Archive for the ‘Things to Ponder’ Category

What Do the “Experts” Know about Jesus?

Monday, January 26th, 2015

“People would rather read books written by experts about the bible than the bible itself.”

It’s an interesting notion–why not let someone who knows the intricacies of Hebrew and Greek, the in’s and out’s of ancient culture, figure out all that interpretation stuff? They’re surely more qualified than I am, right?

The class was called BIBLE BASICS, and we gathered to discuss some ideas about using scripture in our small groups. I’d just floated the notion that the basic purpose of the bible is revelation. It’s God telling us who He is, and He wants a relationship.

Relationships require commutation, time, and the investment of getting to know each other. I asked how that would work out in our personal relationships if we tried to outsource the hard work to a third party. Maybe I could hire a marriage expert to get to know my wife, then tell me the highlights.

Of course that’s preposterous, and creepy, but it’s exactly what we’re doing when we trust an expert to tell us what we need to know about Jesus.

Jesus is a person, not a collection of ideas. If I read a book about the bible, I’ll learn about someone else’s relationship with Him.

I think He’d prefer something more intimate.

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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’s More Real: Facts, Science or Faith?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

FACTS

“I’m a science guy. I rely on evidence, data, and facts.”

I’ve frequently pondered my friend’s rationale for not believing in God, because I’m a science guy, too. I want bridge designers and architects and physicists—and lots of other folks—to be science guys as well.

I know some folks believe there’s evidence for God, but it’s not the sort of evidence that’ll stand up to scientific scrutiny. It can’t, because science gathers data about the world God created and God exists beyond that world.

Just as God exists outside the realm of science, I believe there’s a level of knowing beyond facts and evidence. We call that level TRUTH.

Aside from my relationship with Jesus, my love for Becky is the singular most powerfully inspiring force in my life. I can provide no evidence, no data, to establish the existence of that love as a scientific fact. But lack of evidence doesn’t mean it’s imaginary.

That love is a baseline Truth in my life. Attempts to reduce it to facts of behavior or brain function or physiologic response couldn’t begin to capture the totality of the Truth.

We know the science that creates a sunset and the music theory behind a symphony, but none of that explains the experiences of viewing or listening or creating.

I think it’s a general principle that whenever we reduce a Truth to mere facts, or even try to express it in words, we diminish it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

God didn’t explain The Word. He sent it to live among us.

And Jesus wasn’t full of facts.

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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

Good News in a Bad News World

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites…
So He called His disciples to Him and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all” (Mark 12:42-43).


Have you noticed that the world doesn’t measure things from God’s viewpoint? Even as believers, we often fall into the trap of thinking that more is necessarily better, despite the fact that the One we claim to follow said otherwise. As a result, we may become intimidated and fail to give anything at all.

The poor widow in Mark 12 gave such a small amount that it would scarcely be noticeable when the offering was counted. But Jesus noticed…and He counted it as worthy and the widow as faithful.

What else really matters? If we give the best we have to offer, then God counts our gifts as worthy and our hearts as faithful. God is not dependent on our worldly pittance, whether that pittance amounts to a few cents or a few million dollars. What He wants from us is everything — our money, our time, our talents…but most of all, our hearts. When we willingly give all that to Him, He multiplies it for His use and His glory.

What a clear example I came across of that truth as I read from my Compassion magazine this morning! Faithful donors from around the world have now reached the 1 million mark, meaning that 1 million children worldwide are regularly being helped by our offerings. True, 1 million children may represent only a small number of those in need, but it’s a start — an offering from our hearts that God can and does multiply. And what excited me was to read that in the midst of economic troubles, God’s people are remaining faithful in their giving, even exceeding their commitments of former years.

We’ve all heard the saying that “You can’t out-give God.” How true that is, beloved! The return on our offerings is always so much greater than anything we could ever gain by clutching our pitiful possessions to ourselves. God is much more interested in our willingness to give than in our ability to do so. He can as easily use our sacrificial dollar to accomplish great things as the billionaire’s thousand dollars.

And isn’t that good news in a world seemingly flooded with bad news? Perhaps we would be more willing to give ourselves away in God’s service if we would refuse to get caught up in the bad news that will soon pass away and instead rejoice in the Good News that God has everything under control—and He is sending Jesus back for us very, very soon!

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Macias
Copyright 2009 Kathi Macias, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored 26 books. Her newest books are:
“Beyond Me. Living a You-first Life in a Me-first World”

and


“Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today”
(New Hope Publishers) The author can be reached at: http://www.kathimacias.com

_

The Paradox of Christmas

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

One shopping days until Christmas!

That announcement greeted me first thing this morning, and I was struck by the amazing paradox embedded in a common seasonal countdown. Hurry up and shop for the birth of God’s Son!—sounds a bit silly if you think about it.

Christmas teems with contradiction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; most of life requires us to balance conflicting perceptions and priorities. The key is not to force a black-and-white interpretation onto a shades-of-gray world, because that simply denies reality. But awareness helps us to keep priorities in order.

SOME PARADOXES OF CHRISTMAS

Commercial and spiritual We all know about Black Friday, the beginning of the season retailers depend upon for an entire year’s success. While we rightly lament the over-commercialization of Christmas, most of us enjoy giving and receiving gifts. Any parent will happily recount memories of the wonder of Christmas morning and small children.

We simply need to remember that it’s not ALL about buying and getting and stuff. As long as our Christmas season centers on Advent first, we can keep the craziness in perspective and enjoy without being consumed.

Cultural and eternal We all have Christmas traditions. For us it’s the farm, family, football, and food. It’s a time to play games, do puzzles, and catch up with people we see too infrequently.

For me, none of that has much to do with Christmas. The holiday simply provides a reason to do things we ought to do anyway. Jesus wasn’t born so I’d slow down and spend time with relatives, but I suspect that He’d endorse the idea. Cultural practices are a problem only when they replace our focus on the star.

Single day and every day Christmas isn’t a day on the calendar. Christmas is a reminder of the Good News, glad tidings of great joy for all of us. That didn’t happen on December 25, 0000.

I love the way The Message paraphrases the familiar words of John 1:14:
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

Jesus didn’t just drop by to offer a few words of encouragement before heading back to a more exclusive development. He moved into the neighborhood—mine and yours—and He still lives there.

How about you? What’s a Christmas paradox that impacts you?

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. [Luke 2:8-11]

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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

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