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Choose Not to Forget the Meaning of Easter

Barbara | April 9, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

 

Next weekend millions of people will put on their “Easter bonnets” (metaphorically speaking, of course) and head for a church meeting to celebrate the risen Christ. Some children will look for the Easter bunny and hunt for eggs. Still, others might stay away from church because they feel Easter has a pagan origin.

A scholarly debate over Easter’s origin has been going on for millennia. Both Christians and pagans have celebrated death and resurrection themes following the Spring Equinox. Some say the name Easter came from the German word “ostern” meaning sunrise. Some think it refers to some ancient, Northern European, Saxon goddess of fertility.

Actually, a pretty good case can be made for Christian and pagan explanations. However, shying away from something just because it has pagan roots, especially when today’s use is not the original intent, can be quite limiting. Many of today’s customs can be traced back to paganism. Here are a few: using wedding rings, shaking hands, and covering the mouth when one yawns.  Even the word Sunday is derived from a pagan deity, as are the other days of the week.

Consider this… Why boycott a holiday that really serves to unite the Christian community? Why not focus on what Easter has truly come to symbolize – the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which means Jesus is alive and well! He is our risen Savior. The resurrection actually validates Christians. Here’s how…

Christ was crucified and died willingly for our sins. Because of this we are forgiven and no longer condemned. This is great news, but without Christ’s resurrection it would be null and void. Christ was delivered to death for our sins, but raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23,24) In other words, His death paid for our sins, but His resurrected life is the proof or the receipt for that payment. Jesus came to earth, died for us, and rose from the dead. Jesus lives! This truth validates Christ and it validates us.

The resurrection validates Christ because what He said would happen, did happen. Jesus knew He was going to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, beaten and die. But He also knew and told His disciples that He would be raised to life again. (Matthew 20:18-20) And it took place just the way Jesus said it would.

This is good news for us on so many levels. It validates our Christian life. Not only can we trust everything Christ tells us, but death no longer holds us in bondage. (1 Corinthians 15:55) Christ’s victory over death is our victory, too. (1 Corinthians 15:57) Because Christ lives, we can live also. (Romans 6:8, 9) We who believe in Him will live – even though we might die, we will live again. (John 11:25-26)

Let’s never forget this! It’s worth remembering –not only at Eastertime, but all year long.

Suggestions for practicing this choice:

  • It is one week until Easter. Find a Christian church, go to it on Easter and listen to the message.
  • Think how God uses the resurrection to bind Christianity together realizing that although most Christian churches differ in many of their teachings, most are all agreed that Christ was crucified, died and rose again.
  • If you have a problem with the secular aspects of Easter read Easter, Is It Pagan by Ralph Woodrow.
  • Repeat this often: Jesus lives and He is with me always! (Matthew 28:20)
  • Don’t be afraid to embrace the true meaning of Easter. It reminds us of what we sometimes forget the rest of the year. Christ is risen and lives!

Choose Not to Despise the Small Things

Barbara | April 2, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

When governor Zerubbabel was faced with the task of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple, he faced many obstacles. Fifty years had passed since the Babylonian invasion left Jerusalem desolate and Solomon’s Temple (also known as the First Temple) burned to the ground. It became obvious this second temple would never have the grandeur of the first. Even after the foundation was laid, some old timers wept thinking of the comparison. (Ezra 3:12)

Yet amidst this small beginning God told the people not to be discouraged for the second temple would be completed through Zerubbabel. He also asked a rhetorical question that contains a life lesson for all of us: “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10 KJV) The people could only see what was in front of them, not what God would do with it. How many of us are guilty of the same reasoning?

In a world that measures significance by size, we can think small things have little value. Yet little things mean a lot to God. Things like…

  • Giving a cold drink of water to little ones (Matthew 10:42)
  • Feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:43-45)
  • Visiting those in prison (Matthew 25:43-45)
  • Visiting the fatherless and the widows (James 1:27)
  • A widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44)
  • Sharing what little you have (John 6:9-13)
  • Little children (Matthew 18:1-5)
  • Little flocks (Luke 12:32)

The parables are full of analogies made with small things: one talent, sowing seeds, a lost coin, one lost sheep, a grain of mustard seed, and a little leaven. The list could go on and on.

