Archive for the ‘Attitudes’ Category

Labels as Excuses

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Are you “one of those people who …”?

I lived in schools for about fifty-two years.

K-12, four years of college, and thirty-five years as a teacher—52 of my first 58 years, interrupted by brief stints to build houses (which I enjoyed) and rehab from my injury (which I enjoyed a lot less). Toss in some nights and summers doing a Master’s degree, and it all adds up to a lot of time in schools.

When you live in schools, you learn about labels. Geek. Nerd. Jock. Goth. Skater. Gangster. School’s all about labels. The only worse fate than being labeled and stuck in a group is NOT being labeled and stuck in a group.

Jocks and gangsters get to walk down the middle of the hallway, crowds parting before them in a confused mixture of adoration, disdain, and fear. Geeks and nerds slink along the walls.

In college I took a class called “Adolescent Psychology.” The professor’s opening line: They’re all crazy!

We learned that kids group themselves as a way of separating from parents and developing an identity, that’s it’s normal for them to try out different costumes and roles. Colored hair, odd clothing, mimicked behaviors—it’s all just part of growing up and figuring out who they are. One of the many paradoxes of adolescence involves the need to discover one’s individuality by identifying lock-step with a group.

And we learned that it’s a phase, that eventually we grow out of our need to define ourselves by the group(s) to which we belong.

That professor was mostly right. They ARE all crazy, which explains my love for them as co-conspirators. They do try on identities like costumes, which makes them fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. There’s something refreshing about a young lady with pink spiked hair and holes in her jeans intently solving an equation, especially when she shows up after Christmas break with beautifully curled hair and a flowered skirt.

The adolescent labeling process makes developmental sense, bringing humor and pathos to a difficult, confusing stage of life. But I always felt less comfortable when adults insisted on placing kids in much less temporary categories.

During my career I taught classrooms filled with “gifted” students and others identified as “special needs.” I often wondered whether Christian parents believed some kids weren’t gifted by God, or whether ANY parents thought their kids weren’t special.

In the same room I’d find kids who were creative and artistic, lazy and driven to achieve, lethargic and hyper-active. Some were inquisitive, some wanted to read everything in sight, and some were fascinated by technology. Some struggled to focus as they worried about issues at home.

And of course it’s obvious which group I just described, right?

I think the professor missed an important point. I don’t see much evidence that we grow out of our adolescent need to define ourselves with labels. When you live in a wheelchair you get really sensitized to labels. People slap them on my forehead (which has plenty of room) like bumper stickers. But you don’t need paralysis to see the harmful effects of labels.

Last time I discussed labels as averages.  Today I’m thinking about labels as excuses.

Labels excuse laziness.

    No need to actually invest in getting to know the person and really understand his perspective. Just slap on a label, toss him in the right bucket, and you “know” all you need to know about him.

Labels excuse marginalization. She’s one of “them” and “they” just can’t do certain things. Of course we’ll be nice to her, but we can’t expect her to really participate. We’ll make a spot on the edges where she can watch without getting in the way.

Labels excuse unacceptable behavior. If you attach the “enemy” label to someone, you don’t have to treat them with respect. So it’s suddenly okay to demonize and shout at the person with different political views. There’s nothing wrong with gossiping and spreading rumors about “bad” people, right?

Labels excuse divisiveness. Why would we support that “evangelical” church down the street? And that one over there that doesn’t condemn our notion of “unbiblical” behavior, or the one around the corner that’s “right wing?” Just label them and the walls magically appear.

Of course, labels don’t really excuse any of these, but they certainly provide convenient excuses. When I hear adults using labels in such hurtful ways, I wonder how much we’ve really progressed since eighth grade.

I can chuckle when a kid with baggy pants will only associate with other kids that have the same brand of baggy pants. They’re learning, and next year they’ll all have short hair and khakis.

It’s a lot harder to find the humor when adults use a label based on behavior, belief, appearance, or perceived ability to justify including or excluding an individual.

And if you’re tempted to think it’s really not that important, that labels are just words, that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” I’d offer an alternative view.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart.

Broken bones are easily treated; no surgical procedure exists that can mend a broken heart.

Do you see examples of labels as excuses?

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 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

Does a Christian Have to be Nice to Everyone?

Friday, December 9th, 2016

“One of the sins of our age is the lack of strong language where evil is concerned.”

A very unpleasant and ungodly woman once told me, “A Christian must be nice to everybody.” What she meant was that I had to take her nasty criticisms and yet be sweet to her. Was she right? A minister tried to tell me, within the past week, that we should all be like Jesus, who, according to this minister, loved everybody and never had an unkind word for anyone or ever indulged in name-calling. Was he right?

