Archive for October, 2010

Do You Question Your Walk with God?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

[Daniel] knelt down on his knees three times that day,
and prayed and gave thanks before his God,
as was his custom since early days (Daniel 6:10).

My most recent releases all have to do with people who pay a price for their faith. Much of the feedback I get from many readers is that the stories inspire them but also cause them to examine their own faith and question if they too would be as faithful under pressure. It’s a question worth examining.

As the writer of those stories, I can tell you I questioned myself and my own walk with God many times in the process of creating and completing those novels. What would I do under similar circumstances? Of course I would have to depend completely on God’s strength and not my own, but would I know how to do that? The answer comes not so much in what we do when already in those situations, but rather what we do before we end up there.

Daniel’s example is the perfect one. When he heard the decree that anyone who worshiped any god or person other than King Darius would be cast into the lions’ den, the Scriptures tell us that Daniel immediately “knelt down on his knees…and prayed and gave thanks before his God.” Daniel didn’t hesitate to worship God, despite the very real possibility that he would be thrown to the lions—which, of course, he was. How was he so unshakable in his faith that he didn’t even consider other options? The answer is in the last part of that verse: “…as was his custom since early days.” Daniel didn’t wait until the threat arrived on his doorstep to seek God; he was already in the habit of doing so. He regularly worshiped God and presented his petitions to Him, and he had no intention of changing that custom because of changing circumstances.

We live in a time when our own circumstances are changing and may very well continue to do so to the point that we too will have to make a decision about continuing to worship God, regardless of consequences. The only way we will remain faithful then is if we have already developed the habit or custom of seeking God regularly. If we haven’t done so, now is the time to cultivate that practice. At the end of my life, I want to be found faithful…don’t you?

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

Gasoline, Money, And Stuff That Matters

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Do you have a good working definition of “what matters” to you?

I like to think and write in terms of metaphors and analogies. I heard a comparison a while back that helped me think about money in my own hierarchy of what really matters.

In life’s journey, money is like gasoline for a car. You have to pay attention to it or you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. But a great journey can’t be all about accumulating more gasoline.

I have this image of a guy on a long trip, buying all the gasoline he can find. He keeps adding more and bigger tanks to store and manage all of the fuel. Gradually, the journey doesn’t matter any longer.

His entire purpose shrinks to locating and carrying fuel. He’s no longer even going anywhere. The only point of traveling is accumulating fuel, even when he has more than he could ever possibly use.

I think it’s a useful image for Christians because we tend toward two extremes. Prosperity preachers would have you believe that the good news is that God wants you to be rich. If you’re not drowning in material wealth, you’re obviously not following God’s will for your life.

At the other extreme is the faulty notion that any enterprise that produces a profit is intrinsically evil. It’s as though God intended us to live in poverty; anyone who doesn’t isn’t following God’s will.

Neither approach accurately reflects Jesus’ words.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” [Matthew 6:24]

Using the car/gasoline metaphor, the question isn’t whether gasoline is evil. We need to keep both fuel and money in proper perspective. Neither is the ultimate goal. They’re resources intended to aid in achieving the real purpose of the journey.

I’m struck by another part of the endless accumulation image. Why don’t we have two hundred gallon gas tanks in our cars? Because we trust that we’ll encounter a gas station before we run out.

I’m challenged to analyze my own notions about wealth. Do I feel compelled to accumulate enough to cover any possible contingency? Do I use “responsible financial planning” as an excuse to conceal my lack of trust in God’s provision?

Do I really trust that I’ll encounter God’s generosity before my tank runs dry?

I’m not sure, but I suspect that I place more faith in the appearance of a service station than in God’s faithfulness when my own tank’s running low.

How do you balance the true purpose of the journey and accumulating resources to support it? Does this metaphor say anything important to you?

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 the Faults of Others Bother You?

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

There is a duty of fault-finding. The Master Himself teaches it. In the Sermon on the Mount, He makes it very plain. We must note carefully, however, where the duty begins. We are to look first after our own faults. “Why do you look at the mote that is in your brother’s eye–but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?”

We must consider the beam that is in our own eye!

The form of this question suggest that we are naturally inclined to pay more attention to flaws and blemishes in others–than in ourselves; and also that a very small fault–a mere mote of fault in another person–may seem larger to us than a blemish many times greater in ourselves!

Of course, it is far easier to see other people’s faults–than our own. Our eyes are set in our head in such a way–that we can look at our neighbor, better than at ourselves. Yet we all have faults of our own. Most of us have quite enough of them to occupy our thought, to the exclusion of our neighbor’s faults–if only we would give them our attention.

