Archive for July, 2013

Who Do You Say I Am?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

A while back I led a small group discussion for new believers at church. It was perfect for me, since mostly our conversation was about questions. I’m good at questions, as long as I don’t have to know the answers.

I recently received an invitation to repeat the process. Looking back at some of the materials from previous sessions, one file title caught my eye: WHO IS JESUS?

Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) I imagine this question was the subject of many long, late-night discussions.

It’s really THE question, isn’t it? What’s your answer?

I suspect many folks call themselves “Christians” without ever confronting this most central issue. If you’re going to follow Jesus, at some point I think you have to decide for yourself: WHO IS JESUS?

As I read through my notes I thought about my ongoing discussion with my atheist friend. As I struggle with What Can I Say? regarding evidence and God, I realize Jesus’ identity is the core issue.

We often say the bible is God’s word. Obviously I agree, but…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)

Of course we read and study scripture, but The Word, The Truth, doesn’t exist in words. As the person of Jesus, God spoke truth into human history as something beyond mere words and ideas.

Jesus didn’t just say, “I teach the truth” or “I do the truth.” He proclaimed, “I am the truth.” (John 14:6)

Want to know God’s Word? Apparently, you need to know Jesus. He’s the truth. And that’ll never make scientific sense. I can’t prove it.

I believe my finite mind understands a tiny portion of what will eventually be revealed. I don’t know how that works. I don’t need to know.

“Who do you say I am?”

I have my answer. 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

How Do You Respond to the Homeless?

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

trailI love urban bike trails.

You get to cruise past congested traffic, dense population, industry, and irritating noise on an isolated ribbon of serenity. It’s a perspective of the city unavailable to conventional forms of transportation.

Front Range FREEDOM Tour followed the South Platte Trail, which meanders along a quiet river through the heart of the entire Denver Metro area. It was possibly the most peaceful day of the tour.

Trails attract a broad cross-section of people. Among serious riders and casual cruisers you encounter runners, walkers, photographers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and some from the edges of society.

We noticed the homeless folks.

You see them, too. Maybe you pretend to ignore the guy with the cardboard sign or the family under the bridge, but you see them. And I’ll bet you wonder about them. We did.

In a recent article, David McRaney discussed a well-known psychological phenomenon called The Just-World Fallacy. In simple terms, this is a biased worldview in which people get what they deserve.

The key word is “deserve.” It’s the idea that you get what’s coming to you, and specifically that bad things happen to bad people who deserve their circumstances.

One who subscribes to the notion of a just world would believe those homeless folks deserved their situation.

McRaney’s article cited research that examined the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. Among other conclusions, these folks “tend to be more religious.” Since the study was done in the US, I’ll speculate that most of those identified themselves as Christians.

Does that surprise you?

The bible clearly teaches that this world is broken. Innocent children die. Horrible disease strikes randomly. In fact, the core gospel message, the “good news, is that through faith in Jesus I DON’T get what I deserve. No one who understands the bible could possibly believe this world is fair, right?

But Christians are humans, and generally we aren’t very good at metacognition, or thinking about our own thinking. We don’t understand our own biases and blind spots. Many people claim to believe something when their actual words, actions, and thoughts reveal something entirely different. This is an example.

Does it matter? Here’s another sobering observation from the McRaney’s article.

“Believers in a just world tend to feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.”

In other words, once we’ve decided people deserve their fate, we don’t feel compelled to help.

As followers of Jesus, how do we view and respond to the homeless folks on that pristine bike trail? I don’t know the answer, but I know we don’t live in a world where good guys win and bad guys lose.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35-36,40)

What Can I Say to Those Who don’t Believe?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

A friend wants to understand why I believe in God, or at least how I think about Him. He wants evidence.

I know a lot of facts, about books like Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. Those of us who believe see the evidence everywhere, but that’s not the sort of proof that’ll impress my friend. Experience shows a committed skeptic can refute the most reasoned apologetics, because apologetics isn’t science.

The simple fact is that I can’t prove God’s existence with scientific certainty. That’s why it’s called “faith” and why the Bible says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I’ve had similar discussions in the past. I’ve concluded that I cannot argue or debate anyone into faith. I’ve been sucked into too many pointless debates that didn’t represent Jesus very well and only left me frustrated.

This time, I’m just sad.