Not according to my Bible. Jesus called Herod “that fox” (Luke 13:32); He called the Pharisees “hypocrites”; “blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel”; “whited sepulchres”; “serpents”; a “generation of vipers” (Matt. 23:23-33); and much more. On one occasion, He even called Peter “Satan” (Matt. 16:23) for counseling a wrong course of action.

Nor is strong, blunt language lacking in the prophets and apostles. The Bible rings out with strong condemnation of a great many persons as well as nations, and sins as well as sinners. Neither Jesus Christ nor the Bible is “nice to everybody,” nor can we be, without sin.

The Bible’s strong language does not represent sin or weakness on the part of the prophets, apostles, or Jesus Christ. Their anger is righteous anger, and their plain, blunt language is godly indignation and righteous judgment.

One of the sins of our age is the lack of strong language where evil is concerned. Nothing seems to be called by its right name these days. Murderers are called “freedom fighters,” and revolutionary mobs are called deprived and underprivileged people whom we must subsidize. Hoodlums are called victims of their environment, and so on.

Because of the inability of many to face facts plainly, they are easily imposed on by knaves and fools. Evil and foolish persons are tolerated, allowed to take up time and attention and to hamper godly men and women.

We cannot deal with evil unless we first of all face up to it for what it is and call it by its right name. We have had too much nicey-nice from politicians and preachers. It is high time to use some blunt, plain, and strong language, and then, by the grace of God, to take steps against the powers of evil. We cannot win a battle until we first of all recognize that we are at war.

We need more strong language, strong deeds, and strong men. God give us such men!

~ R. J. Rushdoony
Taken fromA Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 6 .

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Christmas: Why The Foundation Matters

Monday, December 5th, 2016

wexnerAppearances can deceive.

We’re deluged with slick media campaigns aimed at promoting a message that places a shiny cover on something that might be a bit less spiffy when the lights are turned off. I reached back a couple of years for these thoughts.

A while back I watched one of those DIY shows. A young woman purchased a cute, completely refurbished bungalow. After a few months the surface restorations began to crumble because the previous owner merely covered over serious, costly-to-repair problems.

As a first-time owner, she was overwhelmed and tempted to walk away. But the house had a solid foundation and structure. Experienced professionals peeled away the shiny appearance, exposed the systemic issues, and repaired them properly.

The show reminded me of a story. An architect visited the Wexner Art Center at Ohio State University. The building design reflects a post-modern view of reality. Pillars support nothing. Staircases go nowhere. The idea is that there’s no pattern—to the building or to life.

As the guide explained the designer’s vision, the architect asked, “I wonder if they designed the foundation the same way.”

“Of course not,” replied the guide, “the building would collapse.”

Exactly.

Maybe Christmas is a bit like that. As we get lost in the lights and tinsel, the gifts and expectations, we forget that appearances can deceive.

Maybe we decide the whole thing’s a sham. It’s all wrapping paper and commercialism, and when you strip those away there’s nothing worthwhile. So we toss aside the whole notion and walk away.

Maybe we decide it’s only what we see. Maybe Christmas means nothing more than shiny toys and parties. Maybe it’s all pillars supporting nothing and stairs going nowhere, with no pattern or meaning, so we just give in to “Happy Holidays.”

Or…

Maybe, like the builders, we learn to see the structure and the foundation.

Takes discipline because, let’s be honest, foundations aren’t all that sexy. Nobody walks into a really cool house and says, “Wow, that floor looks really stable.”

It’s nice to paint the walls. It’s just a good idea to make sure they’re solid and waterproof first.

There’s nothing wrong with a silly, whimsical, aesthetically challenging building, either. It’s fun to walk around and point and wonder. But I’m not going inside unless the foundation designer knew what He was doing.

I like the lights and the music. The shopping and crazy commercialism—I pretty much ditched that a long time ago.

But the Jesus part—the foundation—I want to see that more clearly.

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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

“Little Foxes” that do Great Harm

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

“Catch the foxes–the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Song of Songs 2:15

Solomon is very emphatic here. It is “the little foxes” which do the mischief. If the vines are injured, if the beautiful clusters are destroyed–he warns us that it is the little foxes which have crept in and have been the culprits.

I want to linger over this thought. I want every reader to lay to heart the importance of little things.

“Is it not a little one?” is the excuse of many a soul when entering upon a course that will be fatal to all peace and happiness.

Yes, it may look a little one, but for that very reason, be the more on your guard. A man’s life is made up of little things. “He who despises little things, shall fall little by little.”

