Archive for the ‘Things to Ponder’ Category

Two Wolves

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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You Can’t Finish if You Never Begin

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The sermon topic was “Finish Well” and that’s important, but you can’t finish if you never begin.

Seems like lots of folks are afraid to begin. Some wait to figure out their true calling. Some wait for someone else to tell them what to do. Some wait for permission. Some wait for a sign from God. As I listened to the sermon about crossing the finish line with integrity, I couldn’t help wondering how many folks in the audience were still in the starting blocks.

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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

Life’s Surprises and Interruptions

Monday, January 9th, 2017

For if you remain completely silent at this time,
relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place,
but you and your father?s house will perish.
Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)


What a week this has been! On Friday my almost 87-year-old mother (who lives with us) became extremely ill, and I had to call for an ambulance. The next few days were split between going back and forth to the hospital, and trying to put out fires here at home. In the midst of it all, my computer died. When I called my trusty computer guy, he was unable to work on it for a couple of days. (As you can see, it has since been fixed, with no loss of data?thank You, Lord!) And Mom is home from the hospital, a bit weaker from the experience, but doing well.

That’s part of life, isn’t it? Being an “order freak,” I really don’t like surprises or interruptions to my planned-out days. But they happen, and will continue to do so as long as we walk on this earth. The important thing is how we handle those surprises and interruptions, and who gets to call the shots and order our steps throughout those days on earth.

Esther learned that lesson the hard way. Though undoubtedly not by choice, she was queen to a pagan king. As such, she lived in luxury and ease, though not without personal sacrifice. Having been raised by a faithful Jew, her uncle Mordecai, it must have been painful for her to share her life with one who didn’t share her faith; not to mention the fact that she had to keep her Jewish heritage and faith a secret if she wanted to preserve her life and position.

Then came the big interruption. Due to the scheming of the evil Haman, the king ordered that all Jews be killed. Mordecai encouraged Esther to use her position to influence the king to find a way to save the Jewish people, but Esther responded that she could be killed if she went to the king with such a request.

Mordecai wisely told her that if she ignored her duty to try to save her people simply because she didn?t want to lose her own life, she and her family would die anyway, since sooner or later her Jewish heritage would be discovered. Then he made one of the most profound observations ever recorded: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
for such a time as this?”

We Christians like to think we know why we’re here; what our purpose and calling is. Are we writers? Our purpose must be to write. Are we singers? We must sing. Are we teachers? We shall teach. But what if our writing or singing or teaching is interrupted with a chance to do something bigger; something obviously ordered by God and yet which may cost us our very lives?

Missionary Jim Elliot, who was killed in 1956 while attempting to evangelize the Waodani people through efforts known as Operation Auca, once said that he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Esther would have been a fool to try to preserve her own life, rather than risk it in an attempt to save the lives of God?s chosen people. As it turned out, she was successful in saving the Jews, including herself. Why? Because she recognized and responded to the interruption in her life that summarized her reason for having been placed on this earth in the first place.

God created each of us with a purpose, and though we may think we know what that purpose is, in reality we may not have a clue until it sideswipes us, jolting us from our pre-planned, orderly existence with a call to lay down our lives in service to God and others. Will we respond? Or will we be so foolish as to try to hold on to that which cannot be preserved, rather than relinquishing it to gain that which cannot be lost?

Esther understood that great truth, as did Jim Elliot. May we willingly and joyfully walk in it as well?

MaciasCopyright Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored seventeen books. Her newest book “Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World” (New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

The Year Before Our Eyes

Friday, January 6th, 2017

“As your days’ so shall your strength be.”
Deuteronomy 33:25


The year before our eyes may hold in its bosom, events which may deeply concern and affect us. We do not know what is to come. What personal trials, what family trials, what providential trials may await us – we do not know. Every year hitherto has brought its trials in its train; and how can we expect the coming year to be exempt?

Sickness may attack our bodies, death enter our families, difficulties beset our circumstances, trials and temptations exercise our minds, snares entangle our feet, and many dark and gloomy clouds, make our path one of heaviness and sorrow.

If, indeed, we are His, whatever our trials may be – His grace will be sufficient for us.

He who has delivered – can and will deliver.

And He who has brought us thus far on the road, who has so borne with our crooked manners in the wilderness and never yet forsaken us – though we have so often forsaken Him – will still lead us along; will still guide and guard us, and be our God, our Father and our Friend – not only to the end of the next year, if spared to see it, but the end of our life.

Blessed with His presence – we need fear no evil;
favored with His smile – we need dread no foe;
upheld by His power – we need shrink from no trial;
strengthened by His grace – we need panic at no suffering.

Knowing what we are and have been when left to ourselves – the slips that we have made, the snares that we have been entangled in, the shame and sorrow that we have procured to ourselves – well may we dread to go forth in the coming year alone. Well may we say,
“If Your Presence does not go with us do not send us up from here!” Exodus 33:15

J. C. Philpot
1802-1869

Time to Renew

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Have you ever just needed a fresh start, a clean slate? Ever wanted to start over?

