What's It All About?

What's It All About?
By Rod Dixon

Often, as we try to make sense of the world around us and our circumstances at any given moment, we get caught up in how things impact us personally. We ask ourselves, "What is God showing me here?". Of course this is not only normal, but also a healthy response as we grow in our walk with God. Reading a friend’s blog post recently, I was reminded of something God impressed deeply into my soul at a time when I was completely without answers.

In trying to make sense of our circumstances, I've learned that God is always about revealing Himself to us. Yes, He is about healing, redemption, restoration, etc., but also showing us details about His character so that He can be increasingly "known" by us. And the more we know Him, the deeper our love and trust in Him grows during the storms of life.

Clearly, it is in our nature to wonder about our circumstances from a very personal point of view - why me Lord? How come I'm facing _________ (fill in the blank).

In this context, I’m reminded of the story of our friend Job whose tests it seems, played out in God's throne room as well as in Job's life. Also, the passage at the beginning of Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…". The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the larger audience as a framework to encourage ourselves to press on, striving to live a godly life.

God has shown me that it's not always about us. I think sometimes, God uses His dealings with us to demonstrate aspects of His character to the heavenly hosts declaring He is just and righteous and long-suffering and loving toward us. And we get to play a small roll in such declarations by walking in submission, love and trust through whatever – in His sovereignty – is placed in our path. This understanding has helped me when I am without answers. Maybe this is all playing out for a different audience than just me. Certainly, that's not always the case and probably not exclusively the case, but I think some element of everything God does in our lives is for that larger audience. Of course there are also benefits for us too, as we are strengthened in our faith through the spiritual discipline of "…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…" Heb. 12:2

Challenged Expectations - How God Uses Disruption Along The Way

Challenged Expectations - How God Uses Disruption Along The Way
By Rod Dixon

Several of my friends have experienced what I call major career disruptions in the past year or two. They were cruising along, happily pursuing the work they felt God had called them to – some in ministry and others in the commercial sector. Then, suddenly and apparently without warning, the rug gets yanked out from under them resulting in a crisis that impacts them on many levels. In some cases, this was caused by the loss of a job and in other cases, a decision to leave a job after a growing sense that there were much more important things to be focused on. Much has been written about the latter in the context of pursuing a long-neglected calling or other more meaningful endeavors.

In the course of walking along side them, I couldn't help recognize the parallels with my own life experiences. As a family, we have spent more time than I can calculate "wandering in the wilderness" after abrupt changes in direction and dramatically closed doors. Life has been filled with very rich experiences punctuated by seasons of very intense self-examination before the Throne of Grace. For men, such experiences are especially challenging. They produce a crisis of faith, a crisis of personal identity and a crisis of self-worth as a man. The following is excepted from an email I wrote to one friend recently:

“There are no easy answers for those who are going through what you are facing right now so I'll spare you any true, but trite-sounding quotes from scripture. (The last thing I wanted to hear from well-intentioned people who seem to have never faced a challenge in their lives was a paraphrase of Romans 8:28). There are many lessons on trials in scripture where we learn some things about their purpose to build strength of character and endurance. Knowing this offers small comfort in the middle of the trials. Experiencing those fruits and their benefits generally only comes later, when distance and time allow for objective reflection.

I can't say that I know a large number of people who have gone through repeated cycles of feeling like you have "arrived" in your pursuit of God's calling only to have the rug suddenly and unexpectedly yanked out from under you, but that has been our experience about every 3 or 4 years. In one way or another God never allows us to really settle into anything for much longer than that. Each time it happens, we end up reevaluating and resetting our goals, redefining our very identities and launching into a new and always uncertain direction. It's made more difficult by the perception that everyone around you seems to be cruising along on a super highway heading straight to the celestial city with not so much as a flat tire along the way. (“Perception” and “seems” are the operative words here).

