Gratitude, Holidays (Other), Mailbag, Thanks/Thanksgiving

The Mailbag: When Negative Nelly Comes to Thanksgiving Dinner

 

What are some ways we can remain thankful when dealing with a family member that is quite often a “negative nelly”?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for most of us, that means spending time with family members. Family members who sometimes rub us the wrong way. How to maintain an attitude of gratitude while Negative Nellie natters on? Try this:

1. Remember that God created Nellie in His image just like He created you, and keep that thought pinned to the front of your brain whenever you’re engaged in conversation with her. This is someone God loves, and He desires for her to know Him despite all her faults and foibles the very same way God loves you and desires for you to know Him.

2. And right next to that first thought at the front of your brain, pin this one up too:

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31

It’s the Golden Rule we’ve been hearing since childhood: “Treat other people the way you would want to be treated.” Although I frequently fail at carrying out this command, one thing that helps me is to remember that for every person who gets on my nerves, there are probably ten people whose nerves I’m getting on. How would I want those people to treat me?

3. The more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced that the longing of many folks’ hearts is just to be heard. We don’t take a lot of time to simply sit and listen to others any more. That leaves many people feeling lonely and invisible. Sometimes the best way we can show someone she is loved is just to hear her out.

Additionally, taking the time to listen to someone benefits you in a couple of ways.

First, you might gain some insight into why Nellie is constantly complaining or pessimistic. Maybe she’s lonely, or in a lot of pain from an illness, or there are problems in her marriage. If you get a better grip on what the underlying problems are, maybe there’s a way you could serve her, help her, counsel her, or pray for her.

Second, when you invest time in listening to someone, she’s much more likely to listen to you when you speak to her. (Which, of course, should not be your main motivation for listening to her.) And that means you’ll hopefully have a much more receptive audience with her when you…

4. Share the gospel with Nellie. If she’s lost, that’s one of the reasons she’s being negative. She’s burdened down with sin and its consequences and she doesn’t have the hope, joy, and peace that only Christ can give. Be kind, compassionate, and understanding, and steer the conversation toward the cross.

5. Pray three ways:

•If you know you’re going to be seeing Nellie at Thanksgiving dinner, start praying for her, the needs in her life, and how you can minister to her, now. It will prepare your heart for interacting with her, it will change your heart attitude toward her, and it will help you to continue being thankful instead of getting bogged down in Nellie’s negativity.

•Stay thankful by offering a silent prayer of gratitude to God whenever Nellie starts nay-saying. Thank Him for giving you the opportunity to minister to her, thank Him for protecting you from whatever circumstances she’s complaining about, thank Him for her.

•If Nellie has been going on in a negative vein for a while, take a moment when she pauses to offer a few genuine words of kindness and compassion and then ask if you can pray for her about the situation, right there, right then. Don’t do this often enough to be annoying, but do it more than once, if the opportunity presents itself. She will either be touched by your compassion and reminded to be thankful instead of grousing, or she may be averse to the idea and stop complaining to you so you won’t keep asking to pray for her. Either way, win-win. (And, of course, you can still pray for her in your heart.)

6. Set an example of thankfulness. Before Nellie even has a chance to open her mouth in negativity, you start – and set the tone for – the conversation. Tell her the latest in your life and remark on what you were thankful for in that circumstance. When someone else, or even Nellie, is telling her story, gently “bring out the blessing” in her tale: “Wow, God was so good to heal you from that cold!” “How wonderful that your son took the time out of his busy schedule to come visit you!” “I know how annoying it is when your cat runs away, but it’s so awesome that your neighbor found her and brought her back to you!”.

7. If Nellie is a Believer, it might be time for a gentle, biblical rebuke and encouragement to thankfulness. You’ll have to be extra vigilant to use godly wisdom in doing this at a family gathering (and you may want to just wait until after the holidays), choosing just the right moment, being careful to speak to Nellie privately and to cloak your words in kindness and understanding (see #2). (Also, keep in mind that sometimes the things we do are so habitual we don’t even realize we’re doing them. She might be totally clueless that she’s constantly complaining or looking at every glass as half-empty.) A great way to start a conversation like this is with a few questions. You might say something like this:

Nellie, I was just wondering, are you doing OK?

