Choose Not to Forget the Real Christmas Story

Barbara | December 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Some say the story of Christmas begins with the birth of the Christ child, but long before Jesus was born there was something wonderful…the promise of His coming and the promise of redemption for mankind.

Psalm 130:7-8 told us, “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”

Jeremiah 23:4-5 said a day was coming when God would raise up a king who would reign wisely and do what was right. His name would be “The Lord Our Righteousness.”

Isaiah 11:2-5 said the Spirit of the Lord would rest on Him, plus the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. He would not judge by what He saw or heard but with righteousness.

Isaiah 9:6-7 told us, “Unto us a child will be born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

Over 300 prophecies were fulfilled through Jesus’ birth, His life, His ministry, His death and resurrection. Not just the promise of Christ’s coming was revealed in scripture but the details of how it would take place. This truly was a miraculous event!

He would be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:3), a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; Matthew 1:1), Isaac (Genesis 17:19; Luke 3:24), Jacob (Numbers 24:17; Matthew 1:2), Jesse (Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12), and David (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 1:1).

He would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4), a virgin (Isaiah 7:11; Luke 1:26-31) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-7), worshipped by shepherds (Psalm 72:9; Luke 2:8-15) and honored by kings (Psalm 72:10, 17; Isaiah 60:3; Matthew 2:1-11). The slaughter of children (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18) and flight to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15) were foretold as well. The list goes on and on.

I love the thought of jolly old St. Nick, stockings hung with care, sleigh bells jingling in the snow, trees twinkling with lights, halls decked with holly, colorful presents lovingly wrapped, a snowman coming to life, Christmas card greetings, kissing under the mistletoe, and a red-nosed reindeer. I laugh when I hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and secretly wish Santa would slip a sable (faux sable, if I want to be politically correct) under the tree for me. It all adds to the festivities!

But consider this… None of those things can compare with God’s gift of redemption to all. Let us never forget that without Christ there is no Christmas.

So this Christmas season as you sing your favorite carols, may you remember the birth of Jesus. Only in honoring Christ can we truly partake of the genuine joy in celebrating!

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Hang a stocking for Christ and have each one in the family write a note of appreciation to Him for specific blessings.

Read Luke 2:1-21.

Consider attending a Christmas Pageant at a local church.

Reach out to others less fortunate. (Matthew 25:42-25)

From now until Christmas, thank God every day for His indescribable gift – Jesus. You might consider doing this often all year long. (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Be Stressed

Barbara | December 3, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Stress used to be an engineering term. Years ago people were anxious, nervous, worried, or fretful but not stressed. In the 1950s stress became a psychological term referring to conditions brought on by major catastrophes in a person’s life such as death, divorce, or life threatening disease. Today just the thought of getting out of bed to face another day can cause stress.

Here are some things recent research says causes stress: being married, not being married, having children, not having children, having a job, not having a job, working more than 40 hours a week, working less than 40 hours a week, retirement, your spouse’s job, your spouse not having a job, having sex, not having sex, taking a vacation, not taking a vacation, having family outings, not having family outings, playing the stock market, not playing the stock market, and so on and so forth. You might say, “You’re stressed if you do and you’re stressed if you don’t!” It has us coming and going.

Many turn to religion thinking that God in His infinite wisdom will miraculously take away all stress. Unfortunately, the Christian way of life is not promised to be stress free. Just look at the great leaders in the Bible and ask yourself, “Were they stressed?”

Abraham and Sarah were elderly when they had Isaac. Noah had to build an ark without a cloud in the sky. Rahab put her life on the line for spies. Elijah hid in a cave from Jezebel. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Daniel was cast into a lion’s den. David fled for his life from Saul. Job lost everything he had.

Joseph was a know-it-all teenager who couldn’t keep his mouth shut, alienated his brothers, was sold into slavery and cast into prison for many years before he became a prominent advisor to the king of Egypt.

Moses killed a man, fled Egypt for many years, agreed under duress to lead the children of Israel to freedom, dealt with mumbling Israelites, struck a rock in frustration, and didn’t even get to see the promised land.