We have learned to increasingly focus on our identity as children of God, recipients of all His promises of mercy and grace and to accept the reality of disruption as part of God's purpose for us. I personally have grown comfortable in understanding that, "I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and ever since my life has been great..." is nothing more than a Christian fairy tale for those who are actually called to be warriors for the Kingdom of God. The hardest part of what you are going through is how to reconcile your expectations with your experience so you have to learn to weigh your experiences against the standards of scripture and not let your expectations go. Resist the natural temptation of comparing your life experiences with how God is or seems to be dealing in the lives of others - it's never helpful. 

The promises of God are true and real and worthy of your trust. Who you are as His child and who He is as your Heavenly Father is locked up for eternity in His declared will and eternal purposes for you as revealed in scripture and by the Holy Spirit. Finally, I have leaned heavily over they years on Ephesians 2:10 "
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared before hand that we should walk in them." I can't tell you the hours I've spent meditating on and praying through that verse, trying to understand the depths of it's message, implications and application in my own life. It speaks to God's intentionality in creating us, preparing and equipping us and putting us where we need to be in order for us to fulfill those works He created us for.

It's hard, but I am working toward embracing the cycles of disruption with a sense of anticipation about the adventure that lies ahead. And always, always striving to recognize the divine appointments to be an encouragement and blessing to those whose paths cross mine along the way.”

Our Loaves & Fish

Our Loaves & Fish
By Rod Dixon

I once heard a sermon about approaching God with open hands when we come seeking His blessings. If our hands are occupied, clinging to our cherished things, they won’t be available to receive what God may have prepared for us. (By cherished things, I mean anything like possessions, past hurts, etc.) Unfortunately, the speaker’s application was in the material prosperity arena, sadly missing the most important lesson.

In Luke 18:18-22 we find the story of the rich young ruler seeking the pathway to eternal life. Jesus teaches us an important principle when He tells the young man, “…one thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus was wiling to extend grace and salvation to this man, but his possessions were more dear to him than the eternal life he sought.

Another familiar story comes to us in Mark 6 beginning with verse 30 - it’s the miracle of the feeding of 5,000. The disciples asked Jesus to send the people away to buy food for themselves and in Mark 6:37 Jesus responded “You give them something to eat!…” They resisted Him, but in verse 38 He continued, “ And He *said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they *said, “Five, and two fish.”

From John’s account of the story we learn more interesting details: John 6:5 “Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, *said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” We see that Jesus had a plan for what He intended to do, but He asked the disciples to feed the people as a test. John 6:9 continues, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?”

Now this Lad has always intrigued me. I can imagine he was sent to the market by his dad or mom to either sell the loaves and fish or, perhaps he bought them to feed his family. In the rush of events, he gets caught up in the crowd or perhaps his curiosity got the best of him, but there he was, with the opportunity to play a central roll in one of the biggest stories in history. Like the rich young ruler, this boy had a choice to make and clearly, it would have implications for him when he got home. Jesus asked the disciples, “What do you have?” and they found this lad with the loaves and fish. What would have happened if the boy refused to let go of those items? He could have explained that he was sent to the market to buy them for his family or to sell them for the income they would produce. In the larger scheme of things we can see that Jesus planned for him to be there with the food and put it in his heart to be generous, and of course we know that Jesus multiplied what was offered in order to reveal more of His character and identity to the disciples, those who ate and to us.

These stories are so rich with meaning and lessons for us to apply today. God’s intentions (plan) can be obstructed or facilitated, often based on what we are willing to do. The disciples were faced with a huge challenge when Jesus asked them to feed the masses. In the end, they offered up all they had and left the rest to Jesus. The young ruler and the lad with the loaves and fish both faced the challenge to let go of all they had in order to enter into the richness of God’s mercy and grace. The young ruler walked away, hands still filled with his riches, but missed eternal life. The lad returned home empty handed, having released all that he had but witnessed God being God, and his story is still being told today.

I wonder what God might place in our hands if they weren’t occupied, clinging to something else - what might He do through us? Jesus has offered us living water, like a spring that continually replenishes itself. We are not designed to be vessels that collect and store that water. Rather, we are designed to be conduits through which living water flows for the benefit and blessing of others. So let’s let go, offer all we are and have to the King of Kings and see what He will do in us and through us.

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