Archive for March, 2013

Tough Questions Do Not Have Easy Answers

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

We met Sunday evening with the youth group at Alsbury Baptist Church in suburban Fort Worth. Kids are my favorite audience, and I enjoyed their questions. Then, just as we were about to wrap up the evening, a hand appeared.

“How do you get there? How do you get from that place of hopeless and nothing matters to the hope you’re talking about?”

It wasn’t an academic question. The inquiry clearly came from a place of deep pain and authentic desperation.

Wow. Anyone got a quick answer for that one?

You don’t, of course, because there’s no “easy button” for that kind of hurt. You don’t dismiss that one with “just trust God and it’ll all be okay.”

The answer is Jesus—in blue jeans and a t-shirt. The answer is people willing to come along, join the journey, share the struggle.

That means, of course, the answer is us. You. Me.

Jesus said, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

He was telling us we didn’t have to live in fear because He’s with us. He asks us to be His hands and feet when people need someone to reach out and touch.

He’s still asking.

Do we tend to offer the easy answer, the quick fix, instead of taking the longer view and walking with someone who’s hurting?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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 Do You Pray?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

I found myself thinking about our official theme song Thursday in the car. It’s a great song, and what’s the point of having a theme song if you don’t get it stuck in your head occasionally? If you haven’t listened lately, or even if you have, click here and enjoy some great music from Kristin Orphan and her band.

Anyway, I focused on one particular line from the song.

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good.
And when I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should.
But I do it anyway. Yeah, I do it anyway.

I had two thoughts.

These days I pray less “for” things and more “about” things.

Does that make sense? Last week when my leg became infected, I asked God for healing. But honestly it seemed like sort of a “duh” request. Of course He wants me to ask, and of course He knows what I want before I ask. So I asked, but it wasn’t the central theme of the conversation.

I found myself talking to Him about perspective and attitude and patience rather than begging for a quick fix. I asked Him to show me what I could learn and share with others from the experience. I talked about my concern for Becky.

I talked to Him about what was going on rather than asking Him to change things.

The older I get, the more I’m glad things don’t turn out like I think they should.

When I look back at some of the things I was absolutely certain would make my life better, I can only be grateful I’m not in charge.

I can’t imagine anything much worse than a world in which everything happens according to my plan.

There’s a reason Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done.”

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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

Is it Time for a Spiritual Spring-Cleaning?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Ephesians 4:24: “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Since I was a child, I remember every spring my mother and aunts would clean out closets and drawers, wash the blinds, and clean the carpet and drapes. They referred to their work as spring-cleaning.

The Bible talks about spiritual cleaning, which can be done during any season of the year not only in the spring.

My mom used to tell me that we couldn’t buy new clothes or other new items until we eliminated the old ones.

It’s the same way in our spiritual life. Before we can “put on the new self,” we need to “put off [the] old self” (verse 22). We throw out those old things that don’t go with our new life as Christians.

According to Ephesians 4:25-31, the old things are falsehood, unwholesome talk, giving the devil a foothold, stealing, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice.

When we spring-clean in our gardens, we pull out the weeds, rake the fallen leaves and make room for the new flowers to come in.

When we do spiritual spring-cleaning and put off the old self, we “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” We bloom in godliness.

What does it mean to put on the new self? According to Ephesians 4:24-32, we tell the truth and build others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen. We work with our own hands that we may have something to share with those in need. We are “kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us].”

Dear God, please show me the things from my old self I need to put off. Amen.

Application: What will you put on this week that goes with your new self?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Copyright 2010-2013, 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

Many Have a Heavy Heart, You Can Make a Difference

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. Exodus 17:9-12 KJV

This is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. I imagine that Aaron and Hur got weary holding up Moses’ hands all that time but they were faithful to stay with him until the end to encourage and help him. O that we would be like Aaron and Hur to our pastors, to our Sunday School teachers, to our parents, to our children, to our spouses and to the world.

Every person has some kind of a heavy burden in his or her heart. It may be that the person has been praying for years for their family to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour and his or heart is heavy with this burden. We need to keep encouraging people and holding up their hands as long as necessary so that the burden won’t feel so heavy to them.

I received an email from a pastor a couple of days ago. The pastor was discouraged because no one said “Amen” during the preaching of the sermon. The pastor told me “I don’t know if I am reaching them or not. They don’t have any expressions on their faces. They just look at me.” Pastors, take heart; you are reaching them whether you see any evidence or not at the time you are preaching!

