Archive for August, 2014

The Devil’s Chessboard

Friday, August 15th, 2014

So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes! 2 Corinthians 2:11

“Be watchful; the world is the devil’s chessboard! You can hardly move backward or forward, but he is ready to attack you with some temptation!”

Those who play at the game of chess know that great caution is needed. Your opponent is working toward a design of which you know nothing; and while you imagine that you are doing exceedingly well, he is entrapping you!

The game of life
, as against Satan, is one in which . . .
his maneuvers and artifice,
his long practice and stratagems,
his superior skill and deceptiveness,
and his unscrupulousness–
give him an immense advantage over our poor self-conceited folly!

Lord, help us! You know our adversary; be pleased to deliver us out of his hand.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes!” Ephesians 6:11

~ Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

How Can You Diffuse Resentment?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Judges 8:1: “Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, ‘Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?’ And they criticized him sharply.”

Do you sometimes think you can’t win even when you do the right thing? Gideon obeyed God and fought Midian with the 300 soldiers God allowed him. He knew God won the battle for them.

The Ephraimites were jealous of the victory of their fellow Israelites. Their jealousy and pride prevented them from acknowledging the success of Gideon and the 300 soldiers without their help.

Gideon had a choice to make. His first option was to say they were jealous because they didn’t take part in the battle and couldn’t claim the victory.

His second option was to praise the Ephraimites for all they had done. He chose that option. With a humble heart, Gideon said in verses 2-3, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?”

With divine wisdom and humility Gideon didn’t let the situation escalate. The end of verse 3 says, “At this, their resentment against him subsided.”

How will you respond to criticism?

Dear God, please help me answer with your wisdom and humility when people criticize me. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to diffuse resentment as Gideon did?

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Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Copyright by 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:

The Vivid Contrast of “I AM”

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

A vivid contrast inspires today’s word-of-the-week…


popeye(Okay, it’s two words, but it’s also God’s name so it counts.)

Has anyone (maybe you) ever said, “Hey, that’s just who I am”?

In Exodus 3, Moses asks God for some ID. In response, God essentially says His identity is self-evident.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

“I AM” is quite a claim. Among other things, it implies permanence, existence beyond circumstance, independence, and completeness. “I AM” sounds like a riddle, but in fact it’s God’s way of setting Himself apart. “I AM” is a name and a description appropriate only for God.

Several decades ago, a famous cartoon character offered a similar claim in his theme song:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man, I yam what’s I yam, And that’s all what’s I am, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

Popeye’s bold declaration, “I yam what I yam,” reflects the tough, independent American spirit. This is who I am—take it or leave it.

You see the conflict, right?

“I am who I am” is God’s line. He’s the only one who gets to claim permanent, self-evident, independent identity.

Maybe we should let God be I AM. Let’s let go of “that’s just who I am” and ask “who can I become to serve the people around me?”

Do You Have the Courage for God-Inspired Dreams?

Monday, August 11th, 2014

committed_01Jesus didn’t play it safe, and He didn’t seclude His closest friends within a protective bubble. “Follow me” includes the probability of risk and sacrifice. Faith doesn’t mean the absence of fear, and fear doesn’t mean we’re on the wrong path.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14: 26-27)

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

Courage is the willingness to face fear and move forward. Jesus wasn’t telling them they shouldn’t feel fear. He’s telling them not to allow the fear to control them, that they won’t have to face their fear in isolation. “I am” reminds them that they’re not alone.

(Rich) A dream is the God-inspired desire to share your unique gifts and passions to serve and make a difference in the world.

God-inspired dreams require courage. Dreams are God’s invitation to step out of the boat and imagine something bigger than ourselves and our capabilities.

If you’re not afraid of falling, if there’s no risk of a skinned knee or a wounded heart, perhaps your vision isn’t big enough. Perhaps you’re limiting God and His inspiration to your safe little comfort zone.

I believe dreams are God-inspired because He asks us to trust Him, to operate on faith. We can’t follow Jesus while insisting on a safety net.

