HOPE IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY

This time of the year with all the holiday cheer, there are often thoughts and tears of tragedy from a loss in our life. If you have ever faced unexpected tragedy you know about the craving for assurances. You, a friend, or a family member may have felt the gaping wound caused by divorce, death, disease, or a disheveled dream. You may be searching for answers that will mend and heal. There is hope.

* Someday you will be you again. Things will never be the way they were. After tragedy has struck you are severely wounded. Things will be better, or they will be worse; they will not be restored to how they were. But the good news is that you can carry on as a wounded survivor and face the days ahead with hope of recovery.

* Let God work. Don’t attempt to advise God as to what is best for you. God will make a way for you. Remember that God’s way is not your way. Trust God to do His maintaining, providing,    healing, sustaining, and guiding. Lay aside your human expectations so that you can see God’s answers. Sometimes when solutions are given, you reject them because you had in mind something different, or something easier. If you are trying to figure out how to make it through one of the roughest times you’ve ever encountered, you are not in the position to pick and choose answers. Your only hope lies in the Lord.

* Make wise choices. You have more control over the situation than you might imagine. While you do not have the choice to turn back the clock and restore things to their original order, you do have the choice of going under or going up. Which way is up to you. Every situation, every pain, can go one of two ways; it can depress or motivate. It’s up to you. When you encounter tragedy you can spend your remaining days saturated in grief – blaming God, blaming others, and  blaming yourself – or, learn from the hurt. What you learn of pain will find purpose in helping others who hurt.

* Accept God’s offer. Anticipate that He will come through for you. You can plan to be “all right.” You can intend to let the Heavenly Father handle your private situation with class. The choice is yours. He can get you “unstuck” and get you moving again, but you have to give Him something to work with.

* Acknowledge the pain. He does not minimize your pain. The Lord is not in denial; neither does He expect you to be. God cares. He has not abandoned you. He is right beside you and has been there all along. He hears your sobs and He sees your tears. Some feel if you acknowledge and embrace by pain that you will be stuck with it forever.  The fact is you cannot move anything until you take hold of it.

* Let the healing begin. God is neither handicapped nor weary in the midst of your pain. Nor is He confused or baffled. His strength will deliver you – not barely, but mightily. Then you will be able to praise Him and give Him the glory due His mighty work in your life.

Dr Dale Ackley

SIMPLE WAYS TO BE BLESSED

God did not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way. Disappointments are like road humps, they slow you down a bit but you enjoy the smooth road afterwards. Do not stay on the humps too long. Move on; enjoy the ride.

When you feel down because you did not get what you want, just sit tight and be happy, because God is thinking of something better to give you. When something happens to you, good or bad, consider what it means. There is a purpose to life’s events; to teach you how to laugh more or not to cry too hard.

You cannot make someone love you, all you can do is be someone who can be loved; the rest is up to the person to realize your worth. The measure of love is when you love without measure. In life, there are very rare chances that you will meet the person you love and who loves you in return. So once you have it, do not ever let go; the chance might never come your way again.

It is better to lose your pride to the one you love, than to lose the one you love because of pride.  We spend too much time looking for the right person to love or finding fault with those we already love, when instead, we should be perfecting the love we give.

When you truly care for someone, you do not look for faults; you do not look for answers; you do not look for mistakes. Instead, you fight the mistakes, you accept the faults, and you overlook the excuses. Never abandon an old friend. You will never find one who can take his/her place. Friendship is like cheese; it gets better as it grows older.

Remember, there are simple ways to be blessed:

  1. Free your heart from hatred; practice forgiveness. Relationships are worth more than what money can purchase.  Even within confrontations, friendships are valuable; too valuable to through away and discard.
  1. Free your mind from worries. Distress is an enemy of the body and the mind. Avoid dwelling on unpleasant or non-productive subjects.  Think on good things.
  1. Live simply. Do not get caught up in the competition game. Even if you win, you will loose.  Next thing you know, you will be competing against yourself.
  1. Give more. Practice giving to God first and others second. Give yourself, your time, your finances, your abilities and talents, and your insight to others.
  1. Praise the Lord. No matter the situation, praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy to you and your family.  Your light shines in praise.  Let it shine!