Really, too, our own faults ought to interest us, more than our neighbor’s, because they are our own; and being our own, we are responsible for them. We do not have to answer for any other one’s sins–but we must answer for our own sins, “Each one must give an account of himself.”

Also, the responsibility for getting rid of them, is ours. No faithful friend, no wise teacher, can cure our faults for us. If ever they are taken out of our life–it must be by our own faith, our own firm, persistent effort.

It is a fact, that the faults which we usually see and criticize in others–are the very faults which are the most marked in us! In our judgment of others–we show a miniature of ourselves. If this is true, we should be careful in judging others, for in doing so–we are only revealing our own faults! This should lead us also to close scrutiny of our own life, to get rid of the things in us which are not beautiful.

~ J. R. Miller, “The Duty of Fault-Finding”

Unspoken Expectations …

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010


…get me in a lot of trouble.

I got disappointed this week.

Disclaimer: I’m only telling this story because I think it contains some valuable lessons. The details don’t matter—this is about my personal failure, nothing else.

# # # # #

A couple of years ago I was invited to be a very small part of a project. No contracts or financial commitments, just a small once-per-week contribution. Four other people, all much more qualified and credible, also joined. I felt pleased and honored to be included.

The basic idea was that we would all place a drop or two in the pond, and hopefully a few folks would benefit from a much-needed cool drink. The only “payback” was some publicity and perhaps a bit of potential traffic to my own site. In my case, an added benefit involved association with four experienced, well-known writers.

After a few months, the others began to drop away. Their contributions became less regular, then disappeared completely. No explanation—they just vanished. With a couple of intermittent exceptions, I was the sole contributor for more than a year. During that period, the only feedback I received was a terse admonition that I’d violated the guidelines by improperly promoting my speaking availability. I whined a bit and removed the offending material.

Why did I continue? I made a commitment to someone who helped me, and I wanted to keep that commitment. I also knew that a fair number of folks were continuing to visit, so I figured someone was finding value. I don’t want to over-play this—it really wasn’t a big amount of additional time or effort. I hoped I was helping the visitors and the person who originally invited me to join.

At least that’s what I told myself.

THE END

This week I received a form email informing me that the project was discontinued.

I have no clue what happened, why the others dropped out, or why the project ended. Don’t know whether I did something wrong or offended someone, whether my contributions were bad or inappropriate or worthless. And since I didn’t know, I of course made all sorts of wild speculations.

# # # # #

Before we go any farther, let’s be clear—this is in no way a criticism of anyone else. I’m not looking for sympathy. I relate this story only because I want to share what I learned.

What I mostly learned is to be highly suspicious of my own motives. Did you catch the lie at the beginning of this essay? “I got disappointed this week.”

Why should I be disappointed? I made an open-ended, no-strings-attached commitment to someone else’s worthwhile project. I kept my end of the bargain. The project ended. So what’s the source of my feeling of disappointment?

After all, I was just being a good guy, serving selflessly, trying to help—how could that possibly lead to disappointment?

You see it, right? The problem resides in my own heart. I didn’t “get disappointed.” I’m disappointed because I harbored a whole set of unspoken expectations that weren’t met.

So here’s a partial list of reminders to self:

Don’t “serve” with the expectation of getting something in return. That’s not service, it’s manipulation. Doesn’t work with people or with God.

Don’t say “Yes” from a sense of obligation. Never begin or continue anything because of a “should.” Better to say “No” than to agree out of guilt or compulsion. The world already has plenty of self-created martyrs.

If I don’t want to do something but I believe it’s the right thing to do, first change my attitude. If I can agree because I sincerely WANT to do what’s right, not because I think I should, then go for it. Otherwise, decline honestly.

Assume best intentions on the part of others. Nothing positive’s accomplished by ascribing evil motives. Nobody’s out to get me. Assuming the worst involves creating imaginary, much-worse-than-real-life monsters. Instead of inserting my own interpretations and “reading between the lines,” how about just being open about questions or concerns?

Nobody “owes” me anything. Let go of the sense of entitlement. I’m not owed gratitude, an apology, forgiveness, or anything else. Those are only worthwhile when offered freely—demanding them only insures false, hollow interactions.

(False) HUMILITY

Someone once offered a wise way to examine my inflated sense of self-importance:

When you begin to think you’re indispensible, stick your finger in a glass of water. Then pull it out, and see how much of a hole remains.

The world, and God’s plan, move forward—with or without me. I’m free to contribute and serve with an attitude of humility.

