Archive for May, 2013

Why did you decide to do something so hard?

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Last weekend I was drinking coffee in our church lobby when a guy named Brett walked up and introduced himself. First he asked why Monte wasn’t with me. Then he wanted to talk about my “crazy bike ride.”

I struggled to get past the fact that my identity at church is now apparently defined by a goofy-looking dog and a crazy bike ride. While I pondered my self-image, Brett pulled up a chair. He had some serious questions.

He asked about details and logistics. After I explained as briefly as possible there was a long, thoughtful pause. Finally he found the right words.

“Why did you decide to do something so hard?”

I’ve had this discussion dozens of times. You’ve read about some of them. But this was somehow different, because Brett wasn’t half-jokingly asking if I was nuts. I sensed he was seeking the answer within himself.

“Well, I think ‘hard’ was exactly the point, or a big part of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’d been riding my bike for more than ten years. When I started I enjoyed riding but it was incredibly hard, and I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with God when I stuck with it through the difficult parts.”

“Yeah. I read your book, Relentless Grace, and I got that. The biking was a big piece of your recovery.”

“It was, but eventually I reached the point where the hard parts weren’t really hard any more. I could keep riding around town and stay in shape and have fun, but the aspect of challenging myself and learning about God was gone. I’d reached the point where I could pretty much do it on my own.”

“That sounds like a good thing.”

“Well, it was certainly safe and comfortable, the kind of place we all think we want to be. But it wasn’t the dream. I wasn’t using my gifts and passions to serve others. And I believe God planted a seed of discontent that wouldn’t let me settle for safe and comfortable.”

“That’s it!” Brett exclaimed. “That’s exactly what I’m feeling. I’m settling for a safe life, and it’s not enough.”

“But…” I waited.

“But…I like safe. I want to take my faith seriously, I want to be challenged, but I like being comfortable.”

“So,” I smiled, “you want to be comfortably challenged, right?”

“Yeah,” he sort of hung his head. “And it sounds really dumb when you say it out loud.”

It’s not dumb at all,” I chuckled. “It’s exactly what we’re all looking for. We’re all trying to find a risk-free way to follow Jesus.”

“Yeah, and then something just grabs you and you realize you can’t have it both ways. That’s what your crazy bike ride has done to me.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to mess you up.” Thankfully, he was laughing.

“Yes, you did. You totally want to make us squirm. That’s why you’re doing this, right?”

“So are you going to join us?”

“No, biking isn’t my thing, but it’s not about biking, right?

“So can I ask one more question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is it as hard as it looks?”

“Honestly? It’s harder.”

We attend a big church. One drawback is that I don’t know everyone. I don’t know if Brett and I will cross paths again any time soon.

I shared this interaction because it seemed like a conversation you and I might have over a cup of coffee. That’s sort of how I think of this blog. I appreciate you being here.

I take mine black. You?

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

Strength For the Weary

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Isaiah 40:29: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

As I get older, I don’t have the strength I once had. Can you identify with me? I used to clean the entire house in an hour and a half. I would dust, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, and mop the floors. With a half hour more, I would get the laundry done too.

My strength seems to have diminished. Now I clean two rooms a day. By the time I finish cleaning the house, it’s time to start over.

A friend of mine is married to a retired military man. They recently moved from a large home in VA to an apartment in Florida. She feels overwhelmed with the boxes. I reminded her that she’s not as young as she used to be and moving is hard work.

And yet God says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Will we believe him? Will we continue to be weary and weak, or will we accept his strength and power?

God states the truth in verse 30, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” One time at an amusement park, I asked my son if he was tired. He said he wasn’t. However, when we sat down to watch a show, he fell asleep. He didn’t wake up until the next morning when we were back home.

For strength and power, I will continue to hope in the Lord. He will help me get up day after day and keep going in this world.

Dear God, I feel weary and weak today. Amen.

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

Does Jesus Rattle Your Brain?

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Last week I got to sit in with a group of young (mostly twenty-something) folks at our church. My friend Bob told them something that’s been rattling in my brain.

If you want to follow Jesus, you need to get to know Him. It’s not enough to know His words. In fact, His words alone can get you messed up. You need to sit with Him, eat with Him, hear His story, and get to really know Him as a friend.

Bob was teaching about a particular parable, but his point was universal. I’m not going to know how to follow Jesus by reading more or studying harder. Jesus is a person, not a collection of ideas.

