Archive for March, 2014

Are You Wrestling with God’s Sovereignty?

Monday, March 31st, 2014

As I wrestle once again with His sovereignty, I realize the deepest question my heart is asking:  Can I really trust that He knows what is best for me?

When life is smooth, it is easy to give lip service to believing that He knows what is best.  But our commitment to God and His plan is challenged when life is not so smooth.

So what exactly does “smooth” mean?  Smooth means life is going according to my plan.  And that’s the crux of it.  Deep down in the darkest corner of my heart, the place I don’t want to admit exists — much less allow God to penetrate it with His Light and Truth — deep down in that horrid corner I see what I really want is life according to my plan.

Control, rebellion, and pride all wrapped up into one big mess.

Bowing to His sovereignty means that I surrender my “good” plan for my life (and the lives of those I love), to His perfect plan.  It means humbly acknowledging that He knows best, that He is the only One who is infinite and eternal and knows all — the past, present, and future.  It means realizing that I certainly cannot predict the future, much less control it.

I can bow to His sovereignty kicking and screaming . . . or, I can come to more deeply know the One who died so I could live.  In knowing the depth of that love, I cannot help but to trust that His perfect plan, His plan that is colliding with my plan, does indeed have my best interests at heart.

Are you wrestling?

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~ * ~

Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.

What Does It REALLY Mean to Surrender?

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Does surrender mean we wave the white flag in defeat? Come out of the castle we have been defending with our hands high in the air? Lie face down on the ground praying we won’t be killed?

I have often wrestled with surrendering, alternatively angry and fearful. Angry at Him for demanding it, requiring that I walk on His path and not my own. And afraid of the unknown. Although the current place may not be perfect, at least I know it. I am familiar with the ropes. No surprises here. I can keep everything under good control.

But surrender is a leap into the unknown. Will He really catch me before I hit the bottom?

Yes, surrender means we come out of the castle we have been defending. The castle of idolatry of our plan, our way. And no, we don’t need to pray that He won’t slay us in anger, for He is all grace, and His mercy triumphs over judgment.

To me, surrender is laying aside my plan — which seems good and comfortable and right — for His better plan — which is completely obscured from my eyes. I mean, if I knew a better plan, wouldn’t I be on it? Can I really trust that there could be a better plan?

The most fascinating thing about surrender is that surrender to the Lord is actually victory. It is His triumph of lordship in my heart, and it is always a vastly better path than I had chosen. Sometimes, the “vastly better” about it is not obvious for a while. But the deeper and deeper I surrender to Him, the more I am able to trust that His way is absolutely for my good.

What are your thoughts on surrender?

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~ * ~

Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.

Fear: Maybe It’s Pretty Simple

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Yesterday the guys in my workshop talked about fear.

We looked at a hierarchy of spiritual needs and I asked them to list fears that came to mind if those needs weren’t met. The idea was to help each guy identify where he was in the hierarchy.

The exercise proceeded pretty much as I expected, but driving home as I processed their responses I realized something significant.

Nobody expressed a fear of not following God’s plan.

These guys have lost just about everything. Most of them have no idea where they’ll end up or what they’ll do when they complete their program. If anyone ought to be fearful of outcomes, it’s them.

But they’re not. They’re much more concerned with process, with learning how to follow and know Jesus, than with destination and results.

The more I consider it, the more I’m convinced that God has a plan for each of these guys—and for me and you. And I’m not sure that plan has a lot to do with specific activities, paths, or destinations.

I have a sense that if you’re doing what you love, what you’re good at, what serves others, and if you’re doing it with Jesus, you’re probably making God smile.

I think God cares more about HOW we do than WHAT we do.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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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

What Time and Season Are You In Now?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, and 4: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

As the anniversary of the passing of my only child approaches, God reminds me of this passage in Ecclesiastes. “There is a time to be born and a time to die.”

I didn’t want to lose my mother and my son, and you probably didn’t want to lose your loved one. However, we all come with an expiration date. Some die sooner than others, but we all die.

