Archive for September, 2010

How Do You React?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you;
rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:8-9).


If you want to see inside someone’s heart and know who they REALLY are, watch how they react to correction or instruction. Do they bristle and become defensive or resentful, or maybe imply that they already know more than the one doing the instructing? Pray for them; they obviously have a lot of growing up to do. But if they humbly consider the advice and seek God about how best to implement it, you may very well be dealing with a wise and mature person, the type of person you might want to consider for a friend and role model.

We all need to hang around people like that, people who have truly figured out that it’s not about them. How else will we grow and become wise and humble? Choosing our companions and mentors is crucial to healthy development because we will eventually become like them.

That, of course, is why it is vital that we spend as much time as possible sitting at the feet of the Father, leaning up against Jesus and listening to His heartbeat like the Apostle John did at the Last Supper, communing with the One who spoke the world into existence and who holds our very life in His nail-scarred hands.

Life is busy and getting busier by the day. How easy it is to neglect that personal time with the Master! But when we do, we quickly find ourselves reacting in the exact opposite way that Jesus did when He walked the earth. Who was wiser or more humble than the Savior Himself, the very One who already possesses all wisdom and had no need to be humble in the presence of His creation? Yet He was our model of how to deal with life and relate to others in humility and wisdom.

May our lives be filled with time in His presence… and subsequently characterized by the wisdom and humility that can be found nowhere else. As a result, when someone reproves or instructs us, may we receive it with that same humility and apply it with wisdom that we might become more like Him.

Asking Better Questions

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Have you ever asked a question and received a less-than-helpful answer?

A few days ago my Internet connection decided to demonstrate its absolute power to control my life. For no apparent reason I’d suddenly have no signal. A few moments later everything was fine.

This cycle recurred several times. I did all of the standard stuff—restart, unplug, reset, but the problem persisted. In frustration I looked at Monte, my dog and network consultant, and asked, “Why won’t the stupid thing work?”

Monte, of course, refused to help.

Since I’m preparing for an interactive retreat this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about questions. I realized that even if Monte answered my question, it wouldn’t have helped much. He might have offered a bunch of technical information about the inner workings of my network router or outlined the mysterious processes behind encryption.

Eventually, my floppy-eared expert might have explained why the connection wasn’t operating reliably. Great background information—now I know why it’s not working. Super.

I asked a poor question.

Suppose I’d asked a better question: “What should I do to make the connection to work?”

Instead of providing a technical explanation, Monte could have answered simply. Do these four steps, toss your consultant a doggie treat, and—eureka! It works.

I didn’t really care why the connection failed; I just needed concrete actions to re-establish my lifeline. It’s a silly example of an important principle:

To get better answers, sometimes I need to ask better questions.

Those who know the most about something don’t necessarily have all the answers, but they usually know how to ask the deepest, most useful questions. This morning that principle challenges me to re-think my conversations with God.

Perhaps the answers seem confusing because I’m asking the wrong questions. Maybe if I seek to know Him and His character more fully I’ll understand how to ask better questions.

One of the themes for the weekend will be God’s role in adversity. We’ll look at a nearly universal question: “Why does a loving God allow horrible tragedy?” (I wrote a bit about this here)

Suppose God sat down in front of me and explained His reasoning. Suppose I clearly understood why He allowed my injury. Would that knowledge reduce the pain or remove the frustration? I don’t think so. Why isn’t the right question—bad question, less-than helpful answer.

Will You show me how to carry this burden? Will You redeem this pain, even though You didn’t cause it? Can You show me how to make this struggle count for something?

Better questions. Much more helpful, life-changing answers.

What questions are you asking? How might you improve the questions and receive better answers?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What Measuring Stick Do You Use?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

But they, measuring themselves by themselves,
and comparing themselves among themselves,
are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).

