a relatively new acquaintance. He likes to ride, and he was really curious about my hand cycle. When he suggested that we ride together I chuckled. I don’t ride fast enough to give most cyclists much exercise.

So he asked, “About how fast do you ride?”

“Between nine and ten miles per hour.”

Really?

I thought about this later and wondered whether I described my riding accurately. So this morning I tried an experiment. I did 24.4 miles in 2 hours 39 minutes—9.2 mph, just as I claimed.

However, I purposely chose the route so the first half took me toward the foothills, predominately uphill, and 12.2 miles took 1:33—7.9 mph. Coming back, the same distance required only 1:06—11.1 mph.

So which is it? Am I a 9 mph rider, an 8 mph rider, or an 11 mph rider?

Actually, I looked frequently at the speedometer and never saw any of those precise numbers. None of those labels described my riding during parts of the course.

Labels are often averages.

My cycling is an obvious example because speed is easily quantified. But think about the other labels we stick on our foreheads—aren’t they usually some conglomeration of many varying behaviors?

You’re a Democrat? So now I know your position on every political issue, right? I attend a mega-church—we all know what THOSE folks are like!

I did a little estimating. My cycle route was probably six miles of real hills (up and down), which leaves about 12.4 miles of flats. Uphill is really hard for me, maybe 5 mph, so that’s 72 minutes. I ride about 12 mph on flat ground, so that’s 62 minutes. That leaves 25 minutes going downhill at 14.4 mph.

That means I spent about two-thirds of the course riding 12 mph or faster. So if my friend doesn’t mind waiting for me on the hills, we can actually ride together most of the time at a decent speed. But I dismissed myself as a “9 mph rider” who wouldn’t be good cycling company.

How often do we discount someone because of a label that doesn’t really describe the individual? How often are we putting someone in a bucket because of a single trait or behavior?

Are all “alcoholics” alike? No, but that label carries a stigma and a list of behaviors for many of us. How about “disabled” or “gifted” or “average”? Those buckets contain a lot of variety and individual differences, and a lot of people who have little in common other than the label itself.

Saturday evening a complete stranger told me I shouldn’t be allowed to sit near him at a baseball game because I wore a New York Yankees cap. I THINK he was joking, but it’s a good reminder to be aware of the labels I attach to myself and others.

I’d never thought about labels as averages, but many times that’s exactly what they are. “9 mph” doesn’t accurately describe my cycling, just as most labels don’t the folks to which they’re attached. I want to spend some time this week looking at the dangers of over-reliance on labels and categories.

For now, this question:

What are some labels you stick on yourself or others? How are they misleading averages?

Don’t rely too much on labels, for too often they are fables. Charles H. Spurgeon

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 You a Steward Of The Flame?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Do you consider yourself a steward? What’s the gift with which you’ve been entrusted?

This week I’ve been writing about a story I heard a few weeks ago called Tending The Flame. Yesterday we looked at How To Combat Burnout, some practical ways to keep the flame alive and get it to its destination.

Today I want to look at two extremes I’ve encountered (and been) within the church.  The story tells us about Runner Without A Flame, so let’s contrast that guy with Perpetual Flame-Tender.

Runner Without A Flame

Have you ever wished you could sit with Jesus around the campfire at night? Ever wished you could ask those questions, experience that physical presence, be right there to hear first-hand everything He was saying?

Judas Iscariot received an amazing blessing, called as one of the chosen twelve who got to be closer to Jesus than anyone else.

And Judas had a plan. He knew—or thought he knew—exactly what Jesus should do to maximize His impact. He also had some selfish motives mixed in as well, so it’s difficult to know exactly what he was thinking.

But in the end, he did it his way. We’ll never know whether he was seeking only to profit from his relationship to Jesus or actually thought he could push Jesus into action. Either way, at least he didn’t just sit and wait. He pressed the issue.  He took a huge risk to get his plan down the road.

Problem was, he didn’t understand the mission. He was running his own race, but he forgot about the flame.

It’s easy to condemn Judas. He’s about the easiest target imaginable. I wonder if he and I have anything in common.

