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Thursday
Jan292015

Tearing and Healing

Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries, encourages us with a Spiritual UPGRADE, written from her unique perspective of dealing with a life of chronic illness and pain. 

Lisa asks, How does one make sense of the scriptures where it says God will inflict trouble or suffering on us?”

I (Dawn) think that’s an age-old question. Remember the Patriarch Job’s friends, wondering why God allowed Job to suffer so?

Lisa continues . . .

Hosea told God’s people, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds(Hosea 6:1).

This is a difficult verse to swallow when we are feeling beaten down. He tore us to pieces? He has injured us?

On purpose?!

Is this the loving God we worship?

Yes. It is.

For a variety of reasons outside of my illness, this has been the most difficult season in my life. Someone recently gave me a kind compliment on my endurance and faith and I replied,

“It is called ‘face-plant faith’ when you are on your knees–spiritually–every moment.”

So, of all the scriptures, why does this one bring me comfort? Because it reminds me God is still in control.

We don’t worship a God who specializes in leftovers, making something out of Satan’s mess. He can take our sins—our messed up life—and make miracles.

But do we really believe God is at the mercy of waiting for the evil one to play his games so He has something to build on?

No!

 God knew before we were born that our life would have seasons of joy and seasons of tears and He knew every cause of them.

God is much more interested in cleaning us out than cleaning us up.

He debrides us, layer by layer by layer.  He removes everything that impedes our spiritual healing.  

And it hurts. It hurts more than anything we will ever go through.

(NOTE: Lisa explains the painful  "debriding" concept so beautifully in this video.)

But we gradually depend on less of our own strength and more of His. The layers of sin get skimmed off in the fire and yet we still do not get burned.

He may withdraw His protection at times, but never His presence.

It is hard to read scriptures about God not just allowing pain, but sometimes inflicting it. But don’t forget, He is our Father. No pain is without a purpose.

God can only truly heal our heart by getting rid of the sin from the inside out.

Are you going through a tough time of “tearing” right now? Can you see how God might be “debriding” your life to heal you for your good and His glory?

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

(This post is adapted from Lisa’s devotional at RestMinistries.com, 11-4-13, “Is Our Suffering God Tearing Us to Pieces to Build Us Back Up?”  

 

Tuesday
Jan272015

Be On Purpose!

Last year, Kathy Carlton Willis shared how to set true D.R.E.A.M. goals. She continues in that theme with this encouraging New Year UPGRADE.

Most of us set goals for 2015 at the start of the year,” Kathy says. “How many of you are already struggling to stick with the plan? Or was there even a true plan to begin with? It’s possible you had more of a wish list of destinations rather than a roadmap for how to get there!”

Do you have a roadmap for 2015? I (Dawn) think we all need one. Otherwise, how will we know when we’ve arrived at our destination?

Kathy continues . . .

January is National “Be On Purpose” Month. What a terrific time for us to evaluate where we were, where we are, and where God wants us to be, operating in the purpose He has for planting us on earth.

We’ve all heard how important it is to place ourselves in the passenger’s seat and allow God to be in the driver’s seat. (Remember calling out “shotgun” as kids, when we ran to the car at the beginning of a road trip? It was the best seat in the vehicle!)

The next best thing so we can get to our destination is to have that roadmap I mentioned earlier.

Live life on purpose, not random accidents.

Today, someone from out of town called asking for directions to our home. She was quite directionally challenged. I told her to go west and she asked if that was left or right. We realized she worked better with landmarks (such as Dairy Queen) rather than measuring blocks, or watching for street names.

Jean’s problem was, she didn’t have a step-by-step GPS to direct her. She had a map that took her to a dot on the map for our town. She had our street address. But she had nothing to connect the dots from the city limits sign to our home.

Life coaches teach the principle of intentionality.

Setting specific intentions allows life travelers to measure progress.

This is the opposite of the guy on the old donut commercial who arose from bed, still half asleep, and said, “Time to make the donuts.” He went from one task to another, with no extra effort or thought, zero passion, and nothing new to show for his work than the day before.

Donuts.

Intentionality allows you to fulfill God’s passions in your life. It puts steps to your goals.

 God’s blessings don’t rely on our work. But He is pleased when we acknowledge His purpose in our lives.

Think of each intentional choice as a step of obedience. Another mile marker on our journeys.

We don’t get to our destination by accident. It’s living life on purpose.

What Living Life on Purpose Isn’t:

  • You can’t wish it here.
  • You can’t fake it ‘til you make it.
  • You can’t procrastinate it into existence.
  • You can’t hope someone else takes care of your business for you.
  • You can’t skip some of the steps to try to speed up the process.

Your upgraded life requires intention. It takes plans. It works best when you operate within your strengths and giftings. It takes strategy. It requires setting up some steps between departure and destination to act as landmarks so you know you’re going in the right direction.

Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came” (Jeremiah 31:21 NLT).