You may be the one that God is using to plant the seed. He may use someone else to water them but He is the one who gives the increase. We read in the Bible “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55: 10, 11)

Many years ago when I lived in East Texas, my pastor made a statement in his sermon that I laughed about but God used what he said to set me free from depression. Pastor Byron said “If you want to fly higher than a kite, start bragging on Jesus.” When he said that, I honestly thought he was crazy.

However, one day I decided to try it. I can’t put into words the feelings of peace, joy and happiness that filled my heart when I started telling people how wonderful Jesus is. I have never stopped bragging on Jesus since that day, and I never will until He calls me home or returns for us. I will echo my beloved pastor’s words because they are so true! “If you want to fly higher than a kite, start bragging on Jesus.”

We are only the tools that Jesus uses to accomplish His purposes. I think sometimes we try to fix people and that is not our job. Many times God can’t work in someone’s life because we haven’t trusted Him to take care of the person and fix the situation. We pray and ask Him to take care of the person but as soon as we say “Amen” we start trying to fix the person. We are to witness to people and love them, but only Jesus can change a person’s heart and life. We need to put our arms around them and hug them for Jesus.

We have the responsibility and privilege to be obedient to the calling that God gives to us. When God calls us to do something, He never takes the call back or changes His mind. We are the ones who get discouraged because of being criticized, judged and ridiculed. We are the ones who decide to stop serving Jesus. We made that choice, not Him.

If your heart is heavy today, Jesus understands because He too was criticized, ridiculed, judged and rejected. The sad thing about that is that He is still being rejected, criticized, ridiculed and judged. May God forgive us for not holding up the hands of our pastors and our precious Saviour.

Love your pastor.  Pray for your pastor and encourage your pastor as pastors need encouragement just like you do. Don’t forget to pray for your pastor’s spouse and family as they sacrifice a lot of things for you so that your pastor can serve you. Thank God for the faithful spouses who encourage our pastors. Are you encouraging and holding up the hands of your pastor? Are you encouraging Jesus and making His heart happy by spreading His unconditional love to everyone you meet?

Copyright 2007-2013 by Joanne Lowe, all rights reserved
I may be contacted via my website: http://www.heavenwardbound.com

Spiritual Gifts for Each One – Are You Using Yours?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I Corinthians 12:7: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

“I can’t serve in church. I don’t have any spiritual gifts.” Have you said that before?

What does God say in his Word? According to this verse, “each one” has received a spiritual gift. It doesn’t say “some of us” or “a chosen few of us.”

Not only have we all received a spiritual gift, we are to use it “for the common good.”

“I’m too old. I’ve served long enough. Let the younger people do it.” Have you said that or heard it before? I’ve heard a few seniors tell me that.

How strange that God doesn’t say we are to serve for a while and then retire. The Bible doesn’t mention that we serve only until we reach a certain age.

Perhaps we can’t teach the Bible as Beth Moore does, but that doesn’t mean we can’t serve. When I look around the church on Sunday morning, I see the nursery volunteers who love and care for the babies; those who prepare the coffee, hot water for tea, and donuts; greeters at the door; men and women at the various ministry tables, such as women’s ministry and military ministry; ushers who hand out the church bulletin and take up the collection; those who take care of the sound and lights; the orchestra; the choir; the drama department; and the list goes on.

Verses four and five in I Corinthians say, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.”

Perhaps you’ve sinned in the past and think you’re not good enough to serve. God loves you. He forgives you, wants you to serve, and gives you a second chance. We are all sinners whom God has forgiven.

As you consider what your gift might be, ask yourself a few questions. What brings you joy? What energizes you? How can you bless others? How can you show God’s love for his church?

Dear God, please show me the spiritual gift you gave me. Amen.

Application:  How will you serve “for the common good” this week?

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

Copyright 2010-2013, 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

Mountain Tops of Happiness

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55: 12 KJV

I heard a pastor friend of mine say in his sermons several times “It seems like God always makes me live my sermons before I can preach them.” I can certainly relate to my pastor friend because it happened to me yesterday as soon as Jesus gave me the title for today’s devotional and it has happened several times to me. There are times when I start to write a devotional that I feel and experience all the emotions of the title.

I had just typed today’s title and all of a sudden I started feeling discouraged, started hurting and was very sad. I experienced and felt a terrible loneliness that I haven’t felt in two years. Nobody had said anything unkind to me and nothing bad had happened; I was very happy. I finally realized what had happened. Today’s devotional is about happiness and satan did not want me to write about happiness so he did his best to discourage me and make me sad.

