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Choose Not to Harden Your Heart

Barbara | June 11, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

God admonishes us not to harden our hearts like the children of Israel did. (Psalm 95:8; Hebrews 3:7-11) Time and time again the Israelites saw the miracles God performed, yet they seemed determined not to appreciate all God did for them. Because they hardened their hearts one too many times, they did not believe. An unbelieving heart turns away from God and cannot enter into His rest. (Hebrews 3:12; 3:19) Because of their unbelief, the children of Israel were not allowed to go into the Promised Land.

The Greek word for “hardened” means to be stubborn, bullheaded, headstrong, self-willed, inflexible, stiff-necked, dry, hard, or tough. We all struggle with these proclivities from time to time. The trick is not to let these characteristics overtake and consume us. A stiff-necked person is headed for disaster. (Proverbs 29:1) Hearts that become calloused do not want to see or hear God. (Matthew 13:14, 15) Hardened hearts lose their spiritual vitality. They go through the motions of being Christians, but their hearts are not in it. They may honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Mark 7:6, 7)

A hardened heart does not appear overnight. It’s a process and may happen so gradually we don’t even know it. Perhaps it starts with grumbling, complaining, griping, or blaming others. Then we make a habit of not doing what we know we should do, or doing what we know we shouldn’t do. God’s Word slips away. (Hebrews 2:1) We segue into refusing to acknowledge God’s greatness or what He has done for us. We are unappreciative. Communication with God falters. We stop praising, worshipping, and praying. We start to rely on ourselves instead of God and enter into self-deception. Then it’s just one short step into being unwilling to trust God. The heart becomes hardened.

A hardened heart loses the ability to spiritually perceive, understand, hear, see, or remember God’s love, grace, and greatness. We can all be guilty of this sometimes.

Consider this… Even the disciples had to guard against hardened hearts. (Mark 8:17-18) Their thoughts would get overly dominated with physical concerns, so Jesus would have to remind them of who He was and what He was capable of doing. After all, didn’t He feed the multitude with just a little fish and bread? Yes, He did!

If we feel ourselves drifting from God, we are in danger of letting our hearts become hardened. Remember, God doesn’t move from us, but we sometimes move from Him. To get back to Him, we need to get back to the basics like prayer, Bible study, and meditation. These basics need to be coupled with asking God to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. (Psalm 51:10)

Remember, only God can replace our stony hearts with new ones – hearts that will yield to Him. (Ezekiel 36:26)

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Hardened hearts forget God’s greatness. We can be quite forgetful, so ask God to bring back to memory all the wonderful things He has done for you. You could even list things as you remember them, so you can reread them when you feel discouraged.

Guard against letting pride and arrogance consume your life. Proud people have a hard time admitting they are wrong and arrogant people know they are never wrong. If not kept in check, these self-destructive attributes can carry over into our relationship with God. Ask God to help you see when you are wrong and be willing to apologize.

Ask God to search your heart and gently point out areas where you need to change. Ask Him to help you be receptive to changing. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Try not to let the negativity of this world get you down. A “what’s the use” attitude keeps us from opening our hearts to what God has in store for us. When the world gets you down, ask God to lift you up.

Ask God to continually soften your heart and give you a right spirit, one receptive to Him. (Psalm 51:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Work for Fame or Fortune

Barbara | June 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

We’ve all heard that fame and fortune will not bring us happiness. Of course, most of us would like to prove it for ourselves.

Fame is a fickle mistress. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow. So if our identity is based on our fame, how do would we feel or cope when the adulation of others is gone?

Money can buy some things, but not what really counts. It can’t buy health, a good marriage, a loving relationship with our children, true friendship, patience, integrity, trust, peace of mind, or wisdom. According to the Beatles, it can’t even buy us love. So if our identity is based on our fortune, how would we feel or cope when we have to fly coach instead of first class?

