Martha, Martha

June 20, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

“Martha, Martha…” (Luke 10:41). She’s my kindred spirit. She’s a mover and a shaker. She’s organized. She gets things done. If I had my choice, I’d rather work with one Martha than ten Mary’s. So it irritates me when people think of her negatively based on a few verses of Scripture.

Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus lived in Bethany, a village just a couple of miles from Jerusalem. Commentaries indicate it was Martha’s house, so although all three siblings lived there, it was probably Martha who called the shots. It was Martha who invited Jesus to her house (Luke 10:38).

Scriptures suggest that Jesus felt comfortable there. What qualities must one possess where Jesus feels comfortable to visit? Whatever they are, Martha seemed to create them in a warm, hospitable environment. The Bible says that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11:5). While it’s true that Jesus loves all of us, He must have had a special affection for these three, or it wouldn’t have been mentioned.    

We can envision Martha busying herself with household chores and all the necessary preparations to provide a meal for her special guest. Where was her sister Mary during all this??? She was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening intently, instead of doing what Martha thought she should do—help her in the kitchen. Finally, Martha had enough. I’ve been there…

Poor me! Doesn’t anyone appreciate how hard I work? There wouldn’t even be a meal if I didn’t cook it. I’m always looking out for the needs of others. Can’t my sister see how frazzled I am? Why doesn’t she get up off her lazy keister and help? 

So in Martha’s frustration, she asks Jesus to intercede and make Mary help her. This is when Jesus makes His famous reply, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I used to find this one of the most irritating verses in the Bible because I thought Jesus was putting down Martha’s efforts. However, that is not really the case. When He says, “Martha, Martha,” it is not a tone of rebuke, but rather affection. He knew her heart was seeking to provide him with a pleasant, relaxing experience. So Jesus isn’t chastising her. He doesn’t say, “Martha, you need to just stop what you are doing and come sit here by Mary.” He is letting her know that while we serve, we must never forget the reason for the service. When we do, we get distracted (Luke 10:40) from more important issues.

We worker bees sometimes forget that usually we are the ones making the decision to take on responsibilities. Then we get upset when people don’t notice we are stressed and jump in to help. We blame them for adding to our distress. One thing Jesus is trying to point out here is that Martha should not be judging Mary’s decision.  

This is not a case of Mary is good and Martha is not. Actually, Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’ feet was quite a gutsy move during that time. It went against the norm of the day. Culturally speaking, she should have been in the kitchen. Yet, here we have just one of the many examples of Jesus treating women with a certain dignity and respect that was not the custom of the day.

Later, the Bible records another time when Jesus once again comes to this house, shortly before Passover (John 12:1-3). Here we see Martha serving and Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with fragrant oil. Martha was doing her thing and Mary was doing hers. They had different personalities and different ways of expressing their love for Jesus—and Jesus was okay with that.

In an ideal world, we would be perfectly balanced with an equal amount of Martha and Mary in each of us. However, it doesn’t really matter. If our focus stays on Christ, we can serve Him regardless of personality proclivities as long as we are careful not to not judge those who don’t do it our way. For Jesus loved both Martha and Mary—and He loves me, too. 

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Attitude

June 13, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Attitude reveals a lot about us. Our attitude is how we think or feel about something. It represents our outlook and disposition which influences our behavior. It lies deep inside us and eventually comes bubbling out (Matthew 15:18), sometimes when we least suspect it. 

It is counter-productive to blame our attitudes on other people or events. Many times we cannot control what happens to us, but we can always control our attitude and how we respond to what happens. There’s an old adage about two men in prison. One looks out the barred window down at the ground and sees mud. The other one looks up and sees the moon and stars. Which one am I?

We can influence our attitudes by using words of affirmation instead of words of condemnation. This works when we speak of others as well as ourselves. Put downs are not conducive to good attitudes. Being thankful regardless of circumstances is also helpful. We can always find some little something to be thankful for if we look hard enough. Many times we see what we are looking for. If we are looking for the good, we can find it. The same principle applies when we are looking for the bad.

When Moses sent the twelve spies to explore Canaan, ten came back with a negative report (Numbers 13:27-29). They basically said, “Yes, it is a good land, but the inhabitants are strong and like giants. We’ll never be able to overcome them.” However, Joshua and Caleb who had seen the same things had a different attitude (Numbers 14:6). Sure, there might be a few problems but God wanted them to have this land flowing with milk and honey, and with God’s help they could take it.     

Having God in our lives should give us spiritual perspective regardless of what happens. There is no need to despair because we can turn our worries and burdens over to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, “You have made him exceedingly glad with your presence.” Being glad could be another way of saying “good attitude.” A good attitude can come from realizing God wants to bless us and does so everyday—sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. A small blessing during times of hardship can be a big blessing in disguise. However, if our attitude isn’t right, we might not even recognize it.

