Archive for March, 2016

Experiencing Hell

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Philippians 4:11-12

Whatever affliction or trouble a child of God meets with–it is all the hell he shall ever have! Whatever eclipse may be upon his name or estate–it is but a little cloud which will soon be blown over–and then his hell is past!

Death begins a wicked man’s hell.
Death ends a godly man’s hell.

Think with yourself, “What is my affliction? It is but a temporary hell. Indeed, if all my hell is here on earth–it is but an easy hell. What is the cup of affliction–compared to the cup of damnation!”

Lazarus could not get a crumb; he was so diseased that the dogs took pity on him–and as if they had been his physicians, licked his sores. But this was an easy hell–the angels quickly fetched him out of it!

If all our hell is in this life–and in the midst of this hell, we have the love of God–then it is no more hell, but paradise! If all our hell is here on earth, we may see to the end of it; it is but skin-deep, it cannot touch the soul. It is a short-lived hell. After a dreary night of affliction, comes the bright morning of glory!

Since our lives are short–our trials cannot be long!

As our riches take wings and fly away–so do our sufferings!

Let us learn then, to be content, whatever our circumstances.

(Thomas Watson, “The Art of Divine Contentment”)

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REALLY ?

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Our small group brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

REALLY?

“Do you really believe that? Really?”

In Acts 3, Peter tells a 40-year old man who’s been crippled since birth to walk in the name of Jesus. He takes the man’s hand and, just like that, the guy walks, leaps, and dances.

Our small group discussed this miracle. Peter stepped forward courageously, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We had a great conversation. Then I thought I’d up the ante a bit.

“I’ve been in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury for 28 years. Who here believes that God could heal me–right here, right now–and I could stand, walk, leap, and dance?”

A couple of hands shot up immediately, then others followed. And then we talked, about the medical realities, the science, what we know. And we asked ourselves Do we really believe this could happen, right here in front of us? Really?

We believe what’s impossible, what can’t happen. That’s why it’s called faith. And still we say, “I believe, but…”

Do we really believe what we believe?

It’s Monday. And it’s okay to doubt. Really.

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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

Carrying a Heavy Burden?

Friday, March 25th, 2016

A favorite verse inspires today’s word-of-the-week…

YOKE

I feel like I’ve encountered a lot of folks lately who seem like they’re carrying a lot of weight around.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In Jesus’ time, a rabbi’s “yoke” was his teaching, the doctrine and rules his followers were required to accept. So Jesus was telling people to let go of the burdens imposed by the religious leaders–that’s not what He was about.

I love the way this passage is phrased in The Message:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

If you’re one of those folks who’s lugging around something heavy or ill-fitting, I invite you to take a moment and listen to Jesus’ words. Consider the possibility that, even in the midst of struggle, He wants you to experience the unforced rhythms of grace.

I felt prompted to write this, maybe for you…perhaps this is the week for you to let yourself live just a bit more “freely and lightly.”

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

Why Are We Standing Around?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

cloudsSometimes an event in the bible just makes me laugh.

In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus gives His friends some final instructions before He leaves in a remarkable manner.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

I’m thinking, “Well, it’s not every day we see someone float into the clouds. What if He falls? Is something else going to happen?”

And here are these two white-robed guys telling me Stop staring into the sky. Show’s over. Time to get going.

That’s really a pretty good summary of the message, isn’t it?

Jesus will be back when God decides it’s time. Until then, we shouldn’t be staring at the sky, because He left us stuff to do.

Time to get going.

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

Jesus Conservative? Really??

Monday, March 21st, 2016

A surprising statement leads me to today’s word-of-the-week…

CONSERVATIVE

“I always thought Jesus was really conservative.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Not politically, but just, you know, quiet and sort of down-the-middle.”

“Interesting. Where’d you get that idea?”

“I guess from church. That’s pretty much how church was when I was a kid, so I just figured that’s how Jesus was.”