When I really know Jesus, I can’t take pieces and parts out of context to suit my purposes. Or I can, but I’ll know it’s not honest.

Ever see someone use Jesus to bully or shame or intimidate others into a particular behavior or belief? Ever been tempted to use such tactics? (I’m nodding my head. I’ll bet you are, too.)

I think that’s a sign we don’t know Jesus as well as we should, because that’s simply NOT His way. He had all the power in the universe. If He wanted to force people into compliance, He could have done so.

He didn’t.

He could have defended His country and demanded His rights. He could have squashed the Roman army like a bug under His thumb.

He didn’t.

His story is about service and sacrifice. He engaged with the marginalized, the poor, those who desperately needed a friend. He advocated for God’s version of justice.

He said, “Follow me.”

See why this has been rattling in my brain?

The more I know Jesus the more I realize He didn’t offer a few comfortable platitudes I could graft onto my existing life to make it easier. Really following Him is outrageous and risky and uncomfortable. He invites me to join Him on a difficult road.

Sounds nice—except for the “difficult” part.

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

A Plan for Taking Action

Monday, May 13th, 2013

A random note inspires today’s word-of-the-week…

ACTION

I ran across a note last week that seemed worth recording on an electronic index card and sticking on my virtual bulletin board.

how to change the world

  1. Start where you are
  2. Use what you have
  3. Do what you can

This note seemed like a good reminder for a Monday.

First, I don’t need to wait. I don’t need any special equipment or training. I have what I need, right here, right now.

Second, I like the action verbs. Start—Use—Do.

No analyzing, talking, or meetings. I can take action and change the world.

Time to get going.

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

Are You Looking Only to Jesus?

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

James Smith, “Rills from the Rock of Ages”, 1860

All that Jesus does for lost sinners–He does freely, out of pure pity, kindness, and love.

Yet we are always looking for something in ourselves–to encourage us! On the other hand, we tend to look at some sin committed by us–which discourages us. Whereas we should look only to Jesus. I want now, for a few minutes, to fix the eye of your mind on what Jesus does for sinners–how He acts toward them at the present day.

Jesus calls the sinner. He says, “Come unto Me. Come, just as you are. Come, this moment. Come, for all that you need. Come, for all that you desire. Come, and be saved. Come, and I will satisfy you. Come, and commit all your concerns to Me, and I will make all things that occur, work together for your good.”

Jesus receives the sinner when he comes. He receives every sinner, however base, vile, or unworthy he may be! He receives the sinner graciously–pardoning every sin, forgiving and forgetting all that he has done amiss, and treating him with the utmost kindness.

Jesus cleanses the sinner. In the fountain of His precious blood, and in the laver of His holy Word–He cleanses him from guilt and pollution–fitting him for holy service on earth, and for holier service in heaven. Nor is there any getting rid of guilt–but by His blood; nor of impurity–but by His Spirit working with His Word!

Jesus clothes the sinner. Cleansed from guilt and filth–we are clothed in His garments of salvation, and are covered with His robe of righteousness. All that is necessary for our honorable appearance in heaven among the glorified–He undertakes to provide.

Those who trust in Him, are completely nourished by Him. Jesus feeds the sinner. His flesh and blood becomes our daily food. We can no more live and be healthy, without nourishing food for the body–than we can live and be happy, without sweet and frequent nourishment from Christ. There is in the renewed soul–a craving for Christ, and it is never satisfied–but as it realizes His presence, meditates on His Word, or is solaced with His love!

Jesus employs the sinner. Having called, received, cleansed, clothed, and nourished him–He sets him to WORK. He gives him a cross to carry, and a plot in his vineyard to cultivate. He sends him to speak to others of His grace, and to manifest to others His temper and disposition. He sends him to the poor widow’s cottage, to the sick man’s chamber, and to the ignorant soul’s home–and says, “Feed them for Me; comfort them for Me; and teach them for Me!”

Jesus comforts the sinner. Yes, when he is depressed and discouraged, when he is low and cast down. He consoles by some special providence, by some seasonable portion of His Word, by the counsel of some friend, or by the sweet whispers of His Spirit.

Jesus assures the sinner. Assures him of His love to him, of a saving interest in His finished work, and of a title to heavenly mansions! When Jesus assures us–our doubts and fears depart, our unbelief is destroyed, and our souls are filled with peace and joy.

