Archive for October, 2010

Walking in His Purpose

Friday, October 29th, 2010

“Today, if you will hear His voice…” (Hebrews 3:7, NKJV).

I am constantly amazed at the precious people who say to me, “I wish I had a ministry like you.” Have you ever said that to someone? Thought it? Really? Because the truth is, we all have a ministry, a calling, a purpose. And we’ve all been called to fulfill it—today. Not tomorrow or next week or next year. Not after the kids are grown or we pay off all our bills or get a degree or move to a different location. We are called to hear and respond to God’s voice TODAY.

I know. That presents a lot of challenges, doesn’t it? It also produces a lot of excuses. It’s true we all have limitations, whether those limitations are physical or financial or circumstantial. And maybe someday those limitations will disappear. But they’ll quickly be replaced by others. That’s simply the way life is in this broken world. If we wait for the perfect circumstances before answering God’s call on our lives, we will soon find ourselves standing before the Father with nothing to show for the many gifts and blessings He has given us.

Today, IF we will hear His voice—and respond—we will soon find ourselves walking in the joy that comes only from knowing we are fulfilling our God-ordained purpose. Will that walk be without challenges or difficulties? Of course not! But those challenges and difficulties are the very things that keep us cognizant of our need for Him. If we could fulfill our purpose without Him, our faith would never grow and our joy would never be full, for joy is found only in His presence.

Let’s commit together to spend more time in His presence, listening to His Word—TODAY. Then let’s partner together to walk in His purpose—TODAY. And finally, let’s rejoice together as we see His name glorified in the lives of those we touch in the process.

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

I’m Not Very Good About Worship

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

This week I’m thinking about…

WORSHIP

I’m not very good at worship. I don’t sing well, I can’t stand and wave my arms, and frankly my mind tends to wander. I think it’s that last part—the wandering mind—that makes me a bad worshipper.

I think the whole point of worship is focused awareness. I have an idea that we worship the things to which we give our undivided attention. Those are the things that really seem to matter.

The things on which we focus become de facto gods.

I watch a baseball game for three hours. I key in on subtle strategy, anticipate next moves, analyze decisions. I don’t lose track of the score while I wonder what God’s up to.

I meet with my financial advisor for maybe thirty minutes. When I’m analyzing investments, I’m completely tuned in to the data. I never find myself daydreaming about God.

But “worship” time is a mental meandering. The people around me, the music, the ideas, plans for the rest of the day—I jump from one topic to the next, and occasionally God gets a brief notice.

So if I can focus my awareness on a game or on my money, but not on God, who (or what) am I really worshipping?

I need to be more aware of what I’m aware of. That’s the only way to direct my worship where it belongs.

If worship is about focused awareness, what activities or things or people do you find yourself worshipping?

Do You Fritter Away Your Time?

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

Gather up the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!” John 6:12

“Time is short!” 1 Corinthians 7:29

Time is made up of golden minutes–not one of which we should allow to be wasted! The Master said that for every idle word that men speak–they must give account. This can be no less true of idle minutes or hours.

Most of us live as if we had a thousand years to stay here in this world! We loiter away the golden hours of our little days–as if the days were never to end! We do not see how swiftly the sun is whirling toward his setting, while our work is but half done, our task perhaps scarcely begun!

We fritter away days, weeks, months–not noticing how our one little opportunity of living in this world is being worn off, as the sea eats away a crumbling bank until its last shred is gone! We set slight value on time, forgetting that we have only a hand-breadth of it–and then comes eternity!

Many of us fail to appreciate the value of ‘single days’. “A day is too short a space,” we say, “that it cannot make much difference if one, just one, is wasted–or idled away in pleasure!” Yet the days are links in a chain, and if one link is broken–the chain is broken. In God’s plan for our life–each little day has its own load of duty. How these lost days shame us–as they turn their reproachful eyes upon us, out of the irrevocable past!

Many people are wasteful of time. They fail to realize its value. They appear to have it in such abundance–that they dream it can never end. They do not know that a day lost–may mean misfortune or failure for them sometime in the future. They do not know that squandered hours, minutes spent in idleness–may cost them the true success of their life, bringing failure or disaster!