Working for the wrong reasons can be distressing. After all, we work, work, work for stuff and when we die we have to leave it all to others. We do all the work and others get the benefit. We don’t really know what they will do with our accumulated wealth. (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19) All our precious, special treasures will end up in somebody else’s yard sale. Believe it or not, life is not measured by what you own. (Luke 12:15) And you can’t take it with you!

Why do we work then? This is an important question, because why we do what we do determines our outlook on life.

Work is important to God. God set the example in the beginning by working to create everything. (Genesis 1 & 2) Adam and Eve were told to work in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:15) We are told to work with all our might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) We are to provide for our families. (1 Timothy 5:8) One biblical principle I stressed often to my children was: If you don’t work, you don’t eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10) It was particularly effective before a meal. Having a work ethic is very important to God. However, God wants us to work for the right reasons.

If our purpose is just to accumulate wealth or become famous, then what happens once we achieve those goals? We will no longer have a purpose. An unhealthy desire for fame and fortune causes people to succumb to temptations and lusts that lead to destruction. (1 Timothy 5:9-10) Better to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, patience, gentleness, and love. Better to have a right motivation. (1 Timothy 5:11) Placing too much emphasis on getting fame and fortune is what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about. It’s all vanity.

Yes, we do need money to survive in this world. We all need the basics like food, shelter, and clothing. I think of my dad who didn’t have much education, so he worked in a factory job day in, day out. It wasn’t a job he loved, and we barely got by. However, he worked cheerfully because he loved his family and wanted to provide them with what they needed. He was doing the best he could. He was working for love – because he loved his family.

Actually, it was a little deeper than that. Ultimately, he felt his work, no matter what it was, should honor God. The Bible says we should work hard, as if we are working for God, not men, because God will give us our reward. We are actually serving Jesus Christ through our work. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Consider this…Working to honor God can provide purpose and meaning far surpassing fame and fortune. People forget that fame and fortune are actually gifts from God and can be taken away more quickly than acquired.

Working hard and enjoying the fruits of our labor is actually a good thing when God is the focus of our lives. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19) When we work to honor God, fame and fortune don’t really matter. They are nice, but not necessary. We learn to be content with what we have – whether it be a little or a lot. We can enjoy life regardless when we give God the glory!

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Stop believing the lie that fame and fortune will make you happy. Actor Jim Carrey said, “I wish everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know it is not the answer.” Happiness is a choice.

Don’t step on others to get what you want. When climbing the ladder of success, treat everyone with dignity and respect. You may need them if you fall down the ladder.

There’s nothing wrong with finding a job you love. However, until then, make the most of the job you have. Show up on time. Do your job and then some – a little above and beyond.

There’s nothing wrong with having dreams and working towards goals. Develop a positive outlook. Don’t get discouraged. Most importantly, always keep God in the picture.

Remember that no one achieves anything on their own. Be willing to give others some credit – especially God.

 


Choose Not to Be Offended

Barbara | May 28, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

In our last blog we talked about not offending others. However, the Bible is a two-edged sword and also tells us not to get offended. Being offensive and being offended both focus on self, not others. Unfortunately, our society teaches us to be self-oriented, self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-righteous. Offensive people are overly concerned about what they think. Offended people are overly concerned about how they feel. Christians should guard against both: offending others and being offended.

Being offended can be every bit as wrong as offending others. (Psalm 119:165) Each day is filled with opportunities to get offended. Some of us are so hyper-sensitive, we are an offense waiting to happen. Someone hurt our feelings. Someone made us angry, sad, disappointed, annoyed, or upset. We think someone intentionally slighted, mistreated, insulted, or snubbed us.

We take everything personally: she didn’t smile at me; he ignored me; she forgot my name; no one sent me a get well card; they didn’t ask my opinion; I wasn’t invited; I didn’t like what she said; I didn’t like how she said it; they didn’t appreciate my idea; they thanked everyone but me. I, my, me, me, me! Wah, wah, wah! When will we grow up and learn that the world doesn’t revolve around us?