Do you think they were stressed?

We live in a 24/7 world. Society demands more and more of us. However, many times we give in to demands when we don’t need to. Only we can decide what our personal limitations and priorities are. Even with that, we only have so much control. Stress is a part of life.

Consider this… God doesn’t take away stress factors, but He can help us cope, give us peace, and walk with us every step of our way. Focusing on Jesus and not our circumstances can help us keep perspective and remain calm during the stresses of life. Various stresses will come and go, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Since we are entering the Christmas season, here are some ideas for having less stress during the holidays.

During the hustle and bustle of the season, determine to keep Christ in the picture. Say little prayers thanking Him for your blessings throughout your busy, busy days.

Resist the urge to be Martha Stewart or Bob Villa during the holidays. You don’t always have to go bigger for things to be better.

Forgo the “some assembly required” or “needs an expensive battery instead of a AA or AAA battery” gifts. Think simplistically. If Ikea has taught us anything, it’s that “not everything is as easily assembled as they tell you it is.”

Eat healthy and get plenty of rest. If you think you’re stressed now, just wait until you get sick!

Invest in a little Christmas devotional book to help you focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Bargain with God

Barbara | November 26, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Is God our “let’s make a deal” guy? Do we bargain with God saying, “If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you?” That’s not really a good idea. Although we may have the best intentions, we are human. We don’t always keep our end of the bargain. God is fully capable of keeping His promises, but sometimes we are not.

I remember one time my husband was bringing a group of kids to our house for a youth activity. It was getting late. It started snowing. I was getting worried. I remember praying, “Oh Lord, just bring him home safe and sound, and I won’t be upset that he didn’t call.” The minute he walked in the door I lost it and heatedly said, “Why didn’t you call? I’ve been worried sick.” So much for making bargains! God did His part, though. My husband and all the kids were safe and sound.

Bargaining or negotiating with God may seem like a viable plan when we are in a desperate situation, but it’s certainly not the best use of prayer. Wouldn’t trusting God be a better approach?

Here’s a biblical example to think about: Jephthah wanted peace with the Ammonites, but they rejected his diplomatic efforts. As he led the Israelite army’s advance against this hostile nation, Jephthah made a vow to God. “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return triumphant will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” God gave him what he bargained for, but the cost was high. His only child, his beloved daughter, heard of their victory and was the first to come joyfully dancing out the front door to greet him. Jephthah was devastated. (Judges 11:30-35)

In contrast, here’s another example: David knew he had sinned by having a relationship with Bathsheba. He had her husband killed in battle so he could marry her. When the prophet Nathan pointed this out to him, David repented and was forgiven. David was not a perfect man, but he always accepted responsibility for his actions. (2 Samuel 12:13) By this time, Bathsheba had his baby. Nathan told David the child would not live. David was heartbroken. He pleaded with God to spare the child’s life. He wept, fasted, and lay all night on the ground. However, I don’t think he was making any bargains with God. No matter how painful a situation was, David trusted God. (2 Samuel 13:14-21) Here’s how we know…

When the servants told David the child was dead, he arose, cleaned up, changed his clothes, ate, and went to the house of the Lord to worship God. (2 Samuel 13:15-23) When the servants were curious about his actions, he basically said, “When the child was alive I fasted and wept because God might have let the child live. But God has made His decision. My actions will not bring the child back.” Then he went to comfort Bathsheba. Nine months later they had a baby named Solomon.

David trusted God. We don’t need to bargain with God. All we need to do is ask. God wants to give us, His beloved children, good gifts. (Matthew 7:7-11) If God doesn’t give us what we want, we must trust that God has reasons for His decisions, even if we don’t understand what they are.

Consider this… God doesn’t need to make deals. We either trust God or we don’t. We either think God loves us or we don’t. It’s best not to try to manipulate God into giving us what we want. He has all the bargaining power; we have none.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Who wants to worship a God who can be manipulated? Think about it!

Trust God.

When tempted to bargain with God, don’t.