If there is any one criterion that distinguishes us as either wise or foolish, it’s the measuring stick by which judge ourselves. When we want to excuse our own words or actions, we can always find someone else to use as a comparison: “I may do this, but so-and-so does that, which is so much worse!” And that may very well be true. But what do the Scriptures have to say about offering such excuses for our own behavior?

Second Corinthians declares that those who measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves among themselves “are not wise.” God’s wisdom is quite different—and superior—to man’s wisdom. Romans 1:22 says, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Though God’s Word clearly states that wisdom is not found in comparing ourselves to other flawed human beings, we often do that, don’t we? In the process, we become fools. And what is a fool, according to Psalm 14:1, but someone who says in his heart, “There is no God; [I will set my own standards].”

God’s criterion for distinguishing between the wise and foolish is how we compare ourselves and judge our own behavior. If our measuring stick is other people, we will always find someone who, in our eyes at least, is worse than we are. But if we adopt God’s standards, the only One against whom we can judge ourselves is Jesus—and He is perfect.

That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? There really are only two ways to get to heaven (yes, I said TWO!): We can be perfect from the moment we’re born until the moment we breathe our last on earth (I don’t see anyone standing in that line, do you?), or we can repent of our pride and failures as we see them so clearly in our comparison to Christ, and then allow the perfection and righteousness of God’s Son to seal us to the Father’s heart and assure our place with Him for eternity.

When I step from this earth into the presence of a holy and righteous and perfect God, I want to do so not as a fool who lived my life according to the standards of others, but rather as one who is wise and depended solely on the standards of the Savior. There is great peace in that choice, my friends—and great promise for eternity.

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

The God Of “Re”

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The title of the talk seemed a bit odd: The God of “RE.”

I figured I was about to discover that “re” was a Greek or Hebrew word with deep theological significance. Pastors are good at digging out this sort of stuff. I suspect it reflects a need to justify the value of their seminary training.

But it turns out that “re” is just a familiar prefix. “Re” means again (repeat) or new (refresh).

I’d never thought about it, probably because I didn’t attend seminary. But the speaker pointed out that a lot of the words we associate with God are “re” words.

It makes sense. God is all about new beginnings, so maybe He is the God of “re.” On my own, I’m hopelessly broken. The God of “re” offers renewal, reconciliation, resurrection … what others can you come up with?

If I wanted to do a cheesy book promotion, I could even mention the title of my book…Relentless Grace.

Re…

Since I’m speaking at a retreat this weekend, that word popped into my brain. My mind wandered (don’t tell the pastor) and I wondered—is “retreat” a God word?

Retreat normally connotes running away in defeat. That’s certainly not part of God’s character.

But there’s another way to look at the origin of the word.

“Treat” originally meant “to consider” or “to analyze.” We still use it like that when we talk about how an author “treats” a particular subject. It comes from the same Latin root word that means “consider or handle.” So before it assumed its present meaning, “retreat” came from words that connoted “reconsider” or “re-analyze.”

A military commander will tell you that “retreat” doesn’t mean “running away” so much as “backing away” to take a fresh look. Retreat offers a chance for other “re” words—refresh, resupply, reenergize, reanalyze, and reconsider strategy and tactics.

Those are definitely God words. He doesn’t want me to run away, but I think He’s all in favor of the opportunity to back away, get a fresh perspective, and reenter the battle with renewed energy and perhaps a slightly revised plan of attack.

If we think of it like that, then we serve a God of retreat who offers new beginnings, a chance to reconsider, and the blessing of a fresh start.

Let’s make a list — what other words do you associate with the God of “re”?

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

Anticipation vs. Anxiety

Friday, September 24th, 2010

ANTICIPATION

Actually, it could probably be a different “a” word—anxiety.

You’ve heard the adage “Be careful what you wish for because you might actually get it.” That’s what I’m feeling as this week gets going.

This is the week I accomplish one of my three big goals of 2010, which involved creating a workshop based on the story of Relentless Grace and presenting the workshop at least once during 2010. (Setting The Stage For Success)

This weekend I’ll be the main speaker at a retreat attended by about fifty men.

