Archive for November, 2012

Taking Courage in the Storms of Life

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“Take courage! It is I–do not be afraid!” Mark 6:50

Jesus lives! His people may dispel their misgivings–for Omnipotence treads the waves! To sense it may seem at times to be otherwise– accident and chance may appear to regulate human allotments; but not so! “The Lord’s voice is upon the waters!” He sits at the helm, guiding the tempest-tossed bark–and guiding it well.

How often does He come to us as He did to the disciples in that midnight hour, when all seems lost, “in the fourth watch of the night,”–when we least looked for Him; or when, like the shipwrecked apostle, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved!”–how often just at that moment, is the word of Jesus heard floating over the billows, “Take courage! It is I–do not be afraid!”

Believer, are you in trouble? Listen to the voice in the storm, “It is I–do not be afraid!” He seems to say: “It was I–who roused the storm! It is I–who when it has done its work, will calm it, and say, ‘Peace, be still.’ Every wave rolls at My bidding–every trial is My appointment–all have some gracious end; they are not sent to dash you against the sunken rocks–but to waft you nearer to Heaven!”

Is it sickness? “I am He who ordained your sicknesses! The weary wasted frame, and the nights of languishing–were sent by Me!”

Is it bereavement? “I am ‘the Brother’ born for adversity! Your loved and lost were plucked away by Me!”

Is it death? “I am the ‘Abolisher of death,’ seated by your side to calm the waves of ebbing life! It is I–about to fetch My pilgrim home. It is My voice that speaks: the Master has come–and calls for you!”

Reader, you will have reason yet to praise your God for every such storm! This is the history of every heavenly voyager, “SO He brings them to their desired haven.”

And what, then, should your attitude be? “Looking unto Jesus!” Looking away from self, and sin, and human props, and earthly refuges and confidences–and fixing the eye of unwavering and unflinching faith on a reigning Savior! Ah, how a real quickening sight of Christ–dispels all guilty fears! “Take courage! It is I–do not be afraid!”

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Freed from My Chains

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Psalm 116:16: “O LORD . . . you have freed me from my chains.”

I’ve never been imprisoned physically, but I was in prison spiritually and emotionally. Before I became a Christian, I was in chains to sin and separated from God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, I was set free. I know when I die I will go straight to heaven. Praise God.

Before I became a Christian and for many years afterward, I was in chains to fear and perfectionism. I was a slave to people pleasing. I thank God for his grace and strength to be freed from my chains of fear and perfectionism.

Freedom from my chains helps me to focus on God and to please him instead of anyone else.

Perhaps you are in chains to the appearance of your home and need to have a spotless home every day of the week. I remember those days in my life.

Perhaps you are in chains to what people think of your Christmas decorations and spend too much time and money on them.

Maybe you are a slave to people pleasing and will buy Christmas gifts beyond what you can afford.

Perhaps you will take time you don’t have to bake Christmas cookies like I did one year because you think “everyone” will take homemade cookies to the party.
Maybe you will write and mail several hundred Christmas cards although you would prefer to donate the money to your favorite charity.

Whatever the chains, allow God to set you free.

Dear God, please free me from my chains. Amen.

Application: In what area of your life will you ask God to free you this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2010-2012, Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVCAll 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.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Ever Been A Victim?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I have.

I observed an all-too-familiar situation this weekend. The details don’t matter, but the principle is essential.

It sounds like the lyrics to a bad country song. When you look around at where you are, the one thing you know for sure is…there you are.

Circumstances just are. Perhaps we could have made better choices, done something different, to change things. Or maybe not. Doesn’t really matter, because that’s all in the past.

Wherever you are…there you are.

I’ve been there a million times and listened to the same stupid lie. You know, the one that says I’m stuck here with no choices. I’m a victim of my circumstances.

It’s a lie. I’m not a victim. Unless I choose to be.

Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (I think they turned that into a country song, too.)

I can’t always choose my circumstances, where I stand (or sit). But I CAN choose my attitude. I can decide to give up and wallow in my misery. Or I can choose to face forward with hope, a confident expectation that God will keep His promises.

I don’t say that lightly. I don’t claim it’s easy, because I know from painful personal experience that it’s not.

But “victim” is a choice, one that limits options and makes dreams seem impossible. Hope is a choice, too.

Hope changes what’s possible.

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

Still and Patient in the Face of Crisis

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”

My introverted friends know naturally how to be still before the Lord. As an extrovert, that’s not my personality. Can any of you identify with me?

Then those words, “wait patiently,” stand out. We live in a fast-paced world with email and Fax. When I attempted to register the protection plan for my computer, the lady told me to FAX her my receipt. I couldn’t but offered to mail her a copy. She told me to take a picture of the receipt with my cellphone and email it to her as an attachment. I guess she saw no reason to wait. So I followed her instructions and emailed the receipt to her.