They should not make the mistake of imagining they have so much time–that they can afford to let days or hours or even minutes be wasted. They cannot afford to lose one golden minute of any day. We do not know what momentous issues, affecting all our future–are involved in any quietest hour of any common-place day. There is ‘a time for everything’–but the time is short, and when it is gone, and the thing is not done–it never can be done!

What you make of your life–you must make in a few years at the most; for the human span is short–and any day may be your last one! Every day that passes–leaves life’s margin a little less for each of us. Our allotment of time is ever shortening!

There are a great many things it is not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no lustre to our crown.

~ J. R. Miller, “The Sacredness of Opportunity

Do you ever feel like you just don’t belong?

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Here’s some potentially shocking news: you don’t.

You and I are strangers in a strange land. We live in enemy-occupied territory. It won’t always be that way—the rightful leader will be back one day. But what are we supposed to do in the meantime?

Christians seem pretty divided on that question. At the risk of over-generalizing, I perceive perhaps three main approaches.

Some folks seem to think we should circle the wagons and wait. Do our best to keep out the riff-raff, isolate ourselves, and just hang on until Jesus comes back for us.

For these people, the world is hopelessly lost. Those who accept Jesus will eventually be saved, the rest are doomed, and there’s nothing we can do about it except to lock the windows and hide.

Some folks want to fight the battle. We’re soldiers in a holy war, and it’s our job to win at nearly any cost.

For these folks, life is all about us against them. It’s really important to identify and marginalize “them.” If they’re not for us, they’re the enemy and must be defeated.

In this sacred battle, victory is imperative. We may not advocate actual physical violence, but pretty much any other tactics are fair game. We attack “them” personally and politically. If necessary, we’ll even spin the facts to achieve our God-mandated objectives.

It’s probably pretty obvious that neither of these mindsets works for me.

I think God wants me to adopt the status of a resident alien.

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” [Jeremiah 29:4-7]

Resident aliens don’t become citizens. They don’t assimilate or go along with customs that violate their core principles. They don’t seek to “fit in” at any cost, but rather to live within their adopted culture without rejecting their own.

But they also don’t expect their new home to adapt to them. They don’t rebel against things that are simply different from their homeland. They seek the well-being of their temporary home.

Resident aliens don’t battle with their surroundings. They seek peace and harmony. They don’t approach their hosts as enemies.

That’s how Jesus operated. He lived in the Jewish culture. He interacted with people, met them where they lived. He taught in synagogues and refused to endorse revolution against Rome’s tyranny. He was in the world, while certainly not being of the world.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. [John 3:16-17]

God loved this world so much that He sent Jesus to save it.

If I’m going to follow Jesus, I cannot withdraw from this alien culture. I can’t treat my life as something to simply be endured before I get to the good part.

I also cannot turn life into an endless battle in which everyone who thinks differently is perceived as an enemy to be vanquished. I can’t justify political attacks or personal demonization, even against those who oppose God and His ways. There’s that whole thing about loving everyone, even those who persecute me.

Let’s remember: this IS enemy-occupied territory, but the enemy isn’t the opposing political party or the atheists or the terrorists. The enemy isn’t those who disagree about government policy or taxes or national sovereignty.

The true enemy is much more evil and dangerous than any of these, and he wants us to forget about him and become preoccupied with worldly squabbles. He desperately hopes we’ll focus so intently on culture conflicts that we ignore the real spiritual war that seeks to destroy souls.

So what are we supposed to do?

Jesus invites us to embrace our status as resident aliens. He asks us to bring the very best of the culture from our true home—things like love, peace, kindness, and patience. He instructs us to imitate His radical policy of self-sacrifice out of love for a world that tortured and murdered Him.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Jesus’ parting words tell me His intent for my life. Whenever I’m unsure, I need to ask a simple question: Which choice will bring others closer to Jesus?

Nothing—not my rights or freedoms, not personal safety, not even love of country, can supersede His purpose. I’m called to make disciples, to demonstrate His love and grace—right here in this alien land.

Sounds simple enough, right?

It’s not.

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 Damage Your Relationship With God

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I ran across a list the other day, one psychologist’s list of relationship killers. No groundbreaking information, but it got me thinking about my relationship with Jesus. It’s clear that relationship is God’s primary intention. Jesus’ central mission was to restore open, transparent interactions with God, others, and self. So this simple list prompted me to wonder what attitudes or self-talk might be getting in the way. I’m convinced that whenever I feel distant from Him, I’m the one who moved. So here’s a list of five ways I might damage my ability to maintain a close, authentic relationship with God.