Dr Dale Ackley

Find Joy When You Give

How do you find the cheerfulness God says in the Bible that He loves to see when people give?  Pursue the treasure God wants you to have. Here are some ways you can discover joy when you give:

*  Realize that investing your money in earthly things will provide a limited and temporary payoff at best.  Possessions themselves can’t satisfy you, and often end up possessing you rather than vice versa, because they demand so much time and energy to maintain.

*  Understand that investing your money in eternal ways is guaranteed to pay big dividends, because God has promised to bless gifts faithfully consecrated to Him and use them in ways that bless the givers and others.

*  Acknowledge that it’s God who has given you the ability to earn an income, and that all your money is ultimately His.  Commit to managing that money as effectively as possible, relying on God’s wisdom.

*  Don’t wait until you feel like giving to actually give.  Start giving out of obedience – because you know it’s what God wants you to do and you want to respond faithfully to God.

*  Remember God’s generosity – Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the many blessings God has poured into your life.  Seek to express your thankfulness to God by giving as an act of worship, and allow His love to flow through you to others as you act in generous ways.

*  Make sure that your expenditures match your values.  If you truly value God’s work on earth, you’ll give financially to support it.

*  Wholeheartedly embrace God’s vision for efforts that you sense Him leading you to support.  When you immerse yourself in God’s plans, you’ll get excited about them, and will want to help bring them to fruition.

*  Get out of debt and avoid future debts so your money isn’t tied up in places God doesn’t want it to be, limiting your ability to serve Him.  Before you buy a particular good or service, ask yourself whether it truly reflects your values, and whether you might do better if you were to spend your money in another way.

*  Talk with others about how God is using your giving to help you grow, and listen to their stories of giving and how they’ve grown as a result.  Together, celebrate God’s work in your lives.

Dr Dale Ackley

TOMORROW CAN BE A GOOD DAY

Life can be difficult – but you’re alive. Live to the maximum possible for you. Life goes on, whether you’ve suffered a terrible loss or endured a horrific surgery or lost a child. Tomorrow is coming and you have to face it, but you don’t have to face it alone.

* The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them (Ps. 145:18-19).

* Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28-29). Jesus promises to give you all the rest you need.

* I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:25, 26). Jesus    conquered death when He arose from the grave after His crucifixion, and now He invites you to join Him in that victory by placing your faith in Him. That’s all He asks.

* No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9). Some of God’s promises are so spectacular, so astonishing, so thrilling, that images and words fall impossibly short of conveying their full import.

* God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Heb. 13:5-6).

How to live in this knowledge:

* Start each day with God’s perspective. Take the long view, placing trust and confidence in God, even when your world appears to be falling apart.

* Look to a better day. According to the Bible, a better day is coming in which storm clouds disappear forever and day never turns to night. Present tragedies may make it seem as if life is over, but it isn’t. Tragedy makes life hard; it does not make it hopeless.

* Don’t live in the past. When you live in the past, you sacrifice hope. Thousands of hurting people have chosen to be happy. Choose to make the best of everything. Choose to redeem your present circumstances.

* Get rid of bitterness. Don’t allow unforgiveness and bitterness to steal your joy of living. Bitterness is an emotional and spiritual poison that eventually kills its victims. Confess your unforgiving and bitter heart to the Lord and let Him restore you.

 

Dr. Dale Ackley

YOU CAN MANAGE HIGH-MAINTENANCE RELATIONSHIPS

Difficult people — the ones who fray your nerves and drain your energy — can be found anywhere. If you have high-maintenance relationships with people in your family or neighborhood, at work or at school, you don’t have to despair. There is a better plan for dealing with such relationships than simply trying to avoid difficult people. Here are some ways you can cope with — and even improve — high-maintenance relationships: 
* Rather than focusing on trying to change other people, decide to change your own behavior around them. Commit to building better relationships with them by changing the dynamics of how you interact with them. 

* Realize that all people are valuable and loveable in God’s eyes, even with all their faults, and that He wants you to live at peace with everyone as much as possible. Consider the grace God has extended toward you, and try to extend grace toothers you encounter.