It’s a much larger responsibility than I imagined when I began. I consider fifty strangers showing up and expecting me to say something profound that justifies a weekend away from family and football …

But then I remember that it’s not about me. It’s not about my thoughts. It’s not even about the fifty men who attend, their expectations, their reactions.

It’s about God and what He intends for the weekend. I’m not responsible for what happens in those fifty hearts—He’s got that under control. I’ll do my best, but the outcomes aren’t mine to fuss about.

So I (try to) savor the anticipation of accomplishing an important goal while minimizing the anxiety.

What are you looking forward to this week? Are you experiencing anticipation or anxiety?

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 believe God heals?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” [Mark 2:1-5]

Do you believe God heals?

Sometimes it seems that we relegate healing to biblical times, as though miracles don’t still happen. I don’t believe that’s true.

Two weeks ago our church did a “service of healing.” The pastor talked about the importance of acknowledging the reality of pain, disease, and other worldly adversities faced by many among us. He stressed God’s power to heal and the mystery of why it doesn’t always happen. There was an opportunity for people to request prayers for specific healing.

Even though I didn’t respond, a man came and stood quietly beside me. He gently placed a hand on my shoulder—I’m sure he prayed silently for my injury to be healed. After a few moments he leaned down and whispered, “I believe God can heal your injury.”

I’m grateful for his prayer and for his concern. I also believe God can heal my injury.

Last week, our pastor referred to that service and once again discussed the mystery of healing. I’m sure it’s just my imagination, but it felt like he looked at me when he said, “Some of our hurts weren’t healed last week.”

I wondered about the guy who placed his hand on my shoulder. Did he believe his prayer hadn’t been answered, that God for some reason chose not to heal me?

Immediately following my accident I spent a lot of time begging for that healing, wondering why it didn’t happen, and listening to some pretty diverse (and bizarre) explanations for my failure to be healed. After a lot of thought and introspection, I reached this conclusion:

God has in fact healed me. In every way that matters, I’m whole and free.

In Mark 2, some men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Their path is blocked by the crowd, so they take some rather drastic steps to get Jesus’ attention. Seeing their extraordinary faith and effort, Jesus looks at the paralyzed man and says, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Can’t you imagine their response? Scripture doesn’t record their thoughts, but I’m sure they wanted to say, “Excuse me, but we didn’t carry our friend all this way, fight through the crowd, and cut a hole in the roof to get his sins forgiven. We want him healed.”

Jesus knew why they were there. He knew they wanted their friend to walk. But He also knew that wasn’t what really mattered. Jesus gave the man something far more precious than a healed body—He gave, for free, a healed soul.

We read the rest of the story, how Jesus went on to provide physical healing, and we celebrate a miracle. Then we wonder why Jesus doesn’t reward our faith, why He lets us struggle and suffer.

We’re quick to condemn the religious leaders who watched Jesus that night, but at least they really understood what was happening. Physical healing wasn’t what impressed and outraged them—they’d seen that before. They knew that the real miracle, the one that mattered, was the forgiveness of sins. Only God can do that.

I don’t intend to discount the reality of worldly pain and struggle. God cares about our needs and concerns, and we should pray for His miraculous healing power. I do.

But we spend far too much time trying to explain why He chooses to heal some times and not others, why He sometimes answers, “No.” It’s not that those aren’t important issues; they are not the central issue.

Every single person who follows Jesus is healed. Every believer will spend eternity in fellowship with God. That’s the central issue—that’s what matters.

I don’t know why God chooses to leave me in a wheelchair. But I sure hope the man who prayed for my healing knows that his prayers were answered. God did not say, “No.”

We’re not human beings on a spiritual journey. We’re spiritual beings on a human journey. Steven Covey

My essence, and yours, is spirit. Spiritually, because of Jesus’ sacrificial love, we’re whole and healthy and free.

