Archive for January, 2011

The Promise of the Scriptures

Friday, January 14th, 2011

“The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49).

The world is full of uncertainties. Daily we are tempted, even as believers, to give in to fear and doubt. Just when we think we have a handle on a certain situation, it seems the universe pulls the rug out from under our feet. Our hearts cry out for a certain and unshakable truth, a promise we can hang on to even when everything around us seems ominous and threatening—and God has provided just such a promise in Mark 14.

It was Jesus Himself who spoke those very words: “The Scriptures must be fulfilled.” He didn’t say they should be fulfilled or might be fulfilled or may partially be fulfilled. He said they MUST be fulfilled—and so they will be. That’s why it’s so vitally important to know what the Scriptures say. For when the earth shakes and the heavens are removed and everything we hold dear is taken from us, the promise of the Scriptures remains a sure anchor in a tumultuous sea that would otherwise destroy us.

God is in control. He knows how everything will turn out because He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and nothing happens apart from His permission or purpose. There is great comfort in that—IF we know God intimately and have learned to trust His Word. If we are to stand strong when all else around us fails, then we must hide ourselves in the promise of the Scriptures, knowing that they MUST and will be fulfilled, exactly as He has spoken them. What a glorious place of safety in an unsafe world! Will you join me today in a fresh commitment to read and study and memorize and meditate on the Holy Scriptures, God’s Word spoken and given to us?

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 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”


and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

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

How To Just Get Over It

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

How do you get over it?

Ever been there? Something terrible happens and you can’t escape the grief. Or maybe a whole lot of things just accumulate and you just don’t feel very positive about life. Unwanted tears appear without warning. You feel stifled under a heavy blanket of pervasive sadness. The fog of depression or grief blurs everything and obscures vision and hope.

You’re tired of this crummy feeling. Perhaps others have become impatient with your less-than-cheery attitude. You—or they—want it to just go away.

Get over it. Snap out of it. Just forget it and move on.

Ever heard (or said) any of those to someone—or to yourself? Either way, the message is clear: Enough, already! Let it go and get on with life.

What if you don’t want to go to the next thing? What if it’s not time, or you’re not ready, or you just can’t see how it’s possible?

After my injury I spent ten years buried in depression. Others told me to move on. I told myself to let it go. I knew that I was wasting my life and destroying relationships, but I had no clue how to do anything about it.

How do you just “get over it” when “it” just hurts too badly?

Should?

I don’t think you do. When I hear “you should just let it go” I want to reply, “Don’t should on me!” (You have to say it aloud to get the full effect.)

“Get over it” feels dismissive and uncompassionate. I doubt if anyone ever just got over it because someone flippantly told them to.

WDJD (what did Jesus do?)

Jesus wept.

It’s the Bible’s shortest verse [John 11:35]. Jesus’ close friend Lazarus had died and Jesus confronted his grieving sisters.

Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew that Lazarus would walk from his tomb as a sign of God’s glory.

He might have chastised Martha for her lack of faith. He could have reminded her that her brother “was in a better place.” He could have admonished her to just get over it.

Verse 33 tells us He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. He didn’t tell Martha and the other mourners to snap out of it. Even though He knew their grief would momentarily turn to joy, He expressed compassion and shared their sorrow. At the brink of a miracle, Jesus wept.

The experience of Relentless Grace taught me that emerging from darkness isn’t about simplistic platitudes. I knew I needed to move forward, but I didn’t know how. Thankfully, God didn’t dismiss my grief and tell me to get over it as I continued on a path of anguish and misery.

I believe that Jesus wept when I fell and shattered my neck. I believe He wept beside my bed as I suffered emotionally and physically. I believe He walked every step of my long journey through darkness.

He wanted me to emerge into the light. He brought people who helped me, and I believe He smiled when I finally found a way out.

But while I suffered, I believe He wept.

It does get better—eventually. God provides new beginnings in even the darkest circumstances. Certainly there are things we can do to assist with the process, to encourage others or ourselves. Wallowing in self-pity isn’t the answer.

But please—don’t tell me, or yourself, to just get over it.

What can you do to help someone—or yourself—through a difficult time without dismissing the struggle?

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 God of All Comfort: Grief Share

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to… the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

When a neighbor lost her husband two years ago, many comforted her.