Offenses will come. (Matthew 18:7) People are sometimes careless, tactless, blunt, hateful, and mean-spirited. However, the majority of us have more occasion to get ticked over the little things. It’s the pebble in our shoe that irritates, not the boulder in the road we know we have to go around. Sometimes people let the big things go and get bent out of shape over small, minor details.

Consider this… Being offended can be like planting a poisonous seed in our lives, one that can grow into bitterness if left unchecked. The devil uses offenses to divide and conquer. Offenses can destroy marriages, friendships, and churches. Offenses can keep us from having a positive relationship with others, including Jesus Christ. When we get offended, our spiritual maturity is revealed.

Although offenses are inevitable, being offended is a choice. We cannot change or control what others say or do, but we can control how we respond. The Bible tells us not be overly sensitive. “Do not take to heart everything people say” because you have more than likely done the same thing yourself. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22) We can’t let irritants and annoyances drive wedges between us and others. It hinders our relationship, not only with others, but with Jesus Christ. We are told to “bear with one another” and forgive. (Colossians 3:13) Christ forgives us, and we are to forgive others.

Ultimately, we need to bring our hurts to the foot of the cross. Let Christ soothe and comfort us. Let Christ give us a proper perspective. Let Christ love the hurt away.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

If you feel an offense coming on, stay cool, calm, and collected. Keep your mouth shut. A man of understanding holds his peace. (Proverbs 11:12)

Don’t be a brooder and continually agonize over what offended you. This plays havoc with your mind and causes you to assume motives, jump to conclusions, and think only about yourself. Get your focus off yourself and on to Jesus. Study His Word and try to apply it to your life, not the lives of others.

Ask yourself what this offense reveals about your heart? Are you wanting honor, approval, or recognition? Are you insecure? What are you desiring or craving that you feel you aren’t getting? Are you upset with others because they did not fulfill your expectations? Remember…these are your problems, not theirs. Perhaps you should ask God to fulfill these longings or take them away if they are unreasonable. Look to God, not other people.

Everyone makes mistakes, even you. Paul said he struggled with trying to do what was good and right. (Romans 7:18-19) Believe the best of others. Don’t take everything personally. Don’t impute motives. Maybe the comment wasn’t meant the way it sounded. Maybe they forgot your appointment. Maybe they had concerns or worries about health or family problems. Maybe they just found out the dog died. Why not give people the benefit of the doubt?

Resist the temptation to point out every time you feel hurt over something minor a friend or loved one says or does. People say, “I know you would want me to tell you that you hurt my feelings when you…” Hmmm??? Maybe not! They fret and fume over some little thing that was inadvertently said and then dump it on someone else. They feel better by trying to make someone else feel guilty. Wouldn’t it be better to just overlook it and not make a big deal? Proverbs 19:11 says to overlook offenses. Isn’t it better to think… well, I’m sure I took what was said the wrong way? Isn’t it better to think about all the positive things this person has done for you in the past? Don’t let Satan use offenses as wedges to come between you and others. Maybe it’s better to try not to take offense when no offense was intended.


Choose Not to Offend

Barbara | May 21, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Jesus tells us it would be better if a person were drowned in the sea than to offend a new believer. (Luke 17:1-4, Matthew 18:6) Paul said, “We give no offense in anything…” (2 Corinthians 6:3) The message seems clear that we should avoid offending others. Offending those new to the faith may cause them to stumble; offending non-Christians may put up a roadblock to sharing our faith.

But… is it actually possible to go through life without offending someone? I don’t think so – not unless you are living in a cave away from all humanity. Offend means to upset or annoy someone. Some people are so insecure and easily hurt we can inadvertently upset them without even knowing about it. I don’t think it’s reasonable or even biblical to think we can go through life not offending others. Sometimes our very presence or existence is vexing to someone. How do we get around that?

Here’s a better concept of the biblical principle. We are not to deliberately offend others by being insensitive. The word for “offense” in 2 Corinthians 6:3 is translated as “an obstacle, difficulty, or stumbling block.” We want to avoid being a stumbling block to those weak in the faith (1 Corinthians 8:9) and to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 10:32).