Don’t make vows to God, because you aren’t really sure if you will be able to keep them. (Deuteronomy 23:21) They may have consequences you haven’t thought about.

Pray, “Thy will be done.” Now ask God to help you mean it.

 

 


Choose Not to Have False Guilt

Barbara | November 19, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Jesus came so we could have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) This is not referring to health and wealth. It’s telling us that Jesus came to give us eternal life, plus we have an even more abundant life while here on earth, because Jesus resides in us. We have a relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, there are factors wanting to hinder that relationship. The first part of John 10:10 says there is a thief who comes to kill, destroy, and steal. So there are thieves trying steal that relationship with Jesus from us. I think one of those thieves is false guilt.

I like to classify guilt into two categories: real guilt and false guilt.

For the Christian, real guilt comes from going against our conscience. We want our conscience in agreement with God’s standard. Then it can let us know when we’ve blown it or sinned. At these times, it is only natural to feel remorse for what we’ve done. Real guilt helps us acknowledge when we’ve done something wrong, but it doesn’t condemn us to a life-sentence of punishment, like Satan would have us believe. (John 3:17; Romans 8 1-2) We bring these mistakes before God and He forgives us. (Ephesians 1:7; Psalm 32:1-2) He remembers our sins no more. (Hebrews 8:14)

However, false guilt is different. False guilt comes from us not living up to our own standard of righteousness, not God’s. We might feel guilty because we ate fast food, don’t pray enough, don’t study our Bibles enough, aren’t involved at church, need to lose weight, don’t serve at the homeless shelter, or haven’t called our parents in a week. These feelings are painful, but it’s not real guilt, which is the result of not living up to God’s standards. It’s false guilt trying to masquerade itself as real guilt because these are our own self-imposed standards.

For example, let’s say we feel guilty because we don’t study our Bibles enough every day. How much time does God say we should spend on personal Bible study every day? Well, He doesn’t really say, does He? There are biblical principles to study God’s Word but God gives us the freedom to decide how often and how long. We might want to set a standard of so much Bible study a day, but we have to realize this is our standard, not God’s. So there should be no real guilt connected to it if we fall short of our own expectation. This would be false guilt because we haven’t done anything wrong.

Another example might be feeling guilty because we didn’t give enough in the offering plate last week. How much money does God say we should give as an offering each week? Well, He doesn’t really say, does He? The Old Testament had a specific tithing command but the New Testament does not. However, there is a biblical principle of giving to God and of generosity. However, we have the freedom to decide how much, to whom, and so on. We might want to give more than ten percent. We aren’t limited in what we do in this area. Actually the amount we give is not as important as how we give it anyway – from the heart. We have the freedom to decide how much.

The Old Covenant was all about lists of “do’s and don’ts.” The New Covenant is about Jesus living His resurrected life in us. We do not earn salvation; it is a free gift.

Consider this… The Bible tells us that problems occurred when Christians wanted to impose the Old Testament practice of circumcision on new Gentile converts. They tried to make the Gentiles feel like they weren’t Christians unless they got circumcised. Major guilt trip! Paul had to set them straight. (Galatians 5:2) Is circumcision wrong? Of course not! But it is not necessary for salvation.

In so many areas of our lives God gives us the freedom to decide, using biblical principles as guides – without condemnation. Someone else might try to put us on a guilt trip because we don’t want to teach Sunday School, serve on the PTA, or run in a marathon for cancer, but God does not. There is freedom in Christ. We can’t do everything, so God gave us the freedom to prayerfully decide what to do and what not to do, without feeling guilty.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

There is a line between being guilty and feeling guilty. Beware of legalism, which is designed to make us feel guilty because we don’t measure up. Legalism invents rules that go way beyond what God intended.

Get over the “not doing enough” syndrome. We will never be able to “do enough!”

Be wary of spiritual teachers who always want you to earn your salvation by doing more, more, more.

Don’t try to motivate others by putting them on a guilt trip. You don’t like it when it’s done to you, so don’t do it to others.

