Archive for July, 2011

What makes the Bible come alive for you?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

I hate to admit it, but I read a lot of Scripture without really “getting into” it. I’ll read a story and it makes sense, but it’s really about someone else and doesn’t really touch me.

Too often the Bible characters seem other-worldly, like some sort of special breed of human different from me. God spoke to them differently. They somehow didn’t have the same doubts, fears, and failures as me.

Does that happen to you?

Get up and walk

In Acts 3, Peter and John encounter a lame man begging at the temple gates. Peter says (verse 6), “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

The man stood for the first time in his forty years. Everyone was amazed, and Peter took the opportunity to preach a powerful sermon. People were converted.

Great story, but it’ll never happen to me.

Now fast-forward to Acts 4. The Jewish religious leaders are not happy with this event or the fact that Peter is proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. So they arrest Peter and John and, because it’s evening, toss them in jail until the next morning.

What’s John thinking?

This is the sort of thing I normally skip over—but imagine what John must have been thinking.

He’s sitting in jail next to Peter, awaiting trial by the same religious leaders who killed Jesus a few weeks earlier. And Peter’s talking tough, but he talked tough before Jesus’ arrest, too. He said he’d never leave Him, that he’d follow Jesus to death if necessary.

Then, when the pressure was on, he ran away and denied even knowing Jesus.

Don’t you think John had to wonder whether Peter would hang in there or whether he’d bail? When the rulers confronted them in the morning, would he stand with Pentecost Peter or Passover Peter?

I’ll bet John lost some sleep that night wondering whether Peter would cave in as he’d done before and pass all of the blame to his partner. I’ll bet that, despite everything he’d seen, John still wasn’t quite sure what to expect when they were brought before the rulers and questioned, “By what power or what name did you do this?”

I’ll bet John felt a rush of relief when Peter stood and said:

“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The leaders were astonished as well, and sent these two uneducated men away so they could figure out how to deal with them. When they finally called them back, they commanded them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name.

This time both Peter and John replied.

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

So the leaders muttered a bunch of threats and let them go.

I wonder

I wonder if God used this story to reassure John that things really had changed, that he could count on Peter and his other friends. I wonder if the apostles stood together later on because of this interaction.

I can’t know, of course, but this sort of digging helps me. It helps to remember that, while Peter and John saw the central events of human history, they were still ordinary men with fears and questions.

It helps to remember that God answered their questions just like he answers mine—through apparently ordinary relationships and events. They were the chosen ones, but he answered their prayers and provided what they needed even when they felt uncertain.

And he still does. That helps me.

How do you avoid making Bible characters hard to identify with because they seem so different from you?

What’s your concept of “justice”?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

I (sort of) grew up during the sixties.

I didn’t do drugs or burn my draft card, but like every teenager of my generation I was influenced by the hippie culture. I wore my share of odd clothing (when Dad wasn’t looking, mostly) and I adopted the universal greeting of the time:

“Peace.”

Nothing wrong with that, I guess. All thing being equal, I’m pretty much in favor of peace. I must admit, though, that like most perfunctory greetings it was fairly hollow.

This week our small group watched a video presentation by Timothy Keller in which he discussed the Biblical meaning of justice. He began by explaining the word shalom.

Shalom is the word from Scripture that’s usually translated as “peace,” but it’s really much deeper than that. Peace, to us, usually means the absence of violence or hostility. Shalom carries a much richer meaning.

In Keller’s words, “Shalom means total flourishing in absolutely every dimension: physically, relationally, socially, and spiritually.”

In other words, shalom offers an image of the way things ought to be, the world as God intended it.

Relationship

Since God is all about relationship, Keller contends that shalom must be about authentic relationships with God, with others, with self, and with the surrounding environment.

Shalom isn’t simply the absence of hostility, it’s the presence of deep, rich, authentic relationships in every aspect of life.

Micah 6:8 has always seemed like a fundamental verse to me:

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I’ve always wondered about the command to “act justly.” Exactly what does that mean?

Shalom

Perhaps shalom provides guidance. God wants me to use my gifts, resources, and love to act in the interest of shalom. I think that might be what it means to “act justly.”