In biblical times, some used their newfound freedom in Christ with an “in your face” type attitude instead of being sensitive to those making the transition from Old Covenant teachings into the New Covenant understandings. I don’t think most Christians today would deliberately cause others to stumble or be a stumbling block, but they do sometimes try to change others to fit their mold of Christianity.

Paul gives some great instruction in Romans 14. If one wants to eat meat and one wants to be a vegetarian… so what! If one wants to esteem one day better than another and one doesn’t… so what! If one wants to drink wine and another wants to be a teetotaler… so what! These things have nothing to do with Jesus being Lord, Christ being crucified, the resurrection, and so on. They are personal preferences. These choices are neither applauded nor condemned by Paul. Jesus accepts people where they are and so should we. However, being judgmental of each other is a different matter. Paul says, “Let us not judge one another, but rather accept each other, not to put a stumbling block in someone’s way.” (Romans 14:12)

We need to be extra kind and gentle with others. Our goal should not be to make others conform with what we think. Our goal should be to lead a life of integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility, using sound speech and doing good works. (Titus 2:7) We need to set a good example, not a bad one.

Even so, sometimes the gospel will offend others. Paul found that out when he preached Christ crucified. It was an offense (stumbling block) to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:18-23) Yet, we can’t alter the very message of Christ to appease others. We can alter how we present it, but not the message itself.

Jesus didn’t alter His message when speaking to the Pharisees who were putting unnecessary religious hardships on others. He knew their hearts were not right. Jesus was more concerned with the truth than their feelings, and they were indeed offended at what they heard from Christ. (Matthew 15:12) Sometimes it’s difficult to hear the truth. Correction and instruction are sometimes needed, yet it can be offensive to the one receiving it, even if it’s given in a gentle manner and spoken in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

Consider this… Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we will offend someone in our lifetime. Ultimately, only God can keep one from stumbling. (Jude vv. 24-25) However, if unavoidable offenses come, let it be because of truth spoken, not because of personal preferences, attitude, approach, actions, or insensitivity.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Listen more, speak less. Practice keeping your opinions to yourself. If you do speak, do so in a soft, courteous manner. (Proverbs 15:1)

Don’t judge others. Work on changing yourself, not others. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Treat others with dignity and respect. Learn to disagree without being disagreeable. (Luke 6:3)

Give up thinking you must always be right. You might win the argument, but lose the friend. (Proverbs 18:2)

Try to build people up, not tear them down. (Ephesians 4:29)

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Fear

Barbara | May 14, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

Fear can be a good thing when kept in perspective. For example, fearing God in the right way can bring benefits. God doesn’t want us to unnecessarily tremble in His sight but He does want us to respect His power, acknowledge His holiness, worship His majesty, and reverence Him in our lives. This is not a bad thing. As we continue in a relationship with the living God, we realize He is a God of love and only wants the best for us.

Also there is a healthy kind of fear that comes with wisdom or heeding caution. It keeps us from jumping off the side of a building thinking we can fly, picking up a rattlesnake thinking we won’t get bitten, or driving 150 miles per hour thinking we won’t have an accident.

However, some fears paralyze us, keep us from doing what we should or could do, and prevent us from living a fuller, richer life, which is what God wants for us. Therefore, we must learn to control those fears or else they control us.

We are a fear-ridden society. Extreme fears result in countless phobias (and I do mean countless – just check out www.phobialist.com).  Most of us don’t have to deal with those, but we do wrestle with fear of rejection, hurt, humiliation, abandonment, disappointment, commitment, criticism, loss, the future, and so on. The residual effects of these fears are enough to hold us captive and prevent us from leading the life God intended.

Fear of rejection keeps us from meeting new people. Fear of failure keeps us from accepting responsibility. Fear of looking foolish keeps us from asking questions or trying new things.  Fear of the future makes us afraid to enjoy the present. Fear of losing keeps us from playing the game. The list is endless.

