Archive for the ‘Things to Ponder’ Category

Which Group Would Jesus Join?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Ever wonder which group Jesus would join?

We take for granted that He’d be part of our group, right? He’d obviously share my theology, my politics, my national pride, and so on. It’s obvious because, well, I’m right.

I’m being sarcastic, sort of. Driving home from a meeting yesterday I probably passed twenty churches and for some reason wondered which one Jesus would join if He lived in Fort Collins.

Would He side with the Progressives or the Evangelicals? Would He join the Catholics or Protestants, the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, or Lutherans? Would He be non-denominational?

Do we even care?

I’m serious. When we put on that WWJD wristband, do we really want to be guided by what Jesus might do?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Jesus didn’t care much for religion, the human response to God’s revelation. Religion is the groups and labels and big, fancy buildings. It’s the Pharisees He confronted so frequently. Religion is the rules and all the stuff you can’t do, and it’s mostly about fear, power, and control.

Religion has little to do with following Jesus, so He said, “Come to me. Get away with me.” He was talking about getting away from religion.

Which group would Jesus join? I think He’s saying the people matter more to Him than the labels. I think He’s saying He doesn’t care much about groups and their petty differences, which makes me wonder if they ought to matter so much to us. I think He’s saying we ought to be one community where everyone’s safe but nobody’s complacent.

Consider for a moment the possibility that Jesus might join that group down the street, the one with whom you disagree or perhaps don’t even like very much. If He actually showed up aligned with the folks you’re absolutely certain are wrong wrong wrong, would your opinions change?

We’ve all got some pretty deeply-held political, patriotic, and religious convictions. If Jesus showed up in the wrong group, those convictions might be challenged. I wonder how easily we’d release them.

Kinda makes you wonder who—or what— we’re really following.

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Copyright 2008-2013 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

It’s Monday, but it’s not the same. Everything’s changed.

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Darkness. Death. Decay.

Imagine the absolute silence, the dampness, the lifeless body on a cold stone slab.

Nobody knows how it happened. For three days the tomb contained only death, and then…lifeless lungs breathed, a dead heart beat.

Picture it. Snap your fingers. One instant, death. The next, life. And in that single moment, everything changed.

A moment, a breath, a heartbeat—the center of history, before and after.

Darkness and light.

Death and life.

It’s Monday, but it’s not the same. Everything’s changed.

Have a great week.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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

Can Our Rights Be Wrong?

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

bill of rights“I have the right to ______.”

You fill in the blank—the possibilities are nearly endless. We’re all about defending and demanding our rights.

A few days ago I read an article about human trafficking in which the author cited compelling data linking prostitution, pornography, and the meteoric increase in internet trafficking of minors. In a comment, one guy angrily defended his constitutional right to view pornography, affirmed by THE SUPREME COURT! (his caps.) He went on to express his anger at “self-righteous Christians” trying to take away his right to do whatever he wanted in his private life.

Personally, I’ve no interest in limiting anyone’s rights. Passing a law might make us feel better, but it’s actually an extremely ineffective way to change “moral” behavior. Want examples?

  • Prostitution is illegal in every state. Does anyone believe those laws stop paid sexual activity or its horrible side effects
  • Slavery and human trafficking are illegal in every country. Nearly 30 million people live in modern-day slavery, and human trafficking is the second largest worldwide organized crime activity (behind drugs).
  • Illegal street drugs proliferate in every community despite massive law enforcement campaigns and billions of dollars wasted on a virtual revolving door of incarceration involving a huge portion of our population.

Jesus refused to deploy power or fear to control behavior. Paul frequently deferred his rights as a Roman citizen, accepting illegal beatings and imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. He wasn’t interested in his rights, but in God’s notion of what’s right.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:7-9)

Just wondering how different things would look if every follower of Jesus surrendered our “right” to judge those who disagree. What if we gave up our right to fight back, to shout for our political beliefs, to edit the truth to fit our version of reality?

What if knowing Jesus mattered more than getting our way? What if loving our enemies was really more important than winning? Would things look any different?