Of course. Why do you ask?

Well, from the things you’ve been telling me (cite an example or two) – maybe you don’t even realize this – but it sounds like you might be struggling a little with joy and thankfulness. Is there anything I can do to help? Any way I can pray for you? As your sister in Christ, I love you and I want to be an encouragement to you. I’m concerned that you might be experiencing some bitterness or discontent in your heart, and I just wanted to step in, offer you some love, help, and encouragement, and hopefully help you keep that bitterness from taking root. I want that joy and peace for you that are ours in Christ Jesus. I want you to be able to give thanks in all circumstances. Is there any way I could be helpful to you with that?

 

It can be difficult, depressing, and frustrating to be around someone who always sees the black cloud behind the silver lining. But if we keep in mind that, as Believers, it’s really not about our feelings of discomfort, it’s about God presenting us with an opportunity to show love and minister the gospel to someone, we can face those negative nellies in our lives with a whole new Christ-centered perspective. Happy Thanksgiving!


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Encouragement, Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Stories from Several Sisters

On today’s Testimony Tuesday,
several sisters in Christ share their stories.

From Facebook:

Cheryl’s Story
Words are powerful, and when they are well intended, but off-base, they can cause massive damage.

About 25 years ago we lost two of our three babies to a genetic disease. When the second of the two was still with us, (they died 4 years apart), a well-intentioned person came to encourage us, and told us, “If you have enough faith, your baby will live”.

Those words were a hook that dragged me through years and years of torment. “If I have enough faith, then…” My baby died, so it became MY FAULT because I didn’t have sufficient faith. It also made God someone who couldn’t be pleased. How much faith DOES one need to get a miracle, and how do you get it?? It was a huge can of worms.

Two decades later, I broke down into a major depression that nearly ended my life, but God led me to safe counsel, and I was truly, finally healed from carrying that horrible guilt and grief all those years.

Words are powerful. Use wisdom because sometimes Satan uses well-intentioned words as bait that have lies wrapped in them.

Anonymous
I was going to a charismatic church and the pastor started promoting and giving Rick Warren’s book Purpose Driven Life out to all the new Christians. I was very concerned since I don’t agree with Warren’s teaching so I made an appointment to meet with the pastor and his wife (who is a co-pastor). They didn’t agree with my concerns at all and even mentioned during the conversation that they like Joel Osteen! I knew then that it was time for me to leave that church. I started attending a Baptist church and have left the Word of Faith doctrine completely. Feeling very blessed to be where I am now!

Comments from blog articles:

From The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband:

Deby’s Story
Submission has gotten a bad rap in our society. It is not being a doormat or being mentally or a physically abused submission. It is submitting as if to Christ. My husband was not a believer and now he is. It was hard for me not to nag him about things, I had to trust God and put my husband in God’s hands and his will. Sure I made some mistakes along the way but eventually in God’s timing not mine, he called my husband to the faith.

Catherine’s Story
When I was first married, I was the unsaved and my dearest husband was the Believer. You have no idea what that man of mine had to put up with in the first 2 years of our marriage before the Lord got a hold of my heart and I was made to look at my own depravity, sinful desires, and all-around foolishness. I am a fortunate woman that my husband stuck around for that conversion, and I know that too was part of a Sovereign Lord’s plan and one that I cannot thank Him enough for. After 32 years of marriage, I have not “arrived”. I look back on those first couple years and I’m humbled by what the study of God’s Word and the sanctification that the Spirit works in a person’s life has done to change me so completely.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Encouragement, Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Barbara’s Story

Barbara’s Testimony

I can only start with, “God help me, I’m so very weak.”

