Archive for January, 2012

Disconnect

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

DISCONNECT


I learned today that a friend recently suffered a serious injury that threatens his professional future. His response was gratitude, not for the injury but for doctors and for his friends and family. It’s a great example of action and attitude aligned with principles.

I admire that sort of faith. I know I wouldn’t have reacted with that sort of grace, though I know it’s exactly right.

Sometimes I wonder if I really believe what I claim to believe. I wonder that when there’s such a huge disconnect between belief and behavior. Seems like this faith ought to impact my actions more than it does.

Sometimes I seem to make no progress at all toward integrating personal conduct and faith. I’m thankful for grace, but I sure wish I could do a bit better.

Not the most uplifting way to begin the week, but sometimes that’s just the way it is.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

I Just Don’t Always Know

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Yesteray (Maybe I Just Can’t See) I told you the wonderful story of my friend Kelli and her long-term recovery from cancer. I wondered if perhaps Kelli’s ability to not only survive but thrive was a one-degree miracle.

A reader sent a great question: Why did you include “perhaps”? Of course this was a miraculous answer to prayer!

Why “perhaps”? Because I don’t know.

I absolutely believe God answers prayers and always keeps His promises. I know He listens and responds when I share my heart. I believe He causes good to arise from even the most horrific circumstances.

But I don’t claim to know how that works. I’m not certain I can draw a clear cause-effect line from my desires to God’s actions. And I surely can’t categorize when God says YES or NO.

I’ve told this story before.

A pastor in a rural North Dakota church sought God’s help. The farms surrounding his church were struggling through a prolonged dry period. If rain didn’t come soon, an entire year’s crops would be lost.

So the pastor prayed for rain. A few days later it rained. And for the rest of the summer, rain was frequent and plentiful. The farmers harvested record crops, and the pastor thanked God for answering his prayers.

God had been good.

One day as winter approached one of his parishioners appeared in the pastor’s office in great distress. His business was on the brink of failure.

The man ran a large road paving company. The season for this work in North Dakota is relatively short, and excessive rain had prevented him from completing contracted obligations.

Long-time employees who depended on his company for income and benefits were in danger of losing their jobs. Roads would deteriorate over the winter from lack of maintenance, leading to increased taxes for everyone in the county.

As he scrambled for a way to keep his business afloat until the following summer, he asked the pastor to pray for good weather. To avoid disaster, he needed an exceptionally productive season.

One man’s blessing was the other’s disaster. Good … isn’t always as clear as I think.

I’m called to know and become like Jesus. A significant aspect of that journey involves understanding and accepting that God’s thoughts aren’t my thoughts. Same for desires, plans, and perspectives. He’s God. I’m not. I’m glad.

So I find that my conclusions about the short-term circumstances of my life include a lot of “maybe’s.” I know what I know.

I’m okay with what I can’t know.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

Maybe I Just Can’t See

Friday, January 13th, 2012

I met Kelli several weeks ago. In her early twenties she struggled through a tough battle with cancer. As she endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy Kelli consistently prayed two prayers—that she would be able to resume her passion as a triathlete and that the doctors’ pronouncement that she would never be able to have children would be proven wrong.

The cancer and chemo completely zapped her physically. Years after being declared cancer-free, Kelli could barely walk any significant distance. Doctors confirmed that she was unable to become pregnant. She was of course grateful for healing, but wondered about the answers to her other prayers.

When I met Kelli, sixteen years after the treatments ended, she had just completed her first triathlon. She beat her “dream time” by more than fifteen minutes. Perhaps she was inspired by a special cheering section that consisted of her husband and the two young children to whom she gave birth.

I believe God answers our prayers. I’ve heard very smart people describe those answers as YES, NO, and WAIT. I think there’s another possibility.

I’ve been thinking about the notion of a one-degree miracle. Perhaps God answered Kelli’s prayers immediately with a one-degree miracle. Perhaps her path changed and it took sixteen years to perceive the radical, but gradual, alteration that led her to a place of such great joy.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

God often works like that. God promised a child to Abraham and Sarah when they were probably in their seventies, and they waited nearly twenty-five years for Isaac’s birth. The Israelites entered the land of milk and honey more than six hundred years after God’s promise to Abraham. Simeon served his entire life in the Temple before he beheld the Messiah. God seems to operate in terms of long-term trajectories rather than sudden u-turns.

