Archive for April, 2013

Do You Give “a Good Measure?”

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

A few days ago my friend Jon Swanson asked blog readers to explain how we read the Bible. I finally figured out my response by feeding the dog this morning.

When it’s meal time, I tell Monte to “get his dish.” He eagerly fetches the scoop we use to measure his food.

The scoop is a bit too large, so to get the correct amount we use a little less than a scoopful. Yesterday I wrote about Luke 6:38, and this morning I realized I wasn’t giving Monte “a good measure,” completely filling the scoop, pressing and shaking to settle the contents, then filling again until it overflows.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

That’s how I read the Bible.

A passage comes up in a sermon or a Bible study or some other context, and for some reason it comes up again…and again. I don’t know why Monte’s food scoop connected to Scripture today. Some would say my method’s disorganized or haphazard or a simple matter of selective perception.

I prefer to hear the Spirit’s voice, to believe there might be something I’m supposed to learn from that passage at this time. So I’ll focus on the verse and those around it. I’ll see where it leads, what it tells me about how to follow Jesus as I navigate the next few days.

For a few days I’ll zero in on Luke 6:28-45. They’re familiar verses, but still I trust I’ll see connections I’ve missed.

Today I felt a twinge of guilt, because I rarely give generously according to the standards of “a good measure.” Usually I dispense love and grace the way I feed Monte—I don’t fill the scoop as full as I could.

But I looked again and realized Jesus understands. He knows I’ll fall short, that I can’t possibly give according to God’s standards. I can’t love or forgive or sacrifice as much as Him.

The good measure comes from God—pressed down, shaken, and overflowing. I get back far more than I give. He provides generously. I don’t think His point is to create guilt because I can’t match His grace.

The point is that His economy multiplies whatever I put in the scoop.

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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 Does Forgiveness Work?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I’ve told you before about my unauthorized personal version of the bible. It’s called RUV—Rich’s Unstandard Version.

Occasionally I encounter a conversation with Jesus in RUV when I’m trying to make sense of words from the real bible.

Jesus and His friends are hanging out after a long day. Peter asks, “Can I ask you about that whole ‘seventy times seven’ thing?’” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus says, “Of course.”

“Okay. I get that ‘seventy times seven’ was a metaphor. You’re telling us not to keep track, right?”

Jesus nods.

“But you said something today that’s really bothering me. You said, ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ Luke 6:38

“That’s right. It’s one of God’s principles. You not only get what you give–you get more of what you give.”

The fire crackles as everyone lets that sink in. Finally John summarizes.

“So you’re saying if I forgive I’ll be freely forgiven, but if I judge someone harshly, even when they deserve it, I’ll be judged even more harshly.”

“That it.”

“But,” objects James, “what about someone who does something really horrible? Are you saying I should forgive even really terrible actions?”

Jesus pokes at the coals. As the flame illuminates the faces, Jesus looks around the circle.

“Do you think God ranks sins, that some are ‘better sinners’ than others?”

Heads shake slowly.

“It’s a principle. Give, and it will be given. With the same measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

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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

 

Are You Passing the Comfort On?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Most of us realize that life is not easy, but we have God, the Father of compassion, on our side. He is also the God of all comfort.

The Bible doesn’t say that God comforts us in some of our troubles. It says, [God] comforts us in all our troubles.” Whether we suffer with marital problems, prodigal children, finances, health issues, lack of a job, or the loss of a loved one, God “comforts us in all our troubles.”

Because we are Christians is no guarantee we won’t have problems, or that God will take them away. The Bible says he “comforts us in our troubles.”

God’s offer is for real. We decide whether we want to accept our compassionate Father’s comfort.

Once we accept God’s comfort, we “can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” We don’t have to be speakers or writers to share that comfort. All of us have families, neighbors, and acquaintances who need God’s comfort.

When we offer comfort to those in trouble, God doesn’t tell us to fix their problems. People must want to change. No matter what we say or do, we can’t force someone to change.