One of the many amazing aspects of following Jesus is the reality of new beginnings. No matter where we’ve been, what mistakes we’ve made, God offers each moment as an opportunity to choose a different path.

Renew doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul. Sometimes it’s just an update, taking stock of where you’ve been and making necessary course corrections. Six months is a good time to assess, evaluate, and renew. I want to use this week to look at my goals for the year and see where I might need to change some tactics, and I want to use it as a time to renew my commitments to those goals.

How about you? What can you renew this week?

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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

5 Steps in Satan’s Plan to Defeat You

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Many people have many plans for your life. You likely have plans of your own. But have you ever stopped and thought about what the difference between God’s will and yours or the devil’ will would be for your life? I am going to talk about what the devil would have you do and believe. Open your heart because you are about to learn how to avoid Satan defeating you.

There are 5 steps in Satan’s plan to defeat you: doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat and delay. One by one, they lead you down into a miry pit that you can only get out of by the hand of God who loves us and wants only the best for us. And I have no doubt in my mind that each one of us will go through this process once, maybe even more, times in our lives. After all, we are human and we are quite capable of falling. We are not infallible like God. Just read what the Bible says and be hopeful.

The first step in Satan’s plan to defeat you is DOUBT. Doubt makes you questions God’s Word and His goodness for and toward you. To doubt means to disbelieve and to mistrust. In this case it means to disbelieve God and to mistrust Him. And yet we have no reason for doing either with Him. He has never let His children down.

After doubt comes DISCOURAGEMENT. Discouragement makes you look at your problems instead of staying focused on God and His goodness in your life. Discouragement can easily be overcome, but for some it can lead to detrimental emotional problems like depression. We need to fight, through the power of prayer, this discouragement that Satan attacks us with. God would never do anything to cause us doubt or discouragement. So don’t let Satan get even a slippery grasp on your life. That’s all he needs to bring you spiraling down.

Discouragement will lead you to DIVERSION. This means that the wrong things in life suddenly become attractive and you crave them more than what is right. This is the dangerous step. Once you are into sinful patterns, it is hard to break them. The old saying says that Old habits die hard. Once something becomes a habit, it is very difficult to overcome and get out of.

Once Satan has you into his diversions, he then leads you to DEFEAT. This makes you feel like a failure. It can hurt so bad that some people give up on even trying to get out of a situation. Satan’s grasp is so strong that you just can’t bear to even try for anything good anymore. Defeat is not for God’s children. The victory is already won for the believer and if we just focus on the words “It is finished,” the battle is over, what a difference we would see in our churches.

And finally, once you feel you are defeated you are lead into DELAY. You put off doing something – usually something good so that it never gets done. In this case, you put off calling on God so your life never gets straightened around.

If you are feeling or experiencing ANY of the above 5 steps in your life, I suggest you call a/your pastor and get some spiritual guidance. Better to feel a little awkwardness now than to completely turn around the path to your eternity.

This battle plan that Satan has for all living persons was first set in motion with Adam and Eve. Satan placed doubt in Eve’s mind about what God had said. When she learned she could be like God, she was discouraged with what she had and wanted more. All of a sudden that tree and its fruit looked pretty good – she fell for the diversion. When Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, they felt shame and defeat. They knew Satan had gotten the better of them and they had saddened God’s heart. And when God did approach them, the delayed in answering because they knew what they had done was wrong. Rather than coming forward and saying sorry to God, they both made excuses, blaming someone or something else for their actions. This was the delay process.

And now, thanks to them, we all have to deal with these five steps. Some may have to go through all five of them in order to finally see the light. Some may only go through 1 or 2 or 3 before they realize what’s happening.

Don’t despair. God won’t leave you there. All you need to do is lift your eyes Heavenward and reach up with your hand and God will take it and lift you up, cleanse you and give you a brand new start.

We don’t need to stay stuck in the mire and mud of our sins. God knows we are human and He is fully willing to give us a helping hand. All we have to do is reach out and ask. Don’t let Satan get the victory because God has already won the entire spiritual war. Keep focused on the Lord in your heart and you won’t stumble into Satan’s battle ground.

By Sheri Liegh Adams, copyright Sheri Liegh Adams, all rights reserved

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New Year’s Motto: Look Up!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” Luke 21:28

We are entering upon a new year, we shall have
new toils,
new trials,
new temptations, and
new troubles.

In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year–let us seek grace to follow our Lord’s loving advice, and “look up!

Do not look back–as Lot’s wife did.

Do not look within–as too many do.

Do not look around–as David did.

But “look up!” Look up to God–He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, “Look unto Me, and be delivered–for I am God!”

Look up for light to guide you–and He will direct your path.

Look up for grace to sanctify you–and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.

Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God’s will–and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.

Look up for comfort to cheer you–and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.