God gives us time to weep for those we’ve lost. We don’t have to pretend to be strong for the family. God made us with tear ducts. It’s OK to use them and cry. Jesus wept when his friend, Lazarus died. He did so and knew he would raise him from the dead.

God also gives us time to mourn our losses. We can be honest with our feelings of sorrow and anguish. We are human beings with a heart and emotions. We will miss those we love who are no longer with us. If we look, we can find a safe place to talk about our losses and their effect on our lives.

Dear God, thank you for the time to weep and mourn. Amen.

Application: What loss will you talk about this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!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 Is It Not Really Following Jesus?

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Imagine living the dream.

You’ve established a stable, sustainable family business. You create good jobs, pay taxes, and tithe to the local church. You’re able to provide for your family and give generously to others who aren’t so fortunate.

You work hard, and that’s okay. You’re thankful to God for the opportunities and blessings He’s provided. You pray each day that you’ll be able to continue, and perhaps grow, your business. If you can purchase more equipment and hire more people, the whole community will benefit.

It’s not about getting rich. It’s about building something, a legacy you can hand down to your children, something that will bless the world.

I just described Peter, John, and James—Jesus’ closest friends. They were living in many ways what we call the American Dream. They were the small business folks that drive our economy, create jobs, and make our communities such great places.

And Jesus showed up one day and said, “How about if you leave all this and follow me?”

And just like that they walked away from their businesses, from nets and boats and families, to follow a man they’d just met.

Would I do that?

I picture myself in the garage, changing bike tires, preparing for summer training. This guy walks up the driveway, and somehow I know Him.

“Come. Follow me.”

Honestly, I don’t think I’d do it. I don’t think I could leave Becky and Monte and just take off.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that’s a false hypothetical and it’s highly improbable that Jesus is going to ask me to desert my family.

You’re right, of course, but I don’t think that’s the point.

Following Jesus means being willing to let go of some of the stuff that’s so important to me. It means following His dream, not mine. I’m getting a sense that if it hasn’t cost me much, I might not really be following.

In fact, I might be asking Him to follow me. I’m pretty sure that’s not what He had in mind.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!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

Why do people at church fake being happy?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

I’ve told you the guys in my workshop ask great questions. They don’t know there’s some stuff you’re not supposed to mention.

“So what makes you think they’re faking?”

“Nobody’s that happy all the time. It’s like there’s a rule against being sad or upset. All the songs are about joy and peace, and sometimes that’s not how I feel. But I think they’d kick me out if I wasn’t smiling—I mean, not really, but nobody’s showing their real feelings.

“I go to Celebrate Recovery on Thursdays and it’s totally different. People there are real. But on Sundays, you gotta be happy. And I don’t think they’re always that happy. I know I’m not.”

I completely agree with my friend. There are many days I don’t feel the joy of the corporate worship experience, when all those smiling faces make me feel isolated and alone.

I’m glad I know better. I’m glad I know worship is more than music and more than feelings. I’m glad I know a lot of those smiles aren’t real and church has a lot of hurting, confused, lost people.

That’s why we fake being happy—because we’re just like everyone else, and we’re afraid, and we don’t want others to know we’re afraid. So we hide behind our happy masks.

So that was my answer, and my friend said, “But doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Isn’t the whole point of a community to have a place where you can be honest and let down your guard?”

“Sure. The whole idea of a life of worship is to love God, others, and yourself—openly and transparently.

“But nobody said it would be easy.”

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!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

What is Worship?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

An old friend shines fresh light on today’s word-of-the-week…

WORSHIP

Most churches seem to have “worship leaders” who play guitars or keyboards, so I guess worship means music.

I don’t think that’s correct. Worship is about how we live our lives, not singing for a few minutes on Sunday. I’m studying an old sermon from my friend Al Helder that explores the Biblical link between acceptable worship and justice.