I’m sad because I’m confident. I’ve grown enough to know I don’t need someone else to validate my beliefs by accepting or agreeing, but for me this isn’t a purely academic, philosophical discussion. We’re talking about a choice that carries eternal consequences. I know I can’t force a change of heart, but it’s hard to simply shrug it off.

I wish I understood how the Spirit works, why He touches some hearts and not others. I wish I knew the right words. But changing a heart is God’s job, not mine. I guess I’m glad about that.

But today, I’m also a little sad.

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 Your Circumstances Overwhelming You?

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

An interesting thing happened when I went for my first chemotherapy treatment. I was filled with “fear and trembling.” A lovely woman was escorting me to show the way and she asked how many chemo treatments I had been through. I explained it was my first session. She said she had been through chemo and that life goes on.

I said, “You mean there is life after chemo?”

She said, “My dear there is life during chemo too.”

That is a lesson for us all. There is life after the challenging circumstances we must endure. And there is also life during those circumstances.

There is life after illness. There is also life during illness.
There is life after recovery. There is also life during recovery.
There is life after loss. There is also life during loss.
There is life after divorce. There is also life during divorce.

We must not forget to live, love and laugh each day. Stop and smell the flowers. We must not forget to thank God for the gift of each day and the lessons He will be teaching us that day.

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid, neither be dismayed. For Jehovah your God is with you in all places where you go.  Joshuah 1:9 MKJV

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Why are We Blessed?

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

I’m not sure why, but I’m thinking a lot about today’s word-of-the-week…

BLESSED

Like a lot of new developments, our neighborhood has a set of covenants. We all benefit (in theory) because everyone agrees to abide by a set of rules.

A very long time ago, God entered into a covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendents. That ancient covenant forms the foundation of the entire Christian faith.prism

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)

In simple terms, we’re not blessed because we’re special or because we’ve done something good. We’re not blessed so we can feel good about ourselves.

We’re blessed to be a blessing.

I tend to forget. When things are going well I get a little self-congratulatory. When I’m not pleased with circumstances, I wonder what I did wrong.

I tend to forget—it’s not about me, or you. We’re like the prism.

God shines His light on us so we can show that light to the world.

Good thought for a Monday.

Hidden Wisdom

Saturday, July 20th, 2013


Is wisdom hidden
Or just overlooked

It can’t be bought or sold
Traded up
Collected
Shown off

Once it becomes a source of pride
It ceases to exist.

~ Roadrunner
Copyright 2000-2013 by Roadrunner
Used by Permission
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Would You Like to Be Free from Condemnation?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Psalm 34:22: “The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.”

“I can’t believe I was unfaithful to my wonderful wife,” Jim told me. He stared at the floor and said, “You probably don’t believe me, but I love her.”

I assured Jim that more than one man had made a similar confession to me. The important point was not whether I believed him. It was to be right with God.

The shame and guilt overwhelmed Jim. He wanted “to settle things” with God and his wife.

I reached for the Bible on my desk and opened it to Psalm 34:22. I told Jim Jesus Christ could redeem him. By his death on the cross, Jesus paid the price for his sins and mine. Jesus redeemed us “from all wickedness” (Titus 2:14) and “from the empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18).

Jim didn’t have to try to earn redemption from God. He didn’t have to hide from the Lord because of sin in his life. He didn’t have to pretend to be perfect. He could take refuge in Jesus Christ.

Afterwards Jim and I also talked about when and how he was going to confess to his wife and ask for her forgiveness.

We don’t need to be condemned either. We can go to the Lord for redemption and take refuge in him.

Dear God, thank you for the gift of redemption. Amen.

Application: When will you take refuge in the Lord?

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

Life Overwhelming You? Focus On One Word

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

I’m a simple guy who tends to make life complicated.

On our recent FREEDOM Tour, the team got lost because I provided bad directions. I’d like to say I welcomed the challenge. “Hallelujah,” I exclaimed. “The Lord hath provided an opportunity for growth.”

Yeah, right.

new word

The truth is, I was scared, and fear turned into angry and frustrated. I made excuses and looked for someone to blame. Eventually I vented my frustration at the nearest person, who happened to be my lovely wife, who had nothing to do with creating the route.

Ever done something like that? No need to raise your hand.

I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to respond a little better the next time something goes wrong. But “want to” isn’t a strategy.