The way to cope with true guilt is to admit your mistakes, say you’re sorry, try to make amends, repent, change, and move on. True guilt was not designed to hold us captive, just hold us accountable. Even when we try to make amends, others may not forgive us. We may have to learn to live with that. Fortunately, God does forgive.

 


Choose to Not Be Selfish

Barbara | November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren 

When God encourages us to be giving instead of selfish, it may appear He is just looking out for the other guy. However, scientific research shows that when we give to others, our brain activity in the temporoparietal (easy for you to say???) junction and ventral striatum increases. These are the areas where our feelings of pleasure and happiness come from. Just a pledge to help others produces a warm glow of happiness and contentment. God is truly amazing. He puts systems in place that benefit both the giver and receiver. It’s a win/win scenario.

We don’t have to be brain surgeons (although it might help) to know that the way of give is better than the way of get. No wonder we are told to let nothing be done in selfishness. (Philippians 2:3) Selfishness is listed as one of the works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:20) It leads to unwise decisions. (Proverbs 18:1) It makes us pray those “give me, give me, give me” prayers, which do not bring good fruit. (James 4:3) Selfish people can be greedy, unthankful, proud, arrogant, and so on. (2 Timothy 3:2-5) Psychologists tell us that selfishness is a self-destructive habit. It can even lead to war. (James 4:1)

However, sometimes it’s difficult not to focus on ourselves. After all, it’s a me, me, me society. So selfishness is something we must battle against daily.

We can usually spot selfish people because most of what they say uses words like “I,” “me,” and “mine.” They don’t really have a spirit of humility. They aren’t interested in listening to someone else’s problems as much as promoting their own thoughts. When asked to help, they might think, “What’s in it for me?” They are more interested in being served than serving.

Consider this… Jesus came to serve, not to be served. (Matthew 20:28)

God says our focus should be on others. We aren’t to please ourselves as much as look out for the well-being of others. (Romans 15:1-3; 1 Corinthians 10:24) We are to help others bear their burdens. (Galatians 6:2) Yes, God tells us to look out for our own interests, but mostly He tells us to think about others. (Philippians 2:4)

So let’s keep that brain activity moving in the right direction. Who knew that happiness comes by giving, not getting? Hmm… What’s the answer? Oh yes… God knew! (Acts 20:35)

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

When feeling selfish (and we all do from time to time), ask God to change your attitude.

Ask God to give you a humble spirit that esteems others better than yourself, no matter what their rank in life. (Romans 12:3) Here’s a word of caution: Ask for a humble spirit. Don’t ask for God to humble you. There is a distinct difference.

Learn to be interested in others. Start by listening to them instead of preaching at them.

Think about the many ways to give. You can give of your time, money, service, talent, kindness, concern, encouragement, and so on. Just find a way to think about and help others.

Memorize Acts 20:35: “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” Now ask God to help you believe it!


Choose Not to Miss Everyday Miracles

Barbara | November 5, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

One definition of a miracle is an extraordinary event that brings a welcomed consequence. Years ago, before moving pictures, visual effects, and technology that constantly shocks the senses, people seemed to appreciate their surroundings more. They realized that life itself is a miracle. The whole universe is a miracle.

Perhaps these classic authors and poets were on to something…

Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miracle in the common.”

John Donne: “There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature . . . but would seem a Miracle, and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once.” Donne was referring to things such as flowers blooming, the sun rising, or the stars appearing in the sky. Perhaps if we had seen an oak tree grow strong and tall from one little acorn in fast motion, before our very eyes, we might consider it a miracle.

Walt Whitman: “To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle. . .”

Here’s another from one of the smartest men in the world…

Albert Einstein: “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

Sometimes we are so busy looking somewhere else for a miracle, we can’t see the ones before our very eyes. Jesus told the disciples, “Do you have eyes but fail to see…?” The same might apply to us. That was certainly the case with those who were looking for Christ to come. Since they were looking for a Messiah descending from heaven with a flaming sword of righteousness, they did not recognize the Christ child in the manger as their Savior. They missed what was right before their eyes.

