Choose to Live the Abundant Life

Barbara | February 18, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Christ came so we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Some modern ministers lead us to believe this refers to wealth and prosperity, encouraging people to go boldly before God and claim this promised abundance. These “health and wealth” and/or “name it and claim it” preachers measure faith by how much God blesses us materially.

However, God is not the big “sugar daddy” in the sky, ready to give us everything we want. We may prayerfully sing, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” and we might get it, but that doesn’t mean God gave it to us. 

In fact, Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he might possess. (Luke 12:15) If we seek first the kingdom of God,we won’t have to be overly concerned about such matters. (Matthew 6:31-33) If we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us when the time is right. (1 Peter 5:6-7)    

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying an abundant life precludes riches or worldly success, but it does not depend on it either. Paul knew this better than anyone. He knew how to be abased or exalted, have a full tummy or an empty one, to abound or suffer – and through it all be content and give thanks. (Philippians 4:11-13; Ephesians 5:20) In other words, we can experience the abundant life even if we are dealing with family trials, poor as church mice, or at the bottom of the workforce food chain.

John 10:10 tells us the reason Jesus came was so we could have life (eternal life, everlasting life, life without fear of death). The phrase “more abundantly” is the Greek word “perissos” meaning “beyond, more, and above measure.” It refers back to the word “life.” Not only did Jesus come to give us eternal life, but even more than that, He lives His life within us right now. His very presence in us adds something immeasurable to our existence. He is what makes our life worth living in spite of how much money we have in the bank.

If we read the whole passage of John 10, we see it’s about Jesus being our shepherd, the sheep hearing His voice, and Jesus being our open door. The whole context refers to us having access to God. And that, my friend, is what the more abundant life is all about. Not only do we get eternal life, but as an added bonus we have the opportunity to build a relationship with Jesus Christ – the very One who makes it all possible.

Man views abundance in terms of physical possessions. God has a different perspective. His abundant life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control, compassion, humility, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism, confidence, honesty, and a relationship with Him. In other words, the more abundant life is full of all the things money can’t buy. No matter how much money we have, we cannot buy more patience, wisdom, hope, self-control, or salvation!

Consider this… Money cannot buy us a “more abundant” life, but God can give it to us if we let Him. The more we open our hearts to God, the more abundant our lives will be.

One final thought…

Abundance is not always about having more; sometimes it’s about having enough.


Choose to Be Content

Barbara | February 11, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Paul told the Philippians that he had learned the secret of contentment. (Philippians 4:10-14) Paul used the word “learned” twice in this passage, which indicates that contentment did not come naturally. It was not some instant transformation. It was something he learned through his relationship with God.

Did you know Paul wrote these words while in prison, being denied every comfort? The Philippian church had sent him a financial gift and he wanted to express his thanks. However, he didn’t want to give the impression that God was not sufficient for his needs, so he used this situation to emphasize a life lesson on true contentment.

Paul rejoiced in their gift, not really because of the money (although it was nice and he definitely didn’t turn it down), but more so because it showed their heartfelt care and concern for him. (v. 10) However, Paul wanted the Philippians to know that true contentment looks beyond physical comforts to the peace that comes from being right with God. (v. 13) That’s why he could be content regardless of his circumstances. Nevertheless, he praised them for sharing in his distress. (v.14)

Some synonyms for contentment might be satisfaction, gratification, happiness, or fulfillment. But believe it or not, true contentment is not dependent on outer circumstances. Paul knew this. He knew how to be exalted and abased, have a full tummy or empty one, and abound or suffer – and through it all be content and give thanks. (Philippians 4:11-13; Ephesians 4:20)

Contentment is not based on power, money, physical beauty, or material possessions. If it were, all successful, wealthy, gorgeous people who surround themselves with everything money can buy would be happy and content. We know that’s not the case. Actor Jim Carrey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

What is the answer? What is this secret Paul talks about? God! True contentment is an inner sense of peace that comes from being right with God. Additionally, contentment comes from focusing on what we have, not on what we don’t have.

