Archive for May, 2014

How Much Does God Really Expect from You?

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Something our pastor said got me thinking about today’s word-of-the-week…

BEST

The preacher said, “We must do our best to…”

I wondered how much God really expects from me. It seems like a lot of people get buried in the notion that God expects perfection, or at least some level of superhuman performance. They give up because they know they can’t measure up.

I think the pastor was exactly right…in two ways. All God expects is my best. He takes my messed-up, less-than-perfect efforts and uses them to accomplish His purposes.

But there’s another side to the equation. He expects my BEST—good enough isn’t good enough.

Sometimes I don’t even try because I’m afraid I’ll fall short. But God doesn’t care about that.

It’s Monday. Maybe it’s a good week to give God my best and let Him take care of the results.

Have a great week.

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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 Deep Marks are You Making?

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

It is not what a man does or says purposely and with direct intention, which leaves the deepest mark in the world and in other lives–but it is the unconscious unpurposed influences which go out from him like the fragrances from a garden. Character is not necessarily what the man does–but what the man is!

There are great multitudes of humble Christian lives lived on the earth, which have no name among men, whose work no pen records and no marble immortalizes–but which are well known and unspeakably dear to God; and whose influence will be seen, in the end, to reach to farthest shores. They make no noise in the world–but it does not need noise to make a life beautiful and noble. Many of God’s most potent ministries are noiseless.

How silently all day long the sunbeams fall upon the fields and gardens–and yet what cheer, what inspiration, what life and beauty they diffuse!

How silently the flowers bloom–and yet what rich blessings of beauty and fragrance do they emit!

How silently the stars move on in their majestic marches around God’s throne–and yet the telescope shows us that they are mighty worlds representing utterly incalculable power!

The silent personal influence of a holy Christian has a healing, life-giving effect wherever it falls. Such a man goes about his daily duty as other men do; but, while he is engaged in common things, he is continually dropping seeds of blessing, which spring up behind him in heavenly beauty and fragrance!

In all true living, while men execute their greater plans–they are ever unintentionally performing a series of unconscious acts which often yield most beneficent and far-reaching results. There is a wayside ministry, for instance, made up of countless little courtesies, gentle words, mere passing touches on the lives of those we meet casually, impulses given by our salutations, influences flowing indirectly from the things we do and the words we speak–a ministry undesigned, unplanned, unnoted, merely incidental–and yet it is impossible to measure the wondrous results of these unconscious acts of usefulness.

~J.R. Miller, “Help for the Day”

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Do you have a good working definition of “what matters” to you?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Do you have a good working definition of “what matters” to you?

I like to think and write in terms of metaphors and analogies. I heard a comparison a while back that helped me think about money in my own hierarchy of what really matters.

In life’s journey, money is like gasoline for a car. You have to pay attention to it or you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. But a great journey can’t be all about accumulating more gasoline.

I have this image of a guy on a long trip, buying all the gasoline he can find. He keeps adding more and bigger tanks to store and manage all of the fuel. Gradually, the journey doesn’t matter any longer.

His entire purpose shrinks to locating and carrying fuel. He’s no longer even going anywhere. The only point of traveling is accumulating fuel, even when he has more than he could ever possibly use.

I think it’s a useful image for Christians because we tend toward two extremes. Prosperity preachers would have you believe the good news is God wants you to be rich. If you’re not drowning in material wealth, you’re obviously not following God’s will for your life.

At the other extreme is the faulty notion that any enterprise that produces a profit is intrinsically evil. It’s as though God intended us to live in poverty; anyone who doesn’t isn’t following God’s will.

Neither approach accurately reflects Jesus’ words.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” [Matthew 6:24]

Do I serve the journey or the gasoline?

Neither gasoline nor money are intrinsically evil. It’s the obsession with accumulation that gets us in trouble. Fuel and finances are resources intended to aid in achieving the real purpose of the journey. They meant to be spent, not accumulated.

I’m struck by another part of the endless accumulation image. We don’t build cars with two hundred gallon gas tanks because we trust that we’ll encounter a gas station before we run out.

I’m challenged to analyze my own notions about wealth. Do I feel compelled to accumulate enough to cover any possible contingency? Do I use “responsible financial planning” as an excuse to conceal my lack of trust in God’s provision?

Do I really trust that I’ll encounter God’s generosity before my tank runs dry?

I’m not sure, but I suspect that I place more faith in the appearance of a service station than in God’s faithfulness and provision when my own tank’s running low.

How do you balance the true purpose of the journey and accumulating resources to support it? Does this metaphor say anything important to you?

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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

Who’s in Charge?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

  Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.”

“I hope I can go to the conference,” I told my friend on the phone. “I’ll ask for vacation time.”