How much do we miss every day? Can we see God in ordinary, everyday miracles? Miracles like…

  • Finding your lost car keys without having to spend all day looking for them.
  • Losing your Visa card with absolutely no idea of where it might be when Target unexpectedly calls to say you left it there.
  • Receiving an unexpected note of appreciation for no reason at all – just because you are YOU!
  • The grocery line being short when you are in a hurry.
  • Singing your lungs out because your favorite oldies song came on the radio.
  • Answering the phone to hear your son from college saying he just called to say, “I love you,” and doesn’t even ask for money.
  • All the lights being green on your way to work.
  • Enjoying the shade of an oak tree and realizing it grew from one little acorn.
  • A healthy child being born.

Consider this… If we don’t recognize and appreciate the ordinary miracles in our everyday lives, it’s likely we won’t recognize the bigger ones when they come our way. We’ll think it’s a visual effect.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Think about the wisdom in this story: When a teacher asked her class to list the Seven Wonders of the World, one child wrote: to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to feel, to laugh, and to love.

When you see a beautiful rainbow, think: “What a miracle!”

When you hear a laughing child, think, “What a miracle!”

When you taste a delicious meal prepared by loving hands, think: “What a miracle!”

When you smell fragrant roses, think: “What a miracle!” Get the idea????


Choose Not to Forget Who You Are

Barbara | October 29, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

 

Once Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Some said he was John the Baptist, some said Elias, some said a prophet and so on. Jesus was no doubt curious.

When Jesus asked Peter, he replied, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-17) It pleased Jesus that Peter realized this. After all, Christ knew who He was even if those He came in contact with weren’t quite sure.

How about us? Do we know who we are?

Once we turn our lives over to God, we belong to Him. And from that very moment our identity changes and we become new people. (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24) Sometimes just knowing who we are can make a difference in how we live our lives. Here is just a sampling of who we are:

We are God’s children. (John 1:12, Galatians 4:7)

We are loved. (John 3:16, Colossians 3:12)

We are Jesus’ friends. (John 15:15)

We are accepted. (Romans 15:7)

We are chosen. (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4)

We are redeemed. (Ephesians 1:7)

We are justified. (Romans 3:24)

We are saved, not condemned. (Romans 8:1)

We are free, not slaves. (Romans 6:6, Romans 8:2, Galatians 4:7, Galatians 5:1)

We are heirs. (Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:7, Ephesians 1:11)

We are dwelling places for the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

We are led by God. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

We are righteous. (2 Corinthians 2:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21)

We are blessed. (Ephesians 1:3)

We are alive in Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

We are complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10)

Our identity is in Christ. All these attributes are who we are in Christ, not earned by us, but freely given.

Consider this… The Bible says as a man thinks, so he is. (Proverbs 23:7) How we perceive ourselves makes a difference in how we act, how we react, and how we live.

So who do you think you are? We can’t afford to get caught up in who others might think we are. We have an abundant life and rich inheritance. After all, we are God’s children!

 

Suggestions on practicing this choice…

What we say to ourselves (self-talk) has a major impact on how we view ourselves, how we function, and how we come across to others. Let’s not bombard ourselves with negative put-downs like: Nobody loves me; I’m stupid; I’m fat; I’m worthless; I’m ugly; I can’t do anything right; I’m a jerk! Okay, we may be jerks at times, but we are probably not stupid, fat, worthless, ugly jerks who can’t do anything right. Besides God always loves us – ALWAYS! Give yourself a break!

Replace negative thoughts with positive, truthful thoughts like: Jesus accepts me; Jesus does not condemn me for my mistakes. Others may think we’re jerks, but Jesus loves us. (Actually Jesus may think you’re a jerk, but guess what? He still loves you and will definitely help you be less of a jerk if you ask Him.) Whatever is true and positive – think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

View God as a loving Father with open arms, always ready to embrace you.

Focus on spiritual things. Fill your mind with prayer, God’s Word, and meditation.

Say to yourself often throughout the day: “I am a child of God! My identity is in Christ.” And pray to yourself often throughout the day: “Lord, help me to reflect this identity in the little things I do and say each day.”

