Archive for November, 2015

You are Not a Label!

Monday, November 30th, 2015

An odd question brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

LABELS

“What kind of quadriplegic are you?”

Seriously. Now I not only have to be labeled as a quad, but there are subcategories? I’m getting really tired of labels.

The guy’s sister just had a car accident and he was seeking information. Parents relayed a ton of stuff by phone and I was someone to talk to. I get it.

But I remember a few weeks after my injury. Docs told me I fell into certain categories, slapped labels on my chart, and pronounced sentence.

“You likely won’t live past age 50.” (I was 36 at the time, 27 years ago.)

“You’ll have limited physical independence.” (I taught full-time in a public school classroom for 21 years after my injury; I’ve handcycled nearly 35,000 miles.)

You get the idea. Labels chunk people into categories so we can make broad assumptions about the people in those categories.

Liberal. Conservative. Evangelical. Mainline. Gay. Protestant. Catholic. Black. White.

Muslim.

Each label conjures an image and a bunch of stereotypes that likely don’t describe most of the individuals in any of the groups.

Jesus didn’t do labels, because He saw individuals. He didn’t accept or reject anyone because of the group they came from or any other such silliness.

Think you’re immune from the labeling disease? I had coffee a while back with a friend who casually mentioned, as a tangent to our conversation, that we’d all be better off without Democrats. I chuckled and told him I was registered as a Democrat. His face fell. “I hope you’re joking.” Then he changed the subject.

Labels are lazy shortcuts. Once I know you’re “one of those” I can stereotype you. I don’t have to bother with the hard work of knowing you as a person.

I’m weary of labels. They’re too frequently about fear, bullying, and anger. They’re nearly always about divisiveness.

What kind of quadriplegic am I? I’m the kind who sits in a wheelchair and dreams God-sized dreams.

A challenge: Look for the labels you use to categorize people–or yourself.

It’s Monday! This would be a good week to see people rather than labels.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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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

God And Baseball

Friday, November 27th, 2015

200px-Sandy_KoufaxSandy Koufax is a quiet, reserved man.

From 1960-1966 he was arguably the best pitcher in major league baseball. On October 6, 1965, Koufax declined to pitch the opening game of the World Series. Sandy Koufax is Jewish, and that day was Yom Kippur.

I remember being dumbfounded by the news. Fourteen-year-old me would have traded essential body parts to play in a World Series. Why would a guy turn down a chance to pitch game 1 for church?

I’m less dumbfounded these days. You shall have no other gods before me.  I get it.

Or…do I? I’ve never been faced with anything like the choice Koufax faced, and I likely never will. But I wonder what I would do? This isn’t about skipping church or anything legalistic. It’s deeper.

It’s about What comes before God?

When Koufax was asked in later years about whether his decision was difficult, he said it really wasn’t. He said it was just a matter of respect.

My life’s pretty darn cushy. I live under a blanket of privileges, most of which I probably don’t even recognize (until the toaster breaks).

I wouldn’t trade body parts these days for a spot in the World Series, mostly because I don’t have that many working body parts remaining. Paralysis alters one’s values, I guess.

But we all have our “cling-to’s,” those things or experiences we just don’t want to let go of.

Sandy Koufax let go of pitching game 1 of a World Series because God was more important.

I wonder what I’m clinging to so tightly that it’s more important than God? You?

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

But I need something more!

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

But I need something more! I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I am at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Romans 7:17a and 24-The Message

Before we can get a hopeful answer to this predicament, we first have to arrive at the door of giving up! Just like Paul; who remember, had a religious pedigree as long and as impressive as the State of Texas is wide-we seem resolute to exhaust all of our personal resources first.

Does the power of sin and unhealed or unresolved life issues ever seem to sabotage your best intentions? More often than I like to admit, they do for me. Any real, transparent or honest follower of the Grace message of Jesus Christ will readily admit to Paul’s dilemma. The very things I truly think are behind me, often jump up, seemingly out of nowhere, and bite my religious butt.

