Archive for March, 2012

Where Are We Going?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

One day Jesus took a walk on the beach and saw two brothers named Simon and Andrew working as 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.

I would have asked where we were going. If you’re asked to take a trip, isn’t it fair to know at least the general path you’re going to follow? Shouldn’t you get to know what’s going to happen, what’s going to be expected from you, before you commit?

I think God’s answer is, “No.”

I’ve spent the last eighteen months or so immersed in this notion of chasing dreams, and if I’ve learned one thing it’s that God isn’t usually going to show me the entire course before I begin. Even when I think I know what’s supposed to happen or what He wants, I’m likely to be wrong.

It’s up to me to prepare as much as possible, but at some point I have to take a step without knowing much more than the next step along the path. There has to be a certain amount of trust that God will show me what I need to know when I need to know it.

Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t claim to know exactly how that works, and I certainly don’t claim that it’s easy or comfortable to commit to a process when you don’t know where it’s leading. And I don’t claim some heroic sense of faith about stepping into the unknown.

But I’m pretty sure that God’s not about easy or comfortable. I think He values character over comfort and motives over results or even specific purposes. And I think He totally understands how hard it is to do something completely on faith, especially when it’s scary. That’s why He offers to journey with us.

He didn’t say, “Go.” He said, Come, follow me.”

I once read a survey that claimed that more than 90% of the respondents wanted to write a book and fewer than 1% actually wrote one. So what distinguished the 1%? Was it talent? Vision? Purpose? God’s guidance?

I don’t think it was any of those. I think what distinguished the 1% was that at some point they actually sat down and wrote. They started.

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

That “God-inspired desire” is present in every person.

To every one of us He says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18)

To every one of us He says, “Come, follow me.”

I think He’s still saying those things. Right now.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

Where is Your Dwelling Place?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty (Psalm 84:1)!

I’m in a season of traveling right now, flying in and out of national and international airports, speaking here and teaching there, promoting and signing books, staying in hotels or with friends, and often eating on the run. Each time I complete a trip and the plane’s wheels touch down on the runway, I think, “There’s no place like home!”

It’s true, isn’t it? Even if you enjoy traveling (it has long since lost its glamour for me!), it’s still a good feeling to come home at last. I enjoy being reunited with my loved ones, experiencing the familiar, settling back into my own personal “nest.” Yet I know that this is truly not my home—at least, not for much longer. One day, very possibly sooner than we would imagine, we will each breathe our last on this earth and, assuming we have received Jesus as our personal Savior, be transported into His presence. Then we can truly say we are home at last. The best part isn’t so much that our home is some glorious place where sin and sickness and death no longer exist, but that our eternal home is with God—in His very presence. For that is what makes it heaven.

Through the millennia those who dismiss and reject God spend their earthly lives trying to create their own version of heaven, yet all fail miserably. Even an island paradise on earth would be hell without the presence and love of God. But with Him? Ah, there’s the difference. Even when I’m landing in another city or country where I’ve never been before, where I may not know the geography or customs or even the language, focusing on the fact that God is with me wherever I go reminds me that I truly haven’t left home at all.

There is an old saying that “home is where the heart is.” If my heart is full of love for Christ and I know His Spirit dwells within me, then I never really leave home at all—no matter where my body goes. And that puts an entirely different perspective on it all, doesn’t it?

The Lord’s dwelling place is indeed lovely, and I for one plan to spend every moment there, both now and for all eternity.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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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

Are You Drained?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Today’s word-of-the-week…
DRAINED

Do you ever begin a week with a drained battery?

Do you know the feeling? The sun rises on a fresh week and it’s like you forgot to plug in the charger and there’s no emotional or spiritual juice.

You know better, which makes it even worse. Maybe you even know why it happened. But “knowing” doesn’t make much difference when the battery’s drained. Grumbling about it and beating yourself up doesn’t help, either. That just consumes more unavailable energy.

It’s easy to face the promise of a new week with a fully-charged emotional/spiritual battery. I try to do that. So do you.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes Monday morning shows up and there’s stuff to do and you can’t imagine how it’s going to happen. I hope you’re not there, but if you are let’s remember a couple of important facts.