Those who had lost a loved one were able to comfort her with the comfort they had received from God.

Grief Share is a support group for those who have lost a loved one.

The facilitators and small group leaders have all experienced at least one significant loss.

They first went to Grief Share for the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort to comfort them.

However, the Bible passage doesn’t end there. God wants us to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

That is what Grief Share is all about. If you or someone you know has lost a loved one, look for a Grief Share group in the local churches. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Dear God, thank you that you are the Father of compassion. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Application: When will you seek comfort or comfort others this week?

Grief Share
http://www.griefshare.org/
PO Box 1739
Wake Forest, NC 27588
Phone: 800-395-5755
International: 919-562-2112
Email

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2011, 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

Good Without God?

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Is “good” always good?

I’ll bet you received a lot of “year-end” messages from different organizations seeking a final funding push. One that caught my attention was an appeal to join in combating their perception of a growing movement called “good without God.”

I was invited to sign an online declaration—and of course to send some money. I did neither, but I did find myself wondering whether I object to the notion of “good without God.” What do you think?

I recalled a conversation with a close friend (I’ll call him Ben) as he explained why he never took his kids to church.

A good family

Ben and his wife both grew up in strict Christian homes, but after they got married they just never found a church that “seemed to fit.” So they dedicated Sunday mornings to family activities and service projects. They taught their kids to do the right thing, to serve others and their community, to be kind, caring, and respectful.

Then he asked an interesting question: What’s wrong with that?

I think Ben expected me to challenge his decision. I think he anticipated that I’d dispute his assertion that he and his kids could be good people without God. I didn’t.

What’s wrong with teaching your kids the value of kindness and service or dedicating time each week to family activities? Nothing’s wrong with those things—by any standard, they’re good.

My friend and his wife are great folks. I love spending time with them, learning from their experience and perspective. I’ve met lots of church folks who could learn from this wonderful family’s example.

Missing the point

The longer I follow Jesus the more I understand that I can’t “be good.” Occasionally I manage to do something good, as do many other Christians. But non-Christian individuals and organizations also do tremendous good.

Following Jesus isn’t about being good. It’s about a personal relationship. It’s about spending eternity in the presence of God.

Being good, doing good—they’re important. But they’re not the point.

The Source

I believe God is the source of good. I believe He uses all circumstances for good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.

I believe He uses everyone to accomplish His purposes—even those who aren’t aware of His presence. God sent the characters of Relentless Grace to transform my broken life. A few of those characters would deny God’s hand in their actions, but that doesn’t matter. He sent them anyway.

Fight!

The Christian label isn’t a guarantee of good, just as non-Christian isn’t automatically not-good. Good things are good things, and they all come from God.

Do I believe in “good without God”? No.

But I’m certainly not going to pick a fight with anyone who’s doing good—for any reason. I’ll celebrate and support kindness, generosity, and service wherever they occur.

If they ask, I will tell them that doing good isn’t the point.

Jesus is the point.

What’s your take on this idea of “good without God”?

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 Bible Is About…

Friday, January 7th, 2011

How would you complete the title of this article?

I’m starting a new series explaining some ideas about reading the Bible.

For a few years I’ve done a workshop for new small group leaders at my church. If I had my choice I’d call it One Dummy’s Thoughts About The Bible. However, our small group coordinator has no sense of humor so she calls it something boring like Bible Basics For Small Group Leaders.

I’m decidedly NOT any sort of expert, and I think that’s the point. It’s a simpleton’s guide to some of the very basic notions involved in understanding Scripture if you haven’t attended seminary, don’t speak Greek, and don’t commonly use words like eschatology and hermeneutics. Honestly, I think I’m the only person silly enough to talk about such a complex topic in public when most of the audience knows more than I do.

So I’m going to toss out some small chunks each Wednesday and see if we can generate some discussion that’ll help everyone—especially me.

Somewhere near the beginning I ask participants to complete this sentence: The Bible is about _____.

Typically we get answers like these:

  • How to live a Christian life—how to follow Jesus.
  • The history of God’s people.
  • How to worship/pray/do ministry.
  • How to please God.
  • Religion.

Do you have an answer?

Right answer?

These are all good answers, and I’m sure you came up with others. But at a simple, basic, gotta-get-this-in-my-thick-head level, the Bible is about God.