“And now? What do you think now?”

“Well, it seems like everything He did pretty much broke the accepted rules and made the guys in charge mad. So I guess He was really a rebel.”

I chuckled, because I grew up with the same notion of a middle-of-the-road Jesus. But I wanted to make sure my friend understood the nature of Jesus’ rebellion. He didn’t overthrow a human government or propose a system of rules.

Jesus set people free. He loved them and asked us to do the same.

It’s really not that complicated, but it’s very difficult and occasionally dangerous. In a world that rewards power and control, Jesus proposed a Kingdom based on love. It’s a radical, rebellious notion that got Him, and a lot of His followers, killed.

Maybe that’s why we tend to paint Jesus in a more conservative light.

Following Jesus isn’t about choosing safe.

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

When We Try To Be God

Friday, March 18th, 2016

graceYou and I would never try to take God’s place, right?

Except I’ve noticed I do it a lot, and I suspect I’m not alone. It’s not on purpose–I don’t have a throne in my back yard or anything like that.

It happened most recently when a friend got in some trouble and I wanted very much to fix him, heal him, and save him from his own bad choices. After wrestling with myself for a few days I realized I was stepping into a role for which I wasn’t designed.

Jesus asked us to love each other, and ourselves. He never said anything about saving or fixing.

That’s His job.

I’m realizing that love, without the saving or fixing part, makes it easier to hold myself, my loved ones, my relationships–in open hands. Love says I care sacrificially, but I trust God for the outcome.

A guy asked me in class last week how I learned to trust so much. I laughed, because mostly I’ve only learned to write and talk easily about trusting. I struggle to release the illusion of control that comes with playing God.

I’m trying to pry open those hands, and I hope you’ll join me. We can change the world, the people in it, and ourselves, if we stop trying to fix it or save it.

We can change the world with our love.

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

In Search of Rest?

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

“But the dove could find no resting place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth. So it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark.” Genesis 8:9

This passage has been beautifully applied to the condition of a Christian wandering over earth in search of rest–and disappointed, returning at length to his Savior–glad to be received again into His bosom, where alone there is peace. Surely he who has been accustomed to drink at the pure fountain of spiritual joy, can never find rest for the soul in this polluted world.

How true is it, that to one whose affections have been directed to things above–earthly pleasures seem to have lost their usual relish. No prospect however beautiful–no pleasures however tantalizing can be enjoyed–without the associated presence and blessing of God. Yet when God is recognized in them, and the heart is properly affected towards Him–then do even earthly scenes acquire an additional interest.

But let the Christian lose sight for a season of his heavenly inheritance, and wander over earth’s surface in search of worldly good–how soon will he find an unsatisfying vacuity, where not even an olive leaf shall be found to greet his eye or to cheer his heart. The Christian may so far backslide, as to wish to explore anew the world which he professes to have forsaken–and God may allow him to do so. But O how soon his wing will tire, and his prospect become gloomy! Glad will he be to return and flutter around the ark, longing to be taken in, where he can once more feel himself happy and at home. And Jesus kindly extends His hand to take us in–even when we have sinfully wandered from His loving arms.

Why is it that we can be so often deceived? Have we not tried the world–and have we not been disappointed in the pursuit? Never again then let us leave the sacred ark–never again wander from our Lord.

PRAYER.
Ever blessed God, You have taught us to find our supreme felicity in You–for You are an all-sufficient portion. But O how prone are we to wander from You–to forsake “You, the fountain of living waters, and hew out cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

But away from You, how can we he happy? How soon does sadness invade our hearts, and sorrow sit upon our eye-lids! The creature cannot make us blessed. We have tried the creature–and found all on earth to be but vanity. Wander where we will–from place to place, from pleasure to pleasure–all is unsatisfying, if you O God are absent.

