Archive for April, 2011

Pray with Courage

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home.
And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem,
he 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, NKJV).

How important is it to teach and lead our children in the ways of the Lord from their earliest days? Daniel’s example confirms that it is vital.

The above verse tells us that when Daniel learned that the edict had been signed, proclaiming that anyone who worshiped or prayed to anyone other than King Darius would be thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel immediately went to his room and prayed—not privately but openly where there was no doubt he would be seen.

Courageous? Sure. But I believe it had more to do with his practiced commitment to follow the God he had served from his youngest years. Daniel didn’t suddenly decide to defy the king and to pray in a prominent place when he heard of the certain outcome, nor did he cower in a corner of his room, begging God for deliverance and protection. Because he had long since learned to worship and pray, openly and without compromise despite the consequences, he immediately reverted to what he already knew was right—and then acted on it.

That’s the kind of faith I want, don’t you? I want to be so steeped in my relationship with the Lord that each time I hear good news, bad news, or no news, I go straight to the place where I regularly meet with God, and then spend time in worship and prayer as if nothing had changed. For that’s the kind of faith that will not bend under trial or testing—even under threat of being thrown into the lions’ den.

If we didn’t receive that sort of training or example as children, it’s never too late to learn and practice it now. And it is certainly never too late to model it to our children, regardless of their age. May we all be like Daniel, committed to bold, uncompromising worship and prayer, no matter the outcome—for even if we end up in the lions’ den, we know Emmanuel will be there with us.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2011 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

Fear And Finding The Right Answer

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Does there always have to be a right answer?

I’ve had a revealing week.

Monday began with a choice regarding the fund raising aspect of the bike ride project. I’m grateful for the feedback I received via comments, email, and personal conversation.

As I thought and prayed about this issue, I became clear that I was operating primarily from a position of fear. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of these internal wrestling matches.

  • I feared disappointing those who offered to help if I didn’t follow their advice.
  • I feared appearing impulsive because I shared my ideas publically before they were fully developed.
  • I feared appearing insensitive if I decided to choose one organization and not the other.
  • I feared not appealing to the broadest possible audience, which is why I chose two causes in the first place.
  • I feared alienating those who might feel strongly about a cause I didn’t choose.


I state these in past tense, but that’s really not accurate. I still experience these fears. Fear doesn’t disappear just because I identify it. It’s still there, hiding in the shadows, and it’ll pounce at every opportunity.

You see the common thread, right? Fear of rejection, fear of what others might think or say. It’s the fear that some group, in some town I’ve never heard of, won’t invite me to speak if I make the wrong choice.

It’s silly when you say it aloud. You and I know that, and it doesn’t matter. The desire for acceptance, the need to be the popular kid, lives deep within many of us. Fear of rejection drives us to do a lot of crazy things.

I’m afraid of other stuff

If I make the wrong choice, the ride might collapse. Fear of failure.

If I reject a cause about which someone feels passionately, they might try to harm me. Crazier things have happened. Fear of retribution.

And on and on. You don’t even have to try—fears seem to multiply themselves.

And the revelation is…

…that I don’t have to choose based on fear. That doesn’t mean pretending they don’t exist. That’s denial, and it’s unhealthy.

It means confronting fear. I name them, face them, and refuse to allow them to dictate my action. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

My friend Scott offered this insight. He said that perhaps God leaves two doors open at times because He wants me to choose. I realized that God may not always care whether I pick A or B or A&B, but He cares a lot that I don’t decide based on fear.

My friend Dick Foth said something in a sermon that helped. Paraphrasing, he said that God will let you know if He has a specific direction for you. And if you don’t hear that sort of guidance, then trust Him and do whatever’s in front of you. He quoted Oswald Chambers, who was asked how to follow Jesus. “Trust God, and take the next step.”

Maybe that’s the lesson in this dilemma. Maybe there isn’t always a right answer. Maybe sometimes God opens two doors and says, “Both are fine. I’ll bless either one. All I ask is that you choose out of freedom and love. Don’t choose based on fear.”

I’m not certain about the “two doors” part, though it sounds right to me.

I’m pretty sure about the freedom and love and no-fear part.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

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

Be Still

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Exodus 14:14: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

When trouble comes, and it will, what do we do? Do we run to the phone to call our friends? Do we stop eating or overeat? Do we stay up nights and worry? Do we abuse alcohol or use other drugs?

