Archive for December, 2014

To follow Christ is to go where He leads

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

“Jesus said unto him: Follow Me! John 21:19

We have come now to the last day of the year! For a whole year in these daily readings, we have been walking with Christ. Is there any better word with which to close this book and close the year, than this last invitation of Jesus, “Follow Me!” This is the true outcome of all learning of Christ. Mere knowledge, though it be of spiritual things, avails nothing–except as it leads us to follow Christ.

We have seen Jesus in all the different phases of His life. We have heard many of His words. Now it remains only for us to follow Him. The outcome of seeing and knowing Jesus–should be holy living and doing. The last day of the year suggests also the same duty.

Who is satisfied with his life as it appears in retrospect? The past, however blotted, must go as it is; we cannot change it, and we need not waste time in regretting. But the new year is before us, and if we would make that better than the stained past, it must be by following Christ more closely.

To follow Christ is to go where He leads–without questioning or murmuring. It may be to a life of trial, suffering, or sacrifice–but it does not matter; we have nothing whatever to do with the kind of life to which our Lord calls us. Our only simple duty is to obey and follow. We know that Jesus will lead us only in right paths, and that the way He takes slopes upward and ends at the feet of God!

The new year on which we are about to enter is unopened, and we know not what shall befall us; but if we follow Christ we need have no fear. So let us leave the old year with gratitude to God for its mercies, and with penitence for its failures and sins; and let us enter the new year with earnest resolve in Christ’s name to make it the holiest and most beautiful year we have ever lived.

(“Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ” J.R. Miller, December 31, 1890)

Tired Hearing about New Year’s Resolutions?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Are you tired of hearing about New Year’s resolutions, goals, and focus? I am.

However, as I study the book of Hebrews, I want to draw closer to Jesus Christ. I don’t want to call that a New Year’s resolution, a goal or a focus, but I will say it’s the desire of my heart. What is the desire of your heart for 2015?

Why would I desire to draw closer to Christ in 2015? Hebrews 1:1 says, “[God] has spoken to us by his Son.” I don’t want to miss out on what God says. What about you?

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.” I want to be more like Christ and radiate God’s glory not mine. Whose glory will you radiate?

Verse 3 also says, Christ is “the exact representation of his [God’s] being.” As a Christian, my eternal home is in heaven. I want to get to know the one with whom I’ll spend eternity. And you?

Verses 11-12 tell us that Christ remains “the same.” With all that changes around me, I want the stability of a relationship with Christ who does not change.

strong>Hebrews 1:2: “But in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

Dear God, please help me know Christ better. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to draw closer to Christ?

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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: http://YvonneOrtega.com

What about Dignity and Respect?

Monday, December 29th, 2014

I’ve chosen a misused word as this year’s final word-of-the-week…

RESPECT

Toward the end of my career I operated my classroom with a single principle: Everyone (including the teacher!) always deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Some kids believed respect was earned, but I taught them respect means regard. It means I see you, I acknowledge you. You treat others with basic respect because you acknowledge their basic human dignity and worth.

You don’t have to like them, admire them, trust them, or follow them. Those are earned.

You certainly don’t have to agree with them.

But everyone, by virtue of being a child of God, deserves to be treated respectfully.

No name-calling. No bullying. No gossip.

Work as a team. Apply the golden rule.

How different would the new year look if everyone who follows Jesus resolved to treat everyone with dignity and respect?

Yeah, I’ll mess it up, too. But I’m willing to try.

How about you?

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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 www.relentlessgrace.com

Good News in a Bad News World

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites…
So He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all” (Mark 12:42-43).


Have you noticed that the world doesn’t measure things from God’s viewpoint? Even as believers, we often fall into the trap of thinking that more is necessarily better, despite the fact that the One we claim to follow said otherwise. As a result, we may become intimidated and fail to give anything at all.

The poor widow in Mark 12 gave such a small amount that it would scarcely be noticeable when the offering was counted. But Jesus noticed…and He counted it as worthy and the widow as faithful.

What else really matters? If we give the best we have to offer, then God counts our gifts as worthy and our hearts as faithful. God is not dependent on our worldly pittance, whether that pittance amounts to a few cents or a few million dollars. What He wants from us is everything — our money, our time, our talents…but most of all, our hearts. When we willingly give all that to Him, He multiplies it for His use and His glory.

What a clear example I came across of that truth as I read from my Compassion magazine this morning! Faithful donors from around the world have now reached the 1 million mark, meaning that 1 million children worldwide are regularly being helped by our offerings. True, 1 million children may represent only a small number of those in need, but it’s a start — an offering from our hearts that God can and does multiply. And what excited me was to read that in the midst of economic troubles, God’s people are remaining faithful in their giving, even exceeding their commitments of former years.