After we hung up, I faced a decision. I could stay up most of the night and worry. Another option would be to pray to the Lord for favor and ask a prayer partner to pray with me.

I’ve done both in the past, and I know worry and sleepless nights solve nothing. When you’ve wanted something, what have you done?

I prayed that God would allow me to go and called one of my prayer partners.

She said, “[Your boss’] heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.’”

She prayed and incorporated this Bible verse in her prayer.

That was all I needed to hear. I felt sure God wanted me to attend the conference. Peace came over me, and I thanked my friend for her Scriptural prayer.

After that call, I pulled out a suitcase to pack for the trip.

Sometimes we forget the Lord is in charge. I’m thankful for a prayer partner who reminds me as she prays the Word of God.

Dear God, help me remember you are in charge. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to remind yourself that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD”?

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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright , Yvonne Ortega, LPC, LSATP, CCDVCBY
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

A Better Way To Say “I’m blessed”?

Monday, May 5th, 2014

blessingI’ve decided to stop saying, “I’m blessed.”

I suppose I ought to explain, because I believe I’ve been blessed in many ways far beyond my ability to comprehend.

  • “I enjoyed great health in 2013. I’m blessed.”

I catch myself saying these sorts of things occasionally, and frankly I don’t think they’re true. I don’t think God’s blessings arrive in the form of temporary circumstances or material possessions that happen to align with my perception of “good.”

There’s an implication that I deserve something special. If I’m blessed with good health, what’s the message for those who aren’t? If I’m blessed by comfortable, stable finances, what do I say to millions of believers who work long hours but survive on a few dollars per day?

Blessing isn’t about my perspective. If I think it’s good, does that make it God’s blessing? By extension, any immediate situation I don’t like becomes—God’s curse? I don’t think so.

It’s about responsibility, not blessing. The gift of favorable circumstances isn’t a pat on my head, it’s a call to serve. The purpose of a gift is to share it.

An Alternative?

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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 about “I’m thankful”?

Here’s The Only Thing That Works

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

thing-called-loveI’m continually fascinated by how many people see Jesus as a control freak.

As I learn more about Him, I see no evidence that He cared about rigid external rules. Jesus was about radically transforming hearts, and you don’t do that through fear and punishment.

I spent a bunch of time over the weekend talking to a man who’s devoted most of his life to helping men overcome addictions. When I asked what he’d learned he replied, “Punishment doesn’t work. You can’t change behavior through fear. The only thing that works, long-term, is love.”

Honestly, I don’t get why that’s so hard to get.

If you believe Jesus was who He said He was, then you believe He had the power to force everyone to conform. If He wanted rules and consequences, one snap of His fingers would have brought all the armies required to enforce compliance. I’ll bet a few well-placed lightning bolts would have whipped folks into shape fairly quickly.

During Easter we remember His choice to surrender. We acknowledge His decision to set aside power and control, to walk the path of service. We marvel at His willingness to wash His disciples’ feet.

We commemorate Jesus’ example of sacrificial service which demonstrates that His way didn’t involve control.

My friend’s comment focused my attention on the principle that guided Jesus’ life. He was never about punishments, power, coercion, fear or rules.

Love is what works.

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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 Think God Does Not Accept You?

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:5-7, NKJV).

Years ago I served as a biblical counselor on the staff of a large Southern California church. As such, I heard stories and confessions of every imaginable sort. In return, I prayed and offered appropriate counsel from the Scriptures, never ceasing to be amazed that there was not one issue that came up during all those years which God hadn’t addressed in some way in His Word.

Those issues covered a wide variety of topics—relationships, addictions, heartache—but underlying all of them was the need for acceptance. The human heart cries out for unconditional love and acceptance. Sadly, most of us look for it everywhere except the one place it can be found: at the foot of the Cross. Even those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior often struggle with the concept that we have truly been accepted just as we are. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the need to live a Christ-honoring life once we have received that love and acceptance. As the old saying goes, God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.

And that’s the whole point. As Ephesians 1:5-7 so simply and eloquently points out, it is God who has predestined us to be His children; He did it because it pleased Him to do so; the praise for that is due to His grace to us; and it is He who has accepted us in the Beloved.

Who is God the Father’s Beloved? His Son, of course. We see that throughout the Scriptures, the gospels in particular. When we receive His Son as our Lord and Savior, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in us, and we are then “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NKJV). God no longer sees us or our sins when He looks at us; He sees only His Beloved Son, whose sacrifice He has fully accepted.

The next time you are tempted to believe God hasn’t (or can’t) fully accept you as you are, remember—when He looks at you, He sees Jesus. Rejoice in that acceptance, Beloved!

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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today! Copyright 2009-2013 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:

Deliver Me From Evil, (finalist for the Golden Scrolls Novel of the Year Award) and Special Delivery.
No Greater Love, More than Conquerors

The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com