So if He doesn’t seem to be responding, perhaps the answer isn’t NO or WAIT. Maybe He’s doing the new thing we seek right now, but we can’t see His answer from our limited perspective. Maybe He wants us to trust and follow the path of a one-degree miracle.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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 Take On Too Much?

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me (Psalm 23:4, NKJV).


I’m one of those overly responsible people who takes on WAY too much and then feels guilty when I can’t do it all and/or things don’t turn out as expected. (Can anyone out there relate?) And nothing brought that truth closer to home than when my mom passed away a few months ago.

When my dad died twelve years earlier, I promised him on his deathbed that I would take care of Mom. To the best of my ability, I fulfilled that promise. However, after she died I found myself second-guessing every decision I made during her last months/weeks/days—even hours—of life. Could I have done more to make her more comfortable, prolong her life, ease her concerns, meet her needs?

The answer is that I might have—or not. I never came to a clear answer on those questions, I’m afraid, though I have been assured by many that I cared for her well and honored her end-of-life wishes, which she had clearly stated in writing. Still, my mind drifts back to those last minutes when I knew she was slipping away, and I think things like: Why didn’t I pray with her more, read her more scriptures, sing her favorite hymns, whisper more words of reassurance?

As I wrestled with those questions one day, the Lord took me straight to Psalm 23 and pointed out to me that I was trying to usurp His place. I’m the One who walks with my children through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, carrying them if need be. It isn’t your job. Leave it alone.

Since then I have come to realize how often I overstep my bounds and try to do for others what only God can do. Meeting our responsibilities is a good thing; going beyond that is a step of arrogance that says I can step into God’s shoes and do His job.

Whoa! That realization continues to stop me short when I find myself trying to “fix” people or situations. We may excuse that behavior and even consider ourselves extraordinary people for trying to achieve such results. But the bottom line is, God is the only One who saves and keeps us, who heals and carries us—even through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. May we learn to walk in humility before Him and do only what He has called and equipped us to do…in His Name.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2009-2012 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

Spiritual Abuse by Clergy

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
I covered spiritual abuse by spouses or partners in a previous post (November 28, 2011). Today I will address spiritual abuse by clergy.

1.   Some clergy say there is no domestic violence in their church. Maybe in “that bad area of town,” but not in their church.
2.   Some clergy report no man in their church would hurt a woman.
3.  Most clergy lack education and training in domestic violence issues.
4.  Most clergy don’t preach against domestic violence in their midweek or Sunday services.
5.  Most clergy don’t have the names and phone numbers of local shelters.
6.  Many clergy don’t refer abused women to agencies and shelters where they can receive legal and social assistance.
7.  Some clergy excuse the man’s behavior and insist the woman must have done something wrong to aggravate her husband.
8.  Some clergy won’t confront abusive men.
9.  Most clergy have hindered rather than helped women get away from abusive men. Thus they have subjected the women and their children to greater danger.

10.  Some clergy emphasize Ephesians 5:22 that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.“ However, they ignore the verse before it that says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2010-2012, 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

Change

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

If you’re committed to doing something differently in 2012 you might be thinking about

CHANGE

In Isaiah 43:18 God says, “I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up! Do you not perceive it?”

I believe He’s doing a new thing. My problem is the “perceiving” part. Last week I posted a story over at Rich’s Ride called The First Ride. Here’s  my take on the lesson from that simple event.

Life mostly doesn’t consist of dramatic changes and momentous decisions. Your present situation is the amalgamation of thousands of small choices that accumulate over months and years. We want to believe we can change course in an instant, but altering your long-term path is more like steering an aircraft carrier. Rather than instantaneous ninety-degree turns, life is more about one-degree corrections.

We don’t like slow, small change. We want to see results right now, and one-degree turns take a long time to show up. On a ten-foot journey a one-degree course change only alters your final position by about two inches. But if you maintain that one-degree alteration for one thousand miles your location changes by more than seventeen miles.

Each of us is one small choice, a single one-degree course correction, from a radically altered life. The changes don’t usually show up immediately. Life is long-term because God is long-term. Certainly there are times when God steps in and causes a one-eighty. But more often He works through everyday situations and circumstances.