The answer to this is in the giving up-truly coming to the end of our rope. “There is none perfect, no not one!'”

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In His Son, Jesus, He personally took on the entire human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. Romans 7:25-8:1-3b, The Message.

In our quest to please Him, we long for something more-something that will finally bring hope to our hearts. He is the something more! Total and constant surrender and trustful reliance upon Him, is always the answer. It is only because of Him, (even on the best or worse of days) that our hearts can be pregnant with hope. Besides this hope will never disappoint us because God proves his sustenance by his daily love gift of Holy Spirit in our hearts.

God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son.It will never be because we finally have a perfect religious score or day-we finally get it right…no, we must always let go of our rope and grab onto (by a sheer act of faith) the resurrection power and Grace of Jesus Christ. Something and someone more loves you and me, especially in our frailty and weakness. We cannot do much of anything in our best of intentions. We can do all things through Him. That brings our heart hope!

In the grip of His Grace,

Ron Ross

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.

Choices: the “Best” or the “Right?”

Friday, November 20th, 2015

“Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” Luke 10:42

Paul prayed that his friends “may be able to discern what is best.” Philippians 1:10

We must be always making choices in this world. We cannot take up everything that lies in our path–and we ought to choose the best things. Even among ‘right things’ there is room for choice, for some right things are better than others.

There are many Christians, however, who do not habitually choose the best things–but second-rate things. They labor for the food that perishes–when they might labor for the food that endures unto everlasting life. Even in their prayers, they ask for temporal blessings–when they might ask for spiritual treasures!

They are like “the man with the muck-rake” in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’–who only looks ‘down’ and drags his rake among the weeds and worthless rubbish–while over his head are crowns which he might take into his hands!

They are like Esau, who sold his valuable birthright for some lentil stew. They toil for this world’s vain things–when they might have been laying up treasures in Heaven!

We only have one life to live–and we ought therefore to do the best we possibly can with it. We pass through this world only once–and we ought to gather up and take with us the things that will truly enrich us–things we can keep forever!

It is not worth our while, to toil and moil, and strive and struggle–to do things that will leave no lasting results when our life is done–while there are things we can do which have eternal significance!

“Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!” Colossians 3:1-2

~J. R. Miller, “Life’s Byways and Waysides”

Are You Being Heard by God?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Do you ever feel like you’re not being heard? We cannot live without air to breathe or water to drink or sustenance for the body. But, our true self, our ID, can’t live without being heard. If you experience a deaf ear for too long, your soul will shrivel up to a distortion of your potential. It’s been said that being heard is the better part of true communication.

No, this is not just silly words – you and I must be heard! Good news! No matter what your state of being, God will hear you. Even if what you are saying is skewed or distorted-he will listen. And that is the beginning of opening up a fresh relationship with God.

Maybe you’ve known Jesus for years; but, your inner core has shut down. Just open up, share what you feel or think-even if it is wrong. Start somewhere. That was one of the reasons God called David, “a man after his own heart.” Seemingly; everyday, he poured out his heart to God. It took “real” faith to do that.

Something almost magical – certainly mystical happens when we are gut level honest with God. When we feel heard, we start listening better as well! When we are confident of being heard; no matter what is going down, we come to a ‘silence of listening’. When heard, we hear.

I dare you to try this experiment with God: Write down all that comes too your mind – no matter how wrong or nonsensical it may seem to your logic, reason, or understanding. Then read it out loud to God. Then say it in the form of prayer – address him personally.

Then: with “your” perspective, mind, intellect, tantrums, rantings, opinions, judgments and emotions emptied out-listen. You will become assured of being heard. Write down what you hear after getting everything out in the open with God.

I love God, because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy. He listened so intently (even as some translations read – “bent down or leaned down”) as I laid out my case before him. Psalm 116:1-2, The Message, (parenthesis mine).

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

How about you? You can be called a man or woman with a heart after God. Just follow David’s example.

