Archive for September, 2015

A.D. The Bible Continues?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

A DHave you watched A.D. The Bible Continues?

I caught a random episode last weekend and got absolutely caught up in one scene.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

I just sat in my living room, transfixed by what they must have experienced. Can you imagine?

I usually read the gospels from the disciples’ perspective. I try to put myself in the group and imagine walking and talking with Jesus.

A group of grieving, frightened men were reunited with a friend. It wasn’t about theology or prophecy for them. They were overjoyed to see their friend. We can quibble about what they understood about Him, but if they were so certain of His identity I’d think they’d be a bit less afraid of the Jewish leaders.

I think they were a lot like me… they were absolutely sure, except when they weren’t. So when Jesus showed up, in person, it was a huge relief.

Can you imagine?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought If I could just talk to Him, face to face, just this one time…

Has that ever happened to you?

Well, Peter, John, and the rest thought Jesus was gone. Despite His promises, they thought they might never see Him again. And then He showed up and hugged them.

Can you imagine?

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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

How Do You Handle Illness?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I don’t like to sneeze and cough constantly, and I don’t like to blow my nose over and over. You probably don’t either.

If you’re like me and have allergies, you don’t welcome spring. The thought of pollen in the air and my car covered with yellow pollen makes me want to stay inside or move to Florida. How about you?

Most of the medicines used for allergies have side effects that leave me sicker than the pollen does. So I can’t take them. I tried Tessalon on Friday and Saturday I had glassy eyes and felt hung over.

This past week I realized anger against God had crept in. Why did he allow me to have allergies and get sick from the pollen? Do you ever feel that way? Maybe you don’t have allergies, but you have cancer or diabetes. Perhaps you suffer from migraine headaches or some other illness. How do you handle it?

When the anger crept in, my joy slipped away. I no longer smiled and laughed. Little things irritated me. What happens when anger enters your life?

I realized I had a choice. I could continue to feel anger and self-pity or I could confess my sin and ask God to restore the joy of his salvation. I chose the latter.

Although the physical symptoms remain, God has restored the joy of his salvation. I can smile and laugh again. I look forward to heaven where sickness will no longer exist.

Psalm 51:12: Restore to me the joy of your salvation.

Dear God, I don’t like to be sick. Please help me get through this illness. Amen.

Application: What day this week will you confess your anger or pity party to God?

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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

Missing the Point

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

A lesson in grace brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

BETTER

Ursula Ward had just heard the verdict.

Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez was guilty of murdering her son, Odin Lloyd. She stepped forward to speak before final sentencing.

“I forgive the hands of the people who had a hand in my son’s murder, either before or after.”

“She’s a better person than I am.” That was the takeaway of many news folks and talking heads as they marveled at this woman’s uncommon grace and courage.

They missed the whole point. They missed it because they didn’t listen to the whole statement.

Ms. Ward began with a remarkable comment: “I thank God for being here this morning.”

Seriously? Gratitude to God for that moment? I wonder why no one focused on that rather incredible demonstration of faith?

Then she ended with this simple benediction: “May God continue to bless us.”

If you listen to the entire statement, you hear grief, anger, pain, saddness–Ms. Lloyd wasn’t in denial and she’s wasn’t pulling punches.

She didn’t forgive because she thinks she’s stronger or better than anyone else. I think she understands her relationship to God. I think she understands her weakness.

I know I’m reading a lot into a few lines. I suspect she knows that forgiveness isn’t an event. She didn’t forgive her son’s killers in that courtroom so she could be done forgiving.

She did it so she could travel a difficult, daily journey of forgiveness that will allow her and her family to heal without bitterness and anger.

We can only choose that journey because we know we don’t have to travel alone. Jesus already walked the road…He knows the way.

May God continue to bless Ursula Ward, her family, Aaron Hernandez, and all of us on the journey.

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 www.relentlessgrace.com

“My” vs. Service

Monday, September 28th, 2015

A personal discomfort leads to today’s word-of-the-week…

MY

MondayI’ve become sensitive to, and uncomfortable with, the ways I use the word “my.”

My rights. My freedom. My ministry. My team. My turf.

As a follower of Jesus, none of those are mine. Yet I often claim them in subtle and not-so-subtle ways as some sort of badge of honor.

Demanding my rights. Defending my freedom. Growing my ministry. Protecting my turf.

Seriously?

All the words about “service” and “holding in open hands” lose their meaning when I think in terms of ownership. Talking about it, while I cling tightly, makes me feel like those religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Blind guides. Whitewashed tombs.

It’s not my book, my story or blog or bike ride or whatever. I want to be aware, not in a false humility way but in a real way that lets others know I don’t believe I own this stuff. At some point our words betray what’s in our hearts.

Please don’t interpret this as judgement of anyone else–too many logs in my own eyes to worry about others’ specks. This is one guy sharing his weakness, hoping you might benefit.

Your thoughts?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
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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

Where’s Your Focus?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

“What was Jesus’ primary focus during His three years of public ministry?”

It’s a trick question. I’m always a bit suspicious of single correct answers to complex questions.