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  • What does God want me to accomplish in 2015? What is God’s big picture for my five-year plan, my ten-year plan, my life-plan?
  • How does God lead me to use my natural and spiritual gifts, strengths and personality type to best fulfill these end results?
  • What are the biggest challenges and obstacles in getting to the destination? What detours can I pre-plan to avoid the roadblocks?

Define Your Landmarks:

1. Think of the steps to get from departure spot to destination. Seek God’s wisdom, allowing Him to be a Vision-Caster in your life.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open” James 1:5 (MSG).

2. Write down your plan.

“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV).

3. Get to work! A dream can’t come true without putting effort into it—not just talk.

For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3 AMP).

 Follow the directions, step by step.

What will you do today to live life on purpose, rather than simply going through the motions of making the donuts?

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published and she has several books releasing over the next three years, including Grin with Grace (release date 3/20/15) with AMG Publishers, CBD and Amazon. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas. Learn more at: www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

Thursday
Jan222015

The Enemy in Your House

All too often wives treat their husbands like the enemy, but they've got it all wrong! In this Marriage UPGRADE, let's consider the real enemy in so many homes.

"Our real enemy is not our spouse, as much as it might feel that way," Leslie Vernick wrote in How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.* "Our enemy is Satan and the evil he stands for."

Whether it feels like all hell is breaking loose or we're simply "ticked off" at our spouse's rude or insensitive behavior, it helps to remember there's more at stake then just "us two."

Satan delights in ruining relationships, especially when that relationship is supposed to picture the beauty of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:22-32).

Satan is an evil destroyer; he prowls around, trying to devour us as we follow Jesus (1 Peter 5:8). The devil hates what God loves and loves what God hates.

Satan hates a loving, God-honoring marriage.

And he's so tricky, so subtle. Here are some of His tactics:

1. The Father of Lies blinds us to the truth (John 8:44).

Every marriage partner has blind spots, and Satan wants to keep us in the dark about our weaknesses, pet sins, and how we can hurt our spouse. He loves it when we believe lies about our marriage.

2. He suggests evil thoughts and motives. (Examples of how he works: John 13:2; Acts 5:3)

This is why it is so crucial to stay in the scriptures, to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2) so we recognize evil.

3. He promotes disunity, bitterness and an unforgiving spirit (James 3:14-15; Ephesians 4:26-27).

He wants us to focus on our partner's short-comings and forget our own. He loves it when we hold grudges and speak angry, bitter words, forgetting how much we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).

4. He tempts us to be sexually immoral (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Whether through impure thoughts, or immoral temptations like pornography and adultery, Satan looks for a "foothold" or opportunity (Ephesians 4:27) in every marriage.

The Devil's agenda is simple: Total Destruction! And he is cunning; he doesn't want us to understand he's in the middle of the messes in our relationships.

As Leslie Vernick wrote,

"His tactics always involve sin, and so we often end up fighting each other instead of our real enemy.

"When we react sinfully to our spouse's wrongs, Satan wins. He accomplishes his goal—to destroy our homes and our lives, not to mention our witness for Christ."

And we can't afford to be passive about this, because Satan's attacks are relentless.

So, how can you and I deal with the real enemy in our homes? We can:

  • Seek the Lord in His Word and in prayer. God's divine power can "demolish strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4) in our marriages.
  • Submit our life and marriage to God (James 4:7a).
  • Resist the enemy (James 4:7b).
  • Wise up! Become more alert to Satan's tricks (2 Corinthians 2:11) in our life and marriage.
  • Arm ourselves against the devil's wicked strategies (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Let me get personal.

If you're married, it's not all about you. It's not even about the two of you!

It's about the glory of God. It's about preserving the sanctity of marriage. It's about you and your partner's spiritual health. It's about a watching world. And if you have children, it's about leaving them a strong legacy.

On this last point, one of my sons once told me he is motivated to keep working on his marriage because of the examples he's seen in our and his grandparents' marriages, and other godly marriages in our extended family. Fighting the battle for marriage is so crucial for those coming after us.

What is your biggest struggle with your spouse? Do you understand who the real enemy is in your house?

 Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

* NOTE: I recommend Leslie's book to every married woman: How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (Waterbook Press, 2001). Quotes: pp. 66-68.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday
Jan202015

One Bite at a Time

I wish I’d known, as a small child, the value of time. From the very beginning of our days, we have countless daily opportunities to use time efficiently … or waste it, sometimes with incalculable loss. Most of us could use a Time UPGRADE.

The philosopher and American colonist William Penn said, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

Some people are time management experts, but others are “experts” in the haphazard use of time! And even if time is not thrown away, it might not be used wisely or well.

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden explained the value of time and excellence when he said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

I’ve been focusing lately on “recapturing” time that I often let slip through my fingers by redeeming snippets of time for simple tasks, even for things I’ve put off. Sometimes we procrastinate tackling big projects, not realizing how they might be accomplished with bite-size tasks.