Bad attitudes magnify circumstances, breed anger, cause us to lash out at others, and keep us from moving forward in our Christian walk. I’ve heard it said that a bad attitude is like a flat tire. You won’t get anywhere until you change it.

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Illusion Versus Reality

June 6, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

In my daydreams, I envision myself as the perfect Christian. Like a guru at the top of a mountain, people come to seek my spiritual wisdom and insight. Treating the rich and poor with the same dignity and esteem, I pour out my life into serving others. My conversation is full of kindness for all. God’s Word is written on my heart for I spend hours voraciously devouring the Bible and praising God in prayer. Petty inconveniences do not phase me for the love of God motivates me to rise above such trivialities.

Then something happens. I suddenly wake up to the reality that I’ve just snarled with irritation at my husband, told a solicitor to go pound sand, passed a homeless beggar by without a second thought, and let my eyes glaze over as someone pours their heart out to me again on the same subject they have been harping on for years.

A little daydreaming is okay, I guess, but we mustn’t confuse illusion for reality. Trying to attain an ideal we have about being a perfect Christian sets us up for failure and frustration because perfection itself is an illusion—and illusions are deceptive, based on preconceived ideas and not on reality. 

Real Christians struggle with how to apply spiritual concepts in their daily lives. They have good days and bad days. They don’t want to make mistakes but they do. They fall short (Romans 3:23). Peter’s ideal was to never deny Christ, but he did (Luke 22:31-34, 59-61). Yet, Jesus showed His love to him even after what he had done (John 21:15-19). 

God is not looking for perfect Christians. He’s looking for people who want to have a relationship with Him. People who need and appreciate His grace are not self-sufficient, but rely on Him for their strength. He wants people who are willing to serve in some small way today rather than wait until their financial or health circumstances are better. He wants people who will acknowledge their weaknesses but rise again to face each new day determined to do a little bit better with His help. God wants us to do the best we can with what He has given us. If He had wanted perfect Christians, He could have created them—and if we were perfect, we would not need Christ.

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Forgiveness

May 30, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Forgiveness is an important issue with people. This was reinforced to me recently during a podcast interview I did for Fit for Joy about my book The Choice Is Yours: 52 Choices for Happier Lives. One chapter they wanted to discuss was on forgiveness. They even made a 10-minute animated video with a few of the questions featured from the podcast, and here again they wanted to focus on forgiveness. (If you are interested, you can access it here: https://fitforjoy.org/guests1/2021/1/8/barbara-dahlgren. There is no need to listen to the podcast to see the video. Just scroll down to the video titled “Knowing God, Forgiving, and Laughing More.”)

Studies show that those who master the art of forgiveness live longer, healthier lives. It was once considered mostly a theological issue, but today even psychologists, doctors, and scientists are embracing the idea of forgiveness. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are just a few of the health benefits of forgiveness: healthier relationships, less anxiety, less depression, stronger immune system, and fewer negative emotions.

So everyone agrees that forgiveness is a good thing. They also agree that it’s easier said than done. However, it might be easier to embrace the concept of forgiveness if we understand that forgiveness is not necessarily the following: forgetting, reconciling, or restoring. These may come in time after forgiveness, but are definitely not instantaneous. God admonishes us to forgive (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, Luke 17:4), but He does not tell us to trust the untrustworthy, condone unchristian behavior, let everyone walk all over us, or prevent accountability. These perceived misconceptions can block an attitude of forgiveness.

On the other hand, forgiveness is not earned. Many of us play the “if only” game. We think we would forgive someone “if only” they would apologize or admit what they did. But that’s not how forgiveness works. In fact, many people we might need to forgive may never acknowledge they’ve done us wrong or even care. Yet, we should forgive them anyway. 

All of us at one time or another have had someone betray us, hurt us, emotionally wound us, or do us wrong. So we think we have a justifiable “right” to hurt back, retaliate, get even, seek revenge, or have an “eye for an eye” mentality. When we forgive, we relinquish that “right.” We let God take care of any vengeance He thinks should take place (Romans 12:19-21). We trust God to take care of it in His way and in His time.

On the surface, forgiveness appears to be a selfless act, but it really isn’t because forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves as well as others. For in relinquishing this “right,” we trade caustic, self-destructive elements such as anger, resentment, and bitterness for peace. We can cross over from being a victim to being a survivor. We can get on with our lives. We can stop the past from dictating our present or future. As Lewis Smedes puts it, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness is the first step on a journey to healing. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a hard and sometimes long process but truly worth the effort. Fostering forgiveness benefits not only our physical life but our spiritual and emotional well-being as well. Forgiveness is a win/win situation. When we do it for others, we are really doing it for ourselves.     