If you step out in faith you’re going to visit some scary places.

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

I think He’s still saying that to us.

What are some traits God might value as much as, or perhaps more than, your personal comfort?

How might our concern with comfort get in our way?

Discuss this idea:

God wants me to dream big dreams and live a story worth telling. Stories worth telling are rarely comfortable.

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Copyright 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

Are You Afraid To Listen?

Friday, August 8th, 2014

facing fearThe guy at the retreat answered a question about fear in a brutally honest manner. “I’m afraid if I really listen to God, He might tell me to do something I don’t really want to do.”

Lots of folks grumble that God never speaks to them. What if the real problem is that we’re afraid to listen? What if we intentionally keep God at a distance to avoid disrupting our self-created illusion of security?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?
And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I.
Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Most of the guys around the fire that night agreed. We seek to serve—when it’s convenient, when it fits into the schedule. We’d love to serve or do a mission trip, but that vacation gets in the way. We want to finish well—but we need to guard the 401(k).

What if we want to follow—on our terms?

What if we’re not-so-secretly afraid that Jesus was serious when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

What if our efforts to follow Jesus in a safe, sanitary manner actually cause us to avoid God because we’re afraid of what He might say?

Are you ever afraid God might ask you to do something you don’t want to do or give up something you really want to hang on to? What are those times/things for you?

What are some of the excuses we use for not listening?

How do you know if it’s God’s voice or your own wishes?

Often we think of “being sent” in terms of big stuff like going to Africa (or doing a bike tour). What are some more everyday circumstances where God might send us if we’d listen a bit more closely?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 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

Is God not listening? Does He not care?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

If you’re anything like me (and something tells me that’s the case since we all have the same Creator), you often find yourself fretting over why you haven’t seen an answer to a particular prayer. Is God not listening? Does He not care?

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. (Luke 22:41-43, NKJV).

Jesus is our perfect example in this instance. The One who truly had the Father’s ear and certainly had an urgent petition as He knelt in the garden just prior to His arrest did not insist God answer His request a certain way. In His humanity, Jesus did not look forward to the torture He was about to endure. As a result, He asked God to take it away from Him IF it was the Father’s will. And then He added, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” It was at that point of complete submission to God’s will that an angel came to strengthen Him. Speaking for myself, I know that’s where the problem usually lies for me. I spend my time begging and pleading and even strong-arming God into answering my prayers according to my will rather than His, and then I wonder why an angel doesn’t appear from heaven to strengthen me. Peace evades me. Joy is but a memory. Can you relate yet? My favorite cartoon of all time is one of Dennis the Menace, kneeling at his bedside, his hands folded in prayer as he says, “I’m here to turn myself in.” When I’m struggling with yielding my will to God, the memory of such a simple cartoon can call me back to the place of submission. Dennis the Menace didn’t put any stipulations on his prayer; he knew he had done wrong and he was there to “turn himself in” and ask for mercy. That’s the stance we all need to assume (and maintain) when we come to God in prayer, whatever our petitions may be. The very fact that we call Him “Lord” should remind us that we must remain submitted to His will, for how can we call Him “Lord” if we’re still trying to run things ourselves? Anyone who has ever lived in a feudal situation knows that the “lord” is in charge and the subjects have no say. Thankfully, we who have received Jesus as our Savior have a loving and merciful Lord and don’t need to fear His will for us. Like Dennis the Menace, we simply have to come and present ourselves to Him, trusting that He will do what is best for us, exactly as He did for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’m ready to turn myself in and get my peace and joy back, aren’t you? Maybe we’ll even be visited by an angel in the process.

Have You Heard a Gentle Whisper Lately?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

1 Kings 19:12: “After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Last Friday morning, I heard a gentle whisper to wear my comfortable shoes. I wore those comfortable shoes to and from Richmond, but vanity is a taskmaster. I changed into pretty shoes for the speaking engagement. They have a heel as low as my comfortable shoes but not the same support.

Do you ever ignore a gentle whisper and choose your own way?