God says he will fight for us. God doesn’t lie. What he says, he will do.

I know a godly woman who is fighting the legal system. She can fall apart, gorge on chocolate, or she can trust God. She has chosen to trust God and asks often for prayer support.

God says she needs “only to be still.” To be still means to be calm, free from noise or turbulence. That stillness is an inner and outer one.

That woman continues to work and take care of her family. She spends time with the Lord and has both an inner and outer stillness. What about you?

Dear God, help me trust you. Amen.

Application: What can you do to be still 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

Success And Fear Of Failure

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Do you enjoy the feeling of success?

Earlier this week, the University of Connecticut won the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. Maybe you’re a fan, maybe not. But if you’re a college basketball coach, this is as good as it gets.

At age 68, Jim Calhoun is the oldest coach to ever win the championship. He’s battled health issues, and many speculated that he might retire. His post-game comments didn’t leave much room for debate.

“I intend to continue teaching and coaching basketball as long as that fire and that edge remains. When I lose that edge, I’ll know it’s time to quit.”

Someone asked about the nature of “that edge.” Where does it come from?

“That’s easy,” Calhoun replied. “It’s fear. You fear failure more than you seek success. When you lose that fear of failure, it’s time to quit.”

I think that’s incredibly sad.

I heard an interview the following day in which Calhoun expanded on his thoughts. He believes every big-time coach, and in fact every person who achieves great success in any highly competitive field, is primarily motivated by fear of failure.

He said he’s talked with leaders in business, politics, academics, and (sadly) religion. He believes that those who succeed at the highest levels are driven first and foremost by fear of failure.

I hope he’s wrong, but I suspect there’s too much truth in his words.

Fear is probably our most powerful motivator, at least in the short term. Figure out how to create enough fear and you can get people to do just about anything. Fear gets results.

What’s wrong with that?

If it works, if it creates success, wins championships, and gets you to the top, why is that a bad thing? What’s a little fear if it gets you where you want to go in the end?

I’m wrestling with fear this week. More about the specifics tomorrow, but for me it boils down to one simple fact: fear is always short-term. Fear tells me to ignore long-term consequences. Fear says there’s no right or wrong, there’s only whatever diminishes the immediate fear.

Fear is the enemy’s tool. He desperately wants us to focus on immediate results.

The opposite of fear is …

… courage? That’s close; courage is the will to do what right in the face of fear, but the Bible seems to say that the roots of courage spring from something deeper.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Fear is short-term, love is eternal. Love values principles and long-term consequences. Love completely ignores immediate self-interest.

Whenever I act based on fear, I’m playing the enemy’s game with the enemy’s rules. It’s exactly what he wants, because he understands the simple truth.

Even when I win, I lose.

Are you facing fear right now? What’s the immediate temptation?

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

Serving From Your Sweet Spot

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Have you ever lived in your sweet spot?

Our pastor used a cool phrase this weekend: serving from your sweet spot.

Athletes know about the “sweet spot.” It’s the place where you strike a ball so perfectly that you hardly feel it. In baseball, if you miss it by a millimeter it feels like you hit a boulder. But when you hit that sweet spot perfectly there’s just this soft clicking feeling as the ball seems to jump off the bat.

Musicians hear that sweet spot when they’re blending perfectly with other performers. It’s the difference between playing the right notes and making beautiful music.

I once watched a friend sort through a pile of exotic hardwood scraps as she prepared to complete her latest artwork. Finally she selected one that appeared no different (to me) than the others and cradled it as if she’d discovered a rare, precious stone.

Something about that piece, something I’d never perceive, touched the sweet spot in her creative soul.

I got distracted

I’ll be honest—I sort of zoned out when I heard that phrase. I’m sure the speaker said a lot of interesting stuff after that, but I found myself just thinking about how cool it is that God wants us to live and serve in our own personal sweet spot.

Ever notice how a particular issue just seems to resonate in your heart? I guess you can be cynical and attribute it to effective marketing, but I see a lot of that stuff that doesn’t have much impact on me. Or the impact is just surface emotion that really doesn’t last.