A difference exists between comforting others and enabling them. A woman told me she paid a fine for the boyfriend of her daughter, so he wouldn’t go to jail. He continued to drink and expected her to bail him out again. She didn’t. The daughter broke up with him after he stole from her to buy alcohol.

That man still drinks and has served several jail sentences. He doesn’t want God’s comfort. He wants someone to fix his problems.

Dear Father of compassion, I accept your comfort. Amen.

Application: When will you comfort someone this week with the comfort you’ve received from God?

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Copyright 2010-2013, 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

Are Problems Overwhelming You?

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It is very hard to separate myself from my circumstances. it is almost as if I become my circumstances…. or they in some way absorb me. But I have to remember that I am not my circumstances. I am a child of God.. As His child I have an inheritance (Psalm 37:18) and that inheritance is peace, grace, mercy… the list is pretty long. Iit is peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:17) and sometimes when I am in the whirlwind of problems I have to remember to step outside of the whirlwind (remembering that I and the whirlwind are not one).

Take some deep breaths.
Take time out. (Matthew 14:23)
Be still and know that he is God. (Psalm 46:10)
Try to see things through the eyes of Christ and not my weak eyes….

Yes, the problems are very real and they are disconcerting.
But what is greater? God or my problems?
What is eternal? God or my problems?
Problems are almost always fleeting and never permanent. What is so today will not be true tomorrow.The only exception is God’s Truth. I choose to stand on that rock.

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Copyright 1992-2013 by S.O. Brennan

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Let’s be The People Who Turn Up The Light

Friday, April 19th, 2013

winnersLast night Becky read a quote from Facebook. “If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”

It’s easy to become discouraged and cynical in the wake of the senseless violence of the Boston attacks.

It’s also true that light overwhelmed darkness in the moments following the explosions.

Runners continued toward hospitals to donate blood. People ran toward unknown danger to assist injured strangers. Thousands of people stepped forward to help and bring sense to chaos.

That’s always true, long-term. Darkness wins some temporary battles for sure, but in the end light always finds a way.

That’s what Jesus said as He began The Sermon On The Mount.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:14-15)

A lot of folks have much to gain by turning down the light. Some of those, sadly, are preachers who use fear to control and manipulate. Those who gain money and power from division, mistrust, and anger seek to highlight the enemy’s work and accentuate the darkness.

Let’s not be part of that. Let’s be the people who turn up the light and highlight the goodness of God that surrounds us. When we do that we help those who don’t know God see Him in themselves.

Let’s be prudent, but let’s NEVER live in fear.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18a)

Wouldn’t it be cool to modify that Facebook quote?

“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, those who know Jesus are the wrong group to target.”

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

Do you know anyone who uses scripture like a weapon?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Note: This article is semi-serious and semi-sarcastic. Discern carefully and with a bit of humor.

Do you know anyone who uses scripture like a weapon?

Occasionally you encounter someone who carries around their memorized verses like a quiver of arrows. They pull them out to support political positions, social preferences, and just about any opinion about any subject. You name the discussion and they can produce a verse that offers the definitive word.

Thus Sayeth The Lord! End of conversation.

One of my friends has a great term for such folks. She calls them “pick-n-choosers” because they always pick out just the part that supports their opinion while choosing to ignore context or other passages that might cloud the issue.

I suspect that we’re all guilty of being “pick-n-choosers” at times. We all probably oversimplify, interpret without sufficient study, and even occasionally twist a passage intentionally to reinforce a point. It’s just part of being humans with biases and limited understanding. The best we can do is to be aware and try to remain open to new learning.

When I’m feeling a little mischievous, I’ll counter a pick-n-chooser’s argument with Deuteronomy 22:8. Now you’re probably digging through the mental archives and coming up empty. I’d bet that almost no one has memorized Deuteronomy 22:8.

When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. [Deuteronomy 22:8]

Admit it—you didn’t know that one, right? You may even be asking, “What the heck is a ‘parapet’?”

A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof. Does your house have one? Mine doesn’t, despite this clear, unequivocal biblical command. And if you’re familiar with the story of my injury (fell off a roof while installing Christmas lights) you’ll see why I think parapets are a darned good idea.