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

May 23, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

There is a lot of wisdom in that old Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” According to The Stress Proof Brain by clinical psychologist Melanie Greenberg, about 85 percent of what we worry about never happens. Yet, we tend to worry a lot!

We worry about work, relationships, children, parents, health, money, and politics. We worry about things that have happened that we can do nothing about. We worry about what will happen that we cannot control. We worry about what people think of us. We worry that people aren’t thinking about us. The sad part is that much of what we worry about or even fear is not as bad as what actually happens.  

A few years ago I had a tooth pulled. It was what they call a “dry socket” which has a very painful healing process. Now I’m deathly afraid of dentists. It took every bit of courage I had to just go get the tooth pulled. So when the dentist said, “If this gives you any pain, come back to me and I’ll take care of it for you,”

I thought, “Yeah, right!” I conjured up visions of Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors.

The first couple of days I had excruciating pain. I called and got a prescription for some high-powered painkillers but even they didn’t do the trick. About the fourth day I became “painfully” aware that I would have to go back to “Steve” for some relief.

I tentatively came in and told him my problem. He put me in “the chair,” looked me over, smiled wryly, and said, “I’ll fix you right up.” Then he took a piece of gauze, dipped it in a solution, tucked it in the cavern where my tooth once was, and presto, change-o, NO PAIN. So for four days I had worried and suffered unnecessarily because of what I feared would be done to me.

Worry can paralyze us and keep us from doing what we should do. Worry can keep us from stepping out in faith. Worry can keep us from living fuller, richer lives which is what God desires for us. In fact, Jesus came so we could enjoy life (John 10:10). You might say, if there is anything we need to worry about, He’ll do it for us.   

We need to leave our concerns in God’s loving hands because worry changes nothing (Matthew 6:24-25). Worry will not change your tomorrow, but it will rob you of any happiness today might hold. So don’t worry, be happy.   
  

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


What Jesus Says

May 16, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Sometimes I feel like a cartoon character with Jesus on one shoulder whispering affirmations in my left ear and a little devil on the other shoulder whispering in my right ear. Unfortunately, I’m a little hard of hearing in my left ear and don’t always hear what Jesus says.  

All day long Satan is trying to bombard me with negative thoughts about myself. You are too fat. You are too ugly. Who would want you for a friend? No one loves you. You aren’t good enough. You will never amount to anything. You made a big mistake and it’s unforgiveable. You are all alone. Nobody cares about you. These ideas seem to come through loud and clear.

However, Jesus is trying to send me different messages. He says: “You aren’t worthless or I wouldn’t have died for you” (John 3:16). “I forgive you for the mistakes you’ve made” (1 John 1:9). “I don’t condemn you” (Romans 8:1-2). “You are not a loser” (1 Corinthians 15:57). “You are never alone because I will never leave or forsake you” (Hebrew 13:5). “I love you and always will” (Ephesians 3:18). Too bad I can’t always hear what He is saying.

We are shaped by our thoughts (Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 23:7). Whatever thoughts we allow in our minds will influence our behavior and outlook on life. Negative thoughts hold us prisoner and keep us from moving forward in faith. So we must rule over our negative thoughts or they will rule over us (2 Corinthians 10:5). The only way to do this is by replacing the lies Satan tells us with God’s truth.

Feeding on God’s Word can knock that little devil off our shoulders and out of earshot. John 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word. We need to abide in “the Word” and let “the Word” abide in us. We need to listen to Jesus, not to Satan, because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).        

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Someone Pays the Bill

May 9, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Years ago a friend of mine and her family were having lunch at a restaurant. Unbeknownst to them an anonymous diner paid their tab. When it came time to pay the bill, the waitress handed it to them with the words “paid in full” written across the top.

When she told me about this, I said, “Wow! A totally free lunch!”

To which my friend replied, “Well, it was free for us, but someone paid the price of those meals.”

I think about that example when I think about grace. God’s grace is something extended to us that we don’t deserve, sort of like a free lunch.

God’s grace is truly amazing, but we can have a hard time grasping it. After all, society teaches us that we get what we pay for and we must earn our pay. No pain, no gain. There is no free lunch. And from a physical perspective, this is all true. However, when it comes to God’s grace these principles do not apply. For God’s grace cannot be earned and there isn’t enough money in the world to buy it. It is a gift from God given freely to all who wish to receive it (Ephesians 2:4-5).

This gracious gift pardons us from sin and brings us salvation (Titus 2:11, Ephesians 2:4-5). However, although we pay nothing for God’s gift of grace, it was not free. Someone had to pay the tab. That someone was Jesus. His crucifixion and death paid the price for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

The chorus of an old hymn comes to mind: “Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.” Jesus chose to die an agonizing death for us so we could have salvation (Titus 2:14, John 3:16-17, Romans 3:24, Philippians 2:5-8).