 


Choose Not to Give Up on People

Barbara | October 22, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

We received a lovely note from someone. She said, “I have not forgotten about you or all the good advice you gave me. Please don’t give up on me…” Those are powerful words: Please don’t give up on me.

Do we give up on people? God doesn’t give up on us. We are a work in progress, just like everyone we meet. God doesn’t look at what a mess we are, throw His hands up in the air, and say, “Well, I give up!”

People are flawed, frustrating, and infuriating. People can be manipulative and judgmental. People can think the world revolves around them and their wants, their needs, and their desires. People can take the joy out of life by their negativity. People can be disrespectful and insincere. People can want us to give more, more, more while they give nothing. People can take us for granted. People don’t have boundaries and infringe on ours. People can drain our energy and leave us limp.

To make matters worse, God ignores our request to change these people or relocate them far, far away from us. In fact, it’s as if God looks beyond their irritating nature to see their worth. I guess God deals with others the same way He deals with us – with compassion, patience, encouragement, and love. Maybe that’s what we should do. God loves these people and so should we. In order to do this, we need to ask God for wisdom, strength, and guidance in how to deal with them.

Consider this… It’s easy to love the lovable, but how we love people who are hard to love reveals a lot about us spiritually. Dealing with difficult people helps us grow spiritually, whether we want to or not. If we’ve learned anything from God, we’ve learned that everyone is redeemable.

Now, there may be times we need to pull back from a relationship with difficult people for our own sanity. Or there may come a time when we are no longer able to work with someone profitably because of a personality conflict or disagreement about how a job should be done. That’s what happened with Paul and Barnabas; so they agreed to go their separate ways. (Acts 15:36-40) However, that doesn’t mean we ever give up on them. Instead, we place them in God’s loving hands and continue to pray for them.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Remember, we are all God’s work in progress. (Ephesians 2:10)

Ask God for the ability to see beyond the surface and into a person’s soul. Ask God to help you see what He sees.

We all have problems. Ask God to help you remove the plank from your own eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Have you ever thought that you might be the difficult person in someone else’s life? Think about it!

Never underestimate the power of prayer. It can change lives – including yours!

 

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Be Resentful and Bitter

Barbara | October 15, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Having been born in the foothills of the Ozarks, I know a bit about grudge mentalities. Now don’t get me wrong! I love my roots, but mountain and hill people have a reputation for holding a grudge. Of course, so did the Godfather, but I’m not from Sicily. Grudges can last forever – long after those who felt mistreated are dead and buried. Yet the hatred against one family or another lives on. The Hatfields and McCoys fought so long that no one remembered what the original argument was about. Nothing good comes from holding a grudge. People become bitter and resentful.

When we think we’ve been wronged or treated unfairly, we become resentful. Resentment is defined as bitter indignation. The Bible has nothing good to say about being bitter and resentful. In fact, it says be careful not to let a root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble. (Hebrews 12:15) If it does spring up, we are instructed to put it away. (Ephesians 4:31)

Here’s how resentment and bitterness can start. We get deeply hurt. We feel injured or offended. We justify these feelings. We think we have a right to feel this way. Then the person who did these awful things to us does not react the way we think they should. They don’t apologize. They don’t grovel. They may even ignore us. We say things to ourselves like, “If only they would acknowledge what they did to me, I could let go of this bitterness.” But they don’t acknowledge it. Maybe they don’t even care!

So we decide to turn it over to God. After all, God tells us not to take revenge, because vengeance is His. (Romans 12:19) We’ll leave their punishment in God’s hands. They better watch out because now they are going to get it! But what happens? God doesn’t punish them the way we think He should. They may even prosper. Maybe God won’t punish them at all. We feel like God has really botched this, because we want them to suffer the way they made us suffer.

What are we supposed to do for those no good, lousy rats who wrong us? Well…we are supposed to do the right thing, even when they don’t. God says not to repay evil with evil. (Romans 12:17) We are to pray for our enemies. We are to bless our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) We are to trust God to take care of it – His way. We need to forgive them, even when they don’t ask for forgiveness or acknowledge what they’ve done. We are to let go of bitterness and resentment because no good can come from it. It breeds anger and discontent, which will not enhance our spiritual growth or journey.