God anticipated we would have trouble grappling with these feelings, so He filled the Bible with admonitions to “fear not!” A spirit of fear does not come from God. (2 Timothy 1:7) So as we draw closer to God, He calms our fears. When we seek God, He delivers us from our fears. (Psalm 34:4) We are not relying on our strength but God’s. When God is with us, He helps and upholds us. (Isaiah 41:10)

When we truly realize God is our refuge and strength, we know we have nothing to fear. (Psalm 46:1-2) Why be afraid of people when God is our salvation and strength? (Psalm 27:1)

Consider this…God told Joshua not to be afraid or even discouraged because God would be with him wherever he went. (Joshua 1:9) God is also with us wherever we go. We are not alone. God says, “Fear not, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10) The God of love is with us. God loves us and there is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18-19)

If we make God a priority in our lives, we have nothing to fear. When we seek God, He delivers us from our fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Get a handle on your fears. Just thinking about them all the time can be instrumental in having them happen. We must control our unhealthy fears, not let them control us.

Remember… a spirit of fear does not come from God. (2 Timothy 1:7)

David said that even if he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he would fear no evil because God was with him. (Psalm 23:4-6) When you feel fear coming on, repeat, “God is with me. God is with me. You are with me! You are with me!”

Seeking God is a key to overcoming fear. However, this seeking of God is not just so He will deliver us from our trials or fears. We seek God so we can place our trust and faith in Him. It’s this faith and trust in God that calms our anxious hearts.

Picture God as a loving father (which He is) who is holding your hand as you walk through life together, and continually whispers, “Fear not! I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

 

 


Choose Not to Lose Heart

Barbara | May 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

God tells us not to lose heart. What does losing heart mean? Well, it can mean getting discouraged (Hebrews 12:3), being in despair (Ecclesiastes 2:20), growing weary of well doing (2 Thessalonians 3:13), or thinking there is no hope (Job 7:6). Losing heart encompasses so many feelings of despondency, dejection, and depression. Much of what goes on in life can lead us to lose heart. Sometimes we just want to stop, quit, give-up, and run away. David said, “O that I had wings like a dove, then I would fly away…” (Psalms 55:6) Therefore, God tells us not to lose heart. He says…

  • Do not lose heart during trials. (Ephesians 3:13)
  • Do not lose heart during hardships. (2 Corinthians 4:1)
  • Do not lose heart when feeling weary. (Galatians 6:9)
  • Do not lose heart when it looks like you can’t win. (Luke 18:1-8)

Not losing heart is an important aspect of the Christian journey. God never promised us a pleasant little walk with rose petals strewn along our pathway. Life is tough. Life is full of health challenges, family upsets, work concerns, troubles, grief, pain, burdens, afflictions, set-backs, and unfulfilled expectations. Being a Christian does not make us immune to life’s problems.

No one knew that better than the great apostle Paul. During his lifetime he was beaten, stoned, tired, hungry, cold, naked, sick, and sleep deprived. There were times when he was at risk in the city, in the country, in the wilderness, and at sea, plus in grave danger from robbers, the Gentiles, and even his own countrymen. (2 Corinthians 11:25-28) Good times, huh???

Yet, he did not lose heart. He said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not in despair. We are persecuted, but not forsaken. We are struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) What was his secret?

Paul did not lose heart because even though his outward man appeared to be perishing, his inward man was renewed daily. (2 Corinthians 4:16) He knew that our physical bodies are just earthen vessels or clay jars that hold a treasure. (2 Corinthians 4:7) That treasure is Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:1) The life of Jesus is manifested in our bodies – our very being. Our relationship with the living Savior is what can keep us from losing heart.

Christians go through the same hardships everyone else does, but they do not go through them alone. God is with them. Christians have hope. They have an eternal glory which far outweighs momentary troubles. They see what cannot be seen with the human eye – the eternal destiny God has planned for them. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Consider this… We will lose heart if we do not renew the inner man daily. (2 Corinthians 4:16) We simply aren’t strong enough physically, emotionally, or spiritually to make it on our own.