We’ve all heard the saying that “You can’t out-give God.” How true that is, beloved! The return on our offerings is always so much greater than anything we could ever gain by clutching our pitiful possessions to ourselves. God is much more interested in our willingness to give than in our ability to do so. He can as easily use our sacrificial dollar to accomplish great things as the billionaire’s thousand dollars.

And isn’t that good news in a world seemingly flooded with bad news? Perhaps we would be more willing to give ourselves away in God’s service if we would refuse to get caught up in the bad news that will soon pass away and instead rejoice in the Good News that God has everything under control—and He is sending Jesus back for us very, very soon!

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Macias
Copyright 2009 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books. Her newest books are:
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”
(New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

_

The Paradox of Christmas

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

One shopping days until Christmas!

That announcement greeted me first thing this morning, and I was struck by the amazing paradox embedded in a common seasonal countdown. Hurry up and shop for the birth of God’s Son!—sounds a bit silly if you think about it.

Christmas teems with contradiction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; most of life requires us to balance conflicting perceptions and priorities. The key is not to force a black-and-white interpretation onto a shades-of-gray world, because that simply denies reality. But awareness helps us to keep priorities in order.

SOME PARADOXES OF CHRISTMAS

Commercial and spiritual We all know about Black Friday, the beginning of the season retailers depend upon for an entire year’s success. While we rightly lament the over-commercialization of Christmas, most of us enjoy giving and receiving gifts. Any parent will happily recount memories of the wonder of Christmas morning and small children.

We simply need to remember that it’s not ALL about buying and getting and stuff. As long as our Christmas season centers on Advent first, we can keep the craziness in perspective and enjoy without being consumed.

Cultural and eternal We all have Christmas traditions. For us it’s the farm, family, football, and food. It’s a time to play games, do puzzles, and catch up with people we see too infrequently.

For me, none of that has much to do with Christmas. The holiday simply provides a reason to do things we ought to do anyway. Jesus wasn’t born so I’d slow down and spend time with relatives, but I suspect that He’d endorse the idea. Cultural practices are a problem only when they replace our focus on the star.

Single day and every day Christmas isn’t a day on the calendar. Christmas is a reminder of the Good News, glad tidings of great joy for all of us. That didn’t happen on December 25, 0000.

I love the way The Message paraphrases the familiar words of John 1:14:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

Jesus didn’t just drop by to offer a few words of encouragement before heading back to a more exclusive development. He moved into the neighborhood—mine and yours—and He still lives there.

How about you? What’s a Christmas paradox that impacts you?

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:8-11]

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Dixon
Copyright 2009 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

Stop “Otherizing”

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

The baby in the manger brings us an odd word-of-the-week…

OTHERIZING

star-near-bethlehem-israel2“Stop otherizing.”

It’s the Christmas message, the thing the baby’s been trying to tell me.

Other-izing: the process of discerning and accentuating differences between people so it’s apparent one group is clearly not like us–they’re the “others.”

The whole point of Christmas was Jesus erasing the lines between “them” and “us.” He didn’t ask us to “tolerate others.” He became one of us to eliminate the entire concept of others. As long as we perceive others in Christ, reconciliation and inclusion are just fancy church words for “you inferior folks need to change your ways and be like us superior folks.”

Jesus didn’t say, “If you want to be with me, come and live my story.” He knew the gap was too great, and He loved too much to allow it to remain.

So Jesus quite literally “died to self” as He left the comfort of the Trinity and merged His story with ours.

You don’t pay the kind of price Jesus paid for others. You only do that for family. As my friend Dick Foth says: “Jesus left His place and came to our place.”

At Christmas I think He asks if we’re willing to do the same.

Do I love too much to allow the gap to remain? Will I pay the price to remove it?

Will I stop otherizing?

Do You Ask Questions You Can’t Answer?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

I wish I could talk to the baby in the Nativity scene.

I know–it’s only a wooden carving, and conversations with babies tend to be sort of one-sided anyway. And it’s Jesus, so I can talk to Him whenever I want.

It’s just that when I look at the baby I wish the man He became would walk into the room, sit in that chair, and have a real-life conversation.

Someone said the early Christians struggled to believe Jesus was fully God. They had first-hand evidence of His humanity, because He lived and walked among them.

We likely have the opposite problem. We believe He was God, but struggle to accept Him as a man with the same limitations we deal with.

