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   and Founder:

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Thursday
Mar232017

What Does 'Walking in the Light' Look Like?

In this longer Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson asks us to consider our "walk" with the Lord. Are we truly walking in the light? What does that even look like?

It's a well-know metaphor in Christian circles: We're to "walk in the light."

But it's often misunderstood.

It doesn't just mean to live openly and honestly before people. It doesn't even mean to behave well.

To walk in the light biblically has a far deeper and more significant meaning.

One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 5:8:

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light."

Maybe it's because my name is "Dawn," but I've always been fascinated with light. This scripture awakened me to the whole concept of "light in the Lord."

Paul was admonishing Christians to live in light of the light God has provided us in the example of Jesus and in the truth of the Word of God.

This concept began in the Old Testament when saints were encouraged to walk in "the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).

Isaiah predicted that people who "walked in darkness" would see a "great light" (9:2); and in due time, Jesus came down from the "Father of Lights" (James 1:17). Those who trusted in Christ would find light for life (Isaiah 50:10).

The Father's nature is light. There is no darkness or evil in Him at all. And Jesus, His Son, is the pure Light of the World (John 8:12). He is the provider of the Father's light to us.

Jesus is the "true light, which gives light to everyone," John said (John 1:9). In Him, we don't need to walk in darkness.

So what does it mean to "walk in the light"?

Essentially, our "walk" is our lifestyle—our mindset, patterns of behavior and the choices we make. But that mindset and behavior must be holy and aligned with scripture, and our choices must be biblically wise in order for us to say we are truly "walking in the light."

In our identification with our Savior, we are holy—set apart for the Lord's use. As we walk with the Lord and learn to trust and obey Him, we grow and mature spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24). We become more like Jesus (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1Thessalonians 4:3).

It's a one-time transformation when God changes our hearts at salvation, but there is also a "being made holy" (sanctification) process. When we walk, we're going somewhere. We're making progress on the lighted path.

At one point in my life, I thought walking in the light was too difficult.

I rationalized that I live in a morally dark world, and choices for "light" were just too hard. So I coasted spiritually.

But with growth in Christ and through His grace and power, I've learned more about what "shining" for the Lord looks like. Just as Jesus is the Light of the World, we are called out of darkness and each one of us is commanded to be a light in our "crooked and twisted" world (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:14-16). God does not want us to "abide" (or dwell) in darkness any longer (John 12:46).

So HOW are we to walk as children of light?

1. We're to REMEMBER we were rescued from darkness.

We can't forget what it's like to live in darkness.

  • Living in darkness is lying to ourselves and lying about the reality of eternity—it's not acknowledging and practicing the truth (1 John 1:6).
  • People who live in darkness don't want to come to the light because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20).
  • They reinterpret good and evil (Isaiah 5:20) because they are spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • People who choose to walk on the dark path take pleasure in doing wrong, enjoying their twisted ways of evil (Proverbs 2:13-14).

Walking in darkness is a lifestyle that promises (and sometimes gives) us so much, but it's all empty in the end.

In contrast, the Christian's walk should reflect a glorious truth: the Father has qualified us, in Christ, "to share the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness..." (Colossians 1:9-14).

To walk in the light begins with a heart transformation as we trust in what Christ did for us when we were lost in darkness, separated from God.

2. We're to BE HOLY: "blameless and innocent."

Being "righteous" has gone out of style in much of our culture, but to walk in the light is to grow in holiness. We relinquish our sin and let God's holy light shine through us (Matthew 5:16). A holy testimony is important!

We must "lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light" behaving properly (Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:7-14). We are wrestling against the spiritual wickedness, the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). We're to dress ourselves for battle in the light of Christ, and get moving for Him.

God's Word is the light we need for daily choices (Psalm 119:105; John 1:4-5). We're to embrace and hold tight to scriptural truth so the world can see Jesus' light in us (Phiippians 2:14-16).

We can't straddle the fence between holiness and wickedness (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

We "walk by the Spirit." The Spirit of God enables us to walk in the light (2 Corinthians 4:6). As we walk by the Spirit, we do not "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, 25; Ezekiel 36:26-27).