When we renew our inner man daily, we can look beyond our situations. A close relationship with God helps us fix our eyes on Jesus, not our circumstances. Our outward body may grow weaker, but our inner being can grow stronger with God’s strength. (2 Corinthians 12:9) God’s renewed strength helps us face what life throws at us each day. We have a hope others don’t have. Therefore, we are not consumed because God’s compassions and mercies do not fail; they are brand new every day. (Lamentations 3:21-24)

The secret to not losing heart is being renewed daily. This only happens when we make it a habit to daily walk with God.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Think of these physical analogies: Our cars can’t run forever on one tank of gas. We can’t stay active on one meal a week. One drink of water occasionally will not keep us from dehydrating. Our spiritual lives are the same. We need to be daily walking with God. This means talking with God, reading His Word, and meditating on how to apply what God reveals to us in our lives – each and every day.

Learn to light a candle instead of curse the darkness. Look for ways to serve others.

When circumstances are bad whisper these words: Lord, I choose to trust You. Help me look beyond my circumstances to You!

God says He will never leave or forsake us. Choose to believe it! (Hebrews 13:5)

Never cease praying for God’s will to be done, not yours. God may not always give us what we want, but He will give us what is best for us. Ask God to help you not to lose heart! (Luke 18:1)


Choose Not to Be Quarrelsome

Barbara | April 30, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

The instructions in Ephesians 4:3 are clear: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.” This is easier said (or read) than done, because people can be very difficult to deal with. And let’s face it, some people are just not as worldly wise or as smart as we are. That’s understandable. After all, the Bible says not many of us highly intelligent and worldly wise are called. (1 Corinthians 1:26)

However, on closer examination, could we highly intelligent and worldly wise people be part of the problem? Is our zeal to prove we are always right hindering our relationship with others and even God? How important is it to always be right?

For example, let’s say you are driving down the road and another car is coming towards you. Both of you are in the same lane. You have a right to be in that lane and the other car doesn’t. However, the other car has no intention of changing lanes. Neither do you. In fact, you are adamant about your right to be there. So a head on collision occurs and both drivers die. Yes, you were right. You might say you were “dead right!” But who cares? You’re dead.

Must we always be “right at any price,” leaving a trail of hurt and sorrow in our wake? Are we overly aggressive and quarrelsome? Do we win the argument, but lose the friend? If so, we might be in danger of being “dead right!”

Or are we peacemakers? The Bible doesn’t say, “Blessed are the belligerent;” it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Perhaps qualities like humility, gentleness, patience, kindness, and meekness might help us get along better with others, more than a “my way or the highway” attitude.

There may be times when we should stand up, stand up for Jesus, but if we are honest with ourselves, most of our conflicts are over trivial matters. The Bible tells us to avoid foolish and ignorant disputes because they generate strife. A servant of the Lord should not quarrel. They should be gentle to all, exhibiting patience and humility. (2 Timothy 2:23-26) God’s servants should be kind to everyone.

What is our goal in dealing with others? Do we want to help them or change them? Do we want to change their point of view? Do we want to promote our thoughts and ideas? Or do we want to pray about it, and open ourselves up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Consider this… It’s not our job to change people. Only God can change them. Only God can grant them repentance. Only God can make them receptive to His truth. Our job is to love them. We need to be asking God to change us, not the other guy.

Disagreements are inevitable – even in the Christian arena. However, Christians should seek to glorify God, not to be offensive or fight. (1 Corinthians 10:31-32) Christians who don’t have a relationship with Christ are more prone to conflicts with others. It seems a shame to fight with those who stand and serve with us at the foot of the cross. Paul and Barnabas had a difference of opinion on how the work should be done, so they separated in a friendly and amicable way. They preserved the unity and peace in the church, even though each had a different serving style. Our way is not the only right way to do something.

Quarrelsome people do nothing to further the gospel. We are here to glorify God, not to prove we are right.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Pray this prayer of David: “Lord, keep me from presumptuous sins.” (Psalm 19:13) Don’t “presume” that you are right and the other guy is wrong.