As hard as it is to imagine, it’s not about me!

The Bible is God’s inspired revelation of Himself, His nature and character, and what He values. C.S. Lewis once characterized the Old Testament like this:

He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was—that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process (from MERE CHRISTIANITY).

At its core the Bible isn’t really about the Hebrews, and it’s certainly not about me. The Bible is God revealing Himself to us. Here’s how it seems to me: there’s a two-way communication going on between God and humans.

The God-to-human side is revelation. It’s perfect and complete, precisely as God intended. The response, the human-to-God side, is religion.

Religion is the human response to God’s revelation.

We all know that human creations are flawed, and religion’s no exception. Our interpretation of God’s revelation reflects our human limitations, biases, and blind spots. So my personal religion—my personal response to my understanding—is incomplete and incorrect.

Organized religion is often worse, since it’s a conglomeration compromises and preferences. Thankfully, grace covers our mistakes, but we need to remember that our response, no matter how informed or sincere, always falls short.

So when I read the Bible, my primary goal is a better, more intimate knowledge of God. We’re part of the story because He created and desires relationship with us, but it’s not about us.

I have a lot of questions.

How did you complete the original sentence?

Does this make sense? Do you agree or disagree?

What 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

Make Peace with the Past

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 3:13-14, NKJV).

I know: Time flies when you’re having fun—and, at my age, even when you aren’t! But that’s all right. We’ve read the end of the Book and we know how it all turns out. What we don’t know is what lies ahead for us between this moment in time and the twinkling of an eye when we step into eternity to be with our Lord and Savior.

With economic downturns, personal health and relational issues, rising unemployment numbers, and various other challenges of living in this broken world, that not knowing can leave us more than slightly apprehensive at times, can’t it? I’m a German-raised, firstborn Type-A personality who likes my ducks in order before sticking my toe in the water. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Facing a new year can evoke a lot of emotions: excitement, joy, anticipation—or fear, dread, depression. Much of where we land in that mix depends on whether or not we’ve made peace with the past by asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness for our sins and failures so we can effectively forget “those things which are behind” and, by faith in the One who bought our forgiveness and promises a glorious, never-ending future with Him, “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Regardless of whether this past year brought good times or bad (or more than likely, a combination of the two), God’s purpose for us is to reach ever higher, to aspire to a nobler, more honorable life this year than last. And we can do that only by resting in His promises to live in us as we rest in Him.

Leave the past—the good, the bad, and the ugly—under the Blood where it belongs, and anticipate the future with joy, for that same Blood that forgives and covers yesterday will be there for us tomorrow.

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 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”


and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

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

Our Words and Deeds are Irrevocable

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken!” Matthew 12:36

We cannot recall any word we have spoken. It may be a false word or an unkind word–a word which will blast and burn! Instantly after it has been spoken–we may wish it back and may rush after it and try to stop it–but there is no power in the world that can unsay the hurtful word–or blot it out of our life!

It is just so with our acts. A moment after we have done a wicked thing, we may bitterly repent it. We may be willing to give all we have in the world to undo it, to make it as though it never had been. But in vain. A deed done takes its place in the universe as a fact–and never can be recalled.

We should be sure before we speak a word or do an act–that it is right, that we shall never desire to have it recalled–for when once we have opened our lips, or lifted our hand–there will be no unsaying or undoing possible.

Our words and deeds are irrevocable. We cannot recall anything we have done, neither can we change it. But by other words and deeds, we may in some measure modify the effect of that which we cannot blot out. Paul could not undo his persecutions of Christians–but by a life to devotion to Christ’s cause–he could in a sense make reparation for the terrible harm he had done.

Just so, we cannot undo the wrong things we have done–but we should strive to set in motion other influences which may at least compensate in some sense for the harm they have wrought. We cannot unsay the sharp word which wounds our friend’s heart–but we can by kindness and loyal devotion–yet bring good and blessing to his life.

J. R. Miller, “Devotional Hours with the Bible”

Are You Drifting?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

How old were you when you finally realized that nobody was watching?
I grew up in a small town. It was literally impossible to get away with anything. If I messed up on the other side of town, my mom somehow found out before I got home. I developed this eerie sense that someone was always watching.

That feeling lasted well into my twenties, long past the time when it was actually true. Then one day I realized that no one was keeping track of me, no one knew most of the time where I was or what I was doing.

