Archive for February, 2011

Show Me the Way

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Psalm 143:8b: “Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”

As I work to bring a speaker from Arizona to Virginia, I face the struggle of venue availability and prices. I remembered this verse and asked God to “Show me the way I should go.”

As we go through life, we all face times of change or crisis when we need God to show us the way we should go.

My pastor and his wife thought the parsonage remodeling would be completed for them to move in by January. Almost two months later, it is finally ready and looks beautiful. It was worth the wait.

Whatever our situation may be, we can lift up our souls to the Lord. We know he is faithful and will answer our prayers.

Sometimes God tells us to wait. Other times, we face a closed door and continue to pray.  We know God has another plan, a better one for us.

Dear God, I lift up my soul to you. Amen.

Application: When will you ask God to show you the way??

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

What’s My Purpose?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Can you imagine a worse fate than struggle with no purpose?

Last week I spoke to a group of seniors.

One question I always ask myself before a talk is, “What can I tell these folks that will be useful?” My first answer is usually Not Much, but I try to move on anyway.

I began this presentation with three words: We need you.

Amazing that such a simple expression would brighten so many faces. Honestly, it felt like someone turned up the lights in the room.

After the Q&A at the end, the young lady who arranged the gathering rushed up and exclaimed, “That was the perfect thing to say! Did you see their faces light up?”

I wish I could claim credit for a brilliant insight. All I did was relay God’s assurance. Read 1 Corinthians 12 for a clear explanation of each individual’s indispensable significance.

Your life isn’t an accident

It’s one my favorite statements: Nobody’s here by accident. This isn’t just for retired folks or disabled folks or any other special group.

We’re all here for a reason. We all play an indispensable role that enhances and enriches the story. In fact, if you’re wondering whether your purpose has been completed, here’s a simple test. Take your pulse. Got one? There’s your answer.

Here’s an argument I first heard from Michael Hyatt.

  • You’re not here by accident. God put you here for a purpose.
  • Your pulse shows that you haven’t completed that purpose.
  • That means the most important part of your life is still ahead.

Whether you’re eight or eighteen or eighty, life is NEVER about simply running out the clock. The most important days of your life are waiting. That’s real, solid hope.

We too often misunderstand or misuse the word hope. We use it as a synonym for wish, as in I hope I get a new bike for my birthday.

God’s hope

Hope is an expectation based on faith. It’s claiming God’s promise that He will use even the toughest circumstances for good (Romans 8:28). That why the cover of Relentless Grace centers around a rainbow.

The hardest part of my injury wasn’t not-walking, or pain, or any of the other physical losses. The hardest part was the stifling sense of purposelessness and hopelessness that wrapped me in a dark cloud of depression.

There’s no simple way out of that darkness. Life doesn’t provide an “easy” button for those kinds of challenges.

I grapple with those same feelings every day—especially today. The enemy works hard to use them, to drag me back into the darkness. Sometimes, he succeeds.

But those feelings are lies. Purposeless is a lie. Hopeless is a lie.

Each of us still has people to touch and laughter to share. Someone still needs what we have to contribute, even if we can’t see it or feel it.

That’s not how it seems this morning. Today’s one of those days when it all feels pretty pointless. But I know it’s not.

How do I know?

I checked my pulse.

What’s your key to living in hope when things don’t feel very hopeful?

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

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

Differing Versions Of Wisdom

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

What would you do if you thought you were doing something well and an expert said you were totally wrong?

I’m sort of chuckling as I write this. I want to open up an important issue wrapped in somewhat trivial circumstances.

Apparently I’m doing this blogging thing all wrong.

I read a lot of advice about effective blog management and operation. Some of it’s quite helpful, and a lot of it is technical stuff that I just don’t want to mess with. I’m sure it would make a difference—I just don’t want to spend a bunch of time on it.

But recently I’ve encountered some pretty strong evidence that challenges a couple of my basic choices. I know you don’t care much about the details, but I want to illustrate an important dilemma that we all face at some point: How do you know what’s right? From whom do you seek or accept advice?

Proverbial guidance

I’ve never really studied the book of Proverbs. Frankly it seems like folks cherry-pick its verses to support whatever point they’re making. But since it’s a book of wisdom, I spent some time looking for insight. I saw a couple of common themes illustrated by these passages:

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

Seems pretty clear—relying solely on my own judgment isn’t the recommended option. God directs me to seek and heed advice. But the question remains: how do I decide which expert’s advice is correct? And what do I do if every expert offers advice that just seems wrong to me?

Here are two examples—you fill in your own situation.