At Christmas, I want to know what it was like to go from limitless to limited, from all-powerful to dependent, from eternal to time-bound. I’d ask how He dealt with existing everywhere in the universe one moment, and then being confined to Mary’s womb the next.

What was it like in Heaven at the instant when all of God was concentrated into one location in space and time in a backwater country with no Internet or cell service?

I can’t imagine how any of that worked, but it must have been confusing for the human part of Him that had to figure it out with a limited human brain. Did He always know He could speak water into wine? If not, what was it like to gradually understand who He was?

Some folks dismiss these questions, because they don’t matter or because the answers can’t be known for sure. But for me, wondering about the baby is an important part of knowing Jesus.

And I’ve never believed questions don’t matter just because I don’t know the answers.

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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 www.relentlessgrace.com

No Christmas Family Reunion for Me

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

“I don’t want to go to the Christmas family reunion, Ms. Ortega,” Julia told me in my counseling office. Her hands trembled as she spoke and unbuttoned her sweater.

“What makes you say that?” I asked as I looked into her blue eyes.

“My mom and dad will argue most of the day. My aunt Mary won’t speak to my aunt Dorothy, and each will act as if the other one isn’t there.”

Julia’s facial muscles tightened as she discussed the family dynamics. I waited to hear what else she might say.

“That’s only half of the story.” Julia sat in silence for a minute and stared out the window. “My sister expects everyone to do what she wants, or she will get angry, curse, and cut them out of her life. My uncle Charlie will get drunk and misbehave.”

In my experience as a counselor, I’ve heard similar stories. Perhaps you feel like Julia and don’t want to go to your Christmas family reunion either.

You can write a list of the pros and cons of attending and then decide. You can consider other ways to spend Christmas day.

If your family members want to know why you won’t attend the family reunion, tell them you want a peaceful Christmas or have other plans.

You can invite good friends and neighbors to your home for a peaceful Christmas dinner.

Psalm 34:14b: “Seek peace and pursue it.”

Dear God, I want Christmas to be peaceful not hostile. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to “seek peace and pursue it”?

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: http://YvonneOrtega.com

Holiday Or Holy Day?

Monday, December 15th, 2014

I just realized I haven’t written much about Christmas…makes me wonder what’s going on.

A few days ago I googled “Christmas” just to see what would appear. After the obligatory Wikipedia entry, nearly the entire first page of search results dealt with stuff for sale. I started shaking my head in self-righteous judgment of those people who commercialize Christmas.

I started shaking my head…and stopped when I realized WHY I haven’t written much about Christmas. I looked in the mirror, afraid I might see one of those people staring back.

I haven’t focused on Christmas, on the birth of Jesus, because I allowed other things to be more important.

I didn’t intend for the books and jerseys to show up in mid-December. In July, delivery was promised before Thanksgiving so we’d have plenty of time for the whole pre-order/book launch process. I never meant for the first weeks of advent to disappear from my consciousness under an avalanche of excitement and promotion.

See–IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

Well, actually, it is my fault. I choose what gets my attention, or I let someone else choose for me.

I continue to learn: it’s all about balance. I’m not apologizing for selling my books. I believe in my work, and if I don’t promote it, who will? So I hope you’ll visit the store. I appreciate your support.

I also don’t regret the gifts and traditions and decorations that help make Christmas such a magical season. I like food and football and Christmas cards.

But when selling becomes the focus, when presents and parties become the reasons for the season, it’s time to reassess and rebalance.

Jesus didn’t leave heaven and become a helpless baby so I could sell stuff.

Someone’s going to tell me not to beat up on myself. I’m not doing that, I hope.

I’m simply reminding us to keep priorities in order. Let’s celebrate and enjoy the holiday.

But first, let’s remember why it’s a holy day.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

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Copyright 2008-2012 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 was the First Advent Like?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

TheNativityIf Advent’s about anticipation, what was that first Advent like for Jesus?

I look at the helpless baby in the manger and wonder what it was like as He waited. Because He wasn’t always a baby.

Time had never been an issue, but now there was this moment in time when everything would change. He would somehow empty Himself and enter His creation, become one of the created.

Did He anticipate that moment?

He’s God, so it’s tempting to brush it off and assume it was easy for Him. But Paul says it was a big deal.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

What was it like to know what was coming–not just the cross, but the helplessness, the dependency, the limitation? It’s hard to think about, because as a baby He couldn’t know, but as God He did, and somehow that all fits together.

We’re a self-centered bunch. For us, Advent’s about what we await.

I look at that baby and realize He waited, too.