Do you ever get caught up in worldly concerns and lose sight of the eternal blessing of unmerited forgiveness?

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

Service

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010


Today’s word-of-the-week is …

SERVICE

This weekend I was privileged to be the keynote speaker for the 90th anniversary celebration of the Loveland, Colorado Lion’s Club. I was especially impacted by the organization’s simple, profound motto:

WE SERVE.

For ninety years this group has embraced humanity’s highest calling—service to others. One of their first projects in 1920 involved caring for veterans of the Civil War, and over time they’ve addressed the evolving needs of their community with a variety of creative projects and programs.

The evening was particularly poignant because Saturday also marked the ninth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. As I began speaking, I was struck by a powerful sense that their celebration was a perfect commemoration of September 11.

An event designed to promote fear and hate instead inspired countless acts of heroism, courage, and service. First responders ran toward the danger. Civilians risked personal harm to assist those in need.

That’s the servant mentality, sacrificing personal comfort, convenience, and even safety to help others. Servants find joy in the laughter of children and the knowledge that they’ve helped to create cherished memories.

The 9-11 terrorists caused significant grief and pain, but they failed in their primary mission. They believed a cowardly act of destruction would scatter and divide, but they only strengthened the resolve of people like those with whom I shared Saturday evening.

For these folks, WE SERVE is much more than a two-word mission statement. Men and women who operate with that spirit of love and sacrifice will always overcome hatred and fear.

I shared Saturday evening with messengers of light. Their celebration of community service encouraged and inspired, and reminded me of a basic principle:

In a confrontation between darkness and light, light always wins.

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 Burden of Self

Monday, September 20th, 2010


Matthew 11:28-29
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

The greatest burden we have to carry in life is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our frames and feelings, our especial weaknesses and temptations, and our peculiar temperaments, – our inward affairs of every kind, – these are the things that perplex and worry us more than anything else, and that bring us oftenest into bondage and darkness.

In laying off your burdens, therefore, the first one you must get rid of is yourself. You must hand yourself and all your inward experiences, your temptations, your temperament, your frames and feelings, all over into the care and keeping of your God, and leave them there. He made you and therefore He understands you, and knows how to manage you, and you must trust Him to do it.

~ Hannah Whitall Smith

Stories Worth Telling (Part 5)

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Have you shared your story?

Everyone has a story worth telling. You may never know the impact your story might have in another life.

Some people can’t imagine sharing their story—too embarrassed or shy, afraid nobody will care. Others can’t resist any opportunity to spill their guts.

Either extreme reduces the potential positive impact, so we’ve been looking at some principles to make story-sharing as effective as possible in spreading hope and encouragement.

So far we’ve looked at:

Today we’re going to look at a difficult principle to apply:

EDIT YOUR STORY

To me, effective story-sharing involves balance, taking the risk to share truth in a way that’s hopeful and encouraging. I don’t edit for my needs. I don’t try to make it better (or worse) than it really is, or to reduce my own level of discomfort.

I edit based on my perception of the audience and what I know about their needs and experiences. I tell the story differently to middle school kids than to men in a residential drug rehab setting. I use different language and examples with a community service organization than I might with a church group.

I never edit to make the audience more or less comfortable or to evoke a particular emotional response. Tears are not a bad thing, but neither are they the goal. My purpose is to talk honestly, transparently, and appropriately. I try to be sensitive without taking responsibility for others’ feelings and reactions.

Editing is tricky business, and I’m sure I don’t always get it right. Here are a few rules I’ve discovered.

“Tell the truth” doesn’t mean “dump the trash.”

Sometimes people confuse sharing with dumping—everything comes out raw and uncensored. “Tell it like it is” means including the gory details, horrific personal emotions, and deepest, darkest thoughts.

Certainly we encounter situations and seasons when we just need to get it all out. That’s the time for a counselor, pastor, or trusted friend. We need people who’ll just listen, often without commenting, always without judging. These folks act like a lightening rod—they take the junk and just ground it before it can cause damage.