A tiny hair has in some way found an entrance into the works of a watch. It touches one of the inner wheels, and so again and again the watch stops or goes irregularly. Much valuable time is in consequence lost, and only after its removal, does the watch prove useful to its owner.

A spark of fire has fallen upon some inflammable materials. It is but a spark at first, but it soon kindles into a flame. By-and-by through that one spark, a group of valuable warehouses is burned to the ground.

A small screw has not been carefully fastened in the boiler of an engine. For a time, no harm comes of it; but after a while, the defect loosens other parts of the machinery. An unlooked for catastrophe shortly afterwards occurs. The boiler explodes and spreads devastation and death far and wide. Many lives are lost, and valuable property is destroyed.

The tiny hair, the spark, the screw
–have often their counterpart in the Christian life. A permitted inconsistency stands in the way and hinders the working of the Savior’s love in the heart. A harsh word does a world of harm. A neglected duty brings evil to thousands.

Catch the foxes, yes, the little ones–let not one of them escape! If you would be secure, you must be determined to spare none–not even the very smallest!

Bear in mind “the little foxes” are especially dangerous, because they creep into the vineyard so secretly. They often get in unobserved. Even so, little sins and faults have a peculiar power to beguile the conscience. They often pass unchallenged. They make but little noise or show, and therefore they deceive the heart, and do their deadly work while we are unaware.

Bear in mind also, that little foxes will soon grow. Week by week, month by month, very insensibly to yourself–the little one is growing stronger and larger! The one you thought at first a mere plaything because it was so small–becomes an over-bearing tyrant!

Is not this true of every sin? It grows by use and habit. Its strength and power is constantly on the increase.

Secret sins are the forerunners of open and presumptuous sins.
If evil is cherished in the deep of the heart, if unholy desires are permitted to remain–soon may follow some terrible breach of the Divine law. Our safety is in watching against the first wrong step. We must not treat the smallest deviation from truth and righteousness lightly. If you once put your foot in the mire of sin–you will sink deeper and deeper!

The little foxes are dangerous, because they make a track for others to follow. A little thief may creep in at the window and open the door for those who are lurking near. So a little fox may lead the way for a troop of others to enter the vineyard. The path is easier to find. The hedge will be broken down, or the opening in the wall made larger; so that where at first there came but one, and that one a little one–by-and-by a whole tribe will be found, and the vineyard utterly laid waste!

So is it with sins. One makes way for another, and each one that goes before makes it easier for others to follow. There is a companionship in sins–you never find them alone. They always accompany one another.

A young man forsakes the House of God and the Bible Class, and regards Sundays as merely days for rest or pleasure. Very often the evil increases fast:
he takes up with bad company,
he then becomes loose in his talk,
he then finds his way to the drinking saloon,
then, perhaps, he gets into profligate habits, and
then acts dishonestly to supply means for his extravagance.
In this way, very often a young life is blighted and robbed of all its fair prospects, and perhaps the man ends his days in a prison or the poor house. In this and many similar ways, one sin is linked unto another–and wretchedness, poverty, shame, and temporal and eternal damnation, are their bitter fruit.

Look at the first sin that crept into our world. Truly it might seem to some to be a small matter–but it was the little fox that destroyed the tender grapes.
It begins with a look and a wish.
Eve sees the fruit and longs for it.
Then she gives ear to the Tempter.
She believes his lie, and doubts the truth and the goodness of God.
She touches, she takes, she tastes.
She persuades her husband to taste likewise.
Thus the evil spreads.
All the joys of paradise are forfeited.
The image of God in the soul is lost.
Briers and thorns spring up in the ground.
Sins and sorrows without end, spring up in the world.
One sin, as we might think a little one, has become a giant–and evil of every kind overspreads the face of the earth! The whole world groans beneath the violence, wickedness, and oppression that lie heavy upon it. And to this hour, the outcome of that sin is seen in the ten thousand times ten thousand forms of vice and wickedness which cover the earth, and fill mankind with untold misery and woe!

Therefore take good heed of little sins. Remember, sin grows, and grows fast! Watch against the beginnings of evil.

(George Everard, “Little Foxes, and How to Catch Them!” 1878)

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The Power of “Little” Habits

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Those habits which seem too weak to be felt–soon become too strong to be broken! They entwine themselves around the soul, and the coil proves fatal….
A painter once wanted a picture of innocence–and painted a child at prayer. The little suppliant was kneeling beside his mother, the palms of his uplifted hands were reverently pressed together, his rosy cheek spoke of health, and his mild blue eye was upturned with the expression of devotion and peace. The portrait of young Rupert was much prized by the painter, and was hung up on his study wall, and called ‘Innocence.’