So if I receive a night out on the town, a gift, or even a free lunch, I always try to remember that someone had to pay for it. 

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


He Who Began a Good Work in You…

May 2, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Everyone has favorite scriptures. If you don’t, you might not be reading your Bible enough. One of my favorites is Philippians 1:6 which says that we can be confident that “He who began a good work in you will complete it…” (NKJ).

The Message Bible puts it this way: “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Paul sent this letter to the whole church, not just the leadership. It’s addressed to all the saints— all the believers, which includes you and me (Philippians 1:1). Paul tells all of us that we can have confidence in God. Why? Because God is faithful. Faithful means constant, steadfast, loyal, and devoted. We can believe and trust God. He keeps all His promises.   

When we became Christians, God began a good work in us. We didn’t just alter our lifestyle and call ourselves Christians. God actually began a work IN us. We were dead to our sins, then God forgave us and breathed life IN us (Ephesians 2:4). We became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We became God’s work in progress.         

Sometimes we forget this. We make mistakes, fall short of our imaginary perfect Christian image, and even doubt that God still loves us—but He does. We think it’s all about what we do, but it’s not. It’s about what God does. It’s about what God can do through us, in us, and in spite of us. God has a lot of time and effort invested in us and He’s not about to let us go.

When we face problems, we are not alone. God is with us. When we fall down, God is ready to pick us up. When we doubt, God can give us reassurance. When we feel weak, God is our strength. When we are weary, God carries us in the sand.

We get discouraged thinking about how far we have to go. God looks at how far we’ve come, and He can even see the finished us. In His eyes, we are a masterpiece—a priceless art form that He is continuously refining (Ephesians 2:10).

When discouragement sets in, I try to remind myself that God began a good work in me and He will be faithful to complete it!

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Mary’s Child

April 25, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

Years ago I read a story about the baby Jesus. When the people of Nazareth were upset, tired, weary, angry, annoyed, or out of sorts they would say, “Let’s go look at Mary’s child.” When they looked upon the baby Jesus, they gained peace and their troubles would not seem as burdensome.

Of course, this is just a story. Actually, Jesus was not readily accepted as the Son of God by those He grew up with. However, the principle is beautiful. For when we take our eyes off Jesus, our circumstances feel overwhelming. Every disappointment, setback, trial, or unfulfilled expectation can seem insurmountable. And truthfully, without Jesus, our problems are too much to bear. That’s why 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares upon Jesus, for He cares for us—more than we could ever imagine. We are of value to Him.

In fact, God values us so much He thought us worth the life, sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For Jesus wasn’t just Mary’s child, He was God’s child too.

The story of people looking at baby Jesus’ face in biblical times is just a story. However, the principle is solid. An old hymn tells us to turn our eyes upon Jesus. For when we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the things of earth grow dim in the light of His glory and grace.

When life starts getting us down, perhaps we should go look at Mary’s child.

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)


Sing a Song

April 18, 2021 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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Think on These Things: Positive thoughts in a negative world…

One of my favorite songs is “Sing.” One line says, “Don’t worry if it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear—just sing, sing a song.” I love that.

God created music, and it can be a powerful tool. Biblical examples prove this to be true.  

Music soothed the soul. When a bad spirit came upon Saul, David played his harp (1 Samuel 16:23). Saul was refreshed and the evil spirit departed. 

Music inspired. When Jehoshaphat was going into battle, he appointed singers unto the Lord. As they went out before the army, they sang, “Praise the Lord; for his mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).

Music taught God’s Word. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Music released the power of God. Paul and Silas found this out when they were in jail. “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, and the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s shackles were loosed” (Acts 16:25-26).

Music etched the mighty power of God into memories. In Exodus 15:1, Moses sang a song of praise to God for deliverance from Pharaoh. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord: I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously…” It’s quite long so I won’t quote all of it here. Some say this song of Moses is the oldest recorded song in the world.

Songs were used throughout biblical times to express joy, triumph, grief, relief, celebration, thanks, praise, and so on. Matthew 26:30 tells us that when the Last Supper had ended Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn before leaving. What a powerful image!

When I’m feeling low I start singing praises to God. It’s amazing how much better I feel when I get the focus off myself and onto God. Some people don’t enjoy singing. I get that. I don’t always have a song in my heart either. That’s when I start reading the Psalms which are actually sacred songs meant to be sung. As I read them, I think about God adding His own tune.   

Man tries to pollute and degrade what God has created. Music is no exception. But God created music and it is good. It is one way we can praise, worship, and glorify Him. 

*****

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” ~Philippians 4:8 (KJV)