  • Opportunity to listen to Jesus’ teaching.
  • Chosen to assist in spreading the word.
  • Sometimes certain I see a better way than Jesus.
  • Mixed motives.
  • Tendency to insist on my own vision.
  • Occasionally compromises eternal principles for short-term results.
  • Gets caught up on doing the work, sometimes forgets whose work it really is.

Do you know anyone like that? Have you ever seen any of those characteristics in the mirror? Any places where you’re a Runner Without A Flame?

Perpetual Flame-Tender

  • A missionary friend once remarked about his frustration at having to frequently travel back to and within the U.S. in order to raise support, much of which had to be spent on the travel itself.
  • Another friend oversees a significant ministry whose board seems obsessed with achieving financial sustainability. When he presses them for a reason, they reply that sustainability is critical “so they don’t go out of business.”
  • I recently listened as a speaker told of leaving a well-known Christian organization that had become paralyzed by fear of taking risks. They turned inward, focusing entirely on existing, proven programs that had lost some relevance.
  • A denominational magazine to which I subscribe focuses almost exclusively on internal matters of governance, maintaining traditional church order, and political squabbles among factions. Entire sections are devoted to debating and compromising on fine points of theology. I read a number of similar publications, and this particular denomination isn’t unique.
  • I listen with despair as a pastor from a “traditional” denomination complains that a local community church grows at the expense of his struggling congregation.

In my mind, these are examples of excessive flame-tending. So much time, energy, and resources are invested in keeping the flame alive, but it’s almost an afterthought to keep the torch moving down the road.

Any places where you’re a Perpetual Flame-Tender?

Who Am I

I’m pretty messed up, so I make mistakes in a variety of directions. If you can think of a wrong turn, I’ve probably taken it a number of times.

So I sometimes find myself rushing madly down the road in pursuit of my own limited vision, carrying a darkened torch that’s not going to do much good for anyone. Suddenly I encounter myself sitting by the road, carefully guarding that part of the flame that’s safe and comfortable and doing okay.

So I’m a Runner Without A Flame with a propensity to trip over myself as Perpetual Flame-Tender.

Every organization seeks to perpetuate itself, but flame-tending isn’t the runner’s ultimate purpose. You need to nurture the flame as you run, but you can’t stop running to care for the flame. As I said yesterday, a torch-carrier sitting by the road, afraid to move, is as useless as one who arrives with an extinguished torch.

In The Parable of the Talents, Jesus teaches an important lesson about stewardship. The servant paralyzed by fear was chastised–too much flame-tending.

The torch-carrier is a steward, just as we’re each stewards of the gospel. Let’s not be afraid to share it.

Remember, the flame will continue to burn without you. God is in control. If you do what you can, He’ll help you do what you need to do.

Do you tend toward being a perpetual flame-tender or a runner without a flame? What’s something you can do today to find a better balance?

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 Art of Living a Christian Life

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

“Whoever claims to live in Him–must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life–when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life.

It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures. But there are many who do these things–whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times–when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday–into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels! We must pass through experiences, that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us! We will meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances!

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life–in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path–without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly–amid the vexing and irritating things, and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to ‘get along in any sort of way’, to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day–happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy–and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked ‘what it was to be a Christian,’ replied, “For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live–and behave as Jesus would behave–if He were a little girl and lived at our house.”

No better definition of the Christian life could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would–if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness to the genuineness of our piety.

Leaving you an example–so that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

~ J. R. Miller, “How to Live a Beautiful Christian Life” 1880

How To Combat Burnout

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Do you have a purpose?

A sense of purpose is absolutely essential to any great endeavor. People will stretch the limits of endurance and sacrifice for a purpose in which they believe.

I’d like to look a bit deeper at the notion of Tending The Flame. You can read the entire story by clicking the link, but the cliff-notes version involves an ancient Olympic torch-carrier who’s so intent on running fast that he allows the flame to die. He completes the run anyway, and is disappointed when his record-setting feat isn’t acknowledged.