I moved a bike I couldn’t move. That’s a miracle that changed my course, but nobody watching on that day would have recognized it. It’s the kind of miracle that’s only apparent downstream after hundreds and thousands of miles when you understand that you’re a long distance from where the original course would have led. It’s a one-degree miracle, and it alters everything that follows.

Perhaps it’s not water to wine, but it’s no less a miracle.

Mostly I think God works in our lives through one-degree miracles. We need to open our eyes and look carefully if we want to perceive them.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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 on the Safe Side?

Monday, January 9th, 2012

There are usually two sides:
the one dangerous–the other safe;
the one is uncertain–and the other is sure.

It is always the wisest–to be found on the safe side!

Look at the unbeliever:
He denies the Bible to be God’s book.
He walks by his own reason.
He gratifies his senses and his lusts.
He lives in sin.
He must soon die.
He has no Savior.
He has no true hope.
If the Bible is false–then he is safe; BUT
if the Bible is true–then he is damned forever!

He is certainly not on the safe side!

There are many things in the Bible which he does not like.
He is prejudiced against it.
It never prophecies good concerning him–but always evil.
It requires him to change his present sinful course–but he loves it.
He loves sin–and the Bible condemns it.
He gratifies the lusts of the flesh–and the Bible bids him to mortify them.
In a word, there is as much opposition between the Bible and him–as between light and darkness, holiness and sin, truth and error. Therefore he hates it!

At the best, with him all is uncertain, unsatisfactory, and vexatious.

He is certainly not on the safe side!

Now look at the true Christian:
He believes the Bible to be from God. He has examined it. He has evidence of its inspiration in his heart. He fully believes it.
What the Bible says of himself as a sinner–he knows to be true.
What it says of Jesus as a Savior–he has proved to be a fact.
As guilty–he has applied to God for pardon, and obtained it.
As impure–he has sought the cleansing operations of the Holy Spirit, and has experienced them.
His guilt is gone–therefore he has no slavish fears.
His soul is justified–therefore he has peace with God.
He approves of the inspired precepts–and regulates his life by them.
He carries his cares to God–and is sustained under them.
He realizes that God is his Friend, his Father, and his everlasting Portion.
He is peaceful.
He is often happy.
To him death has no sting–and eternity has no terror.
He knows Jesus as his Savior–and trusts in Him.
He knows God as his Father–and walks with Him.
He knows the Holy Spirit as his comforting Teacher–and listens to Him.

He is, perhaps, more tried than the unbeliever–but he has supports, consolations, and pleasures–of which the unbeliever knows nothing. He lives to bless others, to honor God, to prepare for a glorious immortality.

He would not change his worst day–for the unbeliever’s best day!

He is on the safe side!

If the unbeliever should be right–then the Christian is no loser.

But if the Christian is right–and he is–then the unbeliever is the biggest loser–an infinite loser!

Reader, on which side are you? There is but one safe side.

There is no safety for a sinner now–but at the Cross!

There will be no safety at death and judgment–but in Christ!

He who is on the safe side now–will be on the safe side then!

There will be no changing sides then!

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne! All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand–and the goats at His left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father–inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world!’ (the safe side)
Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones–into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons!’  (the perilous side)

And they will go away into eternal punishment–but the righteous will go into eternal life!” Matthew 25:31-46

~ James Smith, 1802—1862

Don’t Plan. Prepare. Whose Mission Is It?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

What if someone wrote a blog post and suddenly a discussion broke out?

That happened yesterday over at 300wordsaday in  a reflection titled Don’t Plan. Prepare Jon’s thoughts and his readers’ comments prompted me to examine my New Year’s notions about resolutions and goals. I’ve felt an anxious discomfort, and Jon’s article helped me understand why.

I imagine we’ve all been involved with an organization or two that’s constructed an elaborate vision/mission statement. Mostly they’re forgotten and ignored. The only beneficiaries are the consultants who get paid to direct a frustrating exercise in futility.

So what’s the lesson? Are we better off simply moving forward with no sense at all of what we wish to accomplish? Are we supposed to just do stuff and trust that somehow it’ll all work out?