  • Experts tell me to never give away ebooks. “Free” is okay, but I’m supposed to get an email in exchange. Building that email list is an essential activity.
  • Experts advise me to establish a speaking fee. It’s fine to waive the fee in individual situations, but the fee demonstrates that I expect others to take me seriously. The principle says others won’t value my services if I don’t.

Both chunks of advice make sense. I definitely want to increase readership, and I certainly want people to take me seriously as an inspirational speaker.

And both chunks of advice feel uncomfortable. I don’t want anyone to pass on an ebook because they’re afraid to give out an email address. I never want a group to feel like they can’t afford my speaking services—I’m not doing it for the money.

So—am I being the “fool” in Proverbs 12:15? Am I sabotaging my own success by ignoring the wisdom of proven experts?

How do you choose?

I’m open to input on my specific situations, but the real questions are bigger than my petty problems.

Perhaps two respected doctors advise different treatments. Maybe trusted friends say you’re off track, you listen and pray about it, and you think they’re wrong—we all face important, sometimes crucial, situations in which we have to discern true wisdom.

How do you make those decisions without following “the way of fools”?

  • When you receive conflicting advice, how do you decide which version of “wisdom” is really correct?
  • When expert wisdom doesn’t seem right for you, how do you tell the difference between being true to your internal compass and foolishly ignoring true wisdom?

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

Give Me

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Matthew 14:8-9: “Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ The king [Herod] was distressed, but because of his oaths and dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted.”

Many times in life, people will ask us to do or accept something that is illegal or against God’s Word. God has gifted us with free will.

If we, like Herod, seek the approval of others, we will probably do as he did. Out of fear, we will make the wrong choice, and innocent people will suffer because of our choice.

We can stand up for what is right and not allow evil to occur to us, our families or in our job/ministry.

When we choose what is right, we will face opposition and ridicule.

A family member may want us to do or accept what is wrong. If we choose what is right, that person may question our love and accuse us of not being loyal.

We need to remember that our first love is God, and our loyalty is to him.

Dear God, help me to love you first. Amen.

Application: How will you stand up for what is right this week?

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

Accomplishing Your Dreams

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Have you seen the movie Stand And Deliver? I watched it—again—over the weekend. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for inspiration.

Stand And Deliver relates the inspiring true story of Jaime Escalante and a group of students from a deprived section of L.A. who accomplished an impossible goal. I feel a bit of a special connection to the story because Mr. Escalante actually visited my school and spoke to our students and parents in 1989.

This unremarkable teacher in a terrible school told his unmotivated students that they could do it. He called them the “true dreamers” and promised to help them go farther than anyone thought possible.

And in return he asked from them only one thing: ganas.

“Ganas” is a Spanish word meaning “motivation sufficient to act”. Escalante boils it down to a single trait: desire. He tells these disadvantaged kids who’ve already been defeated and discarded by society that they can accomplish their dreams if they have enough desire.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. For these kids, ganas meant arriving early and staying late. It meant summer classes, extra homework, and defying the peer pressure of a culture that expected and even encouraged them to fail.

Dreams are easy. You can dream in your sleep.

Ganas—desire—that’s what’s hard. Ganas fills the gap between “I want to” and “I will.”

What’s your dream as you begin a new week? How will you cultivate the ganas to make it happen?

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

Jesus Says “Sorry” Is A Verb

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

“I’m sorry.” Why are those two little words so difficult to say?

I made a mistake. I need to apologize. It’s not that hard.

So why is it so hard?

Maybe there’s a better question. Why is it so hard to say I’m sorry and really mean it? Or even better, what does it mean to really mean it?

That’s the real question: what does “being sorry” really mean?

Apologize … and MEAN it

I know this will shock you, but I occasionally broke the rules as a kid. I recall my mom telling me to apologize to someone. I’d comply grudgingly, and she’d say, “Now go back and say it like you MEAN it.”

Dad was a bit more concrete. “If you’re not sorry, I’ll MAKE you sorry!” Mostly an idle threat, but it worked on a little kid.

Sorry was about feeling bad. Sorry meant regret and shame and fear. If you felt enough of that stuff, then you were really sorry.

Jesus didn’t say much about feeling sorry, but He did talk about repentance. In Luke 13:3 He says, “…But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Especially coming from Jesus, that’s the sort of thing you take seriously. Repent or die? I’ll feel bad, guilty, scared—I’ll feel guilty and regretful, I’ll beat myself up. Whatever it takes, I’ll be as sorry as possible to avoid that sort of punishment.

Huh?

Except—that doesn’t really fit with the rest of Jesus’ message. He doesn’t seem to be about instilling regret, shame, and fear.