First, “completely drained” is a lie. Jesus didn’t leave the building, and we can lean on Him when we’re not sure we can stand on our own. The reserves are stronger than we can imagine.

Second, we know where to go to get recharged.

I’m going to get going with this new week, trusting that reserve power to keep me going while I get my battery recharged.

Whatever your battery status, I hope you…have a great week.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

Inherit the Land (meekness vs. weakness)

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Psalm 37:11: “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”

When some people think of meekness, they think of weakness or of being a doormat.

That is not what Scripture means. According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, meekness has to do with our relationship with God. “It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to accept some of God’s dealings with me as good. I haven’t fought an angel and ended up with a limp as Jacob in the Old Testament did, but I’ve thought about it.

I initially disputed the good of breast cancer and the loss of my only child.

Now that I see how God has used both trials for good in my life and the lives of others.

I love to hear that I’ve won or inherited something. Don’t you? God says, “The meek will inherit the land.” Since God’s gifts are good and perfect, I want that land.

God also promises the meek will “enjoy great peace.” With the bad economy and all its frightening consequences, peace is rare, great peace more so.

Dear God, help me have a meek spirit with you. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to enjoy great peace?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

You Can’t Make Deals with God

Monday, March 26th, 2012


Simply, [the one who sins] must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.

Having done this let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner; and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.

~ A. W. Tozer

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Obedience And The Easy Good

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Are you obedient?

Our small group is studying Mark’s gospel. This week we read these verses:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Mark 1:35-38

He’d been teaching and healing, helping people. He was doing good things in this town, and obviously the word had spread. And now He walked away from them.

How did He find that kind of courage? How could He be so absolutely certain of His mission that He turned away from people who needed Him?

It’s one thing to wonder what I’m supposed to do. In fact, perhaps the best excuse for inaction is ‘I’m not sure what God wants.” I can procrastinate forever as long as I seek absolute certainty about God’s direction.

But what if I know what He wants and it doesn’t make sense? Or it’s scary or risky or uncomfortable?

People were hungry to hear Jesus. They needed His healing touch. I’m sure He wanted to meet their needs. Teaching and healing are good things. I think it was hard for Jesus to walk away.

I don’t know what He said when He went off to pray, but I imagine He talked to God about two things. I think He asked for clarity about His mission, and I think He asked for the courage to turn away from easy good things in order to focus on the hard great thing He came to accomplish.

I can find a lot of easy good things to do. They make me feel good, they help people, and others are impressed. I don’t need much help from God.

I’m afraid of hard great things.

That’s where obedience begins.

I need the courage to turn away from “easy good” and face “hard great.”

Can you think of areas where you use easy good things to avoid hard great things?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

How Can I Help You?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

2 Kings 4:2: “Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you?’”

Many times we focus on the problem instead of on God.

In 2 Kings 4:1, a widow does just that. She tells the prophet Elisha her husband is dead and “his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

When we tell someone about our problem, we don’t expect the person to ask us what we have in our home. However, in verse two, Elisha not only asks how he can help her. He also asks the widow, “What do you have in your house?”

She doesn’t ask what kind of a crazy question that is. She answers that she has a little oil.

Elisha doesn’t ask her what she expects to do with a little oil, but someone else might have.

In verses three and four, he tells her to ask all her neighbors for empty jars and then go in her house with her sons, close the door, and pour oil into all the jars.

Would we have obeyed? The widow does. Verses five and six tell us she pours oil until all the jars are full. God loves to shower us with blessings.

When the widow has no more jars to fill, the oil stops flowing.

What a woman of faith. In verse seven, she goes back to Elisha and tells him what happened. He simply says, “Go sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Dear God, help me focus on you when I have a problem. Amen.

Application: What solution has God offered you that you’ll obey even though it doesn’t make sense?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

Shouldn’t We Have Open Doors?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Who are you?

I’m thinking this week about Identity and the values that define me. Last time (Big ‘Ol House) I talked about inclusion, the notion God’s house provides a really big place with lots of room for differences. To carry that metaphor forward, I believe that big ‘ol house has doors that swing freely in both directions. I (try to) value freedom from fear and coercion.