Have we learned the secret of being content? In today’s world, we receive thousands of messages daily trying to persuade us to buy things we do not need with money we do not have. It’s tempting, even though God tells us that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he might possess. (Luke 12:15)

Consider this… Arsenius was a Roman imperial tutor in Egypt who withdrew from Egyptian secular society to lead a prayer-oriented, austere lifestyle in the desert. His contemporaries so admired him that they named him Arsenius the Great. He was considered one of the Desert Fathers, whose teachings greatly influenced the contemplative life. He was content to live with very little. Yet whenever he visited the magnificent city of Alexandria, he spent time wandering through its splendid bazaars. When asked why, he explained that his heart rejoiced at the sight of all the things he didn’t need.

Oh, that we could say the same thing after an afternoon at the mall!

One final thought…

Contentment can make poor people rich while discontentment makes rich people poor.


Choose to Admit a Mistake

Barbara | February 4, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

General George Patton was a stubborn, obstinate leader. He was nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts” and many say he was the greatest combat general of World War II. However, he could never admit being wrong about anything.

One story says that Patton accepted an invitation to dine at a press camp in Africa during World War II. Wine was served in canteen cups. Patton thought it was coffee, so he poured cream into his cup. As he stirred in sugar, Patton was told that his cup contained red wine and not coffee. General Patton could not admit making a mistake, so without hesitation he drank it and replied, “I know. I like my wine this way.”

There may be a little of Patton’s blood (hopefully not the guts) in each one of us. It is hard to admit when we are wrong. We are very concerned about what others think. Yet the benefits far outweigh our discomfort when we have the courage to admit we’ve made a mistake.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another…” My favorite translation of this scripture says, “Admit your faults…(TLB) God will always forgive our sins, but when we admit to others that we are vulnerable or weak, it makes us a little more accountable for our actions.

Proverbs 28:13 says that those who try to hide their mistakes can’t really prosper. They have no peace of mind. They are always in fear that someone will find out. However, if we admit our mistakes and make a commitment to change, we get a second chance.

King David was called a man after God’s heart. (Acts 13:22) Why? He was not a man without sin. However, he was a person who could admit making a mistake.

When his predecessor King Saul made mistakes, he was not sorry for what he did – only sorry he got caught. For example, when God told Saul how to deal with Amalek, Saul chose to make compromises with God’s instructions. God wanted all of Amalek’s sheep and oxen destroyed, but that was not done. Saul and the men saved the best animals for themselves. (1 Samuel 15:8-9) To make matters worse, Saul did not take responsibility for his actions, but tried to pass the blame onto the people by saying, “The people saved the best animals to sacrifice to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:15)

When confronted and rebuked by Samuel, Saul finally said, “I have sinned.” Then he quickly added, “Yet honor me before the elders and Israel.” He wasn’t concerned about what he had done, only about how he would look in the eyes of others. (1 Samuel 15:30)

David is a different story. When he made mistakes – and he made some BIG ones – he was willing to admit them, genuinely repent, and change. When God didn’t want him to take a census of Israel and he did it anyway, he took the blame. “Let your hand, I pray, O Lord, be against me, but not against your people.” (1 Chronicles 21:17) When David realized having Bathsheba’s husband sent into David repented. (2 Samuel 11, 12)

Of course, he should have realized it all along, but he didn’t. He, like so many of us, wanted something so badly he was willing to do anything to get it. But when the light bulb went off in his head, he repented. He deeply repented. (2 Samuel 12:13) Read David’s Psalm of Repentance (Psalm 51) and see why he was a man after God’s own heart. David never tried to hide his mistakes. He admitted them, asked God’s forgiveness, and changed.

Consider this… It’s always risky to be open and honest about our mistakes. We think others will think less of us. That may be true to a certain degree, but most will come along side us, want us to succeed, and appreciate the courage it took to say, “I was wrong. I made a mistake.” These words can actually break down barriers and draw us closer to others.