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]

I’m free to live without guilt and expectations. I’m free to value love and relationships.

Or I can choose to live in a self-constructed prison of doubt and manipulation.

Doesn’t seem like a very difficult choice.

Obedience without surrender is manipulation.

Confession without repentance is bragging.

Have you created unspoken expectations in an attempt to manipulate yourself, others, or even God? What are they, and how do you let them go?

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

Press On!

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

When the load becomes so heavy & you feel like you can’t go on –
lay it down at the feet of Jesus & Press On!

When your critic’s try to waste your time – With their faithless chatter –
Just ignore them & Press On!

When you get lost in the darkness of the night –
Keep stepping out in faith & Press On!

If you’re sick and tired of the hatred –
Press On!

If you’re tired of the condemnation & shame –
Receive His Grace & Press On!

I know that your heart was broken – But it’s time to forgive –
Heal & Press On!

Yes – Joy will come in the morning – If you just Press On! –
So come on and take my hand & let’s Press On!

For the Joy of the Lord is your strength –
So Press On!

On that glorious day when we’ve fought the good fight of faith & finished the race – Jesus Himself shall say – This crown is for you – Because you kept the faith & you Pressed On!

By Pastor Joe A. Rivera – Pressing On Faith Church – Temecula, Ca. – U.S.A

One Day at a Time

Friday, October 8th, 2010


I learned something important in the past couple of weeks.

I’ve always understood that life is more about the journey than the destination. The process matters more than the result—I get that.

But the slow learner in me missed a key point—the journey is determined mostly be day-to-day habits.

I tend to think in terms of big motivations, the cool insight or moving inspiration that spurs me toward the finish line. But in the most important elements of life, there ain’t no finish line.

Loving your family doesn’t stop. Commitment to learning, passion for service, caring about something bigger than myself—those aren’t projects with a due date. As long as I’m breathing, the really important things are always there. I’m never “done” with them.

That’s why somebody’s instant five-step program for being a better parent or losing weight doesn’t work. You get all fired up about the big changes you’re going to make, the exciting new commitments you’re going to make, but it all fades into the background of day-to-day life. The great parents I know don’t do a lot of big, exciting, innovative things. Instead, they do the small, routine things well.

The stuff that matters—teaching, parenting, customer service—isn’t usually about peaks and valleys. It’s about consistency, dependability, being there when it’s not easy or convenient.

The folks who’ve made the big impacts in my life didn’t do big, flashy stuff. They were, and are, there, day after day. And I know they’ll be there, I know I can count on them.

That kind of life is about habits. Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? But excellence isn’t about flashes of brilliance. It’s about doing it right every day, constantly looking for small improvements, and cultivating habits that make caring and love part of the routine.

Want to lose weight? Eat better, every meal. Want to get in better shape? Exercise a little more, every day. Want to change the world? Love a child, every moment, even when it’s hard.

Celebrities get a lot of attention, but it’s empty style with no substance. The revolutionary new program, the exciting breakthrough seems like the way to change the world—until the next program or breakthrough come along. But it’s like starter fluid without charcoal—big flame, but nothing gets cooked.

Excellence is the habit of always doing my best.

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

Recognizing Our Need

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

“At the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven,
and my understanding returned to me” (Daniel 4:34, NKJV).

Nebuchadnezzar was a great king, but like so many of us, he thought it was all about him. As a result, God humbled him in an amazing way—driving him from the palace to live with the beasts for seven years until, at last, he “lifted [his] eyes to heaven, and [his] understanding returned to [him].”

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to understand things from God’s point of view without first having to endure such a drastic experience. And yet, when we fail to lift our eyes to heaven and look to God for wisdom and understanding and direction, we truly are no more than beasts who go about our lives with nothing more than the desire to fill our stomachs and meet our other physical needs so we might continue to exist from one day to the next until our time on earth is done. How pitiful and purposeless an existence!

And that, of course, is exactly what God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to see. Whether a king or a pauper (or anything in between), when we fail to look to the heavens for our strength and understanding, we elevate ourselves to the position of god, and we fail every time, at everything we do.

The psalmist understood this. In Psalm 8:4-5 he wrote, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” He humbly recognized the frailty and futility of humanity apart from God, and marveled at the fact that the very Creator of the universe had elevated human beings above the rest of His creation, only slightly lower than the angels themselves. He ended that Psalm by proclaiming, “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (verse 9), confirming his assertion that man was honored only because the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God had made him so.