My speaking event went very well. Afterward I changed into my comfortable shoes again for the drive home, but it was too late. My feet were throbbing. They throbbed the rest of the weekend.

Saturday morning I had no choice but to wear my comfortable shoes to another speaking engagement. I regretted not listening to that gentle whisper. My feet hurt so much that not even my comfortable shoes felt good. I wanted to go barefooted.

Those three hours on Friday in pretty shoes weren’t worth the pain.

Sometimes I get busy and hurry from one activity to another. I don’t stop to think that gentle whisper comes from God. I ignore it and suffer the consequences. Can you identify with me?

Dear God, help me listen to your gentle whisper. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to listen to and obey God’s gentle whisper?

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 by 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:

When God gazes on Gaza, What does He see?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

When God gazes on Gaza
What does He see,
Political divisions, Levitical pleas?
Impoverished citizens
Cowed by a wall,
A nation entombed,
Loves He them all?

Would genocide sanctified
Enter His plan,
By rocket’s red glare
Would He scorch all the land?
Might He prefer blood flow
To honey or milk,
Dance as the innocents
Fall in their filth?

The God who called Abraham,
Gave him two sons,
Watched while the two streams diverged
Each one
Powered by passion to destiny fill,
Would God will a bloodbath
Where He’d life instilled?

World is now watching
As battle unfolds,
Prophets in history
These clashes foretold,
But I ponder peace as I
Switch on T.V.
And note the short distance
From there to Dead Sea.

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Copyright by Roadrunner. All rights Reserved.


The Truth Shall Set You Free, part 10

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

This study was done during the last semester of my teaching career. A lot of things were on my mind. The letter of resignation had been written and accepted. I was starting to have dialogs with different campus constituencies about an orderly exit regarding pension, health plans, etc. I met my successor but stayed out of the process of his selection. I got an early start on cleaning out the office. I wanted an orderly exit so that on the last day of my tenure as a teacher, I would walk out and not return.

I had been asked to deliver the Baccalaureate address to the graduating seniors. That would be my last official act. I was working through various texts of Scripture to find some ideas. It was tempting to work up something out of the present study, but it seemed perhaps a bit too remote for wide-eyed seniors with cheek champing at the bit to get off campus as soon as possible. After all, they had a lot on their minds too.

The text really was out of the last 13 chapters of Genesis. It was the story of Joseph. The themes of the talk, which was to last 14 minutes max, were: handling hardship, betrayal and bad luck and yet have the faith to persevere, and to forgive and forget. Obviously a tall order but I think I got it right. I practiced it a gazillion times, parked my ego at the door on the day of, and gave the talk in a way that God would be glorified. I walked out and got into the car and left. I did not return until Homecoming.

The whole thing was really sad, however. Forty great years of living out my dream and doing 39 of those years in Jesus’ name. It was a great ride and I knew that I was walking away from something – the classroom and the students – that often was the best part of my day. Still, I knew it had to happen. I was not the same man I was when younger and I needed to be sure those students were getting what they paid for. Stepping aside and out seemed to make sense.

Teaching was my life. But it was not my entire life. I led with my heart, and that is probably one of the reasons I was so tired at the end. Emotion can suck the energy right out of you. I loved it so much…teaching…being with students…preparing…studying…commiserating with colleagues. Not all of it was good but I will leave that part out. To tell you the truth, I have forgotten about most of that.

For the longest time I was a fan of the writing of Ernest Hemingway. I was fascinated by his life and read all the biographies, as well as the critical surveys of his work, including the works of his fellow “lost generation” peers like John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and so on. I accumulated 200 volumes in my personal library and read them at my leisure over the years.

To Hemingway, writing was his life. He worked at it as hard as he could. The façade he presented to the world was quite different from the serious man who worked hard at writing one sentence at a time. He lived a short but active life that ended in suicide at the age of 61. This event caused interest in him to increase and soon we discovered he was a sick man dealing with a variety of ills. All of this resulted in the loss of his writing ability. This was more than he could take and he ended it all. Since he could not write any more what was the point in living?