Of course, if we’d rather go through life pretending we like a little cream and sugar in our wine, then bon appetit!

One final thought…

Making mistakes is not so bad. Not learning from them is a lot worse!


Choose to Be Gentle

Barbara | January 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

Yet Another Year of Choices…

 One fruit of the Holy Spirit is gentleness. (Galatians 5:22) The Greek word for gentleness is “prautes” or “praotes” which means gentle, meek, and to have a “grace of the soul.” Gentleness and meekness are interchangeable in some Bible translations like the NKJV.

The Bible places great importance on gentleness or meekness. It says the meek will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5) However, meek isn’t a very popular or common word today. Our society is obsessed with being aggressive. To get ahead you must swim with the sharks. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and wimpy people get gobbled up pretty fast. However, associating meekness with weakness is a big mistake. Gentleness or meekness is not weakness. Jesus described Himself as a meek man and He was far from a weak, spineless jellyfish, flip-flopping around issues. (Matthew 11:29) He was not indifferent to His surrounds or the needs of others.

Many legendary historical figures like Lincoln, Gandhi, Einstein, and Mother Teresa have been gentle and meek, but not timid. They didn’t need to project their importance to others. They had purpose and the ability to stand in the face of every obstacle thrown their way. This inner resolve is very precious to God. (1 Peter 3:4) It actually takes a great deal of inner strength to be really gentle. Gentleness has been described as strength under control.

It’s interesting to note that the word “gentle” was rarely heard before the Christian era, and the word gentleman was not known. This high quality of character was actually a direct by-product of the Christian era.

Being gentle or meek translates into what we think of ourselves and we what we think of others.

How do we treat others when we have power over them? Blessed is the person who doesn’t think more highly of himself than he ought to when others are praising and promoting him as compared to the time in life when he was a virtual nobody.

We need to be gentle in the words we speak. (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 25:11-15) We need to be gentle in how we treat others. (1 Thessalonians 2:7) Our gentleness should be evident to all. (Philippians 4:5) It’s not our beauty God values, but our gentle spirit. (1 Peter 3:4) A gentle spirit is not confrontational. (1 Corinthians 4:21) A spirit of gentleness is kind to those who make mistakes and knows that “there but for the grace of God go I!” (Galatians 6:1) God called us to walk with a spirit of gentleness. (Ephesians 4:1) When called upon to give an answer, one who possesses godly gentleness does so confidently – not with an “in your face” attitude, but one with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

Consider this… People with gentle spirits do not impute wrong motives to others while self-justifying their own behavior which is illustrated in this narrative:

 

The Other Fellow

When the other fellow takes a long time, he’s slow.

When I take a long time, I’m thorough.

When the other fellow doesn’t do it, he’s lazy.

When I don’t do it, I’m busy.

When the other fellow does something without being told, he’s overstepping his bounds.

When I do it, I’m taking initiative.

When the other fellow overlooks a rule of etiquette, he’s rude.

When I skip the rules, I’m original.

When the other fellow pleases the boss, he’s an apple-polisher.

When I please the boss, I’m cooperating.

When the other fellow gets ahead, he’s getting the breaks.

When I manage to get ahead, it’s because I’ve worked hard.

 

 One final thought…

A gentle spirit will treat those under them like they would want to be treated – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they know they might be working for them one day.

 

 

 


Choose to Make Wiser Decisions

Barbara | January 21, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

 

We all make hundreds of decisions every day. Some are life changing; some are not. Yet each decision helps mold who we are as individuals. Each day we decide what we will wear, what we will eat, where we will go, what we will do, how we will spend our time, what we will say, where we will work, who we will be with, and so on. A simple life is easier to manage, but most of us do not lead simple lives. We live complicated lives filled with endless options. The more options we have, the harder it is to make wise decisions.

While what we decide to eat for lunch or wear to work may not need a list of pros and cons (although, some of us might benefit from doing that), other decisions take more thought and consideration. In those cases, it might be easier if we keep a few of the following principles in mind.