Wherever I encounter people or relationships that are not completely flourishing in absolutely every dimension, God calls me to do what I can to intervene, to restore the shalom He intended.

That’s the Biblical concept of justice. It’s love in action in the world.

I wish you shalom.

What’s your take on this notion of Biblical justice?

Find rest, O my soul, in God Alone!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011


“I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

There is no rest for the Christian in this world. There will be always something to disturb, perplex or distress him; it is an enemy’s land.

But Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” He does so by enabling us to . . .
rely on His Word,
recognize His hand,
submit to His will, and
trust in His perfect work.

He assures us . . .
that our sins are forgiven;
that we are safe in His keeping;
that His presence shall always be with us; and
that all things shall work together for our eternal good.

We can rest on His faithfulness–for He has been tried, and found faithful.

We can rest on His love–for He loves us to the uttermost.

We can rest on His power–for it is ever engaged on our behalf.

We can rest on His covenant–for it is ordered in all things and sure.

We can rest on His blood–for it speaks peace, pardon, and acceptance with God.

We can rest at His feet–for there we are safe, and can never be injured.

We cannot rest . . .
on our graces,
on our comforts,
on our friends, or
on our possessions.

We may rest on Jesus alone.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken!” Psalm 62:5-6

~ James Smith, “The Pastor’s Morning Visit”

Feeling crushed lately? You are not alone.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you,as though some strange thing happened to you (1 Peter 4:12, NKJV).

In the past few weeks I’ve heard from people who are at the end of their rope, beaten down with trials and suffering that seem to have no end. They feel they cannot endure another minute and even find themselves questioning God and His faithfulness.

In the above verse, Peter was trying to help us see that as believers, trials are not the exception but rather the norm. We belong to Christ, who was beaten, tortured, and killed; should we truly expect any less?

But we do, don’t we? Particularly if we live in a country or culture or time when Christians aren’t openly persecuted. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be tried in other ways, indeed to the point of exhaustion, where we question if we can go on another day—another minute.

Christians throughout the centuries and even today in many countries understand these fiery trials only too well. One Chinese Christian, who had suffered beyond human endurance and therefore had learned to depend on God when all else was lost, said this:

“Where there is no cross, there is no crown. This lesson cannot be learned from books, and men do not usually taste this sweetness. This rich life does not exist in a comfortable environment. If the spices are not refined to become oil, the fragrance of the perfume cannot flow forth; if the grapes are not crushed in the vat, they will not become wine.”

Feeling crushed lately? You are not alone. Not only do other Christians truly “feel your pain” because they too are in the refining process, but Jesus Christ Himself endured the crushing so the fragrance of new life could burst forth in us.

Take courage in the verse that follows the one above: “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13, NKJV). God is faithful. Your sufferings are not in vain. Your tears do not fall unnoticed. He will bring you to the place of exceeding joy.

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

Who Are All These People?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Are you a “people watcher”?

Yesterday Becky and I did a nice holiday bike ride on the wonderful Fort Collins trails.

One fun aspect of city bike trails is the variety of fellow travelers, especially on a holiday. You see every possible configuration, from serious athletes to families enjoying a leisurely morning in the Colorado sunshine.

I’m usually not much of a “people watcher.” Becky would say I’m sort of oblivious. Normally I pay more attention to the surroundings and my own workout, but yesterday for some reason I was especially aware of the spectrum of folks we encountered. I’ve been thinking about it ever since because of the superficial judgments I formed about them.

This guy had a scowl on his face—probably a bad attitude. That lady has a really friendly-looking dog—she’s probably nice. That guy should take better care of HIS dog—he’s not very thoughtful.

Do you do stuff like that?

I even judged people based on exercise styles. Runners with a relaxed, efficient stride are somehow kind and generous. Those who run poorly, all tight and struggling, must be angry or at least not very smart. Cyclists didn’t escape my inadvertent internal scale, and they even got evaluated based on equipment. Too fancy—must be trying to impress, probably compensating somehow.

I wasn’t aware as I was categorizing these complete strangers, and that’s what bothers me. If I form such unfair judgments on a bike trail, I’m pretty sure I do it in other situations as well.

That guy with the scowl? Maybe he just lost his job, or his wife’s sick. I didn’t consider those possibilities.