Thomas wasn’t around when Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. When his friends told him what happened, Doubting Thomas earned his forever nickname. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, Jesus showed up again. Rather than scolding, Jesus gently invited Thomas to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas proclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus might have been indignant about Thomas’ lack of faith. He might have wondered if these guys learned anything in three years.

Jesus never focused on himself. For Him it was always about God and the needs (not wants) of others.

In that moment Jesus gave Thomas what he needed to fulfill the specific role to which he’d been called.

Re-read the last sentence. Isn’t that the promise?

Makes me think. As a follower, what if I looked at my own circles–family, church, workplace. What if I took the focus off me and looked at each person in the circle.

What if I asked What does that person need? Rather than advancing my agenda and achieving my goals, what if I asked myself what I could do to advance theirs?

Here’s my answer to the opening question: His focus was on God and on other people. Jesus would be the guy offering to take pictures of folks.

Jesus’ life wasn’t a selfie.

God is Not Defeated!

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth! Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might! 1 Chronicles 29:11-12


In these days of man-centered religion, verses like these have been ignored. The pulpits of our land preach…
a defeated God,
a disappointed Christ and
a defenseless Holy Spirit.”determinate counsel and foreknowledge”
Man has been deified–and God dethroned.
God has been relegated to the background.

The God most people believe in has benevolent intentions, yet He is unable to carry them out. He wants to bless men, but they will not let Him. The average church-goer thinks Satan has gained the upper hand, and that God is to be pitied rather than worshiped. The god of popular Christianity has a weak smile and a halo!

To suppose in the slightest that God has failed, or that He has been defeated, is the height of foolishness and the depth of impiety! The religious world needs to get God off the charity list!

The Bible knows nothing of a defeated, disappointed, and defenseless God. The God of the Bible is the “Almighty God” (Genesis 17:1) Who has all power in Heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). With Him nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37) or too hard (Jeremiah 32:17). His eternal purpose is being worked out. Everything is going according to His plan, and all things are under His control.

The God of the Bible is the Supreme Being in the universe! He is the most High, higher than the highest. He has no superiors and no equals. 
God is God.
He does
as
He pleases,
only as He pleases,
always as He pleases.

He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? What His soul desires, even that He does” (Job 23:13).

Agreeing with this is Psalm 115:3: “But our God is in the heavens: He has done whatever He has pleased.” As the Master of the World He declares: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure!” (Isaiah 46:10)

God is the Supreme Being and the Sovereign of the universe. He exercises His power . . .
as He wills,
when He wills,
where He wills.

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth. No one can ward off His hand or say to Him: What have You done? (Daniel 4:35)

God governs all His creatures and their actions. The events that take place on earth do not take place by chance, or fate, or luck. The so-called accidents are not even incidents with the Master of the World. He numbered the hairs of our head and noted the sparrow’s fall in eternity past by His “determinate counsel and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23).

The Master of the World set the bounds of our habitation on earth. The number of our months is with Him, and our days are appointed!

God is holding the helm of the universe, and regulating all events. The Master of the World “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). It is God’s eternal right to do all His pleasure. He is not accountable to any of His creatures. Job 33:13 declares: “He gives no account of any of His matters.”

God controls all things–or nothing.
He must either rule–or be ruled.
He must either sway–or be swayed.
He must either accomplish His will–or be thwarted by His creatures.
He is not obligated to leave the affairs of this world to be governed by accident, chance, or the will of sinful men.

If we admit that God absolutely governs all things according to the counsel of His own will, then we admit that He has determined what shall and what shall not transpire in time and eternity. To deny His universal control of all things, is to deny His eternal power and Godhead. If He has the power and wisdom to determine all events–then He can cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
~Milburn Cockrell, “The Master of the World!

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You are not Invisible

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

invisibleHagar was a slave and and she was in a mess. (Genesis ch. 16 & 21)

Some of it was her fault, some of it wasn’t. But now she had run away into the wilderness. Pregnant and alone, she waited by a stream to see what might happen. An angel of God appeared and delivered a surprising promise. He told her to return to camp and submit to her mistress.

Hagar was amazed that God would even acknowledge a lowly servant. She called Him “the God who sees me.”

Hagar understood a central truth about God’s character: He’s the God who sees every person equally.

For the last couple of years I’ve been honored to spend some time with men who are recovering from addiction. I’ve learned more from them than they’ve learned from me, and one of the most important things I’ve learned is the pervasive nature of addiction in society. These guys were always here, but they were invisible to me and to much of my suburban culture. Sadly, I think they’re sort-of invisible in my church.

They’re not invisible to God.

This got me wondering about other sort-of invisible people. The door’s open, nobody’s keeping them out, but they aren’t there. Or they are, but they’re on the edges and it’s clear they aren’t really part of the circle.

Homeless people.

Poor people.

Folks without much education (churches look a LOT like schools).

People whose life doesn’t look like the American dream.

I could go on but you get the idea. Many churches just aren’t all that diverse. Those who don’t fit the profile become invisible. We know they exist, but we don’t see them.