Consider this… Resentment and bitterness do not hurt the other guy as much as they hurt us. Nelson Mandela puts it this way: “Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies.”

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Ask God to help you let go of bitterness and resentment because they will hinder your spiritual growth. It hardens your heart. We become unreceptive to God’s Word and love. We get stuck in the past, unable to move forward.

We are to forgive our enemies. Forgiveness does not mean letting others continue to hurt us. It just means we surrender our right to get even or retaliate.

When we pray for our enemies or ask God to bless them, we are asking God to do what is best for them. We think “best” means showering someone with health and wealth, but God doesn’t think the way we do. We aren’t asking God to buy them a Mercedes Benz. God knows what they need to be a better person; we do not.

Do what’s right even if the other guy doesn’t. We are told that if our enemies hunger or thirst, then give them food and water. (Romans 12:17-21) Overcome evil with good.

Remember, no matter how long we nurse a grudge, it will only get bitter, not better.

 

 

 


Choose Not to Add to Someone’s Misery

Barbara | October 8, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

We all know the story of Job in the Bible. He was a wealthy, loyal servant of God who was afflicted by Satan and lost everything he had. He was miserable. So his friends came to help. However, Job’s friends were not helpful. In fact, they added to Job’s misery. If we aren’t careful, we can add to a person’s misery, all the while thinking we are being helpful.

What Job needed was comfort and encouragement. Instead he got judgment and condemnation. They assumed Job was being punished for some sin he had committed or evil he’d done. They reasoned that Job’s suffering was his own fault – but this was not true. Sometimes when people have problems, we make those same assumptions, not knowing what God is bringing to pass in someone’s life.

Job’s friends started out with good intentions. First, they just sat with Job in silence. But then they got spiritual. They felt they had to say something, and what they said was insensitive. Sometimes it’s better to just sit with someone during a trial, but keep our platitudes to ourselves.

Here are some things “helpful” people say and what suffering people think when they hear them. Although these statements may be true, they are not comforting during a present distress.

What we say: This was part of God’s plan.

What they think: I find it so reassuring that a loving God wants me to suffer.

 

What we say: God works in mysterious ways.

What they think: Yes, He does! And I wish He’d reveal a little of that mystery to me right now.

 

What we say: All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.

What they think: Maybe it will, but I don’t really care right now.

 

What we say: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

What they think: It doesn’t feel that way at the moment.

 

What we say: What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

What they think: That’s catchy. Maybe they can put it on my tombstone.

 

What we say: You need to pray more.

What they think: So do you!

 

What we say: You’ll be just fine.

What they think: How the #$%# do you know?

 

What we say: Be thankful it isn’t worse.

What they think: Be thankful I’m not punching you in the nose right now.

 

What we say: I understand how you feel.

What they think: No, you don’t!

 

These statements may be true, and might be helpful in retrospect, but certainly not during the present suffering. Gracious words are sweet like a honeycomb and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24) These words are not healing any bones. It might be better to just give a hug and sit in silence. Sitting in silence can be comforting.

If we must say something, consider statements like…

  • I’m so sorry you are going through this.
  • You are in my thoughts and prayers.
  • Can I bring a meal over? What would you like?
  • I’m here if you want to talk.

Consider this… People don’t want to be preached to in times of trouble. They just want to feel like someone cares.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

If people want to talk to you when they are suffering, then listen. Do not give unwanted advice or say thoughtless things that make them feel worse.

Let people know you are thinking of them and praying for them. Then actually pray for them!

Ask them specifically if you can help by offering to drive the children to school, give them a ride, walk the dog, bring a meal, etc. If you ask what you can do to help, they might say, “Loan me $1000 or buy me a second-hand car.” This might not be the kind of help they really need, or that you want to offer.

Ask God for wisdom to avoid saying things that are not helpful.

Don’t get preachy. Let them know you care.