I’m not very proud of my ride yesterday. I guess it’s not a big deal—I really didn’t hurt anyone or anything, right? Does it matter?

In Matthew 25:34:46, Jesus talked to some folks who asked a similar question.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

I guess it matters.

Am I the only one who makes these sorts of superficial judgments? Any hints for avoiding this negative habit?

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

Controlled by other people’s opinions?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Do you think you’re aware of how much you’re controlled by other people’s opinions?

If you follow along at all, you know I’m planning this epic adventure at the end of the summer. I’m excited, but there’s this one teeny tiny itsy bitsy problem.

Actually, it’s not a small problem at all. One part of Rich’s Ride just isn’t working out.

Honestly, it hasn’t been working out for quite a while. While everything else seems to be falling into place, every time I tackle this particular issue it feels like I’m pounding a square peg into a round hole with a screwdriver.

Today one of my really wise friends asked me about it. I listed about a hundred excuses for why it couldn’t change; he looked perplexed and dropped the question.

After he left I got past the excuses and realized that I’ve been clinging to a bad situation out of fear. Nothing all that surprising there, until I asked myself what I’m afraid of.

I’m afraid of you…

…or, more precisely, I’m afraid of what you’ll think about me if I change my mind after all this time and planning.

It’s not just you. I’m afraid of my church family, my small group, my Facebook friends, the audiences I’ve talked to—heck, I’m afraid of people who don’t even know about this crazy project yet. My fear of their opinions, what they’ll think of me, has literally immobilized me on this issue.

Have I prayed about it? Yes, and I think I’ve been feeling a pretty strong sense that I needed to move in a different direction. But that doesn’t help much when I value the Spirit’s guidance less than popular opinion.

Dog treats

Folks like to complement Monte for his obedient nature. “He’ll do anything to please you.”

Nice sentiment, but the fact is he’s really well trained. It’s fun to believe he wants to please me, but really he’ll do anything for a dog biscuit.

I’m not much different; I’ll do anything to get others to think highly of me. And as long as that’s the case, neither Monte nor I have much freedom.

I don’t know many authentically free people who really aren’t swayed by what others think. I know a few who go to great lengths to look as if they don’t care, but I think they actually might care more than most.

Somewhere there’s a line between caring about people and caring so much about their opinion of me that I become like a dog chasing treats.

I haven’t found that line … yet.

What’s one area where you allow others’ opinions to control 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

Are You Guilty on All Counts?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

“Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17, NKJV).

I’m ashamed to admit that when the verdict was rendered in the Casey Anthony trial, my first reaction was the thought, She got away with murder! But then I heard that still, small voice inside me say, “So did you.”

How quickly we forget! Like Casey Anthony and everyone else who has ever walked this earth—with the single exception of the Son of God Himself—I was lost in sin and headed for hell, guilty on all counts, living on Death Row without even realizing it. And then, on July 5, 1974 (exactly 37 years to the day prior to the announcement of Casey Anthony’s “not guilty” verdict), I was “ambushed by Jesus of Nazareth” and declared “not guilty.” God, in His sovereignty and by His mercy and grace, plucked me off of Death Row and translated me from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son. What a miracle! And yet, 37 years later, how readily I respond to what appears a travesty of justice with words of condemnation.

Forgive me, Lord! It is not that God at that moment dealt with my heart to believe Casey Anthony was indeed innocent of the crime of killing her precious daughter, but instead that He reminded me of the old saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” God was not caught off-guard by this unexpected verdict, and He declares in His Word that He is “not mocked.” Our sins will certainly “find us out”—not just Casey Anthony’s but ours too, unless they are forgiven and “under the blood” of the Savior who already went to Death Row and beyond for us.

Did Casey Anthony get away with murder? I don’t know…but God does. And He loves her so much that He sent His only Son to die for her so that she could have the opportunity to turn to Him for forgiveness. May we pray that she does, for as we are reminded in the Scriptures, it is only by His mercies that we all are not consumed and rightfully cast into hell.

What a mighty and merciful God we serve! May we walk humbly before Him, remembering that we are only declared “not guilty” because of the sacrifice of the only truly “not guilty” One Himself.