What about people? Sarah, a barren woman, gave birth to God’s chosen people. David, a mere shepherd boy, used a slingshot to kill Goliath. That same shepherd boy became king. A small boy helped feed a multitude with three fishes and five loaves of bread. Moses, a baby saved in the bulrushes, grew up to deliver Israel from bondage. Esther, a lowly young woman, became a queen and put her life on the line to save the Jews from a deadly plot. Jesus was born in a stable in some obscure town, yet offers salvation to the world.

In fact, Jesus’ life was spent doing small things for others. We could call them acts of kindness. He comforted the sick. He befriended the sinner. He hung out with the fishermen. He paid attention to little children. He washed the disciples’ feet. He told us if we wanted to be great we should do the same thing – learn to serve others. (Mark 10:42-45)

Consider this… God does not despise the small things. He does not measure significance by size. There can be power in small things. A little match can cause a big fire. A tiny acorn can produce a giant oak tree. Little drops of water can fill an ocean. Tiny grains of sand can make a beach.

Little things mean a lot to God. Always remember that God can take any little thing we do and multiply it for His glory.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Think of some little things you might do to brighten someone’s day: smile, be polite, let someone go ahead of you in line, write a note of appreciation, etc.
  • Small acts of faith, kindness, generosity, and service may seem to go unnoticed, but they do not. They don’t go unnoticed by others, and they don’t go unnoticed by God.
  • Pray about the little things in your life as well as the big ones. God is interested in everything about our daily routine.
  • Think about this: Adam was created as a full grown man and Jesus could have come to earth that way as well, but He chose to come as a little child. Little things mean a lot.
  • Next time you hear Satan whisper in your ear, “You are worthless, puny, and unimportant. What you do doesn’t matter. Why continue on? What’s the use?” God does not want us to believe these lies. Choose to listen for God’s voice. He’ll be saying, “Take heart, my child. Do not believe these lies or become weary. Believe me. Trust me. You are very valuable to me. Every little thing you do matters to me. I love you and will never leave or forsake you.”


Choose Not to Be a Fool

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

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Last time we explored what it means to be a “know-it-all.” This time we will talk about being a fool. While it’s true all “know-it-alls” are fools, it is also true that not all fools are “know-it-alls.” There is a fool bigger than the person who knows it all; it’s the person who argues with him.

If we were honest with ourselves, we would probably admit we are all a little foolish at times. That’s why a Welsh adage says, “If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings.”

Since April Fool’s Day is fast approaching, I thought it would be interesting to explore what it means to be a fool.

Dictionary definitions of a fool are: one who lacks judgment or prudence, one who acts unwisely, or one who is silly. The Bible has a lot to say about fools, and most of it is not good.

When the word “fool” is used in the Bible, it usually refers to one having moral deficiencies rather than intellectual ones. Here are just a few examples:

  • Proverbs 1:7 – Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  • Proverbs 10:18 – Fools spread slander.
  • Proverbs 10:21 – Fools die for lack of wisdom.
  • Proverbs 12:15 – Fools don’t listen to advice.
  • Proverbs 12:23 – Fools do not know how to keep their mouths shut.
  • Proverbs 14:29 – Fools are impulsive.
  • Proverbs 16:22 – Fools do not listen to instruction.
  • Proverbs 17:10 – Fools reject discipline.
  • Proverbs 18:2 – Fools love to give their opinions to others.
  • Proverbs 18:13 – Fools don’t listen.
  • Proverbs 23:9 – Fools despise wisdom.
  • Proverbs 28:26 – Fools trust in their own hearts, instead of trusting God.
  • Proverbs 29:11 – Fools cannot control their emotions.