May we be like the psalmist who readily recognized our need to lift our eyes to heaven if ever we are to understand our purpose on earth, rather than the haughty king who had to endure seven years with the beasts of the field before finally acknowledging that great truth!

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

Walk in the Fear of Our God

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Nehemiah 5:9: “Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” (NIV)

Nehemiah confronted the nobles and officials for charging their own people usury and taking their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses. He demanded that the nobles and officials return everything to their own people.

After I read Nehemiah 5, I went for a walk and chatted with my neighbor Ana. She told me about an ongoing feud between two neighbors. She laughed and said, “Julie and I are heathen, but we get along better than those two Christians.” Julie is her neighbor, and they do treat each other with love and respect.

As she told me more about the conflict between the two Christian neighbors, I grieved. They missed the opportunity to witness to their neighbors. Instead of leading the unbelievers next door to the Lord, the Christian neighbors earned their reproach.

Sometimes in our greed to gain more money or to purchase what we shouldn’t, we do wrong and hurt our own families and friends. We also gain the reproach of unbelievers. For those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are their only contact with Christianity.

Dear God, help me to walk in the fear of you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: What will I do today to avoid the reproach of unbelievers?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

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

Retreat And Reflect

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Majestic.

The dining room of this old lodge overlooks the entire valley.

The cloudless sky is an impossible shade of blue. Across the valley some aspens are just beginning to turn, splashes of gold amidst the deep green pines. Aside from a narrow dirt road and an occasional four-wheeler heading into the national forest, there’s not much evidence that we’re only thirty miles from the city.

Everyone’s enjoying an afternoon of R&R. Six or seven guys are fly fishing in the pond. A few minutes ago a group of mountain bikers head up the hill. One group’s off on a hike, another headed down the valley to do some rock climbing. Individuals are scattered around the property reading, journaling, processing deep conversations and big questions.

I’m left alone for my own quiet R&R—writing and reflection. No cell coverage, no Internet or email to interrupt. No background noise from television. A weekend of football will pass without us.

We labeled this afternoon as “free time.” Does “free” refer to cost, as though the rest of the time is expensive? Perhaps it means that for a few short hours we’re not trapped by expectations and schedules. If so, it’s odd that we have to schedule time to let ourselves out of a self-constructed prison.

Men come and go, wandering between activities or sometimes just wandering. Interesting—the conversations and shared stories don’t feel at all like interruptions. There’s a sense of natural flow, as though whatever’s happening is just right for that moment. So I’m writing, and then I’m not, and somehow it’s all good. Much different from home, when anything—or anyone—who derails my train of thought becomes an unwelcome irritant.

In worship prior to our morning session, someone shared The Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Sitting here in this calm, peaceful setting, it feels like I’m surrounded by the unforced rhythms of grace. I’m reminded that it’s a standing invitation. Come to me.

Unforced. That’s what’s different about these hours, about this weekend. We’ve agreed to retreat, to back away from hurry and worry, to stop trying to make it happen. We’ve agreed to listen and let ourselves be carried on the unforced rhythms of grace.

I suppose I should prepare for this evening, or get outside, or do something special with these hours. But this afternoon isn’t about “should.” This afternoon is about an encounter with The God Of “Re”. Retreat. Renew. Relax. Refresh. Rest.

So I’ll sit in front of these windows and watch my new friends, enjoy their tales of adventure, and practice trusting that whatever’s happening is okay. I’ll savor the solitude and reflect on the majesty of a high-country meadow.

I wonder what I’ll take down the mountain tomorrow. I wonder if it’ll be back to same-old-same-old, or if I’ll find a way to retain this sense of awe, this sense of authentic, unforced peace and grace.

I’ll figure that out later; next time I’ll see what I find, but not now. Right now is for right now, so I’ll just sit in this incredible place and let it speak to me.

Majestic.

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

Overload

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Today I’m starting the week by looking back—I’m operating on overload.

I’m thinking there are two kinds of overload. One is overwhelmed, when there’s just too much input or too much to do. That’s the overload that jams the emotional circuits until something snaps and the system fails.

I’m experiencing a different sort of overload.

This past weekend was an incredible time of relationship, intense discussion, and deep, sincere questions. It’s a place I couldn’t spend extended time—too much to process, important stuff missed because I just couldn’t absorb it fast enough.

So today I need to stop and let some of it soak in. This kind of overload doesn’t swamp the circuits. Instead, it prompts reflection and introspection. It’s a signal to slow down.

It’s an odd way to begin a week. Usually Monday is a time to look ahead to new challenges, but for me today is an occasion to look back.

Is there anything prompting you to stop and reflect before you rush forward?