In John 8 the religious leaders confronted Jesus with a woman caught in adultery. After He dealt with the leaders, He was alone with the woman. At the end of their conversation, He doesn’t embarrass or rebuke her or tell her to slink away in shame. Instead He simply instructs her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Maybe Biblical repentance isn’t about feeling bad. Maybe it’s not a feeling at all.

Maybe repent is a verb.

Biblical repentance means “to turn.” Jesus wants me to turn away from sin and toward God. He wants me to adopt God’s perspective. He doesn’t want me to feel bad—He wants me to leave my life of sin.

In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul discusses an issue of correction with the church. He explains that his intent wasn’t to harm them. Then in verse 10 he says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Godly sorrow brings repentance that … leaves no regret.

Mom was right

Now that I think about it, that’s really what my mom wanted as well. She wasn’t interested in making me feel ashamed, but she did want me to turn away from wrong behavior.

I still need to apologize.

“I’m sorry.” I acknowledge and accept responsibility for my actions. I want to learn from my mistakes and make better choices. I want to look in God’s direction, not my own. I want a new beginning.

I want to move forward in faith, hope, and love.

Do you struggle to repent without feeling guilty or ashamed?

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

Passing Judgment on Others

Friday, February 18th, 2011

“Do not judge according to appearance,
but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).


Have you noticed that one of the most popular and oft-quoted verses from the Bible is some sort of mutilation of the admonition not to judge? This is particularly popular with those who are not familiar with the Scriptures and/or want to justify their own behavior. But does the Bible really teach us not to judge, or does it simply give us guidelines in how to judge correctly?

Jesus said very clearly in John 7:24 that we are not to “judge according to appearance” but to “judge with righteous judgment.” That doesn’t sound like a ban on judging of any sort, does it? It does, however, sound like a warning not to jump to conclusions based on what we see (or hear or feel), but rather to draw conclusions based on God’s judgment, since He is the only One among us who is righteous.

So how do we do that? The entire discourse by Jesus in this section of the Gospel of John is a reminder to the Jewish people that they already have the Law of Moses as their only dependable and allowable guideline for proper judging. He also warned them against ignoring or perverting that scriptural guideline to suit their own purposes, something we are all tempted to do on occasion.

As believers who have God’s Spirit living within us to guide us in our actions and correctly interpret scripture for us, we are called to “judge righteously,” according to God’s Word. We have no right to make judgment calls based on our own opinions or self-imposed standards, but we do have an obligation and responsibility to reach our conclusions—about ourselves as well as others—based on the standards God has detailed in the Bible.

Does that mean we assault people with those judgments and wag our finger in their faces, screaming at them to repent? Of course not. But it does mean that we refuse to fall into the trap of situational ethics that basically says, “I’m okay, you’re okay,” regardless of behavior, and therefore enable people to remain lost in their sins and separated from God. We are called to preach the pure and uncompromised Good News, which does not deny sin but rather offers the only remedy—the shed blood of Christ at Calvary. That is the righteous judgment we must all proclaim, in word and deed, regardless of the response or consequences.

And, finally, it must all be done in love, with a heart that longs to see others forgiven and restored, as we have been. No one said it would be easy, but we can’t shy away from doing what is right for fear of offending others and being accused of judging. We are all guilty before a righteous God, and that’s not a judgment declared by fallible humans but rather by an infallible Creator who is ultimately the Judge of the entire Universe. How grateful I am that the only Son of that Judge is also my Advocate when I stand before the heavenly Court after my final breath! May I be found faithful to have judged righteously and proclaimed that righteous judgment during my sojourn on earth.

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

Confronting Darkness

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Can you fill a room with darkness?

Imagine yourself in a semi-dark room. How can you make it darker? Can you rent a darkness generator and pump more “dark” into the room?

You can’t, because darkness isn’t a real thing. You can’t “create” darkness—you can only exclude light. You make the room darker by shutting the doors and hanging heavy black curtains on the windows.

Now imagine yourself in the same large, absolutely dark room. What happens if you light a small candle? Can there be enough darkness to obscure the light?

Of course not. When light and darkness collide, the smallest bit of light always wins. Light ALWAYS displaces darkness.

Anger is like darkness

I think anger and bitterness work like darkness. They can seem overwhelming and stifling, filling a space until it seems there’s no room for anything else.

But if you inject even a small bit of love, it’s just like lighting a single candle. Love displaces hatred. When love and hate collide, love always wins.

It doesn’t feel like that when you’re in the middle of it. When you’re in that big, pitch-black room, the darkness feels real and ominous and overwhelming.