These “fools” are not uneducated, stupid, or dumb. However, most of the time they misuse what they do know, or reject it all together. They do not want to be confused with the facts. They do not want to listen to the voice of reason. They will gladly give us their opinions but do not value ours. They are a pain to be around! Do we know anyone like that? Or a better question might be: Are we like that????

The opposite of a fool is one who has wisdom. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame is the legacy of fools. (Proverbs 3:35) So if we don’t want to be fools, we need to get wisdom. (Proverbs 4:5) Wise people tend to manage their lives well because they trust God and heed His instructions. They set sail through life learning to navigate both smooth and rough water.

Consider this… Proverbs has as much to say about wisdom as it does about fools. True wisdom begins with God. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7) This fear does not mean to be afraid of God, but to be in awe of His greatness. We should want to embrace Him, honor Him, respect Him, and learn what we can from Him. As we yield to His love and guidance, we can become wise. (Proverbs 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 15:33)

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Ask God for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us, “If any lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.”
  • Make God a part of everything you do. Ask God to guide what you say. Ask God to help you make a decision.
  • Associate with wise people. Value their input. Ask God to help you use it wisely.
  • Listen and heed advice, instruction, correction, and discipline. Ask God to help you use it wisely.
  • Study the book of Proverbs which contrasts foolishness and wisdom. Each day read one chapter and jot down attributes of what it means to be foolish and wise.

Choose Not to Be a Know-It-All

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

The Bible exhorts us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) Such spiritual maturity is expected of a Christian. However, there are many things that might make this growth difficult, such as fears, worries, trials, critics, busyness, stress, and distractions. Yet, people manage to grow in spite of these circumstances, learning to trust Christ more than themselves. However, there is one barrier to growth that is very difficult to overcome. It’s hard to grow if you already know it all!

The “know-it-all” despises instruction, because he knows it all. (Proverbs 1:7) The “know-it-all” won’t listen to counsel because he knows it all. (Proverbs 12:15) The only opinion a “know-it-all” values is his own because he knows it all. (Proverbs 18:2) The “know-it-all” has nothing to learn because he already knows it all. So the “know-it-all” is basically unteachable. That’s a dangerous position to assume when so much of our Christian growth is based on being open to God’s instruction and wisdom.

God is very big on us being teachable. We have a lot to learn and are blessed when we let God instruct us. (Psalm 94:12) God instructs us through scripture. (2 Timothy 3:16) He has also given church pastors and teachers certain gifts used for “perfecting of the saints.” (Ephesians 4:11-13) This “perfecting of the saints” is just a way of saying as we learn God’s ways we grow in grace, godly knowledge, and spiritual maturity, which equips us to minister or help others. “Know-it-alls” have a hard time ministering to others because no one wants to be around them.

“Know-it-all” Christians are stumbling blocks to themselves and those around them. They tend to be critical, impatient, demanding, discouraging, and divisive instead of constructive, patient, gentle, encouraging, and unifying. They come to church out of obligation, but sermons really don’t apply to them because they know it all. They are more interested in biblical genealogies, archeological findings, and prophecy rather than learning how to enhance their daily walk with God. Since they know it all, they love to solve everyone’s problems, so they talk a lot to share their insights with others and rarely listen. Unfortunately, they really cannot relate to the struggles of others because their biblical knowledge makes them feel superior. They love feeling superior to others.

“Know-it-alls” miss the main point of biblical knowledge, which is to point us to Jesus Christ, not to make us feel superior to others. (John 5:39, 40) Christ never put himself above others. He ate with sinners, washed the disciples’ feet, talked to little children, served the sick, and loved the poor. His life teaches us what grace is all about.

Consider this… Those who think they know anything do not know what they need to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2) If we want to grow in grace and knowledge, we begin by having a humble and teachable spirit.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Talk less; listen more.
  • Try to be patient and kind, instead of harsh and critical.
  • Resist the temptation to always be right or prove your point. Life is not a debate.
  • Esteem others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • Study God’s Word and look for ways to apply it to your life, not to the lives of others.