Maybe that’s why Jesus hung out with them. He was tired of the religious leaders looking past them and talking about them as though they weren’t in the room. He made them visible because He was the God who sees.

Invisible people make us uncomfortable. It’s hard for me to admit how often I pretend not to see, but it’s a sad truth.

I can’t change that all at once, and there’s no sense beating myself up. So I try to see one or two a little better and go from there.

I trust that the God who sees will see my heart, and help.

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 www.relentlessgrace.com

How Do You Use Your Freedom?

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Something I saw (and can’t remember where) prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

FREEDOM

I’m grateful for freedom. I’ll bet you are as well.

As a wheelchair user, I might be more aware of day-to-day freedom than a lot of you. I know first-hand what it’s like to not be able to go where I want (can’t use that door), to be confined (can’t use my own basement), to have my options limited (only certain tables or rooms). I know what it’s like to have others make choices for you.

I can’t express how much it means when someone goes out of their way to serve, to grant me a small bit of freedom when they didn’t need to. It’s an act of service, putting my well-being ahead of their convenience, comfort, or rights.

Freedom’s a precious commodity. We ought never to take it for granted.

The Good Samaritan had every right, and every reason, to pass by. He chose to forego his rights, set aside his convictions (Samaritans absolutely hated Jews), and serve the man before him. Instead of seeing a _____ (you fill the blank) he saw a person in the image of God.

When I show up, I’m frequently inconvenient. And yes, I know there’s a law that says they have to let me in. But the law doesn’t say they have to like it, and some folks make it clear they’d rather not have me around. I get in the way, slow things down, make other customers uncomfortable.

I’m grateful for those who open their hearts, who view their freedom as an opportunity to serve rather then an opportunity to exclude.

I think that’s what Jesus had in mind. Follow me and be free…to serve, to welcome, to love. Even those who make you uncomfortable. Even those who get in the way. Even those you don’t like or approve of.

Even old, bald guys in wheelchairs.

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 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

Calvary is our Homecoming

Monday, September 7th, 2015

“Christ brought us together through His death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through Him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:16-18, Msg.)

In a sense Calvary is our homecoming. It is the one place we become real, vulnerable and transparent. We come home to God, ourselves and significant others. For us the Cross is safe and inviting. Jesus took our place there, so that we could become all that He says we are!

There aren’t enough words to adequately express all that was accomplished by Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross. Let’s consider a few of them: relational reality, peace, and equality.

Relational Reality: Authentic, UN-pretentious relationships are at best; difficult apart from Calvary. The Cross; symbolically and literally enables us to embrace our own relational brokenness. Painful and even life-long hostilities can be overcome by the blood of the Lamb! It is called forgiveness and reconciliation. The love displayed on Calvary provides the only power source for this relational reality.

Peace: What a pregnant and powerful word! Peace starts with God and is sustained by God. The peace of God invades our drama and the wars we have fought or will fight on every front. God’s peace provides the strategic edge for winning every battle we will ever face. The peace of God and with God is a direct result of Calvary. Jesus imparts His peace into our lives continuously. Through us, His peace kisses our unsettled and anxious world.

Equality: The Cross pronounces death to comparisons, differences, and division. It raises us up to the Royal Law of loving unity! You have heard it proclaimed, “The ground at the foot of the Cross is level.” It truly is. Living and walking in equality is a lifelong struggle with the prejudiced and judgmental voices of our own flesh. Scripture goes so far as to warn that ‘comparing ourselves to another is unwise.’ Boy that kicks the competition to the curb!

As we share the same Spirit and equal access to the Father, we blaze a path of equality for all others to follow. Embracing the Father’s heart and responding to the continuous promptings, nudges, and still, small, inner voice of Holy Spirit is our only hope of maintaining equal footing on which to travel.

The Cross of Christ will daily nurture our relational reality, peace and equal ground for life’s journey.

Copyright by Ron Ross.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Rev. Ron Ross is a pastor, author, teacher, and counselor.
As founder of NET Casting Ministries, he equips the church
around the world to care for the wounded and addicted.
Ron is a cofounder of the NET Training Institute.

“You Will Be Rebuilt”

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Holidays, loss of a loved one, a life-threatening illness, financial problems, a major move, building a new home, or a family crisis can leave us worried or emotionally drained.

Earlier today, a woman talked to me about the death of her seventeen-year-old daughter. I grieved for her and her husband in the loss of their child at a tender age. Since I lost my only child, I could identify with that mother and her pain.

A friend shared recently about her diagnosis of breast cancer. As a fourteen-year breast cancer survivor, I recalled the days of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation and prayed for her.

A month ago, another woman told me she struggles with an upcoming divorce. She needs a job and worries about the children.

What about you? Are you in the midst of an illness, a loss, a major move, or a family crisis? How are you coping?

Will you turn to food, shopping, alcohol, prescription drugs, gambling, or another form of self-medication? Will you withdraw or give up?

Your heavenly Father loves you and longs to rebuild your life. Give him a chance.

Jeremiah 31:4: “I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt . . . Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.”

Dear God, taking up a tambourine and dancing again sound impossible. Please help me. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to allow God to rebuild your life?

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