In the grip of Papa’s hearing grace!

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.

Alert Expectancy or Asleep at the Wheel of Life?

Monday, November 16th, 2015

“We continue to shout our praise even when we are hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary-we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit.” Romans 5:3-5, (Msg)

There have been times in my journey that I was much less alert than I thought I was. Spiritually; I was just about asleep while thinking myself to be wide awake. In those times, I didn’t just ‘not’ know much, I didn’t even ‘suspect’ much. It’s like being drugged or drunk and thinking you can drive a car better in that state of mind. Wow, what an awakening it takes to again become clear and alert. God is faithful and merciful to wake us up; not necessarily gently, either!

Shouting my praise, still somewhat hemmed in by troubles – I am beginning to see some light through the fog. How about you? I can honestly report: whatever it takes to get us wide awake, sober-minded, thinking more clear, somewhat dressed and in our ‘right’ minds, is worth it. Or should that be in our ‘left’ minds? I am still in the throes of the awakening and hopefully passionate patience and forged virtue are just around the corner.

I am beginning to see, the bigger prize is a fresh expectancy in my relationship with Papa. I am also getting back to first-love childlike simplicity and faith. “Keeping our eyes on the prize”-like Paul, our hearts are again stirred and warmed.

When we are falling asleep at the wheel of life, heart focus seems to be the first thing to go. We start to glance at God and gaze at other things-distractions, lusts, self-pursuits…it can be anything. No matter-the point is getting back to alert expectancy.

With alert and expectant hearts – we are never left feeling like the victim, unfairly treated, short-changed. As the alertness begins to return; we truly do realize (even though it may be for the tenth time) how ‘all things work together for the good.

We can even; like Jeremiah in Lamentations proclaim again, ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end-they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness!’ Jeremiah had just interrupted himself in the midst of a long litany of things to be ‘lamented’. He was suddenly awakened to the truth behind what appeared to be hopeless. He was in alert expectancy – I pray to be there as well.

At this place, there really aren’t enough containers to hold everything God desires to generously (not begrudgingly) pour into our lives. He doesn’t even bring up what got us off track-He simply; daily expresses how thrilled He is that we are again living in ‘alert expectancy.’ It is also here that our capacity is strengthened and His joy is more fulfilled in us. In ‘alert expectancy’, you throw out the welcome mat of your heart to Jesus!

In the grip of Papa’s grace,

Ron Ross

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.

Is it well with your soul?

Friday, November 13th, 2015

A thirty year flashback prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

WELL


It is well with my soul!

More than thirty years ago I made “public profession of faith,” one denomination’s way of marking adult commitment to Jesus. I was asked to choose a song, and I selected Horatio Spafford’s When Peace Like A River.

I chose that song for one particular line: It is well with my soul!

Three decades ago I thought I had it all figured out, me and Jesus and this commitment I was making. Turns out I really had no clue, that I was only giving what little of me I understood to what little of Jesus I understood (thanks, Dick Foth). Turns out that’s all any of us can do.

But despite all that, it was well with my soul, and it has been for all these years, even when many other parts of life have been pretty messed up. That’s about Jesus, not me.

Horatio Spafford wrote his famous hymn when his life was ripped to shreds. His daughters had died, his finances were in ruins, and as he crossed an ocean in isolation he could still say It is well with my soul!

That’s why Jesus came. It wasn’t about our politics, our sports teams, or any of the big, important things that occupy our time and energy.

Jesus came so it could be well with our souls.

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

Are You Standing Outside the Doorway?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

“Who would, after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life? Certainly, all would assume that no one would so foolishly give up a royal life to merely stand in the doorway, separated from all the pleasures of living in the King’s presence,” adapted from the wisdom of Andrew Murray, from his classic “Abide in Christ.”

Tragically, many who come to Jesus as Savior and Redeemer never go beyond the doorway to abide in Him. They fail to learn the simple spiritual discipline of “Abiding in Christ” and practicing the presence of God. Experiencing the unspeakable joy of dwelling in the presence of God is the birthright of every follower of Jesus.