Pray about every decision. Bring concerns to God and ask Him to be actively involved in the decision making process. (Philippians 4:6-7) However, bear in mind that God’s major concern is not our comfort but that God be glorified, which should be our focus as well. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

To make wiser decisions we have to know about wisdom. A good start is reading the book of Proverbs which was written specifically for us to gain wisdom. (Proverbs 1:1-9) True wisdom comes from God. If we ask God for wisdom, He will give it to us. (James 1:5-8) However, God doesn’t play games. If we ask with a “double-mind” or not really wanting God’s wisdom, but asking Him out of a false sense of lip service, don’t expect much. God doesn’t just funnel wisdom into our minds. He expects us to do our part.

Seek wise counsel from those who are knowledgeable about the decision to be made. Seek counsel from those who can point out a spiritual perspective. Seek counsel from lives that could be affected by a decision, such as a spouse. Many fail because they have not taken the time to seek wise counsel. (Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15)

Heed the examples of others. The Bible is a history of those who made wise decisions and not-so-wise decisions. The world is full of such examples as well. However, many foolishly think they can make unwise decisions but it will turn out just fine for them – even though it didn’t turn out fine for anyone else. We tend to think we are the exception to the rule.

Count the cost. (Luke 14:28-30) Think of the long-term effects of a decision. Gather all the information. Get the facts. Don’t get caught up emotionally in a moment. Take your time. Good deals come and go all the time. We don’t need to buy now so we don’t miss the golden opportunity. Avoid making hasty decisions. Try listing options – pros and cons. We always have options. While it’s true some options might run the gambit from bad to worse, there are still options to be evaluated. Usually some option will stand out, but there will always be unclear concerns.

Calculate the risks. There are risks in every decision. I read recently about a man who asked a financial advisor if he should take his $3.5 million and use it for a business venture that could give him $25 million. The advisor said, “What can $25 million do for your family that $3.5 million can’t do? It’s too risky and jeopardizes your family’s security.” The man gambled and lost. His family was saddled with bankruptcy and debt. Even the benefits of a temporary gain could be offset by a permanent loss if risks aren’t considered. The Bible says, “What good is it if a man gains the whole world, but loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36)

Consider this… Decisions aren’t always lumped into right and wrong. If they were, they would be easier to make. It helps to know who we are in Christ and if a decision will help or hinder our walk with Him. However, we don’t always get clear answers from God about specific decisions. God never promised to give us all the answers. The Bible doesn’t tell us what to do in every circumstance, but it gives guiding principles to help us make wiser decisions. We are the ones who have to put those principles into practice.

One final thought…

Some think it’s good to follow your heart when making decisions, but be sure to consult your head in the process.

 


Choose to Cherish God’s Word

Barbara | January 14, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

 

Many do not understand what a blessing it is to have a Bible readily available to read. Today we don’t have to wait for Moses to come down from a mountain with a tablet of stone to hear what God has to say. We don’t have to wait for Paul’s next parchment epistle to arrive in the mail. We have access to God, His thoughts, and His example at our fingertips. Do we realize what a privilege that is?

In biblical times the average person did not have access to a Bible. In those days only the religious leaders had a copy of the Bible and probably not in total. That’s why public reading of Scripture was important. Paul refers to this in Timothy 4:13: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine.”

I’m not sure what scrolls or parchments New Testament leaders had access to, but I do know that people weren’t just grabbing their Bibles and heading over to Joe’s house for an impromptu Bible study. Many at that time were illiterate. When the Bereans were commended for searching Scriptures daily, they were making an effort to get together with someone who could read and had access to portions of the Bible. (Acts 17:11) Reading or studying the Bible was a shared activity with people supporting and encouraging one another.

Once the Bible was canonized, copies of the Scriptures were copied by hand. Emperors like Constantine or religious authorities would sanction that Scriptures could be copied by scribes. This was a huge, laborious undertaking. We cannot imagine what it took to produce just one hand copied version of the Bible. Each word had to be carefully formed in ink with no room for error since there was no “Wite-out” or “Correcto-type” available.