But every once in a while something pops up and just won’t go away. Maybe you even try to ignore it, but it’s just there and eventually you have to deal with it. That’s exactly how rich’s ride has been for me. It simply demanded a definitive YES or NO.

It’s not about easy

Every field of endeavor has its sweet spot, and it’s got nothing to do with easy. Artists, athletes, musicians, writers, architects—anyone who achieves excellence devotes thousands of hours or demanding, sacrificial training and dedication to hone their craft.

God calls us to use our unique gifts to experience the joy of discovering and serving in our own personal sweet spot, but that joy doesn’t preclude hard word and difficulty.

What are your sweet spots?

I’ve discovered two personal sweet spots: hand cycling and public speaking. Here’s a partial list of what makes them “sweet spots” for me:

  • They’re difficult.
  • Despite the struggle, I feel more alive when I finish than when I started.
  • Courage is required. I have to confront fear, trust others, trust God.
  • I grow personally. I feel rewarded for getting outside my personal comfort zone.
  • In the give-and-take, I give more than I take. It’s an opportunity to serve.

How about you? What’s a personal sweet spot? What would you add to the list?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

What is “Good?”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)

The word “good” gets thrown around so casually that it has lost its impact. Ice cream is good. The weather is good. I feel good. You look good. It’s all good!

Sadly, that’s just not true. Everything/all is NOT good. Jesus Himself said that only God is good. And yet, God sent His only Son to show us, through His life and death and resurrection, what is required of us if we claim to belong to the One who is good: we must do/act in a just and fair way (which can only happen if we use God’s plumb line to measure justice); we must love mercy (meaning we appreciate having received it ourselves and willingly offer it to others); and we walk humbly with our God.

All three components are necessary, but the last one keeps the other two in proper perspective. If we are not in an ongoing, humble, personal relationship with a God we truly know and love, we will not be good despite our best efforts. We may intend and attempt justice, but we will fail because we measure justice by criteria other than God’s. We might try to be merciful to others but often find ourselves choosing to withhold that mercy from those we consider “unworthy”—having forgotten how unworthy we ourselves are of receiving mercy from God. Yet where would we be without it?

Jesus is the only One who ever walked this earth and fulfilled God’s requirements of doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with the Father. But because He did that, we can study His earthly life and see the picture He has shown us of what it looks like to walk with the only One who is “good.”

Next time you’re tempted to say something like, “It’s all good,” stop and ask yourself, Is it really? Does whatever I’m referring to as being “good” meet the criteria laid out in the Scriptures? If not, why not ask the Lord to help you walk as Jesus walked and to fulfill the biblical requirements for serving a good God?

Copyright 2010 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored seventeen books. Her newest book “Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World” and Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today (New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

What do you value most?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

I’m not really big on fancy religious words. They’re fun to toss around, but I mostly think the words make it easy to dismiss a deeper issue.

Idolatry is a word like that. For me, the word evokes images of golden calves and ritual sacrifice. Idols are statues of snakes and demons and Greek goddesses, people dancing around them and tossing virgins into pits to appease them. That’s the kind of stuff that happens with idolatry—not much I have to worry about.

I haven’t worshipped a golden calf or sacrificed a virgin for quite some time. I don’t have to be concerned about idolatry, right?

A trick question

We’re doing a study, and the speaker sneaks in this question. “What’s the thing that, if you lost it, you might not want to go on living?”

Nobody mentioned golden calves or cars or bank accounts. Most folks listed kids and loved ones. I admitted that I seriously considered suicide following my accident; I couldn’t see how life in a paralyzed body was worth living.

Everyone in the group had something. Then the speaker dropped the bomb.

“Whatever you just listed is your idol. It’s the thing you value more than God.”

I don’t like that very much. I don’t want to acknowledge that I value my health, my ability to walk and run, more than I value God. But it’s true.

In the months following my injury I did not trust that God could work for good within the broken circumstances of my life. My sense of identity came not from my relationship with Jesus but from my physical ability. So when I lost that, I lost my reason to live.

All this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t grieve when we lose someone or something dear to us. Of course we hurt and mourn those sorts of tragedies.

But when anything aside from God becomes the source of our identity, our reason for moving forward, we’ve created an idol.

I’m afraid that, if I’m honest, my identity comes from a lot of things besides Jesus.

Idols.

What’s the thing that, if you lost it, you might not want to go on living?