 


Choose Not to Seek Signs and Wonders

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

 

In today’s technologically driven age, we are constantly exposed to ever increasing, mind boggling activities. We are plugged in, turned on, or hooked up all day long. Texting, emails, iPods, iPads, cell phones, snap chats, video games, T.V., and surfing the Net consume hours daily. We become addicted to constant brain stimulation.

How does this affect the Christian community or those searching for Christ? Well, no longer are they satisfied with the ordinary. They must have dramatic faith healings and spectacular miracles or else they think God does not exist or is not doing a good job. Unfortunately, they have the cart before the horse. People want to experience a miracle to believe in God, when actually they need to believe first.

In Christ’s hometown of Galilee, Christ didn’t do many miracles because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:58) Was this because Christ’s miracles were dependent on their faith? Not at all! But what would have been the point? They wouldn’t have believed anyway, because contrary to popular opinion, miracles do not increase belief. The Israelites proved that. God performed miracle after miracle for them, including parting the Red Sea and they still didn’t believe He could take care of them in the Promised Land.

Sometimes God does provide a visual when He knows it will actually boost our faith. Such was the case with Thomas who said he wouldn’t believe Christ had risen from the dead unless he saw Him, but Jesus was quick to tell him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)

The need for Christ to authenticate His message through miracles has long passed and would be wasted on our visual effects society. Besides, God should not have to prove Himself to us. His message speaks for itself. Sadly, some professing Christians are still seeking signs and wonders long after their conversion. This is not so much that they doubt Christ’s existence as they are looking for a “thrill” that comes from the miracle. It gives a “high,” a byproduct from an over-stimulated society. But when we are always looking for the next big thing or supernatural happening in our lives to feel God’s presence, we forget that He has been with us all along. We miss the daily walk.

Sure there are times we have those horrible “lows” in life where we cry out to God for miraculous deliverance and experience the “high” that comes when we are delivered. But when there is no major difficulty going on, do we see the miracles of God in the drudgery of everyday life? Do we see God in our day-to-day grind – getting up when the 6 o’clock alarm rings, taking a shower, brushing our teeth, carpooling the kids, driving to work in the same old car to the same old job and coming home to the same old family, then cooking something to eat, doing the dishes, helping with homework, falling into bed dog-tired? Can we cheerfully get up and do it all again the next day and stay totally centered on God?

Healthy Christians are able to go through life without God having to supernaturally zap them with an addictive spiritual methamphetamine to get them through the day. As we grow in God’s grace, we realize the miracle of God revealing Himself to us all the time. It might be in the laughter of a child, the smile of a coworker, clouds in the sky, sunlight on a window pane, or the guy who lets us merge in traffic.

Consider this… If we are truly looking for a miracle, we need look no further than where we are. For where we are, God will be. He’ll never leave us nor forsake us no matter what. He can be our peace and calm in an over-stimulated world. If we don’t see that as a miracle, there is no need to look anywhere else, because we’ll never find it.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Our society is addicted to technology. To see if you are addicted, try a technology fast for a day. How long can you last without any screens?
  • Try to wait at least an hour in the morning before turning any technology on. Try sitting in silence to pray or meditate before you start the day.
  • Do not pull your smart phone out when you are having dinner with others. Each call, text, ping, or whistle is not an emergency and can wait until you are not with others to be dealt with.
  • Become more aware of the world around you. A sunset, flower, mountain, or rainbow are all miracles of creation.
  • Be aware of God’s presence in your life 24/7, walking with you and giving you the strength to make it one more day. Try plugging into God for a change. That’s when you begin to see what a miracle your life is.


