Archive for February, 2012

Who Nurtures The Seeds?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

My small group is doing a study of Mark. That sort of “coincidence” leads me to wonder if I’m supposed to pay special attention.

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain … Mark 4:26-28

I’ve been really busy lately. I’m working on a book manuscript and a workshop based on RICH’S RIDE. This morning I found myself wondering if I could skip a day of blog writing. I wasn’t exactly talking to myself, but I was asking a few tough questions.

Who’d notice? What difference would one day make?

Do you ever have that kind of internal discussion with yourself?

Then I tried some different questions.

Why do I write a blog? Do I believe the words matter? Do I really believe God works through this blog?

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with
such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” Mark 4:26-32

As you can see, I decided to keep my commitment. I don’t know where these words will go or whom they’ll touch. I don’t know who would notice or what difference they’ll make.

But I do believe God works through the seeds I scatter, even when I don’t see how.

I wonder how many opportunities we miss by insisting on our own notions of worthwhile outcomes, or how often we quit when seeds don’t germinate immediately. Mostly we never fully appreciate the effects of our actions. Persevering, doing what’s right, keeping commitments, and following the path—those are hard things when we can’t see that the effort and sacrifice make any difference. Maybe that’s why Jesus used so many planting analogies.

This blog, like RICH’S RIDE, scatters seeds. I believe God places those seeds in the right lives and adds fertilizer and water. Results sprout and mature in places and ways I’ll never see. I believe the results depend less on the size of the seed and more on the gardener’s faithfulness.

We proceed with faith, hope, and love, trusting that God would use our efforts even when we didn’t understand the specifics. Knowing that God’s at work, and that He always works for good, has to be enough.

God is doing a new thing—all the time, all around you.

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

What is Your Mission?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

word-of-the-week…

Mission

I like questions.

Our small group is working through Mark’s gospel. We’re still in the first chapter and I’m already stuck on a question.

In one short chapter Jesus sees heaven open and hears God’s audible blessing. He calls disciples. He defeats his enemy’s temptations and amazes experts with his knowledge. He cures diseases and banishes evil spirits.

That’s all expected—it’s the sort of thing God’s son does, right? But here’s what I don’t get:

Why keep all this a secret?

He goes off by Himself to be tempted. Why not let everyone watch?

He tells demons not to reveal His identity. When the disciples tell Him crowds are seeking Him, Jesus leaves for other villages. He heals a guy of leprosy and issues stern instructions to keep the news quiet.

Why?

I know the obvious explanations. It wasn’t the right time. He didn’t care about crowds. He wasn’t trying to incite violent revolution.

We can speculate, but whatever the specific reasons we know one thing for sure:

Jesus knew His mission, and nothing was going to distract Him from it.

He knew exactly what He came to accomplish. He followed with single-minded focus the path others couldn’t see.

He didn’t wander aimlessly doing random “good things.” Every action was an intentional choice designed to accomplish His mission. It didn’t matter that others didn’t get it.

We can’t make flawless decisions. But we can choose with purpose—if we take the time to clearly identify the target.

Am I clear about my mission as I begin this week? Are you?

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

Dreams: Sweet Spot Or Comfort Zone?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

A few days ago I tossed out a definition:

A dream is the God-inspired desire to share your unique gifts and passions to serve and make a difference in the world.

Thanks to everyone who shared their responses.

A couple of folks wondered about God-inspired for those who aren’t followers of Jesus. Good point, though I lean toward believing God works in ALL lives. As I once told a friend, God doesn’t need your permission or even your acknowledgment to work within the circumstances of your life.

Another concern addressed the issue of motivation and the notion that dreams seem intensely personal. I completely agree—it’s absolutely essential to examine motives and be as certain as possible that you’re not adopting someone else’s dream.

One issue came up a few times. In summary:

Are fear and/or sacrifice intrinsic to dreams?

I’d say “Yes.” What do you think?

Dreams arise from our personal sweet spot, the intersection of gifts, passions, and needs. But “sweet spot” isn’t the same thing as “comfort zone.”

I believe dreams are God-inspired because He asks us to trust Him, to operate on faith. We can’t follow Jesus while insisting on a safety net. If you step out in faith you’re going to visit some scary places.

If you’re not afraid of falling, if there’s no risk of a skinned knee or a wounded heart, perhaps your vision isn’t big enough. Perhaps you’re limiting God and His inspiration to your safe little comfort zone.

Jesus didn’t play it safe. He didn’t seclude His closest friends within a protective bubble. It seems nearly certain that His invitation to “follow me” includes the probability of risk and sacrifice.