The timer has become my new friend.

I set my timer for 10 minutes and tackle timed tasks (lots of “Ts” there!). Some days, I tackle lots of these tasks. In fact, I set aside a chunk of time on Tuesdays to accomplish lots of things—my Tuesday Timer Tasks.

What can you do in 10 minutes?

  • Make an appointment on the phone.
  • Write a thank you note… or encouragement note.
  • Water your garden (unless it’s huge).
  • Sew on a button.
  • Make a grocery or shopping list.
  • Brush your dog’s fur.
  • Vacuum under the beds.
  • Fold a basket of laundry.
  • Clean the bathtub.
  • Read a “Golden Book” to a child.

What helps is to make a Tuesday Timer Task list! Think of all the things you can do in 10 minutes and list them – maybe in categories (cleaning, correspondence, personal care, pets, yard/garden, etc.)

The Bible talks about redeeming time (buying up each opportunity), “because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Verse 15 talks about living in a purposeful, wise way.

The “days are evil” part should remind us to watch our step and use our head because these are desperate times. Some things just aren’t as important or as valuable now as they used to be, in light of all we have to deal with in our culture.

It goes back to priorities, doesn’t it? What is important?

For the Christian, our priorities are: (1) God and our relationship with Him; (2) Family needs and responsibilities; (3) Career and ministry (Kingdom work) – especially in (4) outreach to others, telling them about Jesus.

Try thinking about all the “tasks” in your day and see how they fit in with your God-given priorities. Let some things go that don’t fit in, but plan more time for things that are truly important.

God things. Family things. Ministry things. Eternal things!

What are some Tuesday Timer Tasks you could list?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Thursday
Jan152015

Searching for God's Will

Author and speaker Ava Pennington is a Bible teacher whose heart’s desire is to drive women to the scriptures and help them focus on God. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us learn how to discover God’s will.

“I love a good mystery … unless I’m searching for God’s will in a particular situation,” Ava writes.

And yet God’s will often seems to be a mystery, doesn’t it? I know I (Dawn) would like His will to be easier to discover. Maybe you would too?

Ava continues…

  • Should I take that job?
  • Is he the right man for me?
  • Which house should we buy?

God’s will doesn’t have to be a mystery, but first we need to begin with another question.

Do we really WANT to know God’s will for our lives? What if God’s will is for us to persevere with an insufferable boss? Remain in a loveless marriage? Serve as missionaries in Bangladesh?

Some things are God’s will for all of us.

Isaiah 43:7 says we are created to display God’s glory. Anything that doesn’t bring Him glory cannot be His will for us.

We also know God wants “all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). We glorify God by living in a way that reflects this relationship.

The apostle Paul said, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

God’s will for our lives is also found in transformation by renewing our minds to prove his will (Romans 12:1-2).

But what about gray areas not spelled out in the Bible? Should you take a new job? Marry that Christian man? Buy the house? God said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you.…” (Psalm 32:8).

The answers may not seem clear at first, but if we’re seeking God’s will, He will reveal it through:

1. Prayer - Regular time in prayer is a must for the child of God. But few of us stay on our knees after we’ve made our requests. Instead, we end our prayers and we’re out the door, unmindful of the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Our iPods, car radios, or racing thoughts drown Him out.

Tip: The next time you pray, stay on your knees and listen as the Lord speaks to your heart.

2. The Bible - The Bible has answers, but they may not be spelled out. For example, it won’t tell you what car to buy, but instead, provides stewardship principles about giving, saving, debt, and spending.

Tip: Study God’s Word to identify spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational principles.

3. Circumstances - Christians often look for signs of God’s leading. If a door opens, it must be God’s will, right? Maybe not. God may lead by creating opportunities, but He isn’t the only one who opens doors. Satan also manipulates events (John 8:44). 

Tip: The next time you’re tempted to act because a door opens or closes, remember circumstances are only one piece of the puzzle.

4. Counsel - Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Still, we must choose counselors wisely.

Tip: Instead of seeking those who tell us what we want, seek mature Christians whose lives reflect God’s principles.

5. Confirmation - If we’re seeking God’s will unreservedly, praying and listening, reading His Word for applicable principles, and seeking godly counsel, God will give confirmation. He does so by giving us peace through His Holy Spirit.

Tip: Peace doesn’t mean the absence of trouble. Times of obedience to God’s leading are often times of greatest attack by Satan.

As we seek God’s will, we’ll see that it’s not mysterious and it’s not a destination. God’s will is the life we live as we walk with Him!

In what area are you searching for God’s will today? Will you commit to seeking His will, not as a destination, but as a way of life?

Ava Pennington’s newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. She has also written numerous magazine articles and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and the Christian Authors Network (CAN). Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class of 175+ women. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at AvaWrites.com.

Graphic Image adapted, courtesy of stockimages / FreeD