Archive for August, 2011

How To Utilize A Shield

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Have you ever actually used a shield?

I’m not sure I ever have, at least not for real. But I’ve seen shields used a lot in movies and never really thought about how to use one until our pastor made an interesting observation a few weekends ago.

It’s almost impossible to use a shield effectively if you’re running away from the enemy.

Picture that in your mind. I suppose it’s technically possible to hold a shield behind you while you flee, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used like that. A shield works best when you’re facing your enemy head-on.

God’s Armor

One of the well-known passages in the Bible describes putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17):

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We’re not warned here about a human enemy, but rather about our spiritual enemy. Personally, I’ve always thought about avoiding confrontations with THAT enemy. I’m afraid of him. But this tells me something different.

I’m instructed to stand my ground and stand firm. And then comes that statement about “… the shield of faith that can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

I can’t picture blocking those flaming arrows as I turn my back and run in fear. The shield of faith loses its effectiveness.

But when I face the enemy squarely, confront my fear head-on, I can deploy that shield and hold my ground with confidence.

Ironic, isn’t it? Facing my greatest fear also allows me to employ my most effective defense.

But turning toward an enemy who’s shooting flaming arrows at me is scary.

Knowing that it makes sense doesn’t make it much easier.

How can we learn to face the thing we fear so we can stand firm behind the shield of faith?
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

My Strength and My Song

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Exodus 15:2: “The LORD is my strength and my song.”

In spite of injuries and pain, I felt determined to fulfill my commitments to speak out of town and to present a workshop at a Christian writers’ conference in Philadelphia.

My physical therapist didn’t think the long drive was a good idea. However, I sensed God wanted me to go forward with my plans. I would go in the LORD’S strength, not mine.

God provided a dear Christian sister to help me drive.

I praised God before and during the trip. At each event, I reminded myself that “The LORD is my strength and my song.”

We all face challenges daily. In our own strength, we may feel scared and powerless. We may think we can’t sing.

When we feel that way, we can recite Exodus 15:2 and claim it for our lives.

Dear God, thank you that the “LORD is my strength and my song.” Amen.

Application: In what situation do you need to claim Exodus 15:2?

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

Revolutionizing Christian Thought

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I know—the title’s kind of brash. But I believe I may have stumbled upon an idea that will make me a rock star among Christian thinkers.

I have discovered a formula for following Jesus.

I know how improbable that sounds, but I’ve done it. Follow my three-step formula and you’ll be a guaranteed follower of Jesus.

Great thinkers have searched for centuries, and here it is. You get the first glimpse.

RICH’S THREE STEP FORMULA FOR FOLLOWING JESUS (RTSFFFJ):

Step 1: Wherever you are, find a footprint that belongs to Jesus.

Step 2: Place your foot exactly in that footprint.

Step 3: Repeat steps 1 & 2 every moment for the rest of your life.

What do you think? Best-selling book? Big-time speaking tour? Media sensation?

Wait just a moment

Perhaps you’re thinking I oversold my formula, that it’s not as easy as I made it sound. But I didn’t say it was easy. It’s not.

Step 1 requires study, discernment, and relationship. At any point in the journey there may be hundreds of possible footprints from which to choose. Recognizing which one belongs to Him means you have to get to know Him and His Dad. You need to know which voices speak for Him and which are imposters.

Step 2 requires faith, trust, and courage. You must believe that His footprint will always be there, even when it’s hard to see. You must trust that it leads in the best direction despite all sorts of contrary messages. You must step in His footprint even when it’s a scary place.

Step 3 requires discipline. Other footprints are easier, cheaper, and seem like more fun.

So I admit it’s difficult. But who imagined that reforming two thousand years of Christian thought would be simple?

But I think RTSFFFJ has a lot of promise. I think it would get where I want to go, and where God wants me to go. How about you?

Now I just need to figure out a better acronym.

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

Letter Or Spirit?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Do you think it matters “why” you do the right thing?

Training for Rich’s Ride is teaching me a lot. If nothing else, riding mostly alone for 3-4 hours per day provides a lot of time to think.

I thought I knew about getting in shape. There’s a process—you do certain things, follow the steps, and eventually you reach your goals. But I’ve never trained for this kind of long-term endurance event. I’m discovering that doing the training, following the steps, is really not the biggest part of the battle.

The hardest aspect of this kind of training is mental. I’m finding that I need to change how I perceive what I’m doing.

I remind myself several times during each workout why I’m doing the work. I want to honor God, serve others, share my story. The exercise is a means to an end; it’s not the end.

You may think it doesn’t matter what I’m thinking as long as I get the workout done, but I’m finding that it matters a lot. When I forget the foundations, exercise becomes drudgery, a series of expected behaviors I “have to” complete. All I want is to get done. The joy vanishes and workouts become self-imposed rules I “have to” follow.

That might work for a short period, but over time frustration builds and motivation lags. I begin seeking shortcuts and excuses, or I do the work half-heartedly so I can check it off the list. That’s not a formula for long-term success.

Look at the previous three paragraphs. Change the context. Replace “exercise” with your job, church, quiet time, marriage, friendship, family time, or whatever adds long-term quality to your life.