Teaching adolescents for thirty-five years left me with no hair and a conviction that fear and punishment stunt learning and growth. You may be able to control behavior with fear, but behavior control isn’t education.

I don’t follow Jesus because I fear what’ll happen if I don’t. I think that would make Him incredibly sad. Here’s a piece of what I wrote about coercion in Relentless Grace:

God is not about coercion. God wants me to be whole, happy, and free, and His revelation makes it clear how I can accomplish that. God is too often characterized as threatening; “Do what I command or else” comprises a common misperception of God’s message. God doesn’t threaten.

However, God does make it clear that His Creation has rules and actions have consequences. I tell a child not to touch the fire because he’ll burn his hand. That’s not a threat, it’s education, intended to help the child to avoid pain. God tells me certain actions will harm me because He loves me and wants the best for me. Sometimes the message seems so simple: Here’s how I created you, here’s what will ultimately make you happy and whole.

“But WHY can’t I just do as I wish?” That question’s as silly as the child asking why he can’t touch the fire if he wishes. Why does sin have consequences? Because you can’t value relationship and just do as you please. Because the way you treat yourself, others, and God matters.

But didn’t God coerce and threaten Adam and Eve? Nope. He tried to keep them safe from the evil He knew was present. He knew the harm that would come to them if they followed their own desires and reasoning. God’s command to avoid the tree and its fruit wasn’t a threat designed to control them. It was a warning to those He loved. God knew the consequences. He wanted them to avoid the pain.

God also doesn’t “punish.” Punishment is artificial, designed to coerce someone into following a certain path out of fear. “Don’t touch the fire or I’ll hit you” is a confusing message. Does that imply that it’s OK to touch the fire as long as nobody else knows I did it?

“Hitting” is punishment, while the burn from the fire is a consequence. I don’t think God ever “hits” me to frighten me into doing what He wants, but He does communicate clearly that my decisions and actions have worldly and eternal consequences.

Jesus didn’t threaten or coerce people into accepting Him. He stayed with them, hung out, and allowed their experience to show them the truth. Their lives didn’t change because of what He said, but because they felt the freedom and fullness of relationship with Him.

God’s big ‘ol house is a place of freedom and joy. In that kind of house there’s no place for fear and punishment.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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.c

Is Forgiveness a Four-Letter Word?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Many of us may lose a mother, a sister, an aunt, a child or a friend to domestic violence.

Someone else may come along and tell us, “You need to forgive the batterer.” However, we may wonder why we need to forgive him after the horrible things he did.

We may secretly hope the batterer gets the electric chair or life in prison without parole and no visitors.

Vivid memories of the tragedy and the abuse that led up to it swirl in our minds.

In Jeremiah 17:9, God tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

God knew the heart of man and the sins man would commit. He knew what that batterer would do to our loved ones, and He also knew how we would react. Jesus says in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

It’s not easy to forgive, but it’s not impossible either.

Jesus speaks several times in the New Testament about forgiveness.

It must be that Jesus doesn’t consider forgiveness a four-letter word.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
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

Who do I try to be? What do I try to value?

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Previously I wrote about Identity. I’m thinking about who I am, or more accurately who I try to be. I know who I  am—I’m a mess. True, but not very helpful.

So the question is: who do I try to be? In other words, what do I (try to) value?

Here’s one conclusion: I (try to) value inclusion. I believe God offers space in a big ol’ house.

In the preface to Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis provides a beautiful metaphor.

I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions-as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.

It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.

In plain language, the question should never be: “Do I like that kind of service?” but “Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?”

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those Who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.

In Lewis’ terms, I (try to) value the largest possible house. Everyone who professes to follow Jesus ought to have a place. I think God sees the church as a big ol’ house. And what matters most is that we bring people inside, not which room they ultimately choose.

Passionate discussions have a place in the house, but they belong within the individual rooms. My job is to make others feel welcome and safe. I (try to) love, respect, and seek and common ground with those who’ve chosen other rooms, especially those with whom I disagree. I’d rather be kind than right.

As Lewis wrote, “That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”

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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