CRITICIZING

I spend a lot of time and effort telling God what He’s doing wrong. I don’t use those words, of course. Instead I say something like, “If I were God, I’d …” The implication’s clear—He’s getting it wrong. If only He’d do it my way… Maybe I’d do better to say, “God, I don’t get it. From my perspective, this doesn’t make sense. But I want to trust that You know best—please help me to trust that you’re working for good in all circumstances.” It’s also interesting that God doesn’t criticize. That may be a foreign notion to folks who’ve been taught to view God as a cosmic critic, but I think He’s much more interested in pointing the right direction than highlighting my errors. Certainly His word shows me when I’ve made a mistake, but God’s always about encouraging me to follow the correct path. Because of mercy and grace, His focus is on future success rather than past failure. The antidote to criticism is encouragement.  Rather than enumerating “wrongs,” God continually invites me to follow Jesus toward what’s right.

COMPLAINING

On the night before His horrible death, Jesus talked to His Father honestly about His fear. He clearly stated His desire to avoid the horrors He faced. Jesus didn’t complain about a clearly unjust fate, and He didn’t expect God to meet His demands. But He also didn’t hesitate to tell God exactly what He wanted. Maybe I’d experience a closer relationship to Jesus if I followed His example. Instead of complaining about perceived injustice and unfairness, perhaps I ought to tell God my desires in an attitude of trust and acceptance. The antidote to complaining is asking directly for what I want without any sense of entitlement.

DEFENDING

I defend myself when I feel attacked. So if I become defensive toward God, I make Him the adversary—not a really good plan. God never attacks. I DO have an enemy who seeks my destruction, and defensiveness places that enemy between me and God. When I’m open and honest about my failures, I adopt an attitude of faith that places God between me and my true enemy. That’s a better arrangement. The antidote to defensiveness is listening to feedback and acknowledging my failures.

WITHDRAWING

God never moves, never changes, never pulls away. But when I listen to the enemy’s lies and believe that I’ll never be good enough, I tend to withdraw into feelings of guilt and shame. Whenever I try to hide from God, I hear His quiet voice calling, “Rich, where are you?” It’s silly, because He knows right where I am. He’s just waiting patiently for me to come home. The antidote to withdrawal is entering through the always-open door of God’s love.

BLAMING

Blaming means deflecting responsibility for my choices. It’s an avoidance reaction to fear, and it reinforces an attitude of weakness. I may blame God for the unwanted consequences of my actions; I may blame Him for the consequences of evil in a fallen world. In either case I’m lying to myself, attempting to make whatever I don’t like “God’s fault.” Blaming tries to make God the bad guy. He’s not. The antidote to blaming is responsibility, or response-ability. It’s exercising my personal power to choose and then facing the consequences of my choices. These harmful attitudes deny the very core of what I know to be true about God:

  • His very essence is agape—unconditional, sacrificial love.
  • Everything He created is good.
  • He works for good in all circumstances.
  • He paid the price of His Son to restore me to relationship with Him.

I guess I should work a little harder on the antidotes. Do any of these get in the way of a close relationship with God for you? Can you identify other attitudes that cause feelings of separation?

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

Does it really matter?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Does it really matter?

I ask myself that question a lot. What’s “it”? Whatever I’m doing that’s consuming my time and attention. I’m all in favor of relaxing and having fun, but I want my life to be about stuff that matters.

So—how do I decide? How do I know if “it” really matters? Last week I stated two criteria:

A third characteristic of stuff that matters seems to involve seeing the big picture. Stuff that really matters can’t be just about “here”—it has to benefit “there” as well. It can’t be about “now” at the expense of “later.”

Stuff that matters must enhance the big picture.

A lot of our efforts are sort of like a ponzi scheme—they work as long as we don’t worry about the big, long-term implications or how others will be impacted. It’s sort of like building a tall fence and tossing your trash behind it. The neighbors won’t be pleased, and eventually the junk accumulates until someone has to deal with it.