  • Have you reduced an essential area of life to a perfunctory set of behaviors?
  • Are you experiencing a sense of “have to”?
  • Are you conforming to rules or formulas?
  • Are you fulfilling the “letter of the law” or the spirit behind it?

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6

I always thought religion was about a long list of rules, things you should do and shouldn’t do—mostly things you shouldn’t do. And I was right. That’s what religion is about.

But following Jesus is something entirely different. He doesn’t want me to change my behavior, He wants to change ME. He doesn’t want me to conform to some code. He wants me to allow Him to transform my heart.

The letter kills. The Spirit gives life.

Has “letter” replaced “Spirit” in some important aspect of life? What needs to change?

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

My Father!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

“My Father!” Jeremiah 3:4

This is a child’s cry!

It is full of meaning.

It is full of love.

It is full of comfort.

It is a title which the Lord loves to hear us use!

Lord, give us the Spirit of adoption this morning,
and let us see and feel, that we are Your children!

Believer!
To whom will you repair in trouble?
To whom will you look in difficulty?
To whom will you cry in danger?
From whom will you ask when in need?
Surely I hear you say, “My Father!”

Who speaks to you in the Bible?
Who tries you by His providence?
Who chastens you with His rod?
Who purifies and cleanses you?
Who humbles and reproves you?
Again you will say, “My Father!”

Who supports the world?
Who controls the nations?
Who chains up Satan?
Who comforts the believer?
Who pardons the backslider?
Again you reply, “My Father!”

Then I exhort you to . . .
trust your Father’s Word,
abide in your Father’s house,
expect from your Father’s hand,
and say in every trial:
“I will arise and go to my Father!”

~ James Smith

Self-defeating Thought Patterns

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Have you ever been at a place where you thought you just couldn’t keep going?

I was cranking up a long hill last week. I felt hot and tired and thirsty, and the shade from that big tree looked awfully inviting. It felt like I couldn’t possibly make it to the top without stopping.

Internal dialogue:

Me: I can’t make it. I gotta stop and rest. I can’t keep going.

Some other voice, probably a long-forgotten junior high gym teacher: Keep going. It’s all in your head.

Guess what — junior-high-gym-teacher-voice was right. How do I know? Because I kept going and made it to the top.

So here’s the question: What exactly was in my head? The adversity was real. The sweat, thirst, aching muscles—those certainly were NOT in my head. But something far more destructive inhabited my mind, a pattern of thought that prevents me from riding as well as I’m physically capable.

I quit much too easily, not just in cycling but in life. I’m too quick to say “it’s hopeless,” throw up my hands in despair, and surrender. Somewhere along the line I learned to simply fold at the first sign of trouble.

I’m not sure I’m alone in this self-defeating thought pattern. Seems like it’s pretty common to stop halfway up the hill.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a “just suck it up” message. Certainly there are times when we reach the end of our ability to continue. I’ve been there a time or two, nowhere to turn, no more strength, end of the rope, no strength left to even tie a knot.

When you really can’t find a way forward, that’s when God shows up. When I really was hopeless, I kept going only through God’s grace. In fact, that’s the story of Relentless Grace. I had nothing left, and God provided.

But honestly, most of the time when I say “I just can’t keep going” it’s just like that day on the hill. It’s hard and I’m tired and I want an easier, more comfortable way to reach the top.

When that happens, I think God says, “Keep going. It’s all in your head.”

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds. Ephesians 4:22-23

I sense that He wants me to change those old thought patterns, to stop quitting when it’s difficult, to develop my character by facing my fears and pushing through adversity. I think He wants me to stop settling for “easy” and “safe.” I think He wants me to climb the hills I encounter in life because that’s how I get stronger.

I wonder what mountains I might conquer if I really trusted that He’d support me when I expended everything.

What do you think? Where are you stopping halfway up the hill?

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 You Set Your Love Upon Christ?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

“Because he has set his love upon Me,
therefore I will deliver him;…
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:14, 16).


Just hours before my mom passed into the presence of her Savior, I read Psalm 91 to her. That has long been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, but it seemed fresh to me as I read it aloud that morning and pondered what it meant to set our love upon Christ. I believe it’s important to consider that statement, as the following promises within that chapter are dependent upon our fulfilling that particular condition.

To say we love the Lord is no light statement. When we love others, we usually want to spend time with them. We honor them with our words and our actions. We tell other people about them. We consider their desires and feelings when making choices in our own lives.

I’ve been contemplating those aspects of love quite a bit since that day at my mother’s bedside. Nothing brings our focus to the eternal more than someone’s passing from this earth, does it? And well it should. For one day we will each walk through that “valley of the shadow of death.” Will we confidently be able to say at that moment that we have set our love upon Him? Today is the day to make that choice. Loving Him will enable us to love others as ourselves—and that, as Jesus reminded us, is the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets.

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

Train Your Brain

Monday, August 8th, 2011

How much do you read?

Want to consider a staggering statistic?

One-third of high school graduates never read another book in their entire lives, along with 42% of college graduates.