* If you’re dealing with “Critics” (people who constantly complain and boss others around), try setting boundaries with them, scheduling limited, specific times to hear complaints and advice and telling them honestly when they have offendedyou and that you won’t accept criticism that’s not constructive. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, and don’t allow criticism to snuff out the fire of your dreams. 

* If you’re dealing with “Martyrs” (people who always play the role of a victim), try using humor when you’re with them, since laughter is likely to foster a healthier perspective on life. Don’t try to give them advice; that’s futile. Instead, try to help them pinpoint the underlying issues behind their problems, to raise their awareness and spur them to do something about solving them.

* If you’re dealing with “Wet Blankets” (constantly pessimistic people), try to objectively observe their negativity without becoming infected by it yourself. Monitor the messages you give yourself internally, and proactively replace pessimistic ones with realistic ones that reflect the hope you have in Christ. Have positive comebacks when conversing with Wet Blankets, and try using humor with them, too. 

* If you’re dealing with “Steamrollers” (people who are insensitive to others), avoid confronting them to engage in a power struggle. When you can, acknowledge and affirm their ideas so they know you’re listening to them. But refuse to let them bully you, and let them know what specific needs you have when interacting with them so they’re aware of what’s important to you. 

* If you’re dealing with “Gossips” (people who spread secrets and rumors), try protesting the next time they start gossiping. If you don’t speak up, you’re giving them your tacit approval. At the very least, you can walk away so you don’t have to listen. Or, contribute some positive comments about the person who is being gossiped about. If you’re the victim of gossip, quickly confront those who are responsible.

* If you’re dealing with “Control Freaks” (people who want to wield control over every situation), try explaining to them how their behavior makes you feel. Give them as much information as you can about a particular situation so they’ll have less to worry about, and work in advance to negotiate your respective roles in ongoing situations (such as assigning household chores rather than fighting over them each time they need to be done). Help them feel better about who they are as people, rather than just what they do.

* If you’re dealing with “Backstabbers” (deceptive people), avoid sharing your deepest thoughts with them. Once you’re sure that people have acted in a two-faced manner, confront and expose them. Build a support network comprised of people you trust and who trust you. Don’t try to take revenge on Backstabbers; trust God to deal appropriately with them. 

* If you’re dealing with “Cold Shoulders” (people who avoid meaningful contact with others), try exploring whether any recent changes in your relationships with them might have contributed to their decision to disengage. Talk with them openly about the problem. Realize that a cold shoulder reaction doesn’t necessarily mean rejection; there are many possible underlying reasons for it. If Cold Shoulders don’t respond to your efforts to heal relationships with them, grieve the losses and move on. 

* If you’re dealing with “Green-Eyed Monsters” (people who seethe with envy), try praying for them. Don’t take their attacks personally. Don’t hide the hard work you do that contributes to your success, and when you see Green-Eyed Monsters succeeding, compliment them on their own efforts.

* If you’re dealing with “Volcanoes” (people who frequently erupt in anger), try guarding yourself from their wrath by refusing to be a scapegoat and clarifying the reasons behind all conflict. Although it’s tempting to respond with anger yourself, resist doing so. Leave the situations in God’s hands, and pray for the grace to be a peacemaker. 

* If you’re dealing with “Sponges” (people who constantly take but never give back), try making a list of your own needs and desires to help you see how important they are. Don’t allow Sponges to obstruct what you need and want, and deflate each situation they present to you as a crisis by showing them that it’s actually quite manageable. Pray for discernment about how you can be genuinely helpful to them, and limit your help to those ways you believe to be most effective. Say no without feeling guilty. 

* If you’re dealing with “Competitors” (people who keep score in every situation), try simply refusing to play their games by saying that you just want to make conversation and don’t care how you compare to them. Share interests in non-competitive ways to emphasize mutual enjoyment rather than a “win-lose” scenario. 

* If you’re dealing with “Workhorses” (people who never seem to be satisfied), try communicating your limits to them. Realize that you’re human, and humans are imperfect. Give yourself permission to have fun sometimes, even if others don’t. Let them see you pursue your dreams, and listen to them share theirs to help them understand why they’re pushing themselves so hard. 