I’m a simple guy. I need a simple strategy. Here’s mine:

Focus On A Single Word

When circumstances overwhelm me, it helps to focus on a single word that brings me back to center. I believe most of our issues trace back to fear. We need to face some real or imagined demon if we want to move forward. So it might make sense to focus on courage.

But I’ve discovered that courage is a lot easier to talk about when it’s someone else’s fear to be confronted. It’s one thing to know I ought to confront fear. It’s quite another thing to actually do it simply as an act of my own will. I have this sense that I could consistently remind myself to be courageous without much impact.

Something’s missing. I need a bigger idea.

My friend Dick Foth invented a new word for the idea I’m seeking. In Matthew 14 the disciples see Jesus walking on the water. It’s late. They’ve been rowing all night, they’re tired, and they think they’re seeing a ghost. They’re scared.

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

Dick pointed out that the middle sentence, “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 …” It’s the ancient “I am” Moses heard in the desert.

So we might hear Him making a stronger statement.

“Take courage. I am. Don’t be afraid.”

As the storyteller he is, Dick somehow morphed into talking about a Jewish friend who grew up hearing three commands from his mother: “Grow up. Get a job. Marry a nice Jewish girl.”

The man said he heard that advice so often he thought they were a single word: GrowupgetajobmarryaniceJewishgirl.

And as he always does, Dick brought us back to Jesus and suggested that we consider a new word:

TAKECOURAGEIAMDON’TBEAFRAID

That’s my word.

It’s my word because it combines courage, hope, and community. I don’t need to rely on my own ability. I don’t have to do courage alone.

It’s not a magic cure. I won’t remember it every time, just as I didn’t the day our team got lost. I probably won’t remember it most of the time.

But when I do, when I focus on the word instead of all the complications, maybe I can make life a little simpler. Maybe I’ll step out of the boat, face the fear, and move forward.

TAKECOURAGEIAMDON’TBEAFRAID

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 Can You Help?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Exodus 35:31: “And he [the LORD] has filled him [Bezalel] with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”

Patricia told me God couldn’t use her because she was nothing special. I told her God didn’t look for super stars to do his work on earth in the past, and he still doesn’t.

He used ordinary men like Bezalel to build the sanctuary. The difference is what God did with those ordinary men. Verse 34 says he gave both Bezalel and Oholiab “the ability to teach others.” Verse 35 says God “filled them with skill to do all kinds of work.”

According to Exodus 36:1, God gave them and those who helped them skill and ability to do the work as he commanded.

Patricia believed she wasn’t a chosen leader like Bezalel and Oholiab and couldn’t help. I showed her Exodus 35:5-6 which tells how the rest of the community was to bring an offering for the work which could be anything from gold and silver to acacia wood and olive oil for the light.

As Patricia leaned forward, I told her how the men of my church overseas built a Christian school. I described how the women took lunch for the workers, made curtains, and painted murals in the building. Some of the women became teachers. Others worked in the school office.

Patricia’s face beamed with enthusiasm. She said she would ask God to give her skill, ability and knowledge as he did Bezalel and Oholiab. She would also ask God for the ability to teach others how to help her.

Dear God, show me what talents you’ve given me. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to help your church or community?

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

“I Couldn’t Do That.”

Monday, July 15th, 2013

One common thread through the story of RICH’S RIDE is the people who say, “I could never do something like that.”

You know what? They’re right.

It’s much too difficult. There’s no way an ordinary human being could possibly accomplish a task this big.

In the middle of an ancient desert God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

And Moses essentially replied, “I could never do something like that.”

God agrees. He doesn’t tell Moses how tough and brave he is or how special he is. He doesn’t list all the character traits that make Moses uniquely qualified for this apparently impossible task. Instead, God tells Moses the one thing that will allow him to succeed.

And God said, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12)

The implication’s clear. Without God, neither Moses nor any other person could deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh’s iron grip.

Moses knew all about Pharaoh’s power and his own weakness. He compared his ability to the magnitude of the task before him and rightly concluded he was over his head.

God didn’t make Moses stronger, wiser, or more powerful. He simply said, “So now, go. I will be with you.” Apparently that was enough.

God’s presence changes everything.

The world’s obstacles are always bigger than our capacity to overcome them. When we worship the world’s power we’ll always be engaged in a search for smaller, safer challenges.

Do we really believe what we believe?

God says, “So now, go. I will be with you.”

It’s not about whether we think we’re capable. We’re not.

It’s about the size of our God.

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