I think this matters. A lot. Sometimes there’s a perception that real faith means the absence of fear. Sometimes we interpret fear as a sign that we’re on the wrong path.

In one of the bible’s most well-known stories, the disciples see Jesus walking toward them after a night in a boat. Walking on the water wasn’t what they expected, and they thought it was a ghost.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)

“Take courage!”

Jesus wasn’t telling them they shouldn’t feel fear, because courage is the willingness to face fear and move forward. Why would they need courage if fear wasn’t present? He’s telling them that they won’t have to face their fear in isolation. “It is I” reminds them that they’re not alone.

God-inspired dreams require courage. Dreams are God’s invitation to step out of the boat and imagine something bigger than ourselves and our
capabilities.

When the disciples confronted fear, Jesus said, “It is I.”

I think He’s still saying that to us.

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

Drop Everything

Friday, February 24th, 2012

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18

So here comes Jesus walking on the beach. He sees Simon and Andrew working at their trade.

The Bible doesn’t tell us whether there was any small talk or whether they knew of Jesus before this meeting. I guess that means it doesn’t really matter.

And Jesus suddenly invites them to leave their equipment and their business, to drop everything, and follow Him. I doubt if they really understood what Jesus meant by “fishing for people.”

Do you have a hard time understanding how they could simply walk away from everything for an invitation that wasn’t entirely clear? No time to put stuff away or even pack supplies. No goodbyes to family—Simon, at least, was married (verse 30). How could they do that?

I don’t understand that kind of trust. I want to think that I wouldn’t hesitate if He walked by and asked me to drop everything. I want to imagine that I wouldn’t ask if I could leave a note or lock the door or at least pack some spare underwear.

But I’m not so sure.

You?

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 Thinking Like the World?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2, NKJV).

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to start thinking like the world? The Scriptures warn us against it, and yet we are immersed in that mindset and culture nearly 24/7, aren’t we? As a result we find ourselves thinking and saying things that simply don’t line up with God’s Word. Our values are deeply affected as well.

Now there’s nothing wrong with material wealth IF that’s God purpose for us and we use it accordingly. But when it becomes our pursuit and purpose? Not such a good thing. We know that, but do our actions reflect it? We know too that God does not honor pride but seeks humility and selflessness. Do we honor people based on the same criteria? And oh, how we know that life isn’t about us or even what happens around us in a temporal world…but do we live in such a way as to model that truth?

It all fell into perspective for me earlier today when I got what I consider “over the moon fantastic” news. Now anyone who knows me expects me to get excited if I get a good book review, sign another contract, get a great speaking gig, etc. But this news flash blew away all the competition. I found out that a woman I’ve long admired and been praying for (even based one of my books on her life) has been released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence for printing/distributing Christian literature in a country that does not permit anyone to do so without government permission (which is nearly impossible to get).

Twelve years. Can you imagine? Twelve years away from family and home and everything comfortable or familiar. Twelve years of hard labor and harsh conditions. Yet twelve years during which she continued to serve God and remained faithful to her walk with Him.

Putting things in proper perspective? Absolutely. As Christians we simply cannot allow ourselves to be “conformed” to the world’s way of thinking, but the only way to avoid that and to “transform” our thinking is to continually dwell in the Scriptures, the only solid and reliable guidelines for maintaining proper perspective. Personally, I’m thanking a courageous woman in a faraway country for giving me this fresh reminder.

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 h

Defining A Dream

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

I’m willing to accept wisdom wherever I can find it, even if the source is an egg-shaped philosopher named Humpty Dumpty. Whenever I struggle to understand a word I’m reminded of this conversation from Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

As I write and speak about RICH’S RIDE I use the term “dream” a lot. It’s a tricky word because it means different things to different people. That’s the sort of confusion that leads to a muddled message and a lot of misunderstanding.

I think Humpty Dumpty’s correct. I can use the word “dream” to mean just what I choose it to mean. But I need to clarify exactly what that is.

So I’ve been wrestling with what I mean by “dream.” I’d appreciate your feedfack.

A dream is the God-inspired desire to share your unique gifts and passions to serve and make a difference in the world.

Think of a personal dream. Does this sentence describe your experience? What’s missing? What doesn’t belong?

What do you think of this definition of a “dream”?

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

Prioritize

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

I watched a big chunk of Whitney Houston’s memorial service this weekend. I can’t escape the haunting sense of enormous waste.

After the songs and stories, Pastor Marvin Winans captured my thoughts with the theme of his powerful, emotional sermon: prioritize. He talked about “putting things in proper order” based on Matthew 6:33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The message was clear. Success, talent, and fame are good things—when placed in proper priority. It’s too easy to judge the missteps of a public figure who got lost in a confusing maze. Better, I think, to extend grace and pray that the rest of us will reflect on our own tendency to get things in the wrong order.