So does this mean we’re all violating biblical law? Should we hire a contractor immediately to install parapets and demand a change in city building codes to conform to God’s commandments? Is my injury a result of God’s judgment for ignoring His law?

I’m sure you realize that this command was intended for a specific cultural context and that we’re not supposed to begin a small business constructing parapets. But how frequently are scriptures removed from context and applied to equally unintended situations?

This doesn’t mean that scriptural truths don’t exist or that biblical truth is all relative. It does mean that study and discernment are required to properly understand and apply scripture. Context matters.

Take a moment and read the rest of Deuteronomy 22. Anyone in favor of a literal, out-of-context application of verse 5? How about 28-29?

I have a neighbor who insists that the bible should be taken 100% literally. We agree to disagree, though I get the sense that he hopes to someday save me from my blindness.

I think I’ll go and ask him when he’s going to get his parapets installed.

Are you ever tempted to be a pick-n-chooser? How do you discern properly between contextual commands and eternal truths?

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Experiencing the Work of the Holy Spirit Within

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

I love to meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit, to whom we are greatly indebted, and from whom we receive such great and invaluable blessings. To Him, I feel that I am indebted, for every good thought, and for every good work. How wonderful His patience–that He should bear with me so long; and how wonderful His loving-kindness–that He should confer on me so much! O if I was only more deeply aware of my obligations!

It was the Holy Spirit who quickened me when I was dead in trespasses and sins–imparting a new life, infusing new thoughts, and producing new desires in my soul.

Having quickened me, He conquered me–subduing the enmity of my heart, the obstinacy of my will, the worldliness of my affections–and bringing every thought into subjection to the obedience of Christ.

Having quickened and conquered me, He comforted me, assuring me of a saving interest in–the love of God, the perfect work of Jesus, the precious promises of the Word, and the eternal rest which remains for the people of God.

Having quickened, conquered, and comforted me, He sanctified me–separating me from the world, and setting me apart for my Redeemer’s glory and praise.

As my Sanctifier, He became my Guide–leading me into the truth, conducting me out of the paths of danger, and directing me into the everlasting way.

Not only my guide, but He became my Guard–preserving me from danger, protecting me from foes, and becoming a wall of fire round about me.

Whenever I wander–He reproves me; when I willfully go astray–He corrects me, and makes me smart for my folly.

The work He began so long ago–He carries on, nor will He withdraw His hand from it, until it is perfected, and I am fully fitted for glory.

What do you experimentally know the work of the Holy Spirit?
Has He quickened you?
Has He conquered you?
Does He comfort you?
Are you sanctified by His presence, power, and operation in your heart?
Does He . . .
guide you by His counsel,
guard you by His power, and
correct you for your follies?

The work of the Spirit within us–is as necessary as the work of Jesus for us! For if the atonement of Christ entitles us to glory–it is the work of the Holy Spirit that prepares us to possess and enjoy it. We must be washed, justified, and sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God–or we cannot be saved!

~ James Smith, “Rills from the Rock of Ages”, 1860 {adapted}

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When We Experience the Bitter Water in Our Lives

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Exodus 15:25: “Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

We can’t live on this earth without experiencing bitter waters in our lives. Sickness, loss of a loved one, unemployment, financial struggles, and family conflict are a few of the bitter waters we may go through.

When I experience bitter waters, I may sit in shock and do nothing for a while. Other times, I may cry and wring my hands. I allow the external circumstances to affect my heart and my attitude.

What happens when you experience bitter waters? One of my friends says she eats. Another friend swims several laps as she processes the situation. A third one goes for a walk at the beach or the park and talks to God about it.

In the midst of my trials, I can pray and cling to God’s promises in the Bible. Unfortunately, that is not always my first resort but rather my last one.

Verses 22-23 tell us the Israelites traveled in the desert for three days without finding water. When they arrived in Marah, they couldn’t drink the water because it was bitter. In verse 24, they complained to Moses.