Teaching was my life but I did it in Jesus’ name. Therefore, Jesus is my life. I could have been a plumber or a used car salesman, but as long as I did those things in Jesus’ name, He would be my life, not my vocation, not my loved ones, not anything. Jesus is my life. My life is hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3).

So, if I taught in Jesus’ name than I am also retired in Jesus’ name. This is “our” time now. It is a quiet time together, He and I, working together through His teachings and precepts and reflecting on how my life, even now, is a learning tree that continues to fascinate me to the point that often I don’t sleep but for the right reasons.

Jesus is my life because it says in John 8:31,32 that if I continue in His word, I will be a disciple of His, and I will know the truth and the truth will make me free. I am free. I could have a horrible day teaching (been there done that) and walk out feeling really bad, but somewhere within me there I was with Jesus. I have never had a horrible day with Jesus. Never. I could so some pretty dumb things and hurt myself and others and feel really bad about that. However, those emotions will pass. I could never feel bad about anything that involves me and My Lord other than the sadness of knowing that He had to endure The Cross in order for me to have a relationship with God through Him. He loves me unconditionally. That is the truth that sets me free: His love.

It is up to me to actively claim that love and make it a part of me. First, I need to understand my position in Jesus. If I am in Jesus positionally, I clearly am in the kingdom. I am never alone. I am in Him with the entire kingdom. Knowing this has kept me away from loneliness for a long time now, and being lonely was my M.O. for just about my entire life. Lonely and insecure. I worked hard to hide it but now all of that is gone because of my being in Jesus.

Second, I need to claim the love of God by understanding my personage in Christ. I need to accept that I (1) am a saint; (2) an ambassador for Him; (3) His workmanship to bear the fruit of good works; (4) a light in the world; and (5) flavoring, preserving and healing salt. Wow…what a mix! There is no reason why I would ever feel inferior and know these truths at the same time.

There is one more truth I need to claim and we need to look at that a bit. I refer to my possessions in Christ. Even before I was born, God blessed me spiritually (Ephesians 1:3). In addition, He gave me an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:17). He deeded to me something as if it was part of a will. In order to execute the will, someone must die. That someone is Jesus. Who is the executor of the will? The Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, I am at peace with God because of Jesus (Romans 5:1-2). Can you imagine that? Peace with God, the Almighty who created the heavens and the earth! Me. Just a guy who is not special or extraordinary and yet who, in the entire milieu of a life that has marched through His creation from day one till now, and I have peace with God through Jesus and I did nothing to earn that.

There is more. He has granted to me His precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). Please see this. These are not just promises, but these are precious promises. Precious means: extra-large, magnificent. One of these promises is that I can have victory over sin by being a partaker of the divine nature: not to be sinless, but to sin less.

I am a partaker of His grace because I am in Jesus (Ephesians 1:6). We don’t take grace for granted, but often we fail to see the extent of it. Very often I view His Word as grace. It is so full of His riches, so honest and so true and so helpful. Often just saying His words bring comfort and peace. Grace is more than amazing…it is precious.

And most importantly, I have fellowship with God through Jesus (1 John 1:3). I visualize this fellowship as the two of us walking side by side. He is the leader and is moving more purposefully than I am. He is sharing and teaching but He is also listening. It is a path we share and yet I know whose path it really is. It is His path. He is not my co-pilot. He is my friend and redeemer and I can love Him and come to Him like a child and know He loves me and I feel His reassuring touch.

These truths are operative and real and take away any sense of inadequacy on my part.

None of this has anything to do with religion. There is no freedom in religion. None. This is not going to make us good holy persons walking around with halos over our heads. It has everything to do with relationship. It is relational knowledge – truth – that makes sense if it involves three of us – actually four: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and yours truly, all of me…the good, the bad and the ugly.

And God loves all three parts.

He always did; and He always will.

My name is Micheal the Penguin and I am a Christian in recovery.

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