Last March I trembled my way to pre-op for open heart surgery. With promises from my husband I’d be okay, I kissed him hurriedly goodbye. I opened my eyes, two open heart surgeries and seventeen days later. Still nearer to death than life. My darling husband smiling down at me.

I couldn’t move. I was so very weak, hallucinating from the drugs they had used to keep me sedated all that time. I was confused and scared. Nothing made sense.

Eleven months later I’ve been through a grinding process of rehab. Eleven weeks in the hospital, finger amputations (tops, tips, half my thumb, toes), lung failure, kidney failure (kidneys are better!) but NO SURGEON could fix my spiritual heart.

I strove, oh I have and do, to live this life as a godly wife, even when some “charismatic ” friends said it was foolish and not really what the Bible said. My sister arguing with me that serving gets you nowhere, if men are too weak or lazy just step in (as if I’m not weak or lazy!)

But there he was, Dave, smiling down at me, so happy I was still with him. I couldn’t move from my bed, I was attached to dozens of lines, but he only left me to go to the hotel to sleep. For weeks he was with me constantly. He made sure I was okay. For the last year he has served me, while I’ve been crazy humbled.

Every day, he helps me dress, get washed, gets me to therapy. Every day, he makes me tea (the best!) and toast. He makes sure I have lunch and checks in on me often. He cooks dinners (say “Hello Fresh”) and then gets me tucked in at night. He listens to Steve Lawson with me in the morning. He prays with and for me.

Why did I type all this? Because, though I was the server, he was a server too. We were a team in that regard. Then it shifted. I was no longer a participant in our marriage in any physical way. AT. ALL.

And he just didn’t care. Oh yes, my pride made me cry a lot. My fear made me cry a lot. But he just said, “Barb, you’ve served me for 27 years. I got this now.” He did. He puts together my 65 pills a day, he rubs my destroyed feet, he holds me when I’m just too tired and I feel I can’t go on. He always has been a godly husband to me, but Jesus has shone through, shining into the lives of tens of other (mostly women) who watch his grave, grace-filled care of me and ask us, “Why?”. And we get to share the gospel.

It’ll be a year soon and I struggle NOW more than ever putting my life in his hands, shutting my tongue, speaking kindly, knowing that my life must have room for tragedy, but that God is working it all out for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I don’t know any more about the length of my life now than I ever did. God has surprised me with extended life since my first breath! So, I pray I remember these simple but freeing truths. Freedom from sin, free to trust, free to simply be.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Encouragement, Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Berna Deene’s Story

testimony-tuesday

Berna Deene’s Testimony

(Berna Deene shared this with her family and friends on social media
and is sharing it with us today)

“Let the redeemed of the LORD SAY SO,
whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy!”
[Psalm 107:2]
“Come and hear, all ye that fear God,
and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. ”
[Psalm 66:16]

My dearest family and friends,

I know you see what is on my timeline, I know because periodically you will hit the like button. I am asking each and every one of you to share this with your family and friends.

I spent the majority of my life dead spiritually. I wouldn’t admit there was a God, I didn’t like God and wanted nothing to do with Him other than a prayer now and then asking for help when I got myself in trouble. I never believed He heard me and as it turns out, it says in the Bible that He does not listen to the prayers of (unrepentant ) sinners. (Proverbs 15:29 “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” And again in John 9:31 “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will”)

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My life was long, longer than I wanted. I was ready for it to end. I had seen everything, done everything, was afraid of everything even though most thought me quite gregarious and bold. I was so sick of living, so sick of this world, running myself ragged trying to fix the world while blind to the fact that it was not in my control to do so. I was listening to a song on my computer one day…..Laura Story singing Blessings….and as she sang “this is not our home” I knew! I knew Jesus was with me. He had come for me. He calmed me….THEN, THEN, GOD, started drawing me, He called me (and I don’t mean I heard Him yell “Berna Deene”) but He called me just the same. He put me on my face and knees in my living room all by myself and I cried out to Him. I ask Him to forgive me.