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

Rest in God Alone

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Psalm 62:1: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

When a friend of mine feels fatigued, she takes a bubble bath.

My brother and sister-in-law enjoy their Jacuzzi.

A massage relaxes my body. However, as the Scripture says, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” When I spend time in prayer, Bible study, praise, and worship, my soul finds rest that can only be found in God.

False prophets have always existed. They present lies as truth and cause people to turn from God.

However, their lies cannot change the truth. Our bodies may find rest in earthly things, but our souls cannot. Our souls find “rest in God alone.”

False prophets and cults teach that we can earn salvation by works or through someone else. The Bible clearly says that our salvation comes from God.

If a person wanted a Rolex watch, he wouldn’t purchase a Timex and insist it is the same quality. Likewise, I won’t settle for less than God’s rest and his salvation.

Dear God, my soul longs to find rest in you. Amen.

Application: What can you do to find rest in God 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

Biblical Super Heroes?

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Are people who follow Jesus somehow different from everyone else?

It’s sort of a trick question, right?

We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be set apart. 1 Peter 2:9 says we’re “… a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession …”

I don’t know about you, but there’s not much about my actions that people would recognize as royal or holy.

I used to think “God’s people” were probably the professional church folks, the ministers and pastors and priests and missionaries who get paid to be holy. But then I got to know a few of them and discovered that they had their own weaknesses and failures and were generally about as messed up as the rest of us.

At first that realization really disappointed me, but then I realized it was actually a relief. If you didn’t need some kind of password or secret handshake, then maybe I had a shot.

Putting these people in a special class was a mistake. They’re just people.

And the Bible heroes?

So what about the characters from the Bible? Were they different than you and me?

I don’t think so. I think they mostly battled the same doubts and fears we battle. That’s what makes their stories so remarkable.

When we dehumanize these characters and pretend that they didn’t have to overcome the same challenges we encounter, we cheapen their stories and diminish their impact. We imagine that God spoke to them in some magical way that’s different than how He speaks to us, so we can’t possibly act with the same sort of conviction and courage.

Most biblical figures, like contemporary church leaders, aren’t remarkable because God gave them super powers. They faced the same fears, doubts, and temptations we face. They failed and fell short.

They stepped out in faith and took on enormous challenges that made no sense. They faced ridicule and pain and death with courage. They loved those who harmed them.

They were just ordinary people who overcame the same obstacles you and I face to do extraordinary things. They trusted God, listened to His voice, and followed His Spirit’s guidance.

It wasn’t easy for them. For us either.

Do you tend to dismiss Bible characters as superheroes? Does it help to think of them as regular people?

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

Got Doubt?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Do you ever experience doubt?

Imagine a man trudging through the desert in search of water. He’s absolutely certain the water’s right over that next hill.

Of course, he was absolutely certain the water was right over the last hill as well.

The trip didn’t begin like this. When he started, the path was clearly marked and flat and straight. He prayed and planned, sought guidance and advice, received encouragement from people he trusted.

He was sure this was the correct path.

He didn’t worry when the first small hills appeared, or when the terrain became a bit barren and dry. You expect that sort of stuff when you’re on an important mission. He knew the importance of persistance and moving forward in faith.

He hardly noticed when the lush landscape gave way to harsh desert. But suddenly he looked around and realized that he’s slogging endlessly up one hill after another. The trail that  seemed so clear now exists only in his mind—and there only as a faint memory.

Now what?

Perhaps this was never the right path. Perhaps only foolish stubbornness and pride kept him going this far, and wisdom means recognizing that this was simply the wrong idea at the wrong time. Perhaps “one more hill” is the mindless ranting of a heat-scrambled brain.

Or…maybe these obstacles are the enemy’s lies. Maybe the water IS right over that next hill, or the one after that. Maybe giving up now means squandering the opportunity of a lifetime.

Where’s the line between tenacity and obstinance? How does one discern when “enough is enough” and when you “never give up”?

Once there was a fictional character named Don Quixote who tilted at windmills. They wrote romantic songs about his quest, his impossible dream. It’s a great thought, to reach for that unreachable star. It’s a wonderful story.

But, in the end, he was still tilting at windmills.

Got doubt?

How do you respond when you’re sure about something and it doesn’t seem to work out?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2011 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