During the Middle Ages, around 600 to 1400 AD, several thousand monasteries were established across Europe to copy the Bible. Teams of scribes and artists produced magnificent parchments filled with beautiful artwork. Most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate so these pictures, designs, and illustrations were very popular.

Of course, a lot of these Bibles were huge and expensive – not available to the common man. They would be put on display at some churches, monasteries, and universities. Years ago I saw some of these magnificent manuscripts displayed at the Getty Museum in Southern California. Unbelievable works of art!

When the printing press came along in the 1400s, the flood gates of information became available to ordinary, everyday people. Many were skeptical of this new invention, but actually the printing press was the Internet of its time. Eventually literacy and access to books became widespread. The Bible became accessible to the average person – people like you and me.

Consider this… When something is readily available, it is not always appreciated. It’s taken for granted and not valued. Christians can’t afford to do this with God’s Word.

Do we long to understand God’s precepts, His principles for living a happy, productive life? (Psalm 119:40) Do we allow God’s Word to be a lamp to guide our steps? (Psalm 119:105) God wants His Word to be a vital part of our lives. He wants it written in our hearts, taught to our children, and discussed. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) God wants His Word cherished!

Here’s a final thought…

Would you rather be without a Bible or your cell phone?

 

 

 


Choose to Make Your Words Sweet

Barbara | January 7, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”

We all know there are many ways our words can get us into trouble. That’s why scriptures encourage us to guard against lying, swearing, gossiping, complaining, grumbling, and so on. However, the focus of Proverbs 16:24 is using words for good. Loving words! Gracious words! Caring words! Pleasant words! These kinds of words are sweet to our souls and possess a healing power, making us happier and healthier. They are good spiritually and physically.

Using an analogy about honey with words is pure genius. (Yes, the Bible is the inspired Word of God!) Honey not only tastes sweet, but it has health benefits as well. From ancient times, honey was used as a food and as medicine. In fact, ancient Egyptians made offerings of honey to their gods. Here may be a few reasons why…

Honey is an all-natural, high-energy food loaded with antioxidants. It’s used to help suppress coughs and reduce allergy symptoms. Perhaps the most amazing fact about honey is that it’s a natural antibiotic. When applied to a burn or wound, it promotes healing because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. No wonder honey is used as an analogy of using our words like a honeycomb – sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Here are some effects of using words for the good of others: A wise tongue promotes healing. (Proverbs 12:18) Good words make a heart glad. (Proverbs 12:25) A soothing tongue is like the tree of life. (Proverbs 14:4) Words of edification impart grace to hearts. (Ephesians 4:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

When we are weighed down by the troubles of this world, one word of kindness can lift our spirits. A note of appreciation, a word of thanks, or a nice comment can help anxieties fade away. I’m not talking about false flattery or just telling people what they want to hear. That’s the wrong use of words. I’m talking about words of edification – words that build up others, not tear them down. We need to be honest, not cruel.

Think of words of affirmation and use them with others often. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

Consider this… Maybe your mother was right when she said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” About ninety percent of the time that’s pretty good advice to follow. When we must give instruction or guidance, we should do so with kindness. After all, a spoonful of honey can make the bad taste of medicine easier to swallow.

Here’s a final thought…

If we make our words sweet, they will be much easier to eat – if we have to!

 

 


Choose to Have a Happier New Year

Barbara | December 31, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Yet, Another Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Each New Year brings resolutions we make for changes that will better our lives. Although we usually have every intention of keeping them, all too soon they are abandoned because change is hard. Most of us want changes to instantly happen without any effort on our part. We think if we write them down they will miraculously come to pass. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

That’s why for the past few years I’ve resolved not to make resolutions but to focus on daily choices instead. I have shared these choices with you on this weekly blog. Last year we focused more on passive choices – things we chose not to do. On the surface, consciously “choosing not” to do something may seem complacent, perfunctory, or lazy, but if you’ve followed this blog you will know it’s not. In fact, what we “choose not” to do can take a great deal of thought and self-control, plus save us a lot of present and future trouble. However, this year we will continue with more proactive choices – things we choose to actively do.