3. We're to keep our MISSION FOCUS.

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6b in Acts 13:47, reminding believers that God wants to use us to "bring salvation to the ends of the earth." Jesus gave us a mission, and we don't want sin to diminish our testimony and effectiveness (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 24:16; 1 Peter 3:16).

We also need to pray the Lord will lift the blindness of people, because without Christ, they cannot "see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). They may even be rebelling against the light (Job 24:13).

It is our Father alone who can shine life-transforming light into hearts.

Knowing that, we can pray He will open the eyes of our friends and loved ones.

3. We're to live for GOD'S GLORY.

We were chosen for a reason: to "proclaim the excellencies" of the Lord who called us "into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

We're to do all things for His glory alone—to live "for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

4. We're to be CAREFUL about our RELATIONSHIPS.

Be careful about your "walking" companions. They may lead you astray.

It's hard to be light-bearers when our closest pals are those who walk in darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 1:6-7).

This doesn't mean we can't ever associate with those in darkness; but we must be alert and careful in those interactions. Light and darkness are opposites.

5. We're to BE FUTURE-FOCUSED: to live in the light of Jesus' return.

We're not in darkness, but we still must be "alert and sober," remembering the Lord will return and what we're going to do for Him, we need to do now (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

We must remember this world is not our home. We're heading into eternity, and we will all appear before the Lord to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Walking in the Light involves total commitment to the Lord and the Word, not just for righteous living today, but to prepare us to live with the Father of Lights for eternity.

Are you walking in the light today? Which of these five points might need some work so you can keep in step with the Spirit of God?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexels at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Mar212017

5 File Folders Save the Day!

Marcia Ramsland, a highly-respected organizing coach for businesses and individuals, sees paper messes everywhere. Fortunately, she knows exactly what to do with those stacks of paper.

“Do you have a kitchen paper pile that won't go away? Is your refrigerator full of reminders? Then,” Marcia says, “it's time to simplify the paper "mess" with a system.”

I (Dawn) wondered for a moment whether Marcia took a sneaky peak at my office… or saw the papers all over my kitchen counter!

I am organized in so many ways. But that paper stuff? Ugh.

Marcia continues . . .

My 5 File Folder System will clean that right up for you just as it has for hundreds of women across the country!

5 Files Can Turn a Pile into an Attractive File!

Did you know an average of fifteen pieces of mail arrive in your mailbox? If you flip through first and deal with only ten of the fifteen pieces, you are left with five dangling pieces a day. 

That’s why stacks of mail can appear from out of nowhere—they're waiting for you to come back "later," which usually never happens.

At the rate of five pieces of mail per day, that means 150 pieces a month or 1,565 pieces a year—sixteen inches of guilt piled on your countertop, refrigerator or desk.

Let's clean that up right now!

Five File Folders will clean up any mail piles from scattering across your kitchen countertop.

A portable file holder is a key ingredient to set up a “Personal Organizing Center.”  Every home needs one to conquer paper piles.

These Five File Folders Handle Daily Paper:

  1. Calendar
  2. To Do
  3. To Decide
  4. To Pay
  5. Your Name (and their own file for each additional person)

File #1: "CALENDAR"

Put an item in the CALENDAR file only after putting it on your monthly calendar. This cleans up “refrigerator clutter” and includes invitations, schedules, & upcoming events.

File #2: "TO DO"

Write it on a Master List in front of you and then put it in this file.

If it would take less than 5 minutes to do, don't even write it on the list—do it now!

Calendar your Master List items to the 3 days you can most control: Today, Tomorrow or the next day.

File #3: "TO DECIDE"

Place items that you are thinking about doing, ordering or following up on in here.

Then when you decide to do it, you know right where to find it!

The last day of the month, toss the unused items for a fresh start next month.

File #4: "TO PAY"

If you don’t have one place by your checkbook to pay bills, keep them in a designated file folder so they don’t get lost. Important!