Is our “imposter” mask blocking the presence of the very one we desire to be closest too As a direct result many Christians feel broken and angry but don’t think they can express these real feelings around others?or to God. So we put on a mask to hide our identity. Feelings of embarrassment and shame make us hide from the One who truly loves us. He is calling and encouraging us to let go of this stressful, unreal impostor lifestyle and freely accept our identity as a child of God

“Take care to live in me (practice my presence daily/hourly), and let me live in you. For a branch can’t produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me.For apart from me you can’t do a thing.But if you stay in me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted…I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love.” John 15: 4, 5b, 7, 9, The Living Bible

Life lived in the presence of Jesus is fruitful, powerful, joyful and secure. When we learn to practice His presence we stay connected to the source of all we will ever need. A relationship can’t be maintained in a healthy functional way apart from regular dialogue and fellowship.

“The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory. There I’ll be when trouble comes. He will hide me. He will set me on a high rock out of reach of all my enemies. Then I will bring him sacrifices and sing his praises with much joy. Listen to my pleading, Lord! Be merciful and send the help I need. My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me, O my people.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27: 4-8 The Living Bible)

Is this the cry of your heart? Lord, I am coming!

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.

“Christ is King, but life’s still hard.”

Monday, November 9th, 2015

flower“Christ is King, but life’s still hard.”

I looked at his lined, weathered face and thought I’d rarely heard a better seven-word sermon. I also thought I likely had no idea what “hard” meant in his world.

It’s easy to discover the truth of either half of my friend’s statement. When the sun shines and all the traffic lights are green, it’s easy to count our blessings and praise God. When everything’s going great, praise songs and “Christ is King!” seem like the most natural thing in the world.

But imagine my friend, trying to peer over the edge of addiction, clinging by his fingernails and hoping he won’t slip back into the abyss. When you’re a few months from desperation, “Life’s still hard” makes complete sense.

The simple, difficult reality: like my friend, we live in the tension between these two realities. I think we miss something whenever we lose sight of either side.

I hope I’ll  stop in the midst of trial or pain to remind myself: Christ is indeed King. I don’t advocate platitudes in place of love and empathy, but I also don’t want to forget that Jesus walks with me in times of trial.

On the other hand, we can get so focused on worship that we discount the hard realities faced by others. Jesus spent much of His time comforting those folks, and reminded us that in this world we would have our share of trouble.

Life’s still hard. We face the hardship with hope because Christ is King.

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

Detachment and Depression

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Some internal conversations bring us today’s word-of-the-week…

DETACHMENT

God and I have had some conversations recently about detachment.

My feeling, my internal sense of well-being, seems detached from circumstances. Things are going great, but I feel this internal depression and sadness with no apparent source or reason.

Since this blog is about following Jesus through ups and downs, I figured I’d be honest about this odd juxtaposition of happy outcomes and interior despair. Experience tells me I’m not the only person who’s awakened in this strange land.

Some thoughts.

I won’t impose platitudes on myself. Have faith. Jesus came to give you a joy-filled life. God doesn’t want you to be depressed.

All true enough, and all dripping with guilt when lobbed at myself in the midst of struggle. God and I are talking, Jesus and I are friends, and we’ll get through this. More guilt isn’t going to help.

I don’t need a better self-concept. What I really need is self-compassion. I need to take it easy on myself, to forgive myself, to let it be okay when I fall short of whatever expectations I set for myself.

Speaking of expectations, I need to stop! I imagine far too much about what others expect of me, and I set far too many expectations for myself. They’re killers.

These won’t solve the problem. The depression is an illness. I can’t wish it away. If you’re struggling in a similar place don’t let someone tell you you should, either.

But I’m not alone. For a long time, I wasn’t sure about that. It doesn’t make the problem disappear.

It does offer hope, the kind of hope that changes things.

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