Choices we make can affect our lives and the lives of those around us. Right choices can bring peace of mind; wrong choices bring problems. While it’s true God can bail us out of wrong choices, He usually chooses not to do that so we can learn lessons. Even though there are life-lessons we need to learn, our wrong choices will never negate God’s love and forgiveness for us. Those are constants!

Hopefully we all know that God has forgiven us for our sins – past, present, and future. Nothing we can do will ever earn us salvation because it is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8) Nothing we can do will make God love us anymore than He does. Christians who perform lists of do’s and don’ts, trying to get God to love them, do not understand God’s grace. God’s love is freely given to us!

However, even though God gives us salvation, grace, and love, He does not automatically give us good habits or moral character. Those qualities are determined by the choices we make. That’s why Paul encouraged the Philippians to put into practice what they had heard or seen in him. (Philippians 4:9) As a result of practicing these right choices, they would receive peace of mind. Jesus said those who practice what He said are like those who build on a solid foundation. (Matthew 7:24)

Consider this… God does not need to zap us when we do something wrong, because wrong choices bring their own penalties. When we make wrong choices we punish ourselves. It’s the cause and effect principle. What we sow, we reap. Although God always forgives us when we make poor choices, the effects remain and we have to deal with and live with them.

While it is true that time and chance happen, many of our problems could be avoided if we trained ourselves to make better choices. A lot of trials are brought on because of our poor choices; other trials may not be our fault, but still we must choose how to respond to them. So there is always an element of choice in everything we do.

So here we go with yet another year of choices! If we resolve to practice making better choices every day, we will have a happier New Year – and so will everyone around us.

 

Some choice quotes about choices…

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” ~Roy Disney, co-founder of Walt Disney Productions

“We all make choices but in the end our choices make us.” ~Ken Levine, video game designer and author

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” ~William Jennings Bryant, American orator and statesman

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes.  In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die.  And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“When it snows you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.” ~Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Miss the Miracle of Emmanuel

Barbara | December 24, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

I love the Christmas season. I love the sparkly lights on the houses in the neighborhood. I love our artificial Christmas tree loaded down with inexpensive ornaments that have priceless meaning to family members. I love lyrical Christmas carols being played as we shop. I love trying to find the right gift for each loved one. I love sneaking a little candy wrapped in red and green foil from the bowl filled to the brim on the coffee table. I love watching old movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut, and Miracle on 34th Street every year.

Speaking of miracles, I love the miracle that Christmas stems from – the birth of Christ. While all the miracles surrounding Christ’s birth are impressive, to me the real miracle of Christ’s birth is that our Savior Emmanuel came to earth to be with us. Emmanuel means God with us.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” ~Matthew 1:23

God with us! What a miracle! It’s one I don’t want to ever lose sight of in the midst of all the other Christmas festivities. God desires to be with us – so much so that He came to us. He is with us all the time. He’s with us in the good times and bad times. He’s with us when we feel like we can’t go on. He’s with us when our hearts are breaking. He celebrates with us. He cries with us. He feels our pain, plus helps us cope, keep perspective, and survive.

“Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” ~Psalm 23:4

Many want to keep Christ in a manger or at a distance instead of letting Him be a part of our lives. As an added bonus, He will never leave or forsake us.

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” ~Hebrews 13:5

Consider this… Christmas is a wonderful time of year. We may receive all kinds of gifts from friends and family, but the greatest gift of all is Jesus Christ. The very fact that He wants to be with us should fill us with joy – not just at Christmastime, but every moment of our lives. If we let Him live within us, we will never have to feel alone again.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Always remember that your life has purpose. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life. There are many life lessons there. Just think about what Clarence the angel writes to George in the last scene: “Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends.” Maybe you think you don’t have any friends. Think again! Jesus is your friend! (John 15:15; John 15:13)

My favorite Christmas quote comes from Taylor Caldwell. “I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind is coldest, the world seeming indifferent.” Just think of the phrase “the message of Christmas is that we are not alone” and repeat it often. It does wonders for your frame of mind.