Choose Not to Put Your Trust in Miracles

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

No one would deny that God can perform miracles. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the raging storm, and my favorite – turned water into wine. I’m thinking it was a nice Merlot or perhaps a Cab. However, people looking for God to reveal Himself through a miracle sometimes miss the fact that the Bible tells us not all miracles come from God. Look at these scriptures:

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says that if people foretell dreams or signs and wonders that come to pass, then encourage you to follow other gods than the one true God, you should not listen to their words. Therefore, it must be true that others besides God can perform certain signs and wonders.

Mark 13:22-23 tells us to be on guard because others than God can perform miracles that can deceive us into thinking they represent Christ.

Matthew 7:22-23 tells us that many will come to God pointing out that they had performed miracles but God will say, “I never knew you. Get away you evildoers!”

2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 reminds us that Satan has the power to perform counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders.

Exodus 7:11 recounts how Moses and Aaron performed miracles such as having a staff turn into a snake, but Pharaoh summoned his sorcerers and they did the same thing.

Therefore, miracles are not always proof of where God is working. Plus, we cannot always trust what we actually see. Just watching a master illusionist such as David Copperfield in Vegas will prove that. Did he really make a tiger appear out of thin air, or did he make you believe he made a tiger appear out of thin air? It’s a tricky world.

When we watch faith healings on television, is the person really healed? I’m not so sure. Perhaps some, but in Jesus’ day when He gave a blind man back his sight or made the lame walk, it happened in a setting where a whole village actually knew the person. They could attest to the fact that yes, indeed, that person had been blind from birth or this person had never been able to walk. A whole town had seen them struggle day after day. That is just a little different than watching it on TV, attending a faith revival, or having someone you don’t even know interviewed on TV and claim healing. There was no doubt about what Jesus did. It wasn’t left up to speculation.

Consider this… Miracles rarely increase one’s belief in God. The Israelites experienced miracle after miracle and still they did not believe. Once people experience one miracle, they want another, and another, and another.

Do we look to God or to what we think God can do for us through a supernatural wonder? If that is our approach, we miss the biggest miracles of all – Christ living and dwelling in us, the peace that passes understanding, and fruits of His Spirit manifested in our changed lives.

So be careful what you wish for. If a miracle is what you wish for, you might get it. But just remember this – not all miracles come from God.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Pray for discernment. Discernment is the ability to recognize and perceive. Christians without discernment are very gullible and swallow everything they see and everything people tell them hook, line, and sinker, whether it’s true or not.
  • We live in a confusing, chaotic world. We need God’s discernment to be able to navigate it wisely and not be led away by every wind of doctrine that comes along. Build a solid biblical foundation by prayerfully reading your Bible daily and asking God to help you assimilate what you read, so you will have a theological basis for the decisions you make.
  • Ask God to help you to be able to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and deception. Even though Paul had taught the Corinthian church the truth, he still feared they could be lead astray. So he cautioned them to stick to the simplicity of the teachings of Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)
  • The Thessalonians were admonished to examine things carefully and hold fast what is good, abstaining from evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22) This is good advice for all of us.
  • Remember that emotions and feelings can be deceiving. You may feel that something is true, but that doesn’t make it true. Ask God to teach you His ways so you can walk in His truth. (Psalm 86:11)

Choose Not to Prejudge Others

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

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Choose Not to Prejudge Others

One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

I guess some idioms will soon be obsolete. Those who grow up reading books on Kindles may one day not even know what “judging a book by its cover” means. We may have to think of a better phrase to let people know that prejudging one’s quality, talent, or character just by looking at a person is a mistake.

Britain’s Got Talent, the British counterpart to our American Idol, found that out in 2009 when a frumpy-looking, 48-year-old, unemployed volunteer decided to try out for the television show. The audience was skeptical and judges rolled their eyes until Susan Boyle sang her inspiring rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. A standing ovation followed. So did fame and fortune for Boyle.

Our human tendency is to make evaluations based on outward appearances. We might think a man is poor because he wears raggedy clothes and drives an old car, but he could be a millionaire. Someone might look wealthy and be a big spender, but he may have maxed-out credit cards and a house in foreclosure.

In today’s superficial world, people tend to judge by appearance. We make wrong assumptions when we judge someone’s character by what appears on the surface. Meekness is not weakness. Sociability is not spirituality. Loquaciousness is not intellect. Using wisdom is not cowardice. Having biblical knowledge does not mean one is close to God.

The scribes and Pharisees appeared spiritual on the surface, yet they judged Jesus and his disciples’ religiosity for eating without washing their hands. That was a definite no-no against their purity laws, which were a big deal at the time. These laws were what the religious hierarchy used to determine one’s devotion to God. (Mark 7:1-8) They didn’t know they were criticizing the very Son of God.

Samuel would have chosen Jesse’s first born son Eliab to replace King Saul. After all, he was tall, handsome, and athletic. When Samuel saw him he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here.” (1 Samuel 16:6, 7) But God refused him because God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. So a lowly shepherd boy name David was chosen instead.

When God wanted someone to deliver the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, Hhe did not choose an eloquent speaker. He chose Moses, who was not what you would call dynamic. In fact, he was slow of speech; perhaps he even stuttered. (Exodus 4:10) Yet he was a man of God. (Deuteronomy 33:1)

Making snap judgments based on appearances can lead to prejudice, segregation, and stereotyping. Yet, it is easier to judge quickly than to take the time to get to know people. Only through knowing people can we determine how they think or feel or where their hearts are. Only through looking beyond the surface can we discover those hidden qualities, talents, or character traits worth finding.

Consider this… Whether we are holding a brightly covered book with appealing pictures or a Kindle with only sparse features, we will still have to read the book to know what it’s all about.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice….

  • Accept people for who they are, not how they look. Pink hair, tattoos, and flamboyant clothes do not mean flighty, crude, and shallow.
  • Do not think you can’t learn something from people without a college education or PhD. It would be a mistake to assume they are unknowledgeable or uneducated.
  • It’s a “put-down” to prejudge others. When we “put others down” we are actually trying to pump our self-worth up. The Bible says to esteem others better than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
  • Try to accept our differences rather than trying to get everyone to conform to what we like.
  • Follow God’s example of looking at a person’s heart, not his/her outward appearance.

Choose Not to Complain

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

Mark Twain once said, “Don’t complain and talk about all your problems. Eighty percent of people don’t care; the other twenty percent will think you deserve them.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement.

The Bible admonishes us to do all things without complaining. (Philippians 2:14) That’s not easy to do. Complaining is the great American pastime. We complain about everything: our employers, our coworkers, our spouses, our kids, our taxes, our hair, our weight, our houses, our government, the traffic, long checkout lines, and the weather. The list is endless. Someone once said that God created everything in six days and after resting on the seventh day, he was ready to answer complaints on the eighth.

Our society doesn’t help. It programs us to think we deserve so much more than we have and that possessions are stepping stones to happiness. Marketing companies are masters of selling us things we don’t really need. From an early age, we are blitzed with advertising telling us one cereal is better than another because of the toy inside the carton, and it doesn’t stop until they lay us to rest in the finest rosewood we think we deserve instead of a pine box. We grow up in a constant state of discontent. We complain about what we don’t have. When we get it, we still complain. The more we have, the more we complain.

Complaining is not a new concept. The children of Israel loved to whine and complain. When they left Egypt, they complained a lot. They wanted different food. They wanted meat. They wanted better drinking water. They wanted Moses to speak to them instead of God. Each time God gave them what they wanted, they were still discontented – and they didn’t even have a television telling them McDonald’s was better than manna.

To stop complaining means more than just keeping our mouths shut. The Greek word for “complaining” in Philippians is “gongysmos,” which means to grumble and murmur under our breath. So that probably means we shouldn’t even contort our faces in disapproval and make disgusted, low, guttural, grumbling sounds that show everyone we are displeased without actually coming out and saying it.

To really stop complaining, we must replace those complaints with something positive. The opposite of complaining is thankfulness.

Consider this… Nothing positive comes from complaining or grumbling. It’s a real downer! Not only does it make us miserable, but it makes those around us miserable, too. Constant complaining taints our perspective. We lose focus on the really important things in life.

Finding things to be thankful for is much more productive than complaining. Perhaps it’s as easy as seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty. Or perhaps we should just be thankful we have a glass.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and each time you complain, snap it so that it hurts. If in a day or two you have a painful, raw, bleeding wrist, feel free to complain about that. After all, your complaining made it happen.
  • Don’t be a whiner! Wah, wah, wah… Life’s not fair. I don’t deserve this. Nobody appreciates me. When you start each morning, do you rise and shine or rise and whine? Stop whining. If you can change your circumstance, change it. If you can’t, whining about it won’t make it better.
  • Remember that Paul and Silas did not complain when they were cast into prison. They sang songs of praise instead. They rejoiced in the Lord. (Acts 16) So when you feel a complaint coming on, sing a song instead. Count Your Blessings is one that comes to mind.
  • When you start to complain, think of something to be thankful for and whisper “I love you, Jesus” instead of grumbling.
  • Repeat this old adage often: Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, why not be happy that the thornbush has roses?


Choose Not to Be an Island

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

The phrase “no man is an island” was first written in 1624 by the famous Elizabethan poet, minister, and scholar John Donne in his Devotions – Meditation XVII. The poem is quite dated by today’s standards, but it inspired a song with lyrics that ring true for all generations.

No man is an island

No man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

It goes on to say that all men are our brothers and we need one another. And although I should welcome this lofty concept, sometimes I just want to be a hermit and get away from everyone. Some are energized by the company of others; I am fatigued.

Visions of being alone on a tropical island enter my mind. My island would never get above 75 degrees, since I don’t like hot weather. (If I’m having a vision, might as well have one tailor made for me.) Not having to deal with the quirks of fickle people is appealing. Of course, in all honesty, to be truly happy on the island I would need TV, Internet, and a cell phone. I don’t need the cell phone to call people, but I have my photos, games, and music to consider. I might need room service, but then that would involve other people. Life gets so complicated.

But here’s the deal… God is more about community than isolation. He models this in the Trinitarian relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is further exemplified in the grace filled gesture of making salvation available for all mankind so we, too, can enter into that relationship.

To me, the true meaning of “no man is an island” is that whether I like it or not, we are all interconnected. We are interconnected with God and with each other. This is more than just a physical connection. It’s a spiritual one. God loves us. God loves others. God wants us to love Him. God wants us to love others. (Matthew 22:38-39) God wants us to love one another. (John 15:12)

God makes it clear that we have responsibilities towards one another. Just search for the phrase “one another” in the Bible and see what pops up. Here are a few examples…

  • …serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13)
  • …be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)
  • …honor one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • …accept one another. (Romans 15:7)
  • …admonish one another. (Romans 15:14)
  • …greet one another. (Romans 16:16)
  • …bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
  • …bear with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
  • …submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
  • …encourage one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • …pray for one another. (James 5:16)
  • …love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Consider this… These scriptures would be hard to fulfill in total isolation. You see, true Christianity is about our relationship with God and our relationship with “one another.”

So as I return from daydreaming about my fictitious island, I realize “no man is an island,” nor should he want to be one.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Find ways to connect with others at work, school, church, etc. Ask them questions and be interested in what they have to say.
  • Force yourself to smile at others.
  • Pray for those you come in contact with. You don’t have to know others really well to pray for them.
  • Ask God to help you be interested in other people.
  • Be patient with others and pray that they will be patient with you.

Choose Not to Get Hung Up Over Rituals

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

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One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

After years of bondage in Egypt, it was only natural that the Israelites had absorbed quite a bit of the Egyptian culture. When God delivered them, He wanted them to be a separate people – an example to surrounding nations. To accomplish this, God provided them with a set of laws. If the Israelites obeyed this covenant, God said that they would be His “…treasured possession…and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)

Therefore, the book of Leviticus is crammed full of detailed procedures, rules, and rituals the Israelites were expected to follow. Each instruction had a specific purpose designed for the time in which they lived – in Old Covenant times. However – times change.