In Isaiah 1 God rejects the ritual sacrifices of His people, which is sort of odd at first glance. God seems angry at the very sacrifices He commanded. But then the prophet goes on to explain that the sacrifices have become empty because they’re no longer accompanied by acts of social justice.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

Worship and justice are linked. Without care for the poor and marginalized, worship becomes empty and meaningless to God.

Later the prophet Micah asks (Micah 6) how to worship—and provides a simple answer.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Apparently worship is something beyond cool music.

This might be a good week to worship God’s way.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!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 Strong and Courageous Are You?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

“Who will go with me, God?” I asked. “I can’t do all that driving alone, speak each day, and handle the book table.”

Yet no one could go with me. How could I be strong and courageous? How could I not to be discouraged?

  As I packed, I repeated, “For the LORD your God will be with you [Yvonne] wherever you go.”

  I made it to the first and second cities, and a volunteer handled the book table for me each time. In the first city, an attendee invited me to join her and her friends at a local tearoom. We laughed and talked for two hours.

  Through a friend, I met a physician in the second city, visited his Toastmasters group, spoke twice there, and toured the local Christian radio station. 

  On the way to the third city, the windshield on the inside fogged up. God was with me as I used paper towels to wipe that windshield. I arrived safely.

  I gripped the steering wheel with God’s strength as I drove against the wind to the fourth city. Again God provided a volunteer for the book table and a printed map for my trip home. I arrived with a stronger faith in God’s commands and promises.

  Dear God, help me remember you are with me. Amen.

  Application: In what situation will you be strong and courageous this week?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!

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

Why We Need To Remember Less

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Grace doesn’t forget. Grace chooses not to remember.

question-marks1Can God really “not remember” my sins?

He’s God, right? He knows everything. And if He knows it all, how can He not remember?

I’ll bet it’s been debated in countless all-nighters at every seminary over coffee and, depending on the seminary, other adult beverages. Because if God’s all-powerful, then He can “not remember” if that’s what He wants to do. But wouldn’t He remember that He didn’t remember?

More coffee, please.

I raise the issue because it’s the sort of question that sidetracks the guys in my ongoing workshop. So we chase it around for a few minutes, but we have a go-to phrase to get us back on track.

I DON’T KNOW HOW THAT WORKS.

It’s good to seek understanding where we can. But faith involves accepting a certain measure of mystery. On this side of eternity, it won’t all make sense.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

So there’s wisdom in acknowledging what I don’t know and leaving that to God. If He says He chooses not to remember, that’s good enough for me.

The real question isn’t—or shouldn’t be—God’s capability. We really ought to ask about our response.

If “grace chooses not to remember,” perhaps our public discourse (and our Facebook timelines) might reflect a less acute memory and accounting of wrongs.

I know He said I’m supposed to love my enemies. You don’t suppose He meant I’m to avoid publically criticizing people I don’t like, do you? Or, even worse, actually looking for something kind to say?

Nah. That’s just crazy talk.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!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 Envy Rotting Your Bones?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

I confess I envy people who can eat whatever they want and not get sick. Can you relate?

I can’t eat red meat, pork, shellfish, fried foods, or dairy products. I usually do well at home. When I eat in a restaurant or go away for a few days, the battle begins.

I dislike drawing attention to my food restrictions. However, when a waiter brings me a different meal than the others receive, that’s what happens.

I feel a twinge of envy and wonder if my bones are rotting. How about you?

To make matters worse, I suspect I can’t eat wheat either.

No matter what, I want a heart at peace that gives life to my body. I don’t want envy to rot my bones.

You may not suffer from food allergies, but you may have physical limitations. They challenge you, and you may envy people without them.

Perhaps you’re single and envy your married friends. Maybe you’re married and envy your single friends.

You may live in a townhouse and envy those in a large house with a big patio. On the other hand, you may live in a large house with a big yard and envy those in a townhouse who have less to clean.

Dear God, help me have a heart at peace. Amen.

Application:  What will you do this week to avoid envy?