File #5: "PERSONAL"

Keep your papers—each person's papers—in their own file. Go through it daily yourself or on the weekend with each person.

If something needs immediate attention, don't file it! Show it to the person that day. This should take care of the visible paper clutter.

Regular filing should be in another room beyond the "Personal Organizing Center" portable file.

Can you do that? Of course you can!

It easily applies to organizing your office, too.

Proverbs 13:4 always inspires me to be diligent in organizing paperwork.

“The sluggish crave and have nothing,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied!”

This five-file system is so simple, but it works. TRY IT!

So... which pile of papers are you going to tackle first?

Marcia Ramsland is The Leading Online Organizing Coach for Business & Life Success and coaches busy women to maximize their time and minimize their stress. Her “21 Day Total Office Cleanup” gives women the confidence and control that their work, email, and paperwork is all in order with personal coaching. Details at www.OrganizingPro.com/OfficeCleanup.

Monday
Mar202017

Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help

With the explosion of social media, there are countless opportunities to encourage our friends and family. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares two: Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help.

While it's better to spend some face-time with our friends and family, don't discount the value of encouraging Facebook-time!

It's my goal to encourage someone every day in some way. That's hard to do when I spend most of my time at my computer with work, blog management and personal writing.

But here are two ways anyone can be an encourager on social media.

1. Virtual Hugs

The word "virtual," as it is related to computers, means not physically existing as such, but made to appear to be true. A virtual hug is a practical social media way to encourage others.

I hear about a hurting friend or family member and I want to rush to their side and offer a huge hug and word of encouragement. But we are often miles aparteven states away or around the world!

I can certainly pick up a telephone and call them, or shoot them a quick text; but for ongoing encouragement, I can offer a "virtual hug" often and in a number of ways online:

  • I can empathize, seeking to understand and share in others' feelings.
  • I can share an encouraging quotation, maybe in a specially-created meme.
  • I can ask questions to help people process and come to wise conclusions.
  • I can offer a scriptureby text or memethat speaks hope into their situation.
  • I can post an article that might encourage or challenge for guidance or growth.
  • (And sometimes, I can set up an appointment to "do lunch" or meet somewhere for an actual hug, because there are times face-to-face is the only way to go.)

While my motives and efforts are good, I know virtual hugs can only go so far. I might not understand the real or deepest needs. So . . .

I invite the Lord into the encouragement process.

2. Vertical Help

I've learned to turn my thoughts and conversations into prayers for my friends and family. I especially do so to enlist the Lord's help in sticky, tough and seemingly-impossible situations.

We can do much to help others "horizontally," but we also need to seek aid "vertically" too.

In other words:

Our help and encouragement can be good, but God's help is always better.

We might have an agenda to our prayers, but the Lord most certainly has purposes beyond us. His thoughts and ways are so unlike ours (Isaiah 55:8). It's always wise to seek His will as we pray for ourselves and others.

More than an "I'm praying for you" or an even quicker "Praying" (although there is nothing wrong with those responses), I especially love to pause a little longer and actually write my prayer to the Lord on Facebook so my friend can join in.

As my prayers fly upward to the Lord for my Facebook friends, I picture God's help flowing down to encourage, assist, and even transform.

  • The Lord is our refuge and strengtha safe place for usand He is ready to help whenever we need Him (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 13:6);
  • He understands what we're going through (Hebrews 4:15);
  • and when we trust Him completely, seeking His purposes, He stands ready to guide us (Hebrews 4:16; Proverbs 3:5-6).

It's a privilege to pray for our friends and family members with these truths and promises in mind.

How are you combining virtual hugs and vertical help to encourage and support your friends and family?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.      

Tuesday
Mar142017

Marriage Madness and the 3-Man Weave

Morgan Farr is a mom, Bible teacher and physical trainer. In this clever Marriage UPGRADE, she encourages us to practice a "drill" during basketball's "March Madness" that can make our marriages stronger.

"It is basketball season and March Madness to boot," Morgan says. "Marriage and basketball have a lot of similarities, especially when it comes to the fundamentals."