Businesses, families, and nations create a façade of economic stability on a foundation of unsustainable debt. Borrowing for now, with no plan for then, just means someone else will ultimately clean up my financial mess.

If technology teaches anything, it’s that there’s no “there.” We’re all “here.” I’m grateful (and amazed) that you’re reading these words on every continent. It’s not just my country, or yours, it’s OUR world. Work that matters can’t enhance my side of the fence while ignoring yours.

I’m often tempted to think of here as my little corner, my house, my town, as though here is a small place. But in terms of stuff that matters,  here is a very big place. Stuff that matters has to consider the “big here” rather than the “small here.”

Same with time—it can’t just be about this moment, because choices that matter have a longer impact. Stuff that matters impacts the “big now” as well as the “small now.”

I think that’s how God sees it. As Father, He sees everywhere, eternally. As Jesus, He understands here and now. And because He’s God, He knows exactly how to keep it all in perfect perspective.

So, stuff that matters:

  • Might be about making money, but it can’t be ONLY about that.
  • Might benefit me, but it benefits others more.
  • Might enhance here and now, but must benefit there and later as well.

Make sense? What did I miss?

What else would you add that helps you decide what really matters?

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

Lust

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Today’s word-of-the-week is sort of strange, because I’ve been thinking about…

LUST

My small group is studying the book of Esther—last week we read Esther 2:1-18, which is all about appetites run amok.

We tend to associate lust with sexuality, but it’s really broader than that. Lust involves any appetite or desire that’s out of control. We can lust for money, control, or power.

I’ve been thinking about something we encountered in our study. It’s a simple four-word statement:

Love gives; lust takes.

This week, I’m trying to focus less on what I want and more on what others need. It sounds so easy.

It’s not.

Fun fact: Did you know that Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God? Neither did I.

A Secret of Victorious Living

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There is a secret of victorious living which, if people knew it, would make all of life easier for them. It may be stated thus: that as we take up any duty and go forward with it, we shall receive the strength we need to do it. There are several Divine promises that give this assurance.

One reads, “As your days–so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. This seems to mean that the help which God gives, varies according to the necessity of the particular day. God fits His blessing–to our days.
When we are faint–He increases strength.
When we are sorrowful–He gives comfort.
When we are in danger–He grants protection.
When we are weary–He gives rest.
“As your days–so shall your strength be.”

Another of Christ’s promises reads, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Every word of this assurance shines with radiant light.

My grace is sufficient for you.” It is Christ’s grace that is sufficient. We know that He has all Divine fullness, and therefore we are sure that no human need can ever exhaust His power to give help!

My grace is sufficient for you.” It is Christ’s grace that is sufficient. If it were anything else but grace, it might not give us such comfort. Grace is undeserved favor, goodness shown to the unworthy. We deserve nothing, for we are sinners. But it is Christ’s grace which is sufficient, and so we can claim it.

“My grace is sufficient for you.”
It is present tense–IS sufficient. Christ is always speaking personally to the one who is in any need, and saying, “My grace IS sufficient for you.”

“My grace is sufficient for you.” The word “sufficient” is one whose meaning expands and amplifies with the measure of the need. No necessity is so small as not to be included; and none is so great as to go beyond the capacity of the blessing that is promised.

My grace is sufficient for you.” The grace is sufficient for each of His redeemed children–“for you” the promise runs.

Life lies before us, with . . .
its burdens,
its duties,
its responsibilities,
its struggles,
its perplexities.
It does not come to us all in one piece. God breaks our years–into months and weeks and days, and never gives us more than just a little at a time–never more than we can bear or do for the day.

If we take up the present duty or burden–we shall always have strength to do it. If we do not have strength of our own sufficient for the work or struggle, we need not falter–but should go on, just as if we had omnipotence in our arm; for as we obey God, though the task is impossible to our ability–He will sustain us by giving us all the help we need.
~ J. R. Miller, “Thread for a Web Begun” 1894

Who’s In Charge?

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Who’s in control?

Ultimately, of course, God is in control. But what if we narrow the scope a bit? If I think about myself and my own reactions or responses, who’s in control?

I asked that question earlier this week in a group of eighth grade boys. How do you think they answered?

I worked with middle school kids for a long time, so their answer didn’t really surprise me. Still, I felt a sense of dismay as I listened to their convictions.

