Archive for the ‘Things to Ponder’ Category

Do You Ask Questions You Can’t Answer?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

I wish I could talk to the baby in the Nativity scene.

I know–it’s only a wooden carving, and conversations with babies tend to be sort of one-sided anyway. And it’s Jesus, so I can talk to Him whenever I want.

It’s just that when I look at the baby I wish the man He became would walk into the room, sit in that chair, and have a real-life conversation.

Someone said the early Christians struggled to believe Jesus was fully God. They had first-hand evidence of His humanity, because He lived and walked among them.

We likely have the opposite problem. We believe He was God, but struggle to accept Him as a man with the same limitations we deal with.

At Christmas, I want to know what it was like to go from limitless to limited, from all-powerful to dependent, from eternal to time-bound. I’d ask how He dealt with existing everywhere in the universe one moment, and then being confined to Mary’s womb the next.

What was it like in Heaven at the instant when all of God was concentrated into one location in space and time in a backwater country with no Internet or cell service?

I can’t imagine how any of that worked, but it must have been confusing for the human part of Him that had to figure it out with a limited human brain. Did He always know He could speak water into wine? If not, what was it like to gradually understand who He was?

Some folks dismiss these questions, because they don’t matter or because the answers can’t be known for sure. But for me, wondering about the baby is an important part of knowing Jesus.

And I’ve never believed questions don’t matter just because I don’t know the answers.

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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

What was the First Advent Like?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

TheNativityIf Advent’s about anticipation, what was that first Advent like for Jesus?

I look at the helpless baby in the manger and wonder what it was like as He waited. Because He wasn’t always a baby.

Time had never been an issue, but now there was this moment in time when everything would change. He would somehow empty Himself and enter His creation, become one of the created.

Did He anticipate that moment?

He’s God, so it’s tempting to brush it off and assume it was easy for Him. But Paul says it was a big deal.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

What was it like to know what was coming–not just the cross, but the helplessness, the dependency, the limitation? It’s hard to think about, because as a baby He couldn’t know, but as God He did, and somehow that all fits together.

We’re a self-centered bunch. For us, Advent’s about what we await.

I look at that baby and realize He waited, too.

Rescued and Transferred

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins!” Colossians 1:13-14

The true believer hates and resists those sins which once he loved–and renounces that world which once so much enamored him.

How divinely glorious is the religion of Jesus!
Old things pass away–and behold, all things become new!
It turns the lion, into the lamb.
it turns the desert heart, into the garden of the Lord.
It converts the impure and savage heart, into a habitation fit for the mild and holy Dove.
It restores the Hell-bent sinner to the divine favor.
It transforms him into the divine image.
It redeems him from the depths of damnation.
It raises him to the highest seats in glory!

What tongue can speak, or what heart conceive, the richness and extent of divine redemption!

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace which He lavished on us!” Ephesians 1:7-8

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

~ Thomas Reade

What Makes a Church?

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Today’s word-of-the-week…

CHURCH

We spoke at a church yesterday—at least they said it was a church.

It used to be a house, before it was an office. The address? First building south of the gas station. We had to ask for directions.

No pews, no stage, no fancy sign. They outgrew the main room, so they ripped out a counter to make room for more chairs in the entry/adjoining room.

The pastor, who works a regular full-time job, jokingly said he didn’t mind all that, but he’d always sort of wanted a church building with a steeple. A couple of weeks ago a guy stopped by and said the building needed a steeple and offered to build one. He took that as a sign that God wanted him to keep going.

Still, it didn’t look much like a normal church.

Except that the 50 or 60 folks who showed up acted like it was a church. They seemed to think they were enough to make it church.

I forget sometimes. I forget that church isn’t the building, the programs, the staff, or any of the paraphernalia I associate with it. Church isn’t complicated.

Church is people gathered in Jesus’ name. If that happens in the first building south of the gas station, I suspect Jesus won’t need directions.

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DixonRich 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

What If Prayer Doesn’t Work?

Monday, September 15th, 2014

vending“It doesn’t seem like my prayers work.”

Now there’s a conversation starter. You just have to inquire—what do you mean, they don’t “work”?

“Well, it seems like none of the stuff I pray about ever happens. Ever. It’s like God’s not listening. Or if He is, He’s not answering.”

I felt like the smart kid in the front row. I KNEW the right answer to this one—I had the perfect platitude to put a quick end to this discussion.