Look up for courage to embolden you–and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might–He will increase strength.

Look up for endurance to keep you–and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.

Look up for providence to supply you–and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Look up in faith–exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.

Look up in prayer–asking for what God has graciously promised.

Look up in hope–expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.

Look up with adoration–and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.

Look up constantly–let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, “Our eyes are on the Lord our God–until He shows us mercy.”

Look up–for this will keep . . .
the head from swimming,
the heart from sinking,
the knees from trembling,
the feet from slipping, and
the hands from hanging down!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year–but “Look up!” This direction, if properly attended to, will . . .
procure for us all that we need,
secure us against all that we dread, and
make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? “Look up” and hear Jesus saying to you, “Do not be afraid–I Myself will help you!”

Are you discouraged? “Look up”–and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? “Look up” for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin–look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God’s dear Son!

Do not look too much at self–but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you–loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will . . .
bind up your broken heart,
calm your perturbed spirit,
cheer your drooping mind, and
fill you with His own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
for all that you need;
from all that you fear;
through all that would obstruct your way.

Look up every day, saying with David, “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You–and will look up!” Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!”

Do not look at your sin–it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self–it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan–he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men–they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials–they will deject you!

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us–looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!” Hebrews 12:1-2

Look only, look always, look intently–to Jesus!

Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking–to Jesus, who is at God’s right hand in glory.

Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!

James Smith, “A New Year’s Motto” 1865

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

Adversity And Christmas

Friday, December 16th, 2016

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” [John 14:1-4]

What’s the ultimate adversity?

One week before Christmas, adversity may boil down to long lines at the mall or difficult weather conditions for holiday travel. My wife’s scrambling to prepare for a party and receiving little help from a spouse who’s glued to the keyboard—that’s adversity. But I’m thinking along the lines of something a bit more elemental.

One of my best friends is dying.

It’s not the Christmas gift we hoped for, but there it is. The conclusion of a courageous battle with a terrible enemy finally approaches, and we’ll soon have to accept the loss of his physical presence in our circle.

Death doesn’t fit nicely into the Christmas story. Birth and lights and gifts proclaim a priceless promise of hope and beginning. Tinsel and glitter prompt smiles and celebration. Christmas isn’t the time for sad farewells.

Except …

My friend has been on a true journey to faith over the past couple of years. His struggle to reconcile old wounds and personal failure has been replaced with an understanding and acceptance of healing grace. I know that Jesus lives in his heart.

So I grieve the impending loss of a friend and the pain of his family. I’m sad for the large circle to whom he’s been mentor and courageous example. I cry for the empty space his passing will leave in so many lives.

But next week I’ll celebrate the event that assures me he’s approaching a new beginning rather than an end. I’ll hold the paradox of sadness and joy in my heart. I’ll trust that God will help me experience them fully, mix them with grace, and give me His peace.

I pray that each of us, in the midst of life that isn’t always happy, can discover the spirit at the heart of a truly Merry Christmas.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. [John 14:27]

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Dixon
Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

Christmas in the Hospital

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

“Wasn’t it hard to spend Christmas in the hospital?”

CHRISTMAS IN A HOSPITAL might make a good title for an inspirational story or a heartwarming Hallmark movie, but it wouldn’t be my choice for personal experience. I didn’t choose permanent paralysis as a Christmas gift. Intensive Care wasn’t the ideal backdrop for an idyllic Christmas memory.

In real life, Christmas in the hospital was terrifying and lonely and incredibly sad. Decorations draped on beeping monitors in a sterile room provide a poor substitute for stockings hung on the mantle. Doctors and hourly vital signs can’t replace the joyous chaos of kids flitting from new toy to new toy.

The Night Before Christmas loses most of its rich imagery in the context of medical equipment and nurses wearing Santa hats. In place of a magical sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, that Christmas Eve brought claustrophobia in an MRI machine and fears of advancing infection.

But Christmas isn’t all about gifts and decorations and feasts. As much as we all cherish our particular family traditions, Christmas is a time when life softens a bit. Apart from the mad rush of shopping and travel and preparation, Christmas affords an opportunity to focus, however briefly, on what truly matters to us. Family and friends, love and peace, health and joy–these remain long after lights fade and gifts are forgotten.

That’s how I recall my Christmas in ICU. In the midst of fear and pain, I discovered that Christmas really does involve something deeper and more lasting than tinsel and toys. I discovered a connection to a child born thousands of years ago in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty. I learned something important about authentic hope from a horrible experience.

Hospitals, hospices, prisons, and rehab centers don’t close for Christmas. Overwhelming financial uncertainty doesn’t recognize holidays. Loneliness and depression don’t take a week off.

For all those who spend this Christmas in difficult situations, I wish a special sense of hope. I pray that they’ll experience the true meaning of Christmas. I pray that they’ll be touched by the baby whose birth in troubled circumstances signaled glad tidings of great joy for all of us.

Who do you know that might need some special hope this Christmas?

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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