But it’s an illusion, a lie. That darkness that feels so stifling is really just a void. It retreats at the slightest hint of light.

That’s how it feels when you’re surrounded by anger and criticism and bitterness. They feel so real and powerful, but that feeling is the enemy’s lie. They’re a negative, a void, the absence of something real.

Hate blocks love just as those blackout curtains block light. So if you respond to hate with more hate, if anger sparks retribution, you’re just adding a heavier layer of curtains. Bitterness in response to criticism just blocks more light and creates the illusion of even more overwhelming darkness.

Add some light

Want to dispel anger? Don’t fight with it—that only serves to block the light. The best way—the only way—to defeat hate is to displace it with love.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Jesus dispelled darkness just by showing up. He shined the light into a dark world, and darkness retreated.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

Simple or easy?

It’s really that simple: love displaces hatred as surely as light displaces dark. The way to remove the void is by filling it with something positive and real.

But don’t confuse “simple” with “easy.” Jesus never claimed that following Him was easy. As some once said, “He promised His followers a banquet—not a picnic.”

Confronting darkness with a single candle isn’t easy. Confronting a world of anger and criticism with one small bit of love and forgiveness isn’t easy.

Personally, I’d prefer to let someone else confront the darkness. I’m just not sure it’s optional.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

What are your thoughts about being the candle that displaces the darkness?

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

True Riches

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011


“Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:5

People are badly cheated in this world. They imagine that the things they can see are the real things–that the gold, lands, and stocks are the true treasures. So they toil for those things and gather them into their possession, piling up what they suppose to be wealth. Thus they live in pomp, with their fine houses, and all their

brilliant show. But one day their supposed riches sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Or they may keep their wealth, perchance, and die at last in the midst of it, and have a great funeral; but they find that they cannot carry a penny of it with them. ” How much did he leave?” was asked about a rich man who had died. “All of it!” was the answer.

If only people knew that there are things which will never fly away–they would no longer live for fleeting worldly wealth. They would pass by the glittering unrealities, to lay hold of the true riches. He who is rich toward God–is the truly wealthy man.

J. R. Miller, “Counsel and Help” 1907

Simulator Disciples

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

How do you learn to do something when you have no clue how to do it?

Jon Swanson writes a lot lately about learning to follow Jesus. His thoughts challenge me. I realize that I don’t know how, and that I’m not even sure I know what it means.

As I’ve thought about this internal dilemma I’ve uncovered another disquieting revelation. I tend to think about following Jesus as something I need to perfect before I can really do it.

Does that make sense?

It’s as though my current efforts are rough drafts to be dumped in the trash as soon as I get it right. I’m practicing on the sidelines until I get good enough to join the actual game.

Intellectually, of course, I know better. But I’ve discovered that when I open me up and take an honest look, I find a lot of junk that doesn’t make much sense.

Simulators

Some activities need to be mastered before you actually try them. A pilot can’t use trial-and-error with real planes filled with real people. The brain surgeon can’t just poke around and experiment on living patients until he figures out how things work.

But following Jesus isn’t like that. You can’t learn it in a simulator. I’m thinking that a good analogy is learning a language.

Imagine trying to internalize a language if you refused to speak until you were fluent. No way—it’s an on-the-job, experiential progression. You learn and speak simple words and phrases, make lots of mistakes, and gradually get a little better at it.

I’m told that the most efficient language acquisition happens through total immersion. Living in the culture, forcing yourself to learn as you go about daily routines, turns out to be maybe the best way to learn the language.

Of course, you spend a lot of time looking like an idiot. You ask dumb questions and use the wrong words. Your accent marks you as a foreigner. You get slapped because your sincere attempt to ask for directions turns out to be some sort of unintended, indecent suggestion.

This happens even when you think you share common words. A friend spoke at a conference in London. For some reason he used the word “pants” frequently in his first presentation and noticed some nervous laughter. Turns out that “trousers” might have been a better choice, since in London “pants” refers to underwear.

I picture him telling the audience that he had to change into clean pants after the long plane ride.

Jumping in

I think following Jesus is like that. You can only learn by doing. You start with the simple stuff, ask a lot of dumb questions, and make a lot of mistakes.

And immersion is probably the best way to learn. Making following part of everything I do, even when I get it wrong, seems like what He asks.

A couple of questions:

  • Am I serious enough to immerse myself in following? Will I take the risk, face the fear, be willing to look and sound like a foreigner?
  • How easy do I make this learning for others? Do I invite their questions? Do I laugh or criticize when they get it wrong?

I don’t want to be a simulator disciple. I don’t want to wait until I get it all perfect before I start doing it for real.

How about you?