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

Unable to Forgive? A Righteous Man Rises Again

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Proverbs 24:16: “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”

This Scripture should comfort us. Sometimes we make a mistake and rehearse it over and over in our minds. We ask ourselves how we could have been so dumb.

A man told me he couldn’t ask his wife for forgiveness because he made several poor decisions in the past. He said it was no use. She probably wanted a divorce anyway.

A teenager said he hurt his mother when he moved out to live with his father. He believed he couldn’t ask his mother if he could live with her again. He couldn’t forgive himself for hurting her and moving.

We don’t have to hang our heads in guilt, shame, and defeat.

We don’t have to be stuck in the past. We can ask for forgiveness, make amends, learn from our mistakes, and move on. We also need to remember we aren’t perfect. Only God is, and he helps us get up when we fall.

Dear God, I’ve fallen so many times. Please forgive me. Amen.

Application: When will you make amends and move on?

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

Rest

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Are you good at “rest”? I’m not.

I’ve never really thought about rest as an intentional part of life. Rest was what you did when there wasn’t anything else to do—or when you were too tired to do anything else. Rest was for lazy guys.

In our culture we live for the weekends, when we play harder than we work. We work-work-work all week, then pack as much “leisure activity” as possible into those precious days off. We slog into Monday so we can recover from the weekend.

My focus on training for RICH’S RIDE causes me to think about rest. The ride begins in about seventy days, so I’m in a hurry to get ready. But training doesn’t work like that. You can’t do it all at once.

Hard work—yes. But training has to include recovery time. Whether you like it or not, you have to rest.

I’m forcing myself to take a break from training one day each week. It’s hard, because I enjoy riding and I feel like I’m losing an opportunity to improve. But I know that in the bigger picture it’s the best plan.

It’s part of God’s original design. He never intended the 24/7/365 cram-more-into-every-hour lifestyle we’ve created. Even God took a break.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Genesis 2:2

God’s plan is always long-term and big-picture. He’s never about hurrying to get it all done today. It’s more important to get it right than to get it fast. Perhaps we could learn from that.

My desire is to live life on purpose. That means working hard when I work, playing hard when I play, and resting deeply when I rest.

Isn’t that what Jesus did?

Honestly, I’m not all that good at any of those. But I can choose to get a bit better.

Are you good at intentionally resting? Any secrets you can share with us?

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 Real Bottom Line?

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Do you think of yourself as a process person or a results person?

Yesterday a friend asked how my training was going. I replied that it felt great to be riding again.

“Yeah,” He said, “but how’s it going?”

I’m kind of dense, so I repeated my response. “It feels so good to be back outside, working out, cranking around on the trails in the fresh air. It’s great.”

My buddy looked perplexed. “So, how’s it going?”

I felt like we were speaking two different languages that shared common words. Finally, after he repeated his question three times, I understood.

He knows I’m preparing for a 1500-mile ride. He’s wondering if I’ll be ready. He wanted to know how far and how fast.

He wanted to know about the results.

That’s where our culture’s focused, right? It’s all about the bottom line, production, and outcomes. How you do it—don’t care. Just get ‘er done.

Training

When you’re training, focusing too much on results can mess you up. Training’s all about developing good habits, building fitness slowly and correctly. If you try to go too fast too far too soon you actually impede progress and develop bad habits that cause bigger problems down the road.

When you train you take a long-term view. You know that doing things correctly will lead to good results, so you don’t focus on the results. Training is about the process.

Here’s the thing—for followers of Jesus, this life is ALL training. This world isn’t the end. Everything here is temporary. In fact, the outcome’s already determined.

That’s not how we behave. We act as though we’re responsible for the quarterly bottom line when everything about Scripture tells us that God is in charge of the outcomes.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

Note subject and verb: God causes…

You and I are not responsible for the results!

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8(b)

That sounds like training to me—developing good habits, doing things right.

I can let go of the guilt and worry about how it’ll turn out—God will take care of that. I don’t have to fuss with results.

I can focus on training, developing my personal spiritual fitness. I can do whatever I do the right way and trust God to work out the bottom line.

He even provides a personal trainer who showed the way and offers the simple invitation, “Follow me.”

What results do you need to release to 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