Jesus knew that God wants us to use our gifts and pursue our passions. He designed us for lives of abundance and joy. He also knew that life gets out of whack when we don’t prioritize.

Have a great week.

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

The Word In A Box

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Do you have a “favorite” Bible passage?

I like ice cream. A lot. I like lots of other things—baseball and dogs and riding my bike. But I REALLY LIKE ice cream.

So I struggle in an ice cream shop that offers dozens of choices. They’re all wonderful and choosing one means rejecting the rest. I want that one… no, that one, no …

That’s sort of how it feels when someone asks, “What’s your favorite Bible passage?”

However, I can clearly identify the passage that impacted me most powerfully the first time I really heard its message. I can still see where I sat and feel what I felt when I heard these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1,14

For me these words capture the profound mystery of my faith, the juxtaposition of infinite and personal, the miracle of God becoming man. These verses remind me that this notion of following Jesus is boundless and miraculous and beyond my comprehension.

When I read these words, I imagine a box. Maybe it’s a big box or a small one, but the box represents what we do with Jesus. Since we can’t comprehend an infinite reality, we put Him in a box that represents the small part we can get our minds around.

Then we pretend that the box is all that is. Jesus becomes doctrine, a particular collection of political policies, a national interest, and whatever else we decide to place in the box.

We reduce Jesus to something understandable and therefore more manageable. We’d prefer not being challenged too much or pushed too far from our comfort zone.

The box transforms infinite personal mystery into finite ideology that conforms to our agenda. We worship what’s in the box, our self-created perception of Jesus.

That’s idol worship. Doesn’t matter which box, how big, or what’s in it.

The goal isn’t to create a more accurate box or a bigger box or a more inclusive box. The goal is to understand that we can’t fit THE WORD into ANY box.

Jesus isn’t a set of ideas to be learned and promoted. He’s a person. He didn’t ask us to define or constrain Him.

He invited us to follow Him.

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

A Fresh Appreciation of God

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces (Genesis 15:17, NKJV).

God is known by a lot of names in the Scriptures, but as I read Genesis 15:17 this morning, I couldn’t help but think specifically of two of them: the All-Consuming Fire and the Light of the World. Doesn’t the reference to “a smoking oven” and “a burning torch” in this verse bring those titles to mind?

When I think of God as the All-Consuming Fire, I can’t help but think of judgment — and rightfully so. God is certainly the righteous Judge, and we would do well to keep that in mind. At the same time, Jesus called Himself the “Light of the world,” and aren’t we glad? He came to light the way that delivers us from God’s righteous judgment — the only way, according to Christ Himself.

As I pondered those names and their implications, I couldn’t help but picture the All-Consuming Fire (God the Father) and the Light of the World (God the Son) passing through the bloody pieces of the slain sacrifice, making covenant with one another. We often refer to Genesis 15 as the chapter where God made covenant with Abraham (at that time still called Abram), but Abraham didn’t actively participate in that covenant-making process, did he? He simply accepted the terms of the covenant and reaped the benefits.

Is it any different with us and the new covenant established by the bloody sacrifice of Christ, the Light of the world, the Lamb of God? God the Father and God the Son cut and sealed the covenant; like Abraham, we simply accept the finished work and reap the benefits. There’s nothing we can do to make the covenant greater or lesser, nothing we can do to change the terms or the outcome.

What we can do is cultivate a fresh appreciation for the All-Consuming Fire and the Light of the World who established this covenant for us, and then sent God the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk in it. What a mighty and merciful God we serve!

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

Past

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Why would anyone choose to begin a week by thinking about the past?

Good question, but I’ll bet a lot of us do it. Many folks approach the opportunity of a new beginning while carrying the burden of the past. Weighed down by guilt and regret, they can’t see the promise and opportunity in front of them because they’re looking over their shoulder at a past they cannot change.

There are some things you can do about the past.

  • You can learn from past successes and failures.
  • You can apologize and ask forgiveness for mistakes.
  • You can sometimes make amends for unfortunate choices.

Note that these positive acts do not actually occur in the past. They each require you to look forward, to determine what’s within your control right now.

I believe our spiritual enemy celebrates when we dwell in the past. As long as we’re there we’re prisoners confined by choices and events we can never change. In the prison of the past we cannot accept God’s grace and look forward in hope.

Let’s make this a week of new beginnings and a time to focus on the light of the present rather than the darkness of the past.

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: