Archive for the ‘Things to Ponder’ Category

Feeling Far from God?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

“Surely I am with you always–to the very end of the age!” Matthew 28:20

In our natural state… we conceive of God as being at a distance.

But when the heart is awakened, we begin to make Jacob’s reflection, “Surely the Lord is in this place–and I knew it not!” (Genesis 28:16) Yes, though we cannot see Him–He sees us, He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves!

And when we are saved, we begin to know this ever-present Christ; that the government of Heaven and earth, the dispensations of the kingdom of nature, providence, and grace–are in His hands; that it is He with whom we have to do–who once suffered agony and death for our redemption, and whose compassion and tenderness are the same as when He conversed among men in the days of His humiliation.

Thus Jesus is made known to us by the gospel, in the endearing views of a Shepherd, a Husband, a Friend. With humble confidence, we may enter into the holiest of all, and repose all our cares and concerns upon the strength of that everlasting arm which upholds Heaven and earth, and upon that infinite love which submitted to the shame, pain, and death of the cross–to redeem sinners from wrath and misery!

There is a height, a breadth, a length, and a depth, in this mystery of redeeming love, exceeding the comprehension of all finite minds!

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully!” Ephesians 3:19

~Letters of John Newton (adapted)

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Do You Suppose Jesus Was Serious?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Peace“Peace be with you.”

Jesus said those exact words at least three times in John 20.

The other night during our small group study a random thought popped into my head: Do you suppose He really meant it?

What if He was serious? What if He really intended for us be at peace?

It’s a fair question, if only because so many of Jesus’ most visible, dedicated, vocal followers seem dedicated to anything but a peaceful life. Observers could be excused for concluding that following Jesus involves a good deal of anger, strife, and fighting with “the other side.” (Don’t believe me…take a look at what passes for political “discourse” as the election approaches.)

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)

What if He cares more about the peace in my heart than what I accomplish or who I impress or how many Facebook friends I have?

What if He doesn’t care who gets elected, but He cares enough to die for the person I’m sure is going to ruin the nation? And what if He wants me to let go of the nasty, judgmental attitude that hardens my heart?

“Peace be with you.”

Do you suppose He expected us to actually live it?

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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

The wicked prosper–the righteous have adversity

Monday, February 16th, 2015

“If you see oppression of the poor, and perversion of justice and righteousness throughout the land–do not marvel at the matter.” Ecclesiastes 5:8
In the midst of his soliloquizings and moralizings, King Solomon interjected an occasional counsel or exhortation: “Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, there was wickedness; and that in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there also.” (Ecclesiastes 3:16), and he bids his readers not to be surprised or stumbled thereat.

It was a timely word, for such passages as Job 12:6 and 21:7; Psalm 73:2-12; Jeremiah 12:1 show that the Old Testament saints were deeply exercised over the prosperity of the wicked–and the adversity of the righteous. Solomon, therefore, seeks to remove this stumbling-block and prevent their taking offence at, or murmuring against, God’s divine government.

Fallen human nature being what it is, we should not think it strange that the strong oppress the weak, or that justice should be corrupted by those in high places. Man is made to reap the bitter harvest of his apostasy from God.

Yet, however perplexed we may be over the success which so often rewards the workers of iniquity, let us be assured that nothing escapes the notice of the Most High God, that He “regards” and has wise reasons for permitting the frequent miscarriage of human justice by the magistrates and rulers of earth. There is One infinitely above to whom they must yet render an account, and from whom they will receive “a just recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 2:2)

(Arthur Pink, “No Marvels” 1952)

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