Don’t argue. Once you resort to arguing or raising your voice, you have lost your credibility. Remember that it takes two to make a quarrel, but only one to end it.

There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion. That’s why we must keep perspective. Having a cold is not the same as having cancer. Learn to overlook minor complaints and move on.

Try to change yourself, not the other guy. Matthew 7:3-5 tells us to get the beam out of our own eye instead of looking for the speck of dust in someone else’s.

Learn this phrase: you might be right. Use it often. Say, “You may be right…” Even though you might be thinking, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” still say, “You might be right.” Another good phrase to use even more often is: I’ll have to give this some thought and prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Let Anger Control You

Barbara | April 23, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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One More Year of Choices

By Barbara Dahlgren

I wanted to title this blog: Choose Not to Get Angry. However, I thought that was a bit unrealistic. Plus, I couldn’t really find biblical support for that. After all, the definition of anger is an intense emotional state induced by displeasure. So anger itself is not the problem, but uncontrolled anger can be.

The Bible doesn’t say not to get angry. It does say: cease from anger (Psalm 37:8), let anger be put away from you (Ephesians 4:31), be angry but don’t sin (Ephesians 4:26), and don’t let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). So I think it’s reasonable to assume even the meekest and mildest of us will get angry from time to time. Even Christ got angry occasionally, but it was directed at the sin, not the sinner.

When Jesus turned the money changers’ tables over at the temple, He was angry at the wrong being done and the total disrespect for God. They were taking advantage of the poor and making God’s house a market place, instead of a house of prayer. (John 2:13-17, Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, Luke 19:45-46)

When religious leaders were testing Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath, Jesus looked at them with anger because He was deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts. (Mark 3:1-6)

Anger is a difficult emotion to keep in perspective. That’s why we are told not to get angry with a brother. (Matthew 5:22) Anger against a brother can cause bitterness, resentment, retaliation, and sometimes murder. Think of Cain and Abel. Unchecked anger embeds itself into our souls. So much so that we can lose all sense of reason. Remember that the word “anger” is just one letter short of “d”anger.

I can’t help but think of the old TV show, the Incredible Hulk. Mild mannered Dr. David Banner would say something like, “You wouldn’t like it if I got angry.” And when he got angry, he turned into a big green monster. The same thing can happen to us if we aren’t careful.

When we get angry, it is seldom for a righteous reason. We think we’ve been wronged. We think we deserve more. We think we aren’t accepted. We think we aren’t respected. We think we aren’t appreciated. We think no one loves us. We think we are being ignored. To be truthful, we think everything is all about us!

Then we each have anger trigger points heightened by being tired, hungry, frustrated, embarrassed, disappointed, stressed, or hurt. Maybe we are having PMS or the male equivalent, IMS. Then our anger gets blown out of proportion. We are like a spray can full of pressure. When just one more thing is added, our button gets pushed and we spray venom all over everyone in our path. We can never get what is spewed out back in that aerosol can. It stays in the air forever. Uncontrolled anger is not good.

Consider this… When Cain was upset that God accepted his brother Abel’s sacrifice and not his, God said, “Why are you so angry? You should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7) But Cain did not rule over it. He let it fester! He became bitter! He ended up killing Abel. So we definitely need to learn to control our anger, or it will control us.

Here are a just a few biblical insights that will help us control anger.

  • Try not to be so overly sensitive or take everything personally. (Proverbs 12:16)
  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19-20)
  • When we do speak, speak gently. A gentle answer turns away wrath. ((Proverbs 15:1)
  • Meditate on God’s word. The Bible says we can be angry, but don’t sin. Instead be still and meditate on God’s word. (Psalm 4:4)
  • Then go one step farther and turn it all over to God. Trust in the Lord. (Psalm 4:5)

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Think about this scripture from James 1:20: Man’s anger or wrath does not produce the righteousness of God.

Ask God to help you look at each situation that angers you from his point of view, not yours.

Say this often: An angry person is seldom reasonable; a reasonable person is seldom angry.

Remember this: For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.