Jesus visits the sinner. He says, “I will come unto him.” And He does come, and brings with Him–pleasant light, precious fruits, and joy and peace. He says, “I will come and sup with him–and he with Me.” And He draws him out into such sweet, near and dear communion with Himself–that no costly meal, no delightful company–can be compared to it.

Jesus restores the sinner. For as astonishing as it may appear, it is nevertheless true–that we are prone to wander!
We leave light–for darkness!
We leave plenty–for poverty!
We leave joy–for sorrow!
We leave a paradise–for a desert!
And having wandered, we would never find our way back–if He did not come after us! But, blessed be His holy name–He does! And then He restores our souls, and again feeds us in green pastures, causing us to lie down beside the still waters!

Jesus reproves the sinner. However He may spare our persons–He never spares our sins! He visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquities with stripes! His reproofs are often sharp. Cutting convictions, heavy losses, severe trials, perplexing troubles, bodily sickness, and painful bereavements–are some of the RODS which He employs. But however numerous and heavy His strokes–they are lighter than our guilt, and fewer than our sins! He deals with us as with sons. He chastens us for our profit–and to make us partakers of His holiness!

Jesus glorifies the sinner. Glorifies him with Himself–and confers on him an eternal weight of glory! What it is to be glorified–we do not fully know. At the least, it is to be freed from all that is sinful, painful, and degrading–and to be invested with all that is bright, beautiful, and blessed. It is to be made as like Jesus as possible, and to be with Him where he is forever!

O wondrous grace, of a wondrous Savior!

Believer, this precious Savior is yours!

Will you not love Him then?

Will you not bear witness to the power and sweetness of His love, to the joy and happiness that are found in His ways?

Will you not observe His statutes and keep His laws?

Will you not come out of the world, which is peopled by His enemies–and be separated to Him? Can you mingle with the carnal, and frequent places of worldly amusement? Must you go to the world to be gratified and amused?

Beware how you wound your precious Savior’s loving heart!

 

Are You Doing Something Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Becky and I have answered a lot of questions about Rich’s Ride over the past few weeks. Those discussions got me thinking back to Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38:

“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.”

I think we tend to read this as Give so that it will be given unto you. Jesus’ message becomes a sort of contract. Generosity becomes an investment strategy. I share in order to receive the good measure poured into my lap.

With this mentality, my incentive for enduring the sacrifice of a mission trip is the bigger bonus I’ll receive in return. I help those in need so that I will be helped even more. It’s as though Jesus provided a way to game the system.

God’s economy can’t be charted as calculated input versus desired output. He’s not about maximizing Return On Investment.

He asks us to do something outside our comfort zone, something that doesn’t make sense from the world’s perspective. He asks us to give too much with no strings attached, help a stranger who can’t repay us, or forgive someone who’s harmed us when we don’t feel like forgiving. He asks us to do something outrageous and difficult like riding a bike 450 miles to stop human trafficking.

He doesn’t ask us to do those things for what we’ll receive in return. He simply says, “Follow me. Do what I did. Be like me.”

He does promise He won’t waste our effort, that He’ll use it for good (Romans 8:28). He promises that He’ll use that space beyond our “limits” to forge a deeper relationship with Him and help us discover our own souls.

Do you think, like I do at times, about what’s in it for me? Maybe we need to hang out with Jesus a little more, get to know Him a little better, learn what it means to sacrifice when there’s absolutely NOTHING in it for you.

At that point, God’s economy makes perfect sense.

“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.”

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 Need to be Strengthened and Encouraged?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Acts 9:31: “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria . . . was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

Do you need to be strengthened and encouraged? I do. Acts 9:31 says, “The church was strengthened and encouraged.” Who is the church? We are the church. Each one of us who believes in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior is part of the church.

When the sky is overcast and the rain pours down, we can feel sad. When conflict exists in our home, our extended family, or our church family, we can feel weak and discouraged. When our church needs a pastor, we may miss our church shepherd. When we struggle at work, we wish we were strengthened and encouraged.

Thank God for the Holy Spirit. He strengthens and encourages us. How often do we remember that God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit? Like any gift, if we don’t accept it and unwrap it, it does us no good.

You can rationalize that you aren’t in Judea, Galilee, or Samaria. So it doesn’t matter to you. Our Judea is our home and family. Our Galilee and Samaria include our neighbors, our co-workers, and those people with whom we have contact.