I was a rebellious drug addicted rock and roll feminist. I believed in pro choice and pro gay marriages, I believed when you died you died. Period. I believed and lived like there was no tomorrow and indeed most the time I was hoping there would not be. He forgave me All of that. He opened my blind eyes, He replaced a heart of stone which I was born with, and gave me a throbbing heart of flesh which beats every moment and cries out “my God, my God, thank You for being my God.” He changed my mind when He changed my heart. I went from pro choice to knowing it was no choice. It is God’s choice. I went from believing everyone had a right to love whom they wanted, when they wanted and who did it hurt. It hurts them. And it makes God very very angry.

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You see, in Genesis, right at the beginning as He created EVERYTHING, He set the way. Man, woman, child, beast. Marriage was between one man and one woman. Man was the head over the woman and meant to protect, provide and if necessary lay down his life for her. Woman was to be of support and submit to her husband just as we all, men, women and children are to submit to the LORD. She was to bear the children, teach and raise them to love, worship and obey God. But Eve listened to evil in the garden, deceived she decided on her own to eat the forbidden fruit, then offered it to Adam who ate it also even though he knew God said it was not allowed. From then on each and every one of us have been born dead spiritually and it isn’t until we are born again that we can reconnect with our Creator.

Why am I writing this? I have had loved ones die, that I know are not in heaven. I was not born again at the time of their dying so I could not be a witness to them about Jesus, born of a virgin, leading a totally sinless life, hanging on the cross with the sins of His sheep heavy on Him, dying to save me, and lo and behold resurrecting in 3 days just as He said He would! There are no coincidences in life my friends. The LORD GOD, knows all, sees all, and will judge all. Jesus is coming back. He said, if you repent and believe He will in no way turn you away.

Repent doesn’t just mean I’m sorry, It means to turn around from your sins, and leave them behind, Remorsefully bow at the foot of the cross where HE shed His blood to cleanse us. Doesn’t mean we don’t falter, slip, are perfect. No way. He was the only perfect one. But if you think you are born again, and your life hasn’t changed completely, drastically, and you don’t hate what you used to love, like drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, porn, abortion, cussing, gossiping, then you need to think again.

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If you are not now Christ centered, waking in the morning and thinking of God, praising and praying and obeying His Word, think about Him through out the day and in bed as you lay down at night…you need to re-evaluate yourself. If you aren’t reading the Bible, the Word of God every day, if you don’t go and read where you can find out what HE expects and commands of us, how can you say you love HIM and you are His? If your soul isn’t grieving for the lost, the unsaved, the unrepentant, if you are not sharing your faith and Jesus, please reconsider if your new birth was in fact the born again that Jesus Himself spoke of.. None of us are guaranteed the next minute let alone tomorrow. Do not put off seeking HIM. Time is so much shorter than you think. I love you and I want to see you in heaven. I remain …..in praise, prayer and need of prayer.

Your sister Berna Deene


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Encouragement, Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Lisa’s Story

testimony-tuesday

My Testimony to the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ

by Lisa Brown

My prayer is that God would use this as a witness to His Truth and that He will be glorified.

When I was 12, during an invitation, I walked the aisle up to the pastor. The Sunday before, an 11-year-old boy had been saved and I didn’t like that he was only 11 and I was 12 and I hadn’t “done that yet”. I do remember knowing “Jesus died on the cross for me”. I didn’t understand what that meant, but since I had heard this all my life, I believed it. I don’t remember what I said or what the pastor said. I remember being told that I was saved and was baptized a few Sundays later. Nothing about me changed.