He was so busy running the race that he forgot to tend the flame.

Burnout


I’ve known people like this. Long hours at work, impossibly high expectations, striving to be the best parent, best spouse, best leader, best employee or employer, best, best, …

Then one day they realize that the flame’s gone. The passion that inspired them at the beginning of the journey has died. Their entire purpose, their sense of meaning, has disappeared.

But they keep running, because running is all they know. But the running no longer has purpose. The flame’s dead, which is why it’s called burnout.

I’ve seen tragic results—marriages and families lost, careers destroyed, integrity compromised. Many times there’s a sense of disillusionment—after all I did, this is how they thank me?

As a teacher, I watched colleagues literally run themselves into the ground. They wanted to save every troubled kid, reach every reluctant learner. And that’s a good thing; that’s the flame that drives dedicated, passionate teachers.

But somewhere along the line it becomes about the assignments and the work and the grades rather than the kids. They drive themselves harder, run faster, and begin to resent the ungrateful students, administrators, and parents who don’t seem to appreciate their sacrifice. The passion dies, replaced by bitterness, but they keep running. Ever encountered a teacher (or pastor or boss) like that?

Even been like that? I have.

A Few Principles

So what can we learn from this?

You need to identify the flame. It’s the reason at the center of everything that matters to you, the passion that inspires you, the core values that make the race worthwhile.

Some of us might need to look back a ways to identify it. We’ve been running so long, and we need to stop and remember why we chose this particular race.

You may discover that you’re running without a reason. You may discover that it’s time to choose a different race.

You are responsible for your part of the flame. Nobody else will care for it if you don’t. Others can extinguish it if you allow them, but no one else can tend it for you.

You have to know what fuels the flame. Even the greatest passion will die without fuel. You must identify ways to re-fill the tank and then take time to do it.

And if you say there’s no time, remember that the flame is the core, the reason beneath all else. It’s not a priority—it’s the highest priority.

You have to monitor the flame. When you notice a flicker, you must slow down or even stop. That’s counter-intuitive, especially if the flicker happens when other demands press from all sides.

But if you keep running full speed, you risk reaching the destination without the flame. All of your effort and sacrifice will be wasted. And you’ll wonder how you could run so well and end up so empty.

Flame-tending isn’t the purpose, either. You can’t be so concerned with nurturing the flame that you completely stop running. A torch-carrier sitting by the road, afraid to move, is as useless as one who arrives with an extinguished torch.

You don’t own the flame, and it will continue to burn without you. This is a tough one. But thinking of the Olympic torch-carrier, the flame still burns at its source. Essential flames are like that.

It’s not your program or organization. They’re not your students—they’re not even your children. You don’t own the flame. You’re responsible for nurturing the part of it that’s placed in your care, but it belongs to something bigger than any individual.

It’s not your ministry or your church. You do your best to contribute, care for, and fuel the flame, but you’re a steward. The flame belongs to God.

Imagine the torch-carrier who became so attached to his flame that he refused to allow anyone else to touch it. He might get it to the stadium, but it’s useless if he keeps it to himself.

My Take

Personally, I’m thinking of this metaphor in the context of Relentless Grace. You don’t move from thirty-five years teaching math to writing and publishing a book without a significant sense of purpose. When I began this journey I was clear about the passion that inspired me to take such a huge risk.

But writing and speaking can easily become a race in which running becomes the focus.

I wish more people would read and listen, so I become immersed in attracting bigger numbers. I want people to hear the book’s message, so I get concerned with book sales. Even worse, I experience a bit of success. I like the feedback, and I seek more.

And suddenly it’s all about numbers and sales and more.

Those things aren’t the flame. Sharing a story of God’s grace, serving others, expressing gratitude—those are the flame that inspires all of this.

Most importantly, I never want to forget that Relentless Grace is not my story. My experiences create background or context, but the story belongs to God. I’m only a steward.

I want to be a good steward, so I do want to run the race well. After all, the flame’s useless unless it eventually reaches its destination. So I do want to sell books and bring more people into the circle. But those aren’t the flame.