I still remember the elderly woman I met on a plane trip from New Mexico back to the East coast. Her brother told her she was going to hell when she died. My friend asked if she would like to know how to go to heaven. The elderly woman nodded, and I led her to the Lord. The church grew in numbers that day.

Three months later, that elderly woman died and went straight to heaven. I thanked God for the gift of the Holy Spirit that day.

Dear God, I accept the gift of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Application: When will you ask the Holy Spirit this week to strengthen and encourage you in your circumstances?

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

Do You Know How To Produce Better Fruit?

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Want to produce better fruit? Hook up with a better tree.

Well, it’s happening again. My recent focus on Luke 6:38 and the surrounding verses are yielding a bunch of unexpected insights.

A few days ago I wrote about a conversation with Jesus about Becoming A Fruit Tree. I came away from that discussion with a clear sense that I needed to think about my identity as a follower of Jesus.

Then Jon Swanson discussed Learning Who You Are and Ben Malcomson wrote at Storyline about Identity In Jesus. See a theme?

I always thought the goal was to produce better fruit, which meant life was about making better choices. My question was “which decision has the best outcome?” I thought the fruit was my responsibility.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit,” says Jesus (Luke 6:43).

Turns out the real question is, “To which tree do I belong?”

Orange trees produce oranges. If you belong to the right tree, the fruit takes care of itself.

If Jesus is my tree, I’ll produce His fruit. So when I’m confronted with a tough choice, it’s not about benefits or consequences or results or popular opinion. As a follower of Jesus I need to ask, “What does a follower of Jesus do in this situation?”

Then I do that. Easy-peasy, right?

Of course it’s anything but easy. The answers aren’t always so clear, and there’s that whole thing about Jesus being killed for telling the truth.

Nobody said producing good fruit would be easy.

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 Have the Courage to Do the Right Thing?

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

A four-year-old philosopher brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

TRUTH

My cousin has been emphasizing the importance of always telling the truth with her four-year-old daughter. Seems like a simple, straightforward concept, right?

So after one particular heart-to-heart, the young philosopher got that look that said there was something spinning around in her brain.

“Mom, Jesus always told the truth, didn’t He?”

“Of course He did, sweetie.”

“Mom, didn’t they kill Jesus because He told the truth?”

Learning what’s right is tough enough.

Age four is pretty young to understand the courage required to do the right thing.

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

Can a “Bad Tree” Bear Good Fruit?

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I’m still messing with the “good measure” passage in Luke 6:38. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s messing with me. Check out the background here and here.

Jesus and I had to take a walk through the RUV—Rich’s Unstandardized Version—when I read past verse 38.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:43-45)

Here’s the gist of our conversation.

“I read those first two sentences and just want to give up. Obviously, it’s hopeless.”

“Really?”

“Sure. We both know I’ll never achieve “good tree” status. I KNOW how often I mess up. I know about the impatience and selfishness, the all-too-frequent episodes of ingratitude. I create a pretty attractive façade, but it’s all pretty paint over rotten wood. And I know that YOU know.

“So if a bad tree can’t bear good fruit, what’s the point of even trying?”

Jesus scuffs at the ground with His sandals. He always seems to wear sandals, even when it’s cold. I should ask Him about that sometime.

“Yeah,” He mutters, “you do face a real dilemma, for sure. Humans messed things up, and you’re never going to fix it.”

“Uh…I was hoping for something a little more encouraging.”

“Hey, I’m just agreeing with you. You’re exactly right… the gap between you and God is too big. Nothing you humans do will ever be enough to cross it.

“But, Rich, you’re always so quick to give up because you forget the most important piece of the picture.”

“What’s that?”

Jesus smiles and puts an arm around my shoulders. “Me.”

He could see I wasn’t making the connection.

“Look, the Father knew you could never reach up across the gap you created. So He reached down. He sent me. The healing isn’t your job—it’s mine.

“And it’s done. You’re healed, forgiven, redeemed, reborn, renewed—so stop fussing about it and get on with being my hands and feet.”

“Okay, but what about the bad tree/good fruit deal?”

He looked at me with that familiar look that says are you ever going to get this?

“Who says you’re the tree?”

My dumbfounded stare probably didn’t surprise Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15)

“So…You’re the good tree in the parable?”

The conversation sorta stopped there. I guess He figured that needed to sink in.

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