It didn’t work and it will never work. Oh, satan may win the battle for a couple of hours but he has already been defeated by our precious Saviour. Jesus has already battled satan and won the war. He defeated satan and won the victory over our vicious enemy when He hung on that cruel cross for us. As soon as I realized what was happening, I cried out to Jesus and asked Him to please restore my joy, excitement and happiness. Within two hours, I was back on the mountain tops of happiness.

Our enemy, satan, is very sneaky so we have to stay on the alert at all times because he is just looking for a place in our hearts to attack us with his poisonous barbs of discouragement, loneliness, doubts, fears and confusion. If we don’t do a heart checkup daily, and sometimes hourly, and keep our hearts right with Jesus and if we allow anger and unforgiveness to creep into our hearts, it opens the door for satan to come in and spread his lies and poison. It makes satan very happy to see us discouraged and he tries his best to defeat us and keep us defeated so we will stop serving Jesus.

It is crucial that we read our Bibles, pray and have fellowship with Jesus every day. It is not enough to read our Bibles; we must spend time, and not just an hour a day, with the living Word, Jesus. It is very important that we laugh with Jesus and cry with Him. When is the last time we have cried over someone who is lost in his or her sins and without Jesus and is on his or her way to hell for eternity? Spending time with Jesus and praying for lost souls should be our top priority. It should come before everything and everyone.

If you are walking through valleys of discouragement, fear, turmoil, agony, horror and loneliness today, reach up and take the hand of Jesus. He is waiting for you with His hand stretched out to lift you up once again and set you on the mountain tops of happiness. You don’t have to live a defeated life. Jesus is the answer to every heartache and every crisis in your life. He is more than able to bring you through every situation victoriously if you will only trust Him and never doubt Him.

Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the gift of Your Son, our precious Saviour, the Christ of Calvary who defeated satan on the cross. Thank You for loving us enough to send us Your only beloved Son. Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice and love for us and for the compassion and understanding that You give to us every day. Amen.

~ Copyright Joanne Lowe. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.
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Have you lost your way?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

The Lord shall guide thee continually. (Isaiah 58:11)

What is wrong? Have you lost your way? Are you entangled in a dark wood and can’t find your paths? Stand still, and see the salvation of God. He knows the way, and He will direct you in it if you cry unto Him.

Every day brings its own perplexity. How sweet to feel that the guidance of the Lord is continual! If we choose our own way or consult with flesh and blood we cast out the Lord’s guidance; but if we abstain from self-will, then He will direct every step of our road, every hour of the day, and every day of the year, and every year of our life. If we will just allow ourselves to be guided, we shall be guided. If we will commit our way unto the Lord, He will direct our course so that we shall not lose ourselves.

But note to whom this promise is made. Read the previous verse: “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry.” We must feel for others and give them, not a few dry crusts, but such things as we ourselves would wish to receive. If we show a tender care for our fellow-man in the hour of their need, then the Lord will attend to our necessities and make Himself our continual Guide. Jesus is the Leader, not of misers, nor of those who oppress the poor, but of the kind and tenderhearted. Such persons are pilgrims who shall never miss their way.

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Chequebook of Faith (adapted)

New Each Day! Do You Not Perceive It?

Friday, March 1st, 2013

I’ve written about two particular scripture passages a lot over the past months. On a quiet Florida bike trail I had a thought that linked them.

In the Old Testament, God speaks through Isaiah to the exiled Israelites. He assures them, and us, that He is at work in our lives. He tells us we’re not prisoners of the past. We can look forward with hope, the confident assurance that God is doing a new thing in our lives.

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

A few centuries later, Jesus walked toward His disciples on the water. After a long, exhausting night, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out in fear.

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

I wrote about this passage here. “It is I,” is the Greek construction ego eimi. It’s the same phrase Jesus uses when He says, “I am,” as in “I am the way, I am the truth, I am the light …”

So it’s as if Jesus says “You can be courageous because I am. You don’t have to be a victim of your fears because I am.”

And that’s the link that occurred to me on that quiet trail. I hear Jesus saying something like:

“Remember that new thing God talked about all those centuries ago? I AM that new thing. You don’t have to summon the courage on your own, or let go of the past on your own. You can be courageous and face the fear because I AM. I’m with you. I already won the war.”

No such thing as a same-old-same-old day, because Jesus is a new thing every day. We can step forward boldly, with courage, because God kept His centuries old promise to do a new thing.

He’s still keeping that promise—every day.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article ! Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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