You’re the flame. You’re the fuel. You’re the reason for this race.

How about you? What’s your biggest challenge in tending your flame?

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

A Season to Tend the Flame

Monday, July 19th, 2010

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? [Luke 9:24-25]

I love summer.

I love summer so much that I have to be careful not to wish away the rest of the year. I need to remember that every season has its purpose and beauty.

The seasons of the year remind us that life includes times to plant and harvest, dance and weep, live and die. The wise writer of Ecclesiastes 3 observed, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

I heard a story recently that reminded me of the importance of being aware of seasons.

I always look forward to the Olympics.

The Olympic Games are much more than athletic competition, combining sport with spectacle, symbolism, and tradition. Perhaps its most unique symbol is the Olympic flame and the torch relay that precedes the games.

The games officially begin when the torch arrives at the opening ceremony. The flame originates in Athens and usually carried around the host country for a few weeks by a procession of celebrities and ordinary folks honored to carry the Olympic torch.

This tradition apparently originated with the ancient Greek Olympics. Runners would carry the flame from city to city, and its arrival signaled the opening of the games.

Imagine one of those ancient runners chosen for the great honor of carrying the flame. He’s determined to do well. The last guy who ran this route did it in four hours. He plans to shatter the record.

With great ceremony he receives the lighted torch and sprints out of the city.

After a couple of hours he notices the flame flickering a bit. But there’s no time to stop if he’s going to become the fastest flame-carrier ever, so he continues his record-setting pace.

About thirty minutes later he’s shocked to discover that the flame is gone and he’s carrying a burned-out torch. But he’s come this far, his goal is nearly accomplished. He can’t quit now. So he completes the run in record time, enters the packed stadium, and rushes to the dignitaries’ box.

But instead of admiration and acclaim, he’s greeted by puzzled faces. “Where’s the flame?”

“Well, it blew out a while back. But I got here in record time.”

“But we can’t begin the games without the flame.”

The runner feels dejected and confused. No one seems to appreciate his intense training and hard work. He exceeded the limits of human endurance, sacrificed everything to be the best, and nobody cares. No gratitude, no credit, no respect.

Why?

He forgot the reason for running. He focused intently on the hard work required to achieve his own goal and lost track of the true purpose.

He forgot to tend the flame.

The flame is the reason for the race. What’s the flame for you? What’s the ultimate purpose, that essential element of life that makes if all worthwhile? What’s at the center, so critical that reaching the goal without it would render everything else meaningless?

Perhaps it’s faith, marriage, or children. Maybe you’ve ignored the flickering because you’re too busy with that project you’ve worked so hard to complete.

And when you finally finish and notice that the flame died along the way, will you wonder about the missing sense of accomplishment?

There’s a season to train, prepare, and sacrifice. There’s a season to run the race with all of your strength and ability.

Perhaps summer is God’s reminder that there’s also a season to tend the flame. Maybe the warmer weather is a signal to slow down and shield the flickering flame, to replenish its fuel, to be certain that you don’t run so hard that you lose sight of the entire purpose of the race.

Is some essential flame flickering? Is summer God’s way of reminding you to tend the flame?

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? [Mark 8:35]

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

Could You Endure?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

If we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13, NKJV).

I’m a longtime supporter of Voice of the Martyrs and other such ministries. No doubt that connection fed my desire to write the Extreme Devotion fiction series, four novels loosely based on real-life events and individuals in other countries. As a result, when I hear others express their uncertainty and concern over how they would stand up under serious testing or persecution for their faith, I can reassure them by sharing what I’ve learned.

I too, particularly when I was a new Christian and just learning about what some believers endure for their faith, was apprehensive at what my response might be in such a situation. All I could focus on was my own feeble strength. But as my study of persecuted believers and Christian martyrs continued, I came to see a common thread in their lives—and deaths. None relied on his or her own strength. All recognized their frailties and weaknesses and instead clung to God’s strength and faithfulness to get them through.