That’s a healthy thing, but it’s not helpful story-sharing.

Many aspects of my personal journey simply aren’t appropriate to share in most situations. In my opinion, “celebrities” often dump their personal lives in an attempt to gain attention and sympathy. Revealing such details serves no purpose except to impress listeners with a false sense of authenticity.

This isn’t about being politically correct or avoiding any potential offense. Instead, it’s about not offending intentionally or unnecessarily. It’s about speaking with Grace And Truth.

No gossip—none, never.

This means simply that I’m telling MY story, and it’s not okay to tell someone else’s.

An agent once rejected Relentless Grace because he felt I’d omitted important details about a past relationship. Perhaps he was right—those details would have made the story a bit juicier and filled in a few gaps. But I’m convinced that including them would have hurt others, and I couldn’t justify that for the sake of selling a book.

Usually I’m tempted to gossip as a way of blaming or rationalizing, making sure the listener knows I wasn’t the only person who made bad decisions. I wish I could claim that I’ve never yielded to that temptation.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

Don’t preach or moralize.

The story speaks for itself. Listeners can draw their own conclusions. They’ll learn what they need to learn. I don’t need to spell out the “moral of the story” for them, and doing so seems disrespectful.

For me, the best way to accomplish this is to allow time for discussion and questions. That allows the listeners, whether it’s a group or an individual, to tell me what they want to know.

But there’s a condition—I reserve the right to “not answer” any question.

What are your thoughts? Has this been helpful? What’s your experience with sharing your story? What other guidance can you offer?

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

Risk: Stories Worth Telling (Part 4)

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

“Nobody could possibly understand how it feels.”

“If people knew what I really think, they wouldn’t want to be near me.”

“I’m sure I’m the only person who feels like this.”

“I can’t let anyone know what I’ve done. They’d despise me.”

Have you ever said, or thought, any of these? I have.

My guess is that most of us have feelings, thoughts, or behaviors we’re embarrassed about. We hide them because we’re sure others would reject us if they knew the horrible evil that lurks just beneath the surface.

We’ve been talking about “Stories Worth Telling.” So far we’ve looked at three principles:

Today I want to explore an unpleasant reality:

TELLING YOUR STORY INVOLVES RISK

I wish story-telling was safer. I wish it was as easy as, “Just get it out there and people will understand.”

That’s not how it works.

Telling the real story means admitting your flaws and secrets. It means letting down the mask of heroism and propriety, admitting the fears, and confessing the failures. It’s just about the scariest thing we can ever do. And it’s a fact that some people won’t accept you once they learn about the warts.

I love listing my hand cycling successes. It’s great to tell others about writing a book, overcoming a devastating injury, and finding joy and meaning in difficult circumstances.

It’s not so much fun to admit that for a long time I wanted to give up and die. I’m ashamed of the hurt I caused so many people. I’d like to leave out the terrible decisions and shameful behaviors. I fear that listeners will be repulsed by my failures, judge me for my mistakes, and turn off the entire message.

I’m tempted to edit the story, remove the unpleasant realities, and re-cast myself in a more favorable role. I’d rather appear just a bit less–uhhh—despicable.

We’ve all heard those kinds of stories, the ones where tragedy just magically disappears and the victim of evil overcomes through heroic perfection. Stories like that make great movies, but they’re lies.

A story worth telling has to be real. Encouragement, the kind that helps people keep going when there’s nothing left, can’t be faked. There’s no hope in a happily-ever-after fairy tale.

Edit out the bad stuff and make the main character into a storybook hero and you get a schmaltzy made-for-TV special. Everyone knows it’s not real, but we smile because we get to keep the masks in place.

The people who desperately need to hear an authentic story of hope and love and possibility will appreciate the risk you take to tell it. The rest will either condemn you or turn you into a hero.

That’s the risk of a story worth telling.

See: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Have you ever hesitated to tell your story because of how “they” would react?

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