For the next 23 years I did whatever I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it without regard to whether or not it was pleasing to God, nor did I care. It didn’t matter to me how I lived my life as long as God forgave me at the end and I didn’t go to Hell. As I was in and out of churches, the false belief that I was saved was reinforced by the sermons I heard. I could name a time and place I had “made a decision for Christ”. I didn’t really understand what salvation was but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t see myself as having sinned against a holy God. As far as I was concerned I had prayed the prayer and that was all I needed to do.

lisas-story-edited

When I was 35, God caused me to see how sinful I was (I will spare you the details). For the first time I realized that my prayer as a kid did not save me. For the first time, I hated who I was and how I had been living my life. For the first time, I realized that how I was living my life hadn’t just hurt me, my friends and my family, but I had grieved God. For the first time I understood that salvation was not just about getting out of Hell. I finally understood what “Jesus died on the cross for me” meant. I finally understood how wretched I was and why Jesus had to die for me. It was at this time, that I truly wanted God to forgive me and save me and I knew then that I belonged to Him.

The Holy Spirit has taught me so much in the past 16 years and has grown me steadily at times and by great leaps and bounds at other times. The first 5 years He showed me how I was to live my life as a Christian. I wasn’t very good at it. I had no one to mentor/disciple me. But, as time went by, God taught me more and more through reading Scripture and my desire to obey Him grew. The next 9 years He showed me that because I desire to obey Him I would lose some close relationships and other friendships but that He is never going to leave me. He strengthened the godly friendships and brought strong Christians into my life, including moving me from one church to another so that I would be taught and understand the truth of His Sovereignty. He has also taught me even more to not depend on myself or other people but to completely depend on Him. He has taught me not to be afraid to ask Him to break me.

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About 2 years ago God gave me a greater understanding that my relationship with Him is not about how obedient I am. Much of what I had believed since being saved was that I had to “be good” or God would not be pleased with me and not hear my prayers. I knew I was saved but thought that my day to day relationship with God was based on how good I was. I hadn’t prayed enough. I hadn’t read my Bible enough. I hadn’t shared the Gospel enough. I hadn’t given enough. I continually felt that God was not pleased with me most of the time and I needed to do better so God would hear my prayers. I thought that I was forgiven of my past sin but had to answer to God later for all these sins I was committing now and continually having to repent of.

When I was challenged by a friend to dig deeper into God’s Word I realized that when God forgave me, He not only forgave me of my past sins, but for ALL my sin. God is pleased with me because of Jesus, and not because I am meeting some standard. That correction in my thinking was a great burden lifted. Now, I live my life for God because he saved me and not because I don’t want God to regret that He saved me. What freedom! God’s grace to me is beyond my understanding and I can never be grateful enough for it and I can never love God the way He deserves to be loved, but I can obey His commands out of gratefulness and love and no longer out of fear of disapproval.

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God continues to teach me and draw me closer to Him. He has put a love in my heart for fellow believers. This is a big deal because there were times that I didn’t think I was capable of loving anyone other than my children. He has brought a precious Christian friend into my life that truly cares about my relationship with God. She has mentored and discipled me and continually pushes me toward God with both her words and her example. I have grown more passionate for Scripture and my time alone with God. I am learning every day and falling in love with Jesus more and more.

I want the world to know God as righteous and holy and treat Him with respect and reverence; not in a casual manner as a buddy, or as merely a gift giver. I want everyone to understand that God is not only good when we get the things we desire, but that He is inherently good. I want my friends to be aware of the dangers of false teaching, so I warn them. I want others to understand who God is and the truth of His Word so I share the Gospel. I want others to truly understand how man’s standard for goodness compares to God’s so that they can see their own sin. I want the whole world to hear about God’s salvation, but my heart goes out mostly to those that sit in churches week after week like I did as a false convert.

 

Please pray for Lisa: Prayers would be appreciated. I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is the 2nd time. The first was 19 years ago. I had surgery last week and am now recovering. Doing this all with a broken foot. God is merciful and worthy of all my praise. I just want Christ to be glorified.

Update from Lisa (1/21/16): “Thank you to those that have been praying. I just learned yesterday that the cancer is not in my lymph nodes so I do not have to have chemo. And I have plenty of family and friends to help me while I recover from the cancer surgery with a broken foot. God is merciful!”


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!