When Jesus came to establish a New Covenant, things would be different. No longer were godly people identified by their rules and rituals. Their identity would be in Christ.

This was a hard concept for the Pharisees to grasp. The Pharisees were the religious experts of the time, the keepers of the Mosaic Law. By the time they encountered Christ, certain rules had been added to the law, many becoming extreme customs – so much so that the original intent of the written law was often lost. Yet, they felt the observance of these regulations were vital in keeping God’s favor and considered themselves the righteous standard for obedience to God.

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, but He continually violated the Pharisaical “godly” customs. For example, He ate and drank with sinners, which made Him ceremonially unclean. (Luke 7:34-39) He broke the Sabbath by healing people and picking a little corn to eat. (Luke 13:14; Matthew 12:1-2) He and the disciples did not participate in the ceremonial washing of their hands before they ate. (Mark 7:1-23)

Now this washing of the hands ceremony was a little bigger deal than just using some hand sanitizer for healthy eating. It went something like this: Fingertips pointed up. Water poured down them until it ran down the wrist. A palm would be cleaned with the fist of the other hand. Fingertips would then point down. Water poured down them until it ran off the finger tips. Then they would switch hands and repeat.

Shockingly, Jesus did not do it that way. When the Pharisees asked him why, He replied with a quote from Isaiah 29:13: “These people honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, but their teachings are but rules taught by men.” He went on to say, “You nullify the word of God with your tradition.” (Mark 7:13) In other words, “You think your traditions are more important than the word of God!”

Christ was saying that what we do is not as important as why we do it. Jesus did not come with a list of rules and regulations. He came with His teachings and the law of love.

In New Testament times, people were used to seeing “works” – customs and rituals being performed. So they asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (John 6:28, 29) This was a new, radical concept.

Most of us think, “Those silly Pharisees. They just didn’t get it!” How could they set up their own customs, rituals, and standards of righteousness and think they were God’s? But how many of us really “get it?” How many of us have subconsciously done the same thing, worshiping traditions more than Christ?

Are we tied to total immersion baptism, how often we take Communion, the order of our church service, the tempo of our worship music, what instruments are allowed in church, certain hymnals, dietary habits, circumcision, tithing, Old Testament holy days, hair length, specific Bible translations, abstaining from alcohol, men wearing ties to church, women wearing dresses, Saturday or Sunday worship, the altar call, collecting an offering, and so on? There is nothing wrong with having opinions about these things or even doing them in a “traditional” manner – one to which we have grown accustomed – but when we focus more on what we do instead of why we do it, we miss the mark.

Even more dangerous is when we judge and condemn others who do not do it the way we think it should be done. Are we using God’s standard or our own? Are we doing things for God’s glory or our own? Are we doing things because we think God likes it or because we like it? We need to be honest with ourselves.

The same goes for those who break tradition. Are they doing it as an act of rebellion? Are they judging and condemning those who like tradition and ritual? It works both ways.

Consider this… If a custom or ritual can enhance our relationship with God, then so be it. But we must control our rituals; they should not control us. If they control us, we have no flexibility or room for anything that might be a little different – sort of like the Pharisees.

We need to keep perspective. After all, God has called us into a relationship, not a ritual. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

  • Do not judge others who do things differently than you do.
  • Do not confine God to your standard of thinking.
  • Do not use God to justify your likes and dislikes.
  • Do not think of the Bible as a list of do’s and don’ts.
  • Think of the Bible as a way to get to know the mind of Christ. The really important questions to ask when studying scriptures are not: what, when, why, or how. The Bible is all about WHO! Get to know the WHO (Jesus Christ), and all the other questions will be answered or pale in significance.