In our Bible verse for today, Moses went straight to God. God listened to Moses and gave him a solution. Verse 25 says, “The LORD showed him a piece of wood.” Moses didn’t doubt God or tell him that was a ridiculous thing to show him. Instead Moses “threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

God blessed Moses’ faith and obedience. In verse 26, God says, “I am the LORD who heals you.” Verse 27 says the Israelites went to Elim, “where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

We can grumble and drink bitter water, or we can take our troubles to God. We can wait for God to transform our bitter waters into sweet ones and give us “twelve springs and seventy palm trees.”

Dear God, please transform my bitter waters into sweet ones. Amen.

Application: When will you stop grumbling this week and trust God?

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

Copyright 2010-2013, 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

When Haters Celebrate Your Pain

Monday, April 15th, 2013

I try to avoid commenting on current events.

Today, I’m making an exception.

I imagine you’re aware of the tragic death of Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Rick and Kay Warren. Matthew’s dad is one of America’s best-known Christian pastors. Rick Warren posted this statement on Facebook:

Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest.

“…while haters celebrate your pain…”

Matthew committed suicide. He struggled with mental illness and depression that resisted medical care and family support and finally overwhelmed his ability to cope. He told his dad more than a decade ago that he knew he was going to heaven and just wanted the pain to end.

I understand. I’ve been at the bottom of a hole so deep I didn’t even realize it was a hole. I thought darkness was the way the world was and always would be. I didn’t blame God, I just figured that’s how it was, at least for me.

When you believe your entire world is darkness, you don’t think about escaping. Where are you going to go? You believe you have two choices. You can endure endless darkness with its fear and loneliness. Or you can die.

There’ve been many moments in which I wanted only to end the darkness, moments when I knew Jesus would welcome and forgive me and would understand that I couldn’t bear the pain any longer.

It’s pretty easy to judge and stigmatize those who battle depression and other forms of mental illness. It’s tempting to offer platitudes and dismiss us as weak or lazy.

My struggle with depression isn’t a choice or a mood or a spiritual weakness; it’s a physiological, medical issue. I try to live in gratitude for Relentless Grace and the people God used to rescue me from darkness. Those who judge Matthew’s actions condemn me as well.

The church was intended as a hospital, not a hall of fame. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:12)

I won’t rehash the hateful attacks leveled at a man and his family at a time when they deserve compassion, prayer, and support. But a couple of conclusions seem brutally, painfully obvious.

Let’s forgive. Hate is the end result of fear. We must demonstrate compassion toward those who are so fearful that they lash out at others when they’re most vulnerable.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

Let’s stop shooting our own wounded. We’d like to believe this sort of fear and hate originates entirely outside the church. Sadly, not so.

You don’t have to agree with all of Rick Warren’s theology or his politics. I don’t. But this clearly isn’t the time for such discussions. This is the time to show the world who we are and how Jesus wants us to be identified.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Regardless of circumstances, when a child dies the response ought to be obvious.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

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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 think?

Friday, April 12th, 2013

My friend Clark Osborn inspired today’s word-of-the-week…

NUANCE

Clark made a simple statement: “Always” is almost always wrong.

He’s mostly right.

I tend to seek the central theme, the big idea, the captivating sound bite. Social media feeds this obsession—we’re all trying to capture our deepest thoughts in 140 characters.

Life, of course, just isn’t that simple. Unless you’re Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton, it’s unlikely that you’ll boil life’s keys down to a couple of simple, powerful equations.

Big, important ideas require nuanced thought. Ideologues win elections, sell books to desperate souls, and attract polarized audiences. They don’t advance the search for truth.

If truth was easy to write in words, I wonder why God sent Jesus to be “the Word made flesh.” My sense is that knowing the words isn’t sufficient. To know the truth, we must know The Word.

I want to know The Truth. He’ll set me free.

I’ll still seek and share what I see as central themes. Who knows—maybe I’ll find one that’ll sell a few million books.

But I want to always be open to discussion, to seeing exceptions, gray areas, and blind spots. It’s in those nuances where we can learn and grow.

Mostly.

Have a great week.

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