* If you’re dealing with “Flirts” (people who communicate with innuendoes), don’t blame yourself, because flirting is most often the result of Flirts’ own insecurities. Don’t allow yourself to be cornered by Flirts, and always have a comeback ready to fight them off. Let them see you be openly affectionate with your spouse, or hear you talk lovingly about him or her if your spouse isn’t present. 

* If you’re dealing with “Chameleons” (people who are so eager to please that they lack integrity), try clarifying the commitments they make by asking them to honestly reassess what they think they can do. Affirm the decisions they make to boost their confidence in making their own decisions.

Dr Dale Ackley

Are You Stuck in a Cocoon?

Recent research from both Gallup and Barna indicates that the decision to follow Christ makes surprisingly little difference in how the average American believer lives. It doesn’t change where they spend their time or how they arrange their priorities. It doesn’t affect their integrity at work, their sexual expression, their commitment to marriage, or their principles of parenting. Most likely it’s because these believers got a little bit of the resurrection story, but never fully understood the foundational truths of what was accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection. You want to change, but you feel as if you’re still stuck in the cocoon. Here are five principles of metamorphosis, of life change, that I believe can help bring you or any believer out of the cocoon and into a transformed life.

Principle #1: Life Change Always Begins with the Truth

Life change, real life change, is always rooted in the truth. And the first truth you have to understand is that the power to live a new life was made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ broke the power of sin so you are no longer its captive.

Principle #2: Life Change Demands That We Act on the Truth

Christ won the victory over sin, but you don’t become a co-partaker of Christ’s victory until the moment you receive Christ as your personal savior by faith. The moment that happens, your past is put behind you, the spirit of God comes in, and your sins are forgiven. You are in Christ.

Principle #3: Life Change Is a Gift

You can’t change on your own. Sure, you can discipline your life. You can make some progress. But only God can change your life from the inside out. Only God can make you into the mom or dad that your kids never dreamed they could have. Only God can make you love your spouse unconditionally, even if you get nothing in return. That’s supernatural power. That’s radical change. That’s the gift of God!

Principle #4: Life Change Is a Responsibility

But with the gift comes responsibility. Every believer is given a spiritual gift, a supernatural enabling, at the moment of salvation. It’s a sacred trust given to you for the purpose of service. It’s given to you to fit exactly who you are so that your life and purpose will achieve God’s highest glory and bring about the greatest joy in your life.

Principle #5: Life Change Never Happens in Isolation

I don’t know why, but God uses the spiritual gifts He gives us to work the gift of supernatural change in others. That’s why He chooses to have us live in community together, love each other, and operate out of our giftedness in a way that transformation occurs. The gifts God gives us supply what others need to change into the likeness of Christ.

Dr Dale Ackley

BECOMING GOD’S MASTERPIECE

God has a plan for your life

Just as you have a plan and a design for your garden, God has a plan for your life. Regardless of how your life may look or feel at this moment, know that God is busy at work on His plan for you. His plan reflects His purposes, His methods, and His timetable. “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God’s Good Plan is:

*An Adventure. His plan will end in good for you. This truth can offer security and hope despite the ups and downs of life. Let your life be your personal adventure with God.

*A Process. We tend to like end results more than the process that gets us there. Like the Israelites, you have to experience the blows before you can experience the blessings.

*An Opportunity. Try to profit from every experience that comes your way, the difficult and painful times as well as those times when life is going smoothly.

*A Fact. His plan is an unshakable truth, which can give you a sense of security when life seems anything but secure. God is still on His throne and nothing can interfere with His plans. From our perspective, a situation may look hopeless, but from the throne of God, the situation is part of the process that is making you more Christ-like and moving you closer to the fulfillment of the good plan God has for you.

*Purging and Pruning. Before God’s plan can come to full fruition in your life, He must eliminate all that is old, dead, and useless in your character. The process can be painful but gives an opportunity to love God by trusting that He is at work in your life to bring about the beauty that He has promised.

Dr Dale Ackley