Years passed away, and the painter became an old man; still the picture hung there. He had often thought of painting a contrast–the picture of guilt–but he had not found the appropriate subject. At last he effected his purpose by paying a visit to a neighboring jail.

On the damp floor of his cell lay a wretched culprit, named Randall, heavily shackled. Wasted was his body, and hollow his eye–vice was visible in his face. The painter succeeded in copying his features admirably, and the portraits of young Rupert and old Randall were hung up side by side, as ‘Innocence’ and ‘Guilt.’

But who were young Rupert–and old Randall? Alas! the two were one! Old Randall was young Rupert, led astray by his companions, and ending his life in this damp dungeon of the jail.

Beware of trifling with sinful habits. Satan lays his fatal snares for the unwary, adapts the bait–and the soul is taken captive by the devil!

Never open the door to a little vice, lest a great one should enter also!

Hide God’s Word in your heart, that you may not sin against Him. It will be a bulwark to shield you, and a guide to direct you.

If we would walk safely, we must check every approach to evil, and pray, “Hold me up–and I shall be safe!” Psalm 119:117

“Sow a thought–and you will reap an act;
sow an act–and you will reap a habit;
sow a habit–and you will reap a character;
sow character–and you will reap a destiny!”

“As the tree falls–so must it lie;
As the man lives–so must he die!
As a man dies–such must he be;
All through the ages of eternity!”

(author unknown)

The Power of Gratitude

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Ephesians 5:20

~ ~ ~ ~

One day, Johann Tauler of Strosbourg met a peasant and greeted him, “God give you a good day, my friend!”

The peasant answered briskly, “I thank God that I never have a bad day!”

Tauler, astonished, kept silent for a moment. Tauler then added, “God give you a happy life, my friend.”

The peasant replied composedly, “I thank God that I am never unhappy!”

“Never unhappy!” cried Tauler bewildered, “What do you mean?”

“Well,” came the reply, “When it is sunshine–I thank God; and when it rains–I thank God. When I have plenty–I thank God; and when I am hungry–I thank God. Since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases God pleases me–I am never unhappy.”

Tauler looked upon him with awe. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am a king!” said the peasant.

“A king?” Tauler asked, “Where is your kingdom?”

The peasant smiled and whispered softly, “In my heart!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Thank you consists of just eight letters that form two of the most meaningful words in the English vocabulary.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Counting up our mercies and our every-day reasons for gratitude, looking at the hundred little things and large things–we do not know where to end the list. The only thing to do, is to live always in an atmosphere sweet and vital with thanksgiving!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Be thankful for the small things–the trivial things and the mundane things!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“If anyone would tell you the shortest, surest way to happiness–he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Have an attitude of gratitude. Don’t wait till Thanksgiving.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“Everything short of Hell is mercy!”

~ ~ ~ ~

“God is glorified, not by our complainings, but by our thanksgivings.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“We can always find something to be thankful for. There are reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.”

~ ~ ~ ~

“A cheerful heart has a continual feast!” Proverbs 15:15

“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name!” Psalm 100:4

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The Absolute Awesomeness

Monday, November 21st, 2016

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deep in storehouses (Psalm 33:6-7, NKJV).


I’ve been meditating a lot lately on the absolute awesomeness of God, and the verses above capture that so clearly, don’t they? We serve a God who spoke the heavens into existence, breathed the stars into the skies, gathers the waters into their assigned boundaries, and locks the depths of the oceans into reservoirs. No matter how you look at it, that’s impressive!

Knowing this, what is our response to be? According to verse 8 of Psalm 33, all the inhabitants of the earth are to “fear the Lord” and “stand in awe of Him.” But is that what usually happens? Sometimes. More often than not, however, the “inhabitants of the earth” pay little if any attention to this awesome God and, instead, worship His creation.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the oceans and the mountains, the trees and flowers, the birds and fish and animals. But they are all creations, masterfully crafted by the One who also breathed life into the dust of the earth and formed man. Is it any wonder He holds our lives in His hands? Shouldn’t the very thought make us tremble, even as we rejoice that He is merciful and loving?

As we move into a season of Thanksgiving and then celebration of Christ’s coming to earth as a Babe in a manger, may we appreciate all of God’s creations—but may we worship only Him. May we, as the psalmist declared, “fear the Lord” and “stand in awe of Him” (Psalm 33:8, NKJV). There is nothing that can put our own lives in perspective quicker or clearer than recognizing the awesomeness of God.