Well, you know, sometimes God says YES, sometimes NO, sometimes WAIT, but He always answers.

Fortunately, I managed to stifle the smart kid for a moment. “So you told me that you talk to your mom every Sunday night, right?”

He looked a little confused by the sudden left turn. “Yeah, we talk for at least an hour.”

“Why?”

“Why? Well, I miss her. Haven’t seen her since I came here, so we just talk. I tell her what I’m doing, how things are going, stuff like that.”

“And that helps?

“Yeah, it helps a lot. I always feel better after I talk to her.”

“Do you ask her for stuff?”

He obviously thought it was a strange question. “Not really. We just talk.”

“And how do you think it would go if you spent the whole time asking for stuff?”

He smiled. He saw where this was going. “That would be pretty weird.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet your mom would get tired of being treated like a vending machine.”

“So you think that’s what I’m doing when I pray?”

“I think Jesus wants us to get to know Him, just like your mom. He’s a person. And He wants you to talk to Him the way you talk to your mom.

“Maybe prayer’s more of a conversation and less of a shopping list.”

“But aren’t we supposed to tell Him our needs?”

“My opinion? Of course! He wants to hear everything that’s going on. But I get a little nervous about the notion of ‘praying harder’ as if the intensity of your prayer might change God’s mind. It’s like there’s a right way or a wrong way to pray, and if you do it right you’ll get what you want.

“Be careful thinking you can manipulate God with your faith or whatever. And be careful thinking you understand how God’s working or how he answered a prayer. Because He always responds, but sometimes it’s long-term or in ways you have trouble seeing.”

This is a smart guy, and you could see the wheels turning. After some silence he said, “So Jesus is a person, not a vending machine. And the point of prayer is conversation, not results.

And prayer is like talking to my mom?”

Not bad.

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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 ww.relentlessgrace.com

Jesus Didn’t Die to Make Us Feel Better

Friday, September 12th, 2014

“Why did Jesus die?”

It’s a great question, one for which every follower ought to have a response. I was tempted to offer my version of the “right” answer, but that’s not really how you generate dialogue.

So we talked for a few minutes, and then one guy said, “Why don’t we list some reasons He didn’t die?”

I thought that sounded really interesting, so I asked him for an example.

“Well, Jesus didn’t die to make me feel better.”

The room got really quiet. “Talk some more about that.”

“Well, a lot of what happens with religion seems to be about making people feel good. We say comfortable stuff and water everything down because we’re more concerned with people’s feelings than with telling the truth.

“But a lot of what Jesus said made people uncomfortable. We need to get over the idea that He came to make us feel good.”

By the time we finished a wide-ranging discussion of why He didn’t die (to make me rich or to keep me safe, for example), the man who asked the original question provided his own answer.

This teaching thing isn’t so tough, huh?

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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 ive Hope Another Chance. Visit his website www.relentlessgrace.co

Do You Think You Don’t Have Enough?

Monday, September 1st, 2014

The more abundance of truly valuable things a man has–the more he has of true riches.

A child counts himself rich when he has a great many marbles, and toys, and rocks–for these suit his childish age and imagination.

Just so, a worldly man counts himself rich when he has a great store of gold and silver, or lands and houses.

But a child of God counts himself rich when he has . . .
God for his Portion,
Christ his his Redeemer, and
the Spirit for his Guide, Sanctifier, and Comforter.
This is as much above a carnal man’s estate in the world, as a carnal man’s estate is above a child’s toys and trifles–yes, infinitely more!

It is above all things desirable, that we adopt a correct scale to estimate things. When we make our personal audit, we shall fall into grievous error if the principles of our reckoning are not thoroughly accurate. If we reckon buttons as silver, and brass as gold–we shall dream that we are rich, when we are in poverty!

In taking stock of our own condition, let us be sure only to reckon that for riches, which is really riches to us. Wealth to the worldling is not wealth to the Christian. His currency is different, his valuables are of another sort.

Am I today poorer in money than I was ten years ago. And at the same time, am I more humble, more patient, more earnest, more loving? Then set me down as a rich man!

Have my worldly goods largely increased during the last few years? And at the same time, am I also more proud, more carnal-minded, more lukewarm, more petulant? Then I must write myself down as a poorer man, whatever others may think of my estate.

A Christian’s riches are within him!
External belongings are by no means a sure gain to a man.