I love that, don’t you? If I saw persecution on the horizon and knew I had to walk into it on my own, I’d probably just give up right now. But to know that the God who remains faithful, despite my own faithlessness, stands ready and eager to carry me through it enables me to sing with joy as the flames grow hot around me.

It doesn’t have to be a life-or-death choice that causes us to recognize our need to cling to the faithful One. We learn that reliance in the everyday choices of life. Will we compromise a biblical mandate for convenience…or throw ourselves on God’s mercy and ask for a changed heart to do the right thing? Will we deny Christ to impress the world…or willingly allow God’s Spirit to woo us into making the right choice?

It’s the little choices for righteousness that teach us to rely on God when the big decisions loom—and they will! Now is the time to put into practice the belief that even when “we are faithless, He remains faithful.” He will not leave or forsake us; He will carry us through to victory if we will climb into His arms and allow Him to do so.

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
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Excuses, Reasons, And Lies (Excuses Part 2)

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Note: This is part two of a conversation about excuses. You can read Part 1 here. I’m setting up a discussion tomorrow that may cause a bit of discomfort for all of us.

I suspect that we all know excuses aren’t a positive way to respond. Are you clear about the distinction between reasons and excuses?

Suppose I’m faced with a task to accomplish or a request from someone else. I need to answer three questions.

Do I really WANT to do it?

This includes a task from a job I really want to keep. If the answer’s YES I move on.

Am I ABLE to do it?

This means objective ability. For example, I may desperately WANT to walk across the street, but I don’t have that capability because of paralysis.

This one can be tricky, because we’re quick to substitute “I can’t” for “I don’t want to make the required sacrifices.” “I can’t” might mean “I can’t right now, but perhaps I could if I worked at it.”

In high school I wanted to dunk a basketball. It was easier to say I was too short (6 feet) or didn’t have the natural jumping ability than to train, work, and maximize my potential.

It’s possible that I honestly don’t know whether I have the ability. The “find out” stage might be a long, grueling delay while I develop necessary skills or accumulate required resources. If I’m not willing to do that work, I should revisit the first question. Maybe I don’t really want to do it.

Am I willing to do it?

I’m writing this during my normal bike-riding time, because it’s raining.

Do I want to ride? Yes. Am I able to ride in the rain? Yes.

Am I willing to ride in the rain? No. So I’m here because my comfort is a higher priority than exercising.

I suppose one could argue that WANT TO and WILLING TO are the same thing. I separated them because I see the “willing to” question as a metter of setting priorities.

Yesterday I wrote about a friend’s claim that she really wanted to have lunch but she was too busy. Since we’re friends, I believe she likes spending time with me. She certainly has the ability to schedule a lunch appointment.

She’s simply not willing to re-arrange her schedule. It’s a matter of priority.

YES

If all three answers are YES—I want to, I’m able to, and I’m willing to, then I can move forward and do the task. No explanation or justification required.

But what happens when I encounter a NO?

NO

As I see it, there are three legitimate reasons to decline a task or request.

  • I don’t want to do it.
  • I don’t have the ability to do it.
  • I’m not willing to do it.

But we don’t like these responses.

My friend doesn’t want to say, “I’m not willing to rearrange my schedule to we can have lunch.” She claims that she’s too busy. Excuse.

I didn’t want to admit that I was too lazy to find out if I could learn to dunk a basketball. I said, “I can’t.” Excuse.

I don’t want to risk losing my job because I want to stay home today, so I say I’m sick when I’m not. Excuse.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Excuses are lies birthed by fear. We lie because we’re afraid to accept responsibility for our own desires, abilities, or priorities.

I’m afraid of hurting your feelings. I’m afraid of losing my job. I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me.

I’m convinced that fear is the most destructive force in our lives. Any time we give in to fear (My Advice For Satan) the enemy wins.

That makes excuses a powerful tool in the enemy’s arsenal.

Facing the enemy, acknowledging the reasons, avoiding the excuses–those require the courage to confront our fears and refuse to allow them to control us.

Easy to say. Not so easy to do.

What have I missed? Does the diagram make sense? What would you add?

Tomorrow I want to look at a particular excuse that hits a little too close to home.

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