Do you think we could change the world if justice—setting things right, from God’s perspective—was more important to us than our rights?

Jesus gave His life for that principle.

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)

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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

One Pesky Word Changes A Lot

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

mt 6.33I used to think preachers were bragging a little when they talked about Greek or Hebrew translation. Frankly,I figured it was one way of quashing disagreement and showing who’s really the expert.

But as I learn, I’m amazed at how frequently a careful look at original words reveals a different understanding of an important point in scripture.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a surprising (to me) assertion in a sermon. The preacher said, “Biblically, there’s no distinction between righteousness and justice.”

I thought that was a rather bold statement. His claim rested on a translation issue. Turns out there’s one Old Testament word—sadaq—and one New Testament Greek word—Dikaios­for righteousness and justice. So while we may consider them as two separate notions, the writers of scripture didn’t.

Justice is righteousness. Righteousness is justice.

Does that seem awkward to you? It did to me.

I think this changes a lot, but one thing it changes is: you can’t define these words differently. Whatever one means, the other means.

What’s your definition?

To me, justice means setting things right. Does that fit with righteousness?

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

So, seek first his kingdom and his justice…how does that change your understanding of this familiar verse—or does it?

This was an eye-opening notion for me. I’m still digesting.  More next time.

Your thoughts?

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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

“Follow me.” — “Okay, where are we going?”

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

“Follow me.”

That’s the invitation. And it’s natural to ask, “Okay, where are we going?”

I think I’ve decided it’s the wrong question.

When Jesus called His disciples, He didn’t talk about where they’d go or what they’d do. He simply invited them to travel with Him.

I think it’s not about destination or activity or what we accomplish. I think it might be more about making sure we travel with Jesus and get to know Him.

I tend to get in trouble when I decide a particular result is “God’s plan.” Once I make that determination, I have to make it happen, no matter what, because it’s God’s plan. And obviously Jesus is going to help me–why wouldn’t He? It’s what God wants.

You see the problem, right? Suddenly it’s not clear who’s following whom. Maybe I’m expecting Jesus to serve me, support my agenda, and carry my stuff because I’m doing God’s work!

Perhaps a better way is deciding to travel with Jesus and listen a lot, no matter what. I’ll do what I’m good at and use my gifts to serve others, but I’ll trust Him for the results.

It comes down to one of my favorite questions: Do I really believe what I believe?

Do I really trust God? Is knowing Jesus really my highest priority? Am I truly willing to surrender the illusion of control? Do I seek His kingdom, or do I seek my rights, my political agenda, my version of God’s will?

This might be a good week to accept Jesus’ invitation to travel together and get to know Him.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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

Fear: Maybe It’s Pretty Simple

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Yesterday the guys in my workshop talked about fear.

We looked at a hierarchy of spiritual needs and I asked them to list fears that came to mind if those needs weren’t met. The idea was to help each guy identify where he was in the hierarchy.

The exercise proceeded pretty much as I expected, but driving home as I processed their responses I realized something significant.

Nobody expressed a fear of not following God’s plan.

These guys have lost just about everything. Most of them have no idea where they’ll end up or what they’ll do when they complete their program. If anyone ought to be fearful of outcomes, it’s them.

But they’re not. They’re much more concerned with process, with learning how to follow and know Jesus, than with destination and results.

The more I consider it, the more I’m convinced that God has a plan for each of these guys—and for me and you. And I’m not sure that plan has a lot to do with specific activities, paths, or destinations.

I have a sense that if you’re doing what you love, what you’re good at, what serves others, and if you’re doing it with Jesus, you’re probably making God smile.

I think God cares more about HOW we do than WHAT we do.

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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

Why do people at church fake being happy?

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

I’ve told you the guys in my workshop ask great questions. They don’t know there’s some stuff you’re not supposed to mention.

“So what makes you think they’re faking?”