Wow.

We can’t get enough reality TV. Sports are not only broadcast but analyzed in paralyzing detail. And when the real games aren’t sufficient, there’s fantasy sports.

Video games consume endless hours with mindless, often violent, content. Visit a local park and see how many folks are glued to their mobile devices while they “enjoy nature.”

80% of American families did not purchase or read a book last year.

Last time I talked (Spiritual Junk Food) about paying as much attention to our mental, emotional, and spiritual “nutrition” as we do to what we eat. While I try to eat a bit better as I train for a bike ride, perhaps I need to turn off the electronic junk food and let my mind absorb something a bit more nutritious.

Paul may have been thinking of us when he wrote:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

I don’t read enough books, maybe three or four per year. I read a lot online, but there’s something about the deeper arguments and stories of a book that’s missing in shorter articles.

Nobody else can control what you and I consume. Government food pyramids don’t impact my Oreo consumption, and you can’t force me to turn
off the TV and open a book.

God gave us amazing brains. We’re free to turn them to mush with a diet of milk and junk food. Or we can choose to grow up and consume some
solid food.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

If I’m to know what’s true, noble, and right, I’m not going to get it from a steady diet of Dancing With The Stars.

I have a sense that God designed our brains with something more substantial in mind.

Do you have enough solid food in your mental diet?

Spiritual Junk Food

Friday, August 5th, 2011

How much do you think about what you eat?

Today I want to link two apparently unrelated topics.

Topic #1

I’m typically not good about eating healthy. I’m desperately searching for a dietician who’ll endorse my belief that Oreos should be a basic food group. So far, no luck.

However, as I train for a 1500-mile bike ride, I’m cranking more miles more frequently. I’m discovering that I have to eat differently if I want to maintain eight hundred miles per month for the next three months. Ice cream just won’t suffice.

Topic #2

My friend’s eighty-five-year-old grandfather lives alone. He won’t move from his house, won’t allow anyone to help, and rarely goes out except for a quick meal—alone. He’s still quite sharp mentally, but he’s chosen to isolate himself. Very sad.

When his wife died about eighteen months ago, he turned on his television to news talk. He hasn’t turned it off since—literally. Twenty-four hours a day, even while he sleeps, he’s bombarded with conflict and stories of doom and disaster.

This poor man used to be cheerful, outgoing, and friendly. He’s become frightened, discouraged, and utterly hopeless. He trusts no one and won’t allow even family members to get close because he fears they’ll harm him or steal from him.

In my admittedly warped mind, these topics connect. Do you see it?

The link

We all understand the impact of what we put into our bodies. I’d love a BIG MAC and fries, but my bike rides will suffer if I give in to that temptation too often. That’s not news to anyone.

But it seems to me that my friend’s grandpa has fed his mind and heart an eighteen month diet of mental and emotional junk food. He’s force-fed himself a constant stream of negative, frightening, overly-sensationalized garbage. The result is a tragedy—a mind poisoned by angry rhetoric and a heart shriveled by fear.

I thought about this as I listened—briefly—to what passed for political “discussion” over the weekend. I suppose I should care—I DO care about the outcome—but I’ve decided it’s simply not healthy to feed my brain that sort of diet.

For me, listening to and participating in the name-calling, blaming, and finger-pointing is equivalent to mentally eating from a dumpster. If that’s what it takes to be “involved,” count me out.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I think this verse is Scripture’s instruction to eat our mental vegetables. It’s the spiritual food pyramid.

It’s God telling us what really nourishes our minds, hearts, and souls.

We all know about diets. What would a healthy mental, emotional, spiritual diet look like?

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

On the Death of a Loved One

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren,
concerning those who have fallen asleep,
lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,
even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NKJV).

On Wednesday, August 3, just a few minutes past noon, my husband and I sat at my 90-year-old mother’s bedside and watched her slip into eternity. What mixed emotions accompanied her “graduation to heaven,” though we’d long anticipated it. We knew we were saying goodbye to her earthly body, but “until we meet again” to her spirit. It would be foolish to think that just because we know where she is and that we will see her again that we don’t feel grief or sorrow, but that sorrow is not the same as what is felt by those whose loved ones die without knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I experienced much the same thing when my dad died almost 12 years ago, though the immediate joy was perhaps a bit more intense, as he didn’t receive Jesus as Savior until the last week of his life—something we’d prayed for over many years. Mom, on the other hand, came to know Christ in a personal way at the age of 50, and God graciously gave her 40 more years to enjoy relationship with Him here on earth.

Whether we are blessed to receive Christ as children and live our entire life with our hand tucked securely in His or we mercifully come to him on our death bed, those of us who bid farewell to born-again loved ones can rejoice even as we grieve. To witness the end of my mom’s earthly suffering was to rejoice that she had at last stepped into the presence of the One who held her in His nail-scarred hands throughout her earthly journey and even as she passed through the valley of the shadow of death. One day I too will graduate to heaven and will at last see my Savior face to face—as well as all those who have gone on before me.

Indeed, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope, for Christ alone is our Hope. Thank You, Jesus!

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