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Copyright 2011 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 30 books.
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and

“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”

She also writes novels:
No Greater Love
More than Conquerors
The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

What About That Setback?

Friday, November 18th, 2016

bumpA friend experienced a setback.

A “speed bump” is how he described it. I’d say it was more like a major detour, but either way, things aren’t exactly going his way right now. This is a guy who’s had his share of struggle along the road, and things were starting to look a bit brighter. This particular speed bump wasn’t part of the plan.

So what do you say? What’s useful, helpful, to someone in a circumstance like this?

First, let’s hold off on the Christian one-liners. It’s God’s plan. Everything happens for a reason. God will use this for good. Even if you believe something like this, it’s simply not helpful to toss a simplistic conclusion into a complex, painful situation. Mostly these are designed to make the speaker feel better; they’re not going to help someone who’s already experiencing confusion and doubt. Let go of your need to offer an easy answer that likely doesn’t exist.

It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Following Jesus doesn’t mean pasting a permanent fake smile on your face. When you acknowledge and accept your feelings, you don’t have to be controlled by them.

Want to help? Offer a safe space for her to express these perfectly normal emotions.

Hope is a decision, not a feeling. Hope is confidence in the future based on faith that God keeps His promises. It’s possible to choose hope and feel hopeless…I don’t know how that works, but I’ve been there. You can decide to choose hope, and hold on no matter how you feel.

Want to help? Continue to talk about hope while showing you understand how hopeless it feels.

You are not your circumstances. I am not a wheelchair. My friend is not his “setback.” That’s not how God sees us. We’re defined by how He sees us through Jesus.

Want to help? Show (don’t tell) him that he’s valued as a person beyond his circumstances. The show part is, by the way, hard.

God is long-term. Hope is long-term. Love is long-term. Most of the stuff we focus on…isn’t.

Want to help? Hang around long-term. Do long-term stuff, the things most others won’t do because it’s frustrating and they don’t see results and often they’re not even appreciated.

Hang around when the short-term folks lose patience. Don’t judge them.

That’s what Jesus does.

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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

Is Worry Overwhelming You?

Monday, November 14th, 2016
The Bible forbids us to worry. Our Lord Himself speaks of it as foolishness and sin (Matt. 6:25-34). Peter tells us to cast “all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Worry and faith do not go together; they are, in fact, in contradiction to each other. To worry is to lack faith.
Consider this: God cannot worry. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, and all things therein. All things were made by Him, and all things are under His omnipotent hand and control. Moreover, as James declares, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). Not an atom can ever escape God’s government and control.
This means that God has nothing to worry about, because everything is under His full control and accomplishes His purpose. If the Lord be our Lord, then Romans 8:28 is true for us: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If the worst that happens to us is made to work for good in the Lord, we cannot lose.
This is why anxiety and worry are a sin. They mean a distrust in the Lord. They mean, moreover, that we insist on playing god and on trying to run our lives according to our plan. We then sinfully refuse to take hands off our lives to commit them to God’s keeping.
When our Lord says, “Take no thought for your life” (Matt. 6:25), or “do not worry, or be anxious, about your living,” He is summoning us to faith. If we refuse to have faith in the Lord, how can we expect Him to care for us? And if we refuse to have faith and insist on worrying, then we will have something to worry about: having denied the Lord, we will not have His care or providence. Take your choice: God’s care or your anxiety.
Taken from A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 7.
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Waiting for God to make the first move?

Friday, November 11th, 2016

A challenging story from a wonderful speaker brings today’s word-of-the-week…

WAITING

waitAre you waiting for God to make the first move?

Mark Batterson, best-selling author and pastor at National Community Church in Washington D.C. was guest speaker at our church this weekend. He talked about prayer. He asked, “If you’re praying for something, do you trust God to answer or are you waiting for Him to make the first move?”

He told a story. A new campus location was about to open, and they needed a drummer. So everyone prayed, but no drummer appeared. They began to wonder if perhaps this location wasn’t meant to have a worship band.

Then someone observed that the campus didn’t own a drum set. Another person asked, “Why buy drums before we have a drummer?”

Mark said at that point he suggested a different perspective. “We’re asking God for a drummer. Perhaps we need the courage, or the faith, to step out and buy a drum set and trust Him do what He chooses with it.”

The worship leaders were waiting for God to make the first move.

How often do we do that? How often do we essentially offer God a deal: we’ll be happy to step forward as soon as you (God) do your part.

It’s called faith because I don’t get to know step #2 before I take step #1.

Go ahead and pray for just the right drummer. But buy the drums.

What’s the first step you need to take while you pray?

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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