How long should we be still before the Lord? A pastor told me to be still until I heard from the Lord. “I sure hope he doesn’t take long,” I said.

Each of us will face many crises in life. Years ago, when the doctor informed me the cancer was in one lymph node and adjacent to it, he gave me two weeks to decide on treatment. I prayed and cried and prayed and cried some more. I didn’t want chemotherapy.

When I sat in silence before the Lord, I sensed he wanted me to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation. I didn’t like that answer and waited patiently for another one. No other message came. I obeyed the Lord and did both. That was eleven years and seven months ago.

Perhaps you’ve lost a spouse or a job. Maybe you can’t decide whether to move out of state. You or your parents may face an illness other than cancer and have decisions to make. Whatever the situation is, you can “be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”

Dear God, help me be still before you. Amen.

Application: When will you wait patiently for the LORD this week?

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.
If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through
her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

The Little Stuff, Isn’t Little

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Our small group has been working through the book of Mark. It’s curious, because Mark relates incidents without a lot of explanation or background. If you don’t look carefully it can seem like a collection of isolated events.

In Mark 10, Jesus wanders around Judea with His disciples. He does a few miracles, heals some folks, and blesses the children. Just an ordinary month or so in the life of God’s Son, I guess.

Then He encounters a rich man who wants to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. You can read the entire exchange in Mark 10:17-31, but Jesus offers a difficult response: “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

There’s a lot to this story. Maybe we’ll talk more about it sometime. It’s definitely NOT another source of guilt, an eleventh commandment for every rich person (that’s nearly all of us) to sell everything and give to the poor. But that’s not where I want to focus.

In verse 21, immediately before Jesus’ statement to the rich young man, Mark writes:

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

I’ll bet most of us read right over that statement. It’s almost a throwaway line before the big conversation, the main point, of the story.

Except, it’s not. It IS the main point. If you miss it, the rest gets misunderstood. Jesus wasn’t commanding a punishment; He was offering, in love, an opportunity to trade up to something better. I’ll leave you to ponder that if you wish.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my thinking. Someone tells me their story, and I get really excited for them. I buy in, I want to see them move forward and succeed. I want to help…good thing so far, right?

But then a funny thing happens. I begin creating all kinds of expectations. I put the person on a pedestal because he’s got this great story and I see all the cool possibilities. In my mind, you’d think he’s about to do water-to-wine and leap semi-tall buildings in a single bound. Even worse, that’s what I expect.

Of course she can’t, and doesn’t even want to. Those were never part of her goals. But suddenly I’m disappointed because my nutty, self-created expectations weren’t met.

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”

Jesus saw the man’s heart, and loved him as he was, right where he was.

I need to learn from His example. I need to love the person without expectations or categories, without wondering how I can change or make him better.

When I truly listen to someone’s story, take the time to live with the dream and understand it, I might hear the heart behind it.

When someone tells me their story, they don’t need a Savior. That job’s filled.

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

Your Divine Lifeguard

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

What comfort there is to know that we are being watched over.

This life provides some pretty treacherous waters, and we need to know that there is a divine lifeguard, ready to pull us up at a moment’s notice. The Lord watches over us, not to stifle or oppress us, but to insure us a full, happy, and healthy life. We can tread life’s waters knowing that there is nothing to fear, for the Lord is watching.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2010-2012, Chaplain Michael Clark
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Chaplain Clark is a Speaker and Writer,
Addiction Counselor/Professional
as well as a Recovery Support Specialist
Shadows of the Cross Ministries, Prison and Recovery Ministry

I Will Not Be Shaken

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Psalm 62:6: “He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”

The wild frantic hours of Black Friday in the USA have turned into a Black Friday month of November. The ads in the newspaper and the commercials on TV call our attention to all the bargains. Some people are already camping overnight in front of stores for the early bird specials the next morning.

If it weren’t for the Lord, all that noise and traffic would shake me. He is my fortress.

No matter what happens in or out of my home, the Lord “alone is my rock and my salvation.”

When I think of a rock, I think of something stable and secure, something that will hold me up regardless of the circumstances.

I enjoy climbing the rocks at the local beach. I always look for the biggest one to stand on and watch the waves. I feel safe on that big rock as I listen to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

Sometimes, holiday trials or challenges feel like waves crashing against us. In times like these, we know we have the Lord who is our rock, our salvation, and our fortress.

Perhaps your challenge won’t be the Black Friday sales. Instead it will be a family dinner for Thanksgiving. You will have to buy groceries, clean house, and fix a feast for the family. Some family members may not get along with others. Politics and religion may cause heated arguments.