A horse is none the better off for all its gilded trappings. Just so, a man is in truth, none the richer for his sumptuous surroundings.

Paul was richer than King Croesus, when he was able to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want!” Philippians 4:11-12

Such contentment surpasses riches! Solomon, after summing up all his possessions and delights, was compelled to add, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!”

If a man should labor to be rich after the fashion of the poor African natives, and should accumulate a large store of shells and beads–yet when he came home to England he would be a beggar, even though he had a shipload of such rubbish!

Just so, he who gives his heart and soul to the accumulation of gold coins–is a beggar when he comes into the spiritual realm, where such coins are reckoned as mere forms of earth, non-current in Heaven, and of less value than the least of spiritual blessings!

O, my Lord, let me not merely talk thus, and pretend to despise earthly treasure–when all the while I am hunting after it! Grant me grace to live above these perishable things, never setting my heart upon them; nor caring whether I have them, or have them not. But give me grace to exercise all my energy in pleasing You, and in gaining those things which You hold in esteem. Give me, I beseech You, the riches of Your grace–that I may at last attain to the riches of Your glory!

~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

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What Would You Do?

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

What_Would_You_Do_logoQUESTION: How much grace?

ANSWER: Grace is boundless and unmerited.

QUESTION: Who do you forgive?

ANSWER: Everyone.

Yeah, I know it’s not that simple—except, it really is. Not easy, for sure, but those are the principles to which we’re called.

So now I have a real-world question for you to ponder.

How do we act out those principles in the face of injustice?

Injustice doesn’t have to be human trafficking or murder. Let’s boil it down to something we all encounter. How do we act out grace and forgiveness when we encounter someone being bullied?

When I was a kid, the standard advice was Punch a bully in the nose. Now we hear Stand Your Ground.

What Would You Do?

The following situation isn’t truly hypothetical. It’s a sanitized compilation of some actual situations I’ve faced.

Suppose a guy in a wheelchair visited a public spot that, by its nature, was minimally accessible. And imagine that the guy and his companions were subjected to continual rude, insensitive comments from other patrons or staff members who objected to the perceived inconvenience caused by the presence of a wheelchair.

As a companion, What Would You Do?

As an observer, What Would You Do?

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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

Are You Nurtured by the Victory Parade?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

“In Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way to salvation–an aroma redolent with life.” 2 Cor. 2:14-15a, The Message.

There is a method to this seeming madness. Everything we have gone through and will go through today, whet the spiritual whistle of all around us. Our day to day life produces a testimony of perpetual victory. Yes, I know it is a process-but; ultimately, in Christ it will be tomorrow’s testimony of the grace, love and mercy of God!

The key — the beginning words in this passage…’In Christ, God leads us…’ He really is in charge. Things have not run amuck. All is not for naught. There really is a purpose for everything. I question this as much as the next person. But; I always end up going full circle; praising God for the new, fresh and powerful testimony that today’s tests produce tomorrow.

The kicker — you have to continually rest in His leading. I’m sure none of you have ever argued with Papa about what He has allowed in your life. As Paul put it, ‘you never kick against the prick.’ The difference will be whether our lives emanate with the fragrance and visible evidence of the Gospel of Grace or not.

The most powerful, tangible, and authentic evidence of the Gospel is our testimony! Will you co-operate with His lead today? If so, He will take you from place to place as a perpetual victory parade? Victory parades are a lot more fun than continual defeats. This is the essence of revival and revolution! Go start a Gospel revolution today with your fragrant testimony.

In the grip of Papa’s victorious 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.

Do You Toy with Sin?

Monday, August 25th, 2014

“If we play around the viper’s hole–it no wonder that we are bitten!”

An old proverb advises us not to play with sharp-edged tools, lest we cut our fingers.

It is a sin to trifle with sin! If we must play, we had better find harmless toys! That evil which caused Christ a bloody death, is no fit theme for any man’s sport.

Playing with wickedness is a hazardous game! Sooner or later, we will pluck the lion of sin by the beard, and we shall be torn in pieces!

This is true of indulgence in strong drink: “Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake, and poisons like a viper!”

This is equally true of all other forms of evil, especially of the lusts of the flesh. Lewd words, soon lead to foul deeds. Yet such is the folly of men, that they run dreadful risks in sheer wantonness, as though vipers and cobras were fine playmates, and devils were merry-makers!

“Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Do not let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.” Psalm 19:13

Charles Spurgeon, “Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden” 1883

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