The above Taylor Caldwell quote comes from her short story A Christmas Miracle. It’s worth reading every Christmas.

Don’t isolate yourself at Christmastime. Invite someone over to share a glass of bubbly. Accept an invitation to someone’s house and bring some bubbly. If you think you have no one to share Christmas with, spend it with Jesus. He loves your company.

Memorize 2 Corinthians 9:15. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” The gift of Jesus is priceless. Give thanks to God for it often.

 


Choose Not to Be a Scrooge

Barbara | December 17, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

One of my favorite stories is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Standing the test of time, this tale has been a consistent part of the literary, theatrical, and social scene since it was first published shortly before Christmas in 1843. 6,000 copies were sold in its first week of printing and within the year it inspired nine London stage productions.

Every year since, countless A Christmas Carol film, theater, opera, radio, and television productions have followed. Variations of the plot have been done, redone, improvised, used, abused, and overdone. Even animated celebrities like Mickey Mouse, the Muppets, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo, and Barbie have starred in their own versions. It’s really quite phenomenal. And guess what? I love them all!

A Christmas Carol deals with two of Dickens’ favorite themes: social injustice and poverty. Ebenezer Scrooge represents those who thought their wealth and status gave them the right to sit in judgment of the poor, rather than help them dig their way out of poverty. Bob Cratchit, his loyal employee, represents the poor working man just trying to eke out a meager living for his family. One of the peripheral but pivotal characters is Cratchit’s young, disabled son, Tiny Tim. In spite of Tiny Tim’s dire circumstances, he remains cheerful.

This story has become so much a part of history that the word “scrooge” has crept into the English language. It means a person unwilling to give to others. He’s mean, miserly, selfish, and stingy. He hates people. A scrooge mirrors characteristics of Ebenezer Scrooge. “Bah humbug!” he says to anyone who would wish him a merry Christmas. Scrooge has no good will for fellow humans.

However, what really makes Dickens’ book so good is that Ebenezer Scrooge changes his outlook. After he encounters three ghosts/spirits (Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future) who help him see how he really is, he has an epiphany. He doesn’t want to be remembered as a penny-pinching grouch. He’s an old man, but decides that for the rest of his life he will change his selfish ways. He becomes a good man, a true friend, and compassionate employer. He gives money to charity workers, buys gifts for everyone, spends time with his estranged family, helps the Cratchits, becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, and “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

All can relate to underlying themes throughout A Christmas Carol.  Timeless themes like do unto others as you would have them do unto you, what goes around comes around, family is important, money does not bring happiness, love lasts all year long, redemption, forgiveness, and being thankful are just a few that still resonate. All worthy concepts to think about not just at Christmastime, but all year long.

True, it does not emphasize the birth of Jesus, but it does have certain nuances that make us think. When Tiny Tim and his father go to church on Christmas Day, Tim makes a brief reference to Christ by saying we should remember the One who made lame beggars walk and blind men see. And as far as I’m concerned, you can’t get a better ending than Tiny Tim saying, “God bless us, every one!”

Consider this… We are never too old to change. How do we want to be remembered? As Christians we should want people to see a reflection of Christ in us. That may require us to make a few changes. Christ came to earth to give us an example to follow. It definitely wasn’t one of a penny-pinching grouch. It was one of being generous and caring towards others. That’s something to think about not just at Christmastime but every day of our lives.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Go see a live performance of A Christmas Carol or watch one of the film versions. Look for themes mentioned in this blog.

Ask God to help you be a more generous, loving, and caring person.

Look for a way to bless the life of another person. A simple act of kindness can mean a lot. Even a smile can lift another’s spirit.

As Christmas carols are being played, actually reflect on the meaning of the songs as you hum along.

When tempted to be in a negative mood say, “God bless us everyone!” It will do wonders for your daily outlook.