We’ve all heard the adage If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. But what’s the alternative? I think Jon’s correct—the alternative is preparation.

Jon lists some great aspects to preparation:

  • Decide to want to learn.
  • Develop skills.
  • Remove obstacles.
  • Learn to wait.

I’d add one more:

Listen.

Preparing implies that you’re preparing for something to happen. All that training and learning and waiting has to lead to readiness. There’s not much point in being all primed and set at the starting line if you ignore the starter.

And there’s the lurking question: Who’s the starter? Who decides when it’s time to go? And, most importantly, who chooses the correct race?

Call them whatever you wish—goals, dreams, resolutions, themes—they have to lead me toward Christ. I can’t follow Him if I’m busy chasing my own self-centered agenda. That’s why those artificially-crafted mission statements fade into oblivion.

Whatever I’m doing–even if I’m diligently and faithfully preparing–I must be willing to allow Him to interrupt. It’s one of the lessons I learned from Rich’s Ride:

Great preparation is the key to flexibility.

I have to seek to know Jesus and listen for His voice. And when I hear it, I have to be prepared and willing to obey.

And until then, I prepare and wait and listen.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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

Let Your Light Shine !

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

And God saw the light, that it was good;
and God divided the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:4, NKJV).

With the dawn of another new year, I found myself back in Genesis, once again reading the glorious creation account. What a story! Unequaled in splendor or drama, we see our amazing God speak all of creation into existence—including light and darkness. And immediately after creating light, the Scriptures tell us that God “saw the light, that it was good,” and then He “divided the light from the darkness.”

Perhaps that statement could simply stand on its own—meaning that God provided for both day and night—but several other verses of Scripture (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:11; 1 John 1:5-6) declare that God is Light, that there is no darkness in Him at all, and that we, as His children, should also walk in the light and have no darkness within ourselves.

Now we know that we can’t avoid those who belong to the kingdom of darkness, nor should we, as we are called to shine the light on them and to help them find their way out of that darkness and back to God. But shining our light to dispel darkness is a far cry from stepping into and fellowshipping with that darkness. It is a distinction we dare not ignore as we move into a new year of serving God and living for Him.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, as they usually fall by the wayside somewhere around mid-February. But this year I am determined to spend more time in the presence of the One who is Light and in whom there is absolutely no darkness at all. As a result, I believe His light will shine more brightly in me and will more effectively draw those who are lost in darkness. The worst thing I could do is to become enmeshed in even the slightest bit of that darkness myself and therefore prevent others from seeing it.

That is my determination for 2012, and I pray you will join me. Jesus said He was the Light of the world, but once He ascended into heaven He left the shining of that light to us. Will you join me in this determination to let our light shine in the darkness? I will pray for you to do so; will you also pray for me? For when God saw the light, He immediately declared that it was good.

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2009-2012 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

No Greater Love

More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

How To Be A Better Funnel

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

What does this graphic say to you?

The inspiration for my funky image was a poster created by a student, Ryan Morgan, in response to What did you learn in school?

It’s a thought provoking image that got me thinking in a couple of directions. I’ll share one today and another next time.

As we establish goals for 2012, each of us is, in some sense, a funnel. We’re bombarded by inputs clamoring for attention. Either actively or passively, we all decide how we’ll spend the 1440 minutes God gives us each day.

From an amazing array of options, something emerges from the bottom of the funnel that represents our judgment about the proper use of that particular hour, day, month, or year.

We all have access to the same inputs. We control that part of the diagram to some extent through what we choose to read (or not), the media we consume, and the people with whom we associate.

There’s also a certain amount of the culture from which we can’t realistically isolate ourselves. Unless we cloister ourselves in a monastery, we interact with random inputs from coworkers, neighbors, and media.

All of that stuff, the parts we intentionally choose and those we encounter just by living in society, is what enters the top of the funnel. Some might argue that wisdom lies in tight control of the input. I’m not sure about that.

The real wisdom, the art of living, seems to reside in how we process those inputs. That’s the funnel. That’s what determines whether the output is light or darkness.

The goal, it seems, is to become a better, more intentional funnel.

How can you be a better funnel in 2012?

Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Dixon
Copyright 2008-2012 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