“Nobody’s that happy all the time. It’s like there’s a rule against being sad or upset. All the songs are about joy and peace, and sometimes that’s not how I feel. But I think they’d kick me out if I wasn’t smiling—I mean, not really, but nobody’s showing their real feelings.

“I go to Celebrate Recovery on Thursdays and it’s totally different. People there are real. But on Sundays, you gotta be happy. And I don’t think they’re always that happy. I know I’m not.”

I completely agree with my friend. There are many days I don’t feel the joy of the corporate worship experience, when all those smiling faces make me feel isolated and alone.

I’m glad I know better. I’m glad I know worship is more than music and more than feelings. I’m glad I know a lot of those smiles aren’t real and church has a lot of hurting, confused, lost people.

That’s why we fake being happy—because we’re just like everyone else, and we’re afraid, and we don’t want others to know we’re afraid. So we hide behind our happy masks.

So that was my answer, and my friend said, “But doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Isn’t the whole point of a community to have a place where you can be honest and let down your guard?”

“Sure. The whole idea of a life of worship is to love God, others, and yourself—openly and transparently.

“But nobody said it would be easy.”

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
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Copyright 2008-2013 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 Envy Rotting Your Bones?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Proverbs 14:30: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

I confess I envy people who can eat whatever they want and not get sick. Can you relate?

I can’t eat red meat, pork, shellfish, fried foods, or dairy products. I usually do well at home. When I eat in a restaurant or go away for a few days, the battle begins.

I dislike drawing attention to my food restrictions. However, when a waiter brings me a different meal than the others receive, that’s what happens.

I feel a twinge of envy and wonder if my bones are rotting. How about you?

To make matters worse, I suspect I can’t eat wheat either.

No matter what, I want a heart at peace that gives life to my body. I don’t want envy to rot my bones.

You may not suffer from food allergies, but you may have physical limitations. They challenge you, and you may envy people without them.

Perhaps you’re single and envy your married friends. Maybe you’re married and envy your single friends.

You may live in a townhouse and envy those in a large house with a big patio. On the other hand, you may live in a large house with a big yard and envy those in a townhouse who have less to clean.

Dear God, help me have a heart at peace. Amen.

Application:  What will you do this week to avoid envy?

Has suffering crushed you? Does God even care?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

When I look at the devastation of this world, at the suffering of others and the pain of my own life, I ask, Where is God?  Does He even notice?  Does He even care?

My first step in this journey of seeking answers to these questions began when I realized that earth is not my true home.  I am just visiting here.  I am just passing through.

…having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13, 16 NASB

God did create a perfect world, and mankind shattered that perfection with our sin.
Pain runs rampant, seemingly unchecked.  But we don’t belong here! We are built for eternity!  We are strangers, aliens, foreigners here!  Our citizenship is in heaven.

Okay… so then why are we still here?  Why don’t we just head on up to our true home?  If God loves us so much, why does He leave us down here groaning with all of creation?

I believe the answers to these questions are uniquely tailored for each one of us.  I think the answers may come as we seek to know God more and grow in our relationship with Him.

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~ * ~

Celeste Li, M. D. is the author of
Triumph Over Suffering: A Spiritual Guide To Conquering Adversity
She is active member of Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens Florida.
Celeste teaches a course in Triumph Over Suffering and serves in Christ Fellowship’s Ministry for the Suffering.

Do You Appreciate the Radical Claims of Christ?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

My friend invited me to speak to a group of young adults last week. As we talked prior to the event he said, almost matter-of-factly, “I never stop being surprised by just how incredibly radical Jesus’ message really was.”

He paused for a moment, then corrected himself. “Not was… is.”

That’s a pretty good pre-game pep talk for a speaker.

I think I’m like my friend. I suspect I don’t really appreciate the radical nature of His claims.

Or perhaps I do, but I also know following radicals–really following them, not just pretending–isn’t always the safest choice.

Have a great week!

CIR Members can share their thoughts regarding this blog HERE
Don’t miss CIR’s Daily Article !
Not a member of CIR yet? Join us Today!Dixon
Copyright 2008-2013 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