These young men are absolutely convinced that others have the ability to “make” them lash out in anger or run away in terror. They truly believe that, in at least some situations, they’re powerless to determine how they respond. They think courage means fighting when someone challenges them.

Isn’t that incredibly sad? And before you dismiss their feelings of powerlessness as adolescent immaturity, let’s wonder how many of us harbor more subtle versions of the same heartbreaking notion.

How often does another driver cut in front of me, “causing” me to yell because he “made” me angry? Do I ever fall into the trap of gossip because “everyone else is doing it”?

You made me afraid. She made me depressed. He made me sad. They made me lonely.

Does any of this sound familiar? Am I the only one who habitually gives away my power to choose and blames someone else for my own internal interpretations and external reactions?

These might be familiar statements, but they’re lies. No one else holds the power to “make” me angry or depressed or lonely. If I hadn’t been talking to those boys in a public school classroom, I might have reminded them that Jesus died so they could be free from that nonsense.

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]

This passage usually refers to freedom from sin, but what’s more sinful than surrendering my own self-control and self-respect? What’s more sinful than handing over the self-worth and freedom for which Jesus died?

I told those boys they were worthwhile and worthy of respect, not because of what they accomplished but because they were valuable as individuals. I told them they held the power to choose their responses. We worked through some activities, but I honestly don’t know if they believed me. It’s difficult to counter a lifetime of reacting and blaming.

I wanted to tell them that they’re so worthwhile and worthy that Jesus died for their freedom.

I wanted to tell them that Jesus “…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:6-8]

I wanted them to know that Jesus values them so much that He let go of being God and died for them.

That’s the truth I couldn’t tell them in that setting.

But it’s still the truth. You and I are so valuable that Jesus was willing to take our place and confront death so we could be free.

The next time I’m tempted to blame someone else for my own reaction, I hope I’ll remember the price at which my freedom to choose was bought.

Maybe I won’t give it away so cheaply.

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 do you decide what really matters?

Monday, October 18th, 2010


How do you decide what really matters?

How do you balance what’s fun, interesting, or rewarding with what matters?

I know about the platitudes—what matters to me is what matters to God. That’s true enough, I suppose, but it doesn’t always help me know if what I’m doing right now is work that’s worthy of my time, talent, or treasure. I want to use what I’ve been given wisely, so how do I decide?

What’s the work that really matters?

Last time I talked about money (Gasoline, Money, And Stuff That Matters). While there’s nothing wrong with an enterprise that makes a profit, I’m convinced that stuff that matters must be about more than accumulating wealth.

Since the Bouncing Back Workshop has been on my mind a lot recently—and assuming you’re not getting sick of hearing about it—suppose I use that as a concrete example.

The workshop’s certainly not about money. I have a few hundred hours invested in writing, creating visuals, and producing the workbook. I only charge for the materials and my expenses, so I’m not getting rich. But, by itself, that doesn’t mean it’s work that matters. There must be more to it.

What else? Any thoughts?

What about value? What am I getting from the experience, and what’s the benefit to others? I’m thinking that must be another measure.

If I’m doing work that matters, others must benefit more than I do.

So far, I’m on the wrong side of this ledger. I’ve learned so much from the writing process, analyzing my experiences, figuring out how to present my thoughts in a useful, coherent manner. I’ve been able to immerse myself in a truly meaningful (to me) and interesting project, which brings me huge value.

But right now I don’t think it qualifies as work that matters. Until I share what I’ve learned with others and know that they’ve received something useful, it’s just in my own head. I’ve learned and grown, and that’s a good thing. But I’m thinking that it doesn’t really matter much until it creates value for others.

Gasoline

Going back to the gasoline metaphor, it’s the difference between joy-riding and a meaningful journey. Nothing wrong with occasionally driving for pleasure or relaxation, but an entire life of joy-riding would be kind of empty. In order to matter, the journey needs a purpose.

To me, that purpose must involve giving more than I receive. And if I receive a lot, that’s great, as long as the value to others is greater. Otherwise, it’s simply self-gratification.

Does that make sense?

So, work that matters must meet these two criteria:

  • It must be about more than simply accumulating money.
  • It must produce more value for others than for me.

Do you agree? What have I missed? What else would you add?

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