It was a startling realization. Sadly, I didn’t handle it well. I used my newly-discovered freedom to make some bad choices, but I learned something important.

I realized that I own my life.

My time, my attention, my decisions—they’re gifts from God, and I decide how they’re spent. I can waste them on mindless TV and computer games. I can spend hours on social media sites. If I choose, I can sit and do nothing.

I can set up my phone to interrupt with all sorts of beeps and boops, check email several times per hour, and chat on the phone in the grocery store. It’s my time. I can be too busy to connect with friends while accomplishing nothing of value. Nobody’s watching.

Same thing’s true for the new year. I can drift aimlessly into 2011 and fill the time with meaningless trivia. I can just take whatever comes and pass the months until another year disappears, and another, until I’m left wondering where the time went.

Or, I can be a responsible steward.

I can make intentional choices. I can set big goals and work toward them. I can turn down the noise, stop pretending that technology controls me, and use the tools rather than allowing them to use me.

I can live each month, each day, each hour on purpose rather than by accident. I can keep in mind that each moment is indeed a gift that’s entrusted to me. I can remember that the final objective is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” [Matthew 25:23]

We establish our own priorities and our own limits. As someone once said, we don’t determine the wind’s direction but each of us sets our own sails.

I want to do my best with what He’s given to me. 2010 had its ups and downs, but now’s the time to put that behind. If 2010 was a great year, this is the time to build on it. If 2010 was a struggle, you get to begin fresh and make 2011 the best year yet.

I’m doing what I can to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” when it’s all over. I hope you’ll join me.

Are you in?

What’s one thing you’re doing RIGHT NOW to make 2011 a great year?

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 I HAVE to Forgive?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.  ~Lewis Smedes

Don’t you hate it when faith conflicts with feelings?

If you’re any sort of sports fan you know about Michael Vick. He’s a pro football player who was convicted and sent to prison for financing and participating in a dog fighting operation. The details are literally unspeakable. You can Google him if you wish. I wouldn’t recommend it.

He’s out of prison and playing football again. He served his sentence, apologized, and received a second chance. He’s playing well, and by all accounts has turned his life around.

I hate what he did to dogs. His actions were despicable, horrific, evil—I can’t list enough adjectives to adequately portray my disgust. You can look at the pictures on my site and get a clear indication of how I feel about dogs in general and my dog specifically. Even if you don’t particularly like dogs you have to be sickened by what he did.

I’m glad he was caught and convicted and sent to jail. But now that he’s done with that portion of his life, there’s a big place in my gut that just doesn’t want him to succeed. In fact, I have this almost visceral desire to see him suffer more.

Am I the only person who struggles with this? Have you ever encountered a situation in which you didn’t feel like forgiving?

I listened today as someone publicly ripped at Mr. Vick. It’s obvious that many folks feel like I do. They’ll never see him as anything but a vile, repulsive figure. As I listened, I acknowledged something I really don’t like:

I do not feel forgiving toward this guy.

In a few days we’ll celebrate Jesus’ birth. He came so I could be forgiven. All of my mistakes, awful choices, and failures are washed away because of the horrible price He paid.

My selfishness slapped me in the face.

Jesus came so Michael Vick could be forgiven.

I don’t have to approve of what he did. I don’t have to like him, or trust him, or admire him.

But if I’m going to be true to what I believe, I do have to respect him and love him. And yes, I do have to forgive him.

Like Jesus said, it’s easy to love those who love me back and share my values and do nice stuff to dogs. The tough part is loving the unlovable and respecting people when I feel like punching them.

The hard part is forgiving someone I don’t feel like forgiving.

I’m reminded that forgiveness isn’t a one-time event. I can’t just say “I forgive” while secretly hoping he blows out a knee.

Forgiveness is a decision followed by a difficult process. I decide to forgive and then I confront my judgmental feelings. I continually remind myself that I forgive because I’ve been forgiven. When I feel like he doesn’t deserve it, I remember that little baby.

I remind myself that I don’t deserve the grace He brought to the world. He gave freely what I could never earn.

I don’t feel like forgiving, but I want to do it anyway. I guess that’s where I begin.

That’s my Christmas wish.

Do you fight this kind of internal battle? How do you get past it?

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