Turn your anger over to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus on Him. Ask Him for His peace. Ask Him for His wisdom in dealing with situations.

 

 

 

 


Choose Not to Worry

Barbara | April 16, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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By Barbara Dahlgren

One More Year of Choices…

People are natural born worrywarts. Did you know that “worrywart” is an actual word? To my way of thinking, any word with “wart” in it can’t be too good. It means: one who is inclined to worry unduly. Worry means to have mental distress or agitation from concern for something anticipated. Worry is a BIG problem. It affects our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Worry can lead to increased heart rate, insomnia, depression, exhaustion, and stress. Worry kills our peace and joy. Worry is a huge waste of time and accomplishes nothing positive.

Yet, we choose to worry. We worry about circumstances we cannot control. We worry about past decisions we cannot alter. We worry about people we cannot change. We worry about what others think of us and worry even more when we discover they haven’t been thinking about us at all. Studies show that 85 % of what we worry about never comes to pass. (The End of Stress by Don Joseph Goewey)

Jesus knew people were prone to worry so He asked a rhetorical question to keep worry in perspective: “Which one of you by worrying can add one inch to his stature?” We all know the answer. No amount of worrying can make us taller or lengthen life. However, it can rob us of sleep, health, and happiness. Worse than that, it can block us from experiencing God’s strengthening, healing, and restoration, plus it can steal our confidence and trust in God.

The Bible exhorts us not to worry. Jesus said not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear, because God knows our needs and will take care of us. (Matthew 6:31,32) Paul tells us not to worry about yesterday, because it’s gone, so look forward to the future. (Philippines 3:13) Although we look forward to the future, Jesus said not to worry about it because God has it all under control. (Matthew 6:34) This doesn’t mean we don’t make plans; it just means we don’t worry about them. We keep God in our planning process and gladly relinquish our grasping control to Him. We put our trust and confidence in Him – not in ourselves.

In fact, we are told not to be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6) Let not our hearts be troubled. (John 14:27) Do not fret. (Psalm 37:7) Fretting makes us irritable, irrational, and critical. A fretful disposition is heard in our voice tones. It’s reflected in our negative attitudes. It’s manifest in our lack of joy. Worrywarts affect not only themselves, but those around them.

Consider this… Worries are like heavy, cumbersome packages we choose to carry. God tells us to cast all our cares on Him. He will carry them for us, because He loves us. (1 Peter 5:7) God’s has us carry the light stuff, He carries the heavy. (Matthew 11:30) Worry is heavy. It weighs us down and wears us out. It tires us so much that we don’t have time or energy for the things that really matter.

What does matter? It’s often found in the midst of scriptures telling us not to worry…

“Do not worry…but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” A thankful prayer brings God’s peace. (Philippians 4:6,7)

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him…Do not fret – it only cause harm.” (Psalm 37:6,7)

“Let not your heart be troubled…rejoice…” (John 14:27-28)

Those who are continually seeking God, praying thankfully, resting in the Lord, waiting patiently for Him, and rejoicing don’t really have time to worry or fret.

Suggestions for practicing this choice…

Start your day with prayer and ask God for a positive outlook.

The moment you start to worry, ask God to calm you and fill you with His peace.

Think about this quote from Winston Churchill: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

Meditate on scriptures. God tells us to meditate about things that are just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8,9)

I love poetry. Here’s a little poem I read years ago. I laminated it to keep in my nightstand. When my mind starts racing at bedtime, I read it over and over again to remind me that God can take care of everything.

Tonight my soul be still and sleep

The storms are raging on God’s deep

God’s deep not thine, be still and sleep

Tonight my soul be still and sleep

God’s hand shall still the tempest’s sweep

God’s hand not thine, be still and sleep

Tonight my soul be still and sleep

God’s love be strong while night-hours creep

God’s love not thine, be still and sleep

Tonight my soul be still and sleep

God’s heaven will comfort those who weep

God’s heaven and thine, be still and sleep

~James Arnold Blaisdell

 


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!