We are like that dove, when out of the ark, which saw itself surrounded by one wide waste of waters. How glad was she to get back within her sacred retreat! Just so, O Savior, would we gladly flee into Your loving arms. We will search no longer for happiness here below. Henceforth, let us repose on Your kind bosom. Let us feel a holy indifference to the attractions of this deceitful world. May it be our privilege to be taken at last unto that secure ark–that glorious Heaven where no storms can come, and no temptations allure our souls away from you. Amen.

(Jared Waterbury, “Meditations and Prayers” 1840)

How Can I Finish on Time?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

At 4:27 am, I bounced out of bed. For some of you that might be normal, but I’m not a morning person. I had to be at a meeting almost an hour from home by 7:00 am.

The night before I had my clothes ready and everything at the door that needed to go with me. I had even washed and cut the fruits and vegetables for my morning drink.

At the meeting, I couldn’t believe how wide-awake, cheerful, and humorous the members of that club were. All the early birds must flock there.

After the meeting, I had to drive to the car dealer for a regular maintenance check for my car and the state safety inspection. While I waited, I completed a Bible lesson and worked on other projects.

From there, I picked up my mail, came home, ate lunch, and did paperwork. As I did, my mind was spinning with thoughts of the take-home final exam with a deadline of September 26, an upcoming radio interview, and a speaking engagement to name a few.

Would I finish on time? Could I finish on time? Fear and worry crept in. I called a friend to ask her a question and told her about my feelings about the take-home exam and my other deadlines.

She said, “Yvonne, you can do this. You’re anointed.”

As soon as she said that, God’s peace flowed through me, and I remembered a Bible verse in which God told me not to be fearful and promised to help me. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Why had I needlessly fretted?

When you think of all you need to do, do you become fearful or dismayed?

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Dear God, I have so much to do today. Please help me. Amen.

Application: What will you do this week to allow God to strengthen and help you?

Take Courage!

Friday, March 11th, 2016

A frustrating truth prompts today’s word-of-the-week…

SERIES


The important matters in life are a series of repeated choices.

We don’t choose to love someone and then forget it. We must repeat the choice over and over, because loving is difficult, we change, and people change.

We may forgive a horrible wrong, but we’ll likely need to forgive it again and again, perhaps daily, perhaps even hourly.

It’s easy to get discouraged. I already chose not to be controlled by that fear yesterday, and it’s back today. But that’s how it works, I think.

A series of repeated choices.

The good news is that things like love, forgiveness, and courage can become habits. If we train for them, practice them, they can get a bit easier. But in the really tough times we still have to choose them, day by day.

The REALLY good news, though, is that we’re not in it alone.

Take Courage. I Am. Don’t Be Afraid.

Jesus, I Am, puts Himself in the middle of the struggle, between the courage and the fear. I get to lean on Him.

When I mess up, that’s good to remember.

What repeated choice would you like to begin making?

Where Did They (We) Go Wrong?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. (Matthew 22:15)

It’s not an isolated incident. Religious leaders were always seeking opportunities to twist Jesus’ words, catch Him breaking a rule–anything to discredit Him and diminish His increasing influence among the people. We’ve read the stories so often, maybe we take them for granted.three four

The religious leaders are the bad guys, right? Except, they’re not. Not really. The Pharisees were folks who tried really hard to get it right, but somewhere along the way they got lost.

Ever wonder what might have happened if they approached Jesus differently?

What would have happened if they assumed the best rather than the worst?

What if they started from a place of trust instead of suspicion? What if they assumed He meant well instead of harm? What if they assumed He had everyone’s best interest at heart?

What would have happened if they asked before they judged or condemned?

What if they assumed they didn’t know the whole story? What if they genuinely desired to understand before deciding?

You and I can’t change the interactions between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. But every day I (and I’ll bet you) encounter situations, discussions, teachings, and decisions that don’t make sense. It’s so tempting to jump to a conclusion, judgement, condemnation based on my perspective.

What if I always assumed best intentions?

What if I make sure I understand before I decide?

What if I always lead with love and grace?

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