We are blessed to know the Lord. We can say with the psalmist, “I will not be shaken.”

Dear God, help me remember you are my rock, my salvation, and my fortress. Amen.

Application: In what situation this week will you remember that you need not be shaken?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

You can listen to the archives of both parts of my interview with Dr. James Dobson on his program, Family Talk. The interview is entitled “Finding Joy Amidst Cancer and Loss I-II.” You can also download it from the archives at http://www.drjamesdobson.org/Broadcasts/Archive 

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.

If you would like to have her speak for your organization or church, please contact her through her website: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Is God Always Good?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Recently it seems like a disproportionate number of folks in my extended circle have encountered various kinds of adversity—illness, financial setbacks, relationship struggles, and personal challenges.

I don’t want to seem uncaring or matter-of-fact about my friends’ pain. Actually, that’s not what I want to write about.

What strikes me is our tendency to celebrate a desirable outcome by highlighting God’s goodness.

Cancer disappears? God is great! Found a job? Praise God! Kids are healthy? Isn’t God good?

Of course God is good in each of those wonderful situations. But what about those times when things aren’t all roses and sunshine? Where’s God’s goodness when Mom’s cancer spreads? What happened to this good God when a little girl is kidnapped and, despite the collective prayers of an entire community, her abused body is discovered several days later?

When something like that happens, did God stop being good?

As my good friend Clark Osborn correctly observes, “The goodness of God isn’t measured by our circumstances.”

A year ago, Rich’s Ride reached New Orleans. That finish line represented more than the completion of a 1500-mile journey. It represented the culmination of a twenty-five year story of God’s faithfulness. If there was ever a day to proclaim, “God is good!” that was such a day.

But my mind goes back to the December morning in 1987 when I fell from a roof and shattered three vertebrae in my neck. I got out of bed as a relatively healthy mid-thirties guy who planned to referee a high school basketball game that evening. I fell asleep—sort of—paralyzed below my chest.

And God was good on that day as well. God was good as Jesus stood beside me and wept with me. God was, is, and always will be good.

Of course we ought to proclaim God’s incredible goodness in times of blessing and celebration.

But let’s be careful not to perceive God’s eternal, unchanging goodness through the lens of our limited worldly circumstances.

God IS good. Period.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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

Insiders: Doing Something Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Friday, November 16th, 2012

INSIDERS

Do you ever think about how much of what we do is aimed at insiders?

I’m not sure why, but recently I’m struck by how my “church stuff” resembles a closed circle. It just doesn’t seem like I’m doing much to turn that circle into more of a spiral that reaches out and makes Jesus a bit more relevant to the daily lives of folks in my community.

Most of the folks who read this blog are followers of Jesus. Same with my books. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but I wonder if I’m just taking the easy route. Folks who already know about Him are generally a pretty receptive audience. We can create some nice warm-fuzzies by huddling up with the home team.

But, to abuse the sports metaphor, I’m feeling as if I spend a lot of time in the comfort and safety of the locker room. Bible studies, small groups, worship services—they seem to me like the preparation, the practices, and the intra-squad scrimmages.

I need that continuing preparation, but at some point I need to do something beyond the home team. I need to play the game, and I’m realizing I don’t really know what that means. I guess this week’s as good as any to begin figuring it out.

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

Are You Finding Wisdom to be Illusive?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Wisdom is that illusive quality we respect in others and find so difficult to develop in ourselves.

Yet God promises it to those who really ask.

But remember the secret of ASKing — asking, seeking, and knocking. Or better yet, check out Proverbs 2. Wisdom is ours only if we seek it above all other possessions and value it above all other diversions.

God longs to impart it, but there is something about wisdom that demands we value it before we can receive it.

Proverbs 2

1  My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you,
2  Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;
3  For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;
4  If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5  Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God.
6  For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8  Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
9  Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course.
10  For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11  Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you,
12  To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things;
13  From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness;
14  Who delight in doing evil And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
15  Whose paths are crooked, And who are devious in their ways;
16  To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words;
17  That leaves the companion of her youth And forgets the covenant of her God;
18  For her house sinks down to death And her tracks lead to the dead;
19  None who go to her return again, Nor do they reach the paths of life.
20  So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous.
21  For the upright will live in the land And the blameless will remain in it;
22  But the wicked will be cut off from the land And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog here
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !

Copyright 2010-2012, Chaplain Michael Clark
All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Chaplain Clark is a Speaker and Writer,
Addiction Counselor/Professional
as well as a Recovery Support Specialist
Shadows of the Cross Ministries, Prison and Recovery Ministry