Now I (Dawn) have been a basketball fan since high school and both of my boys played, but never once did I think of a parallel between basketball and marriage, so Morgan's words made me say, "Huh?"

Morgan continues. . .

I love basketball, and not in a "Oh, I will watch it if it is on kind of way." I love basketball in a "I love the stats, the dialogue about the game, and the replays " kind of way.

I love to watch the games, listen to them on the radio, and read about them online. I also really enjoy playing basketball with friends and family. There is nothing quite like the rush of adrenaline that you get with the ball in your hand during a full court press!

Basketball taught me some of my hardest learned lessons in life.

I learned things like:

  • People will be better, smarter, and faster than you are. 
  • You will get knocked down at some point, but you have to get back up and finish the game.
  • You can't win a game without your team, no matter how "good" you are.

The team lesson has been a good reminder in my marriage. I often think of my marriage as being a 3-Man Weave Drill.

In a 3-Man Weave Drill, the players start out at one end of the court and then sprint toward the other end—all the while interweaving each other (like a braid) while passing the ball to one another. If you haven't studied or practised the 3-Man Weave, then it can look really complicated and intimidating.

Early on in the drill it is not unusual to see athletes running the wrong way, bumping in to teammates, and stumbling. But when you watch athletes that are proficient complete the drill it a beautiful, almost fluid movement.

Here is a video illustrating the motion in this drill.

 

That is all great and wonderful, but what does the 3-Man Weave have to do with March Madness; and more importantly, what does it have to do with marriage?

Being a Christian is like being involved in a constant 3-Man Weave, but it is no drill.

The players are you, your spouse, and God. The three of you move together down the court (through life) interweaving and moving the ball—your family.

If at any point one or more of the players is removed from the court, the weave doesn't work. You can still move the ball down the court, with just two or even one player. But it isn't nearly as effective or easy to do it that way.

The Bible talks about this idea in Ecclesiastes 4:12:

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

This is true in basketball and this is true in marriage.

With the madness that goes on in our world, it is important to keep our three players in communication and moving smoothly down the court.

Let me challenge you this March Madness season to fight the world's madness and focus on drawing close to your spouse and close to God.

What can you do to better run the 3 Man Weave in your marriage?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her wonderful husband Brian and their two sons. She is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one interactions and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog. You can find her training programs on her blog, FarrFunctionalFitness.blogspot.com.

Thursday
Mar092017

Daaa-Dum... Daaa-Dum... Daa-Dum... Daa-Dum.

Nothing surprises me when I read something from Kaley Faith Rhea or her mom, Rhonda. These two combine humor with wise insights every time. In this UPLIFT post, Kaley helps us combat worry.

"You know how a lot of times you’ll have your deepest, most philosophically significant thoughts in the solitude of the shower or bathtub?" Kaley asks. "Allow me to share an example of ... NOT that."

Didn't I (Dawn) tell you? Insights from a bathtub? Of course.

Kaley continues . . .

The other night I was tired. Not exhausted. Just that mid-week fatigue that crops up now and again.

Decided to take a bath. Because that sounds like pure heaven for a tired person.

My tired brain was, I suppose, off doing its own thing, and I nicked my knee while shaving my legs. Little bit of blood, no big deal; you know the drill.

In that moment, the thought that formed in my mind while watching that little bit of blood in the water was:

Uh, oh. I had better watch out for sharks.

Yes, go ahead and read that thought again as slowly and as condescendingly as you can. It’s fine.

Because I worried about sharks. While sitting in my bathtub.

      

If I could just take a moment here—I live in Missouri. Probably the most landlocked state in the United States. If TV and books and the internet weren’t around, I would not know an animal called a shark exists.

And none of that’s even relevant actually because sharks do not happen in bathtubs. At least not by accident. Brain, what were you doing?

Later, after the bath (because this is not a story of deep shower thoughts), it hit me how my mind is so programmed to worry.

I can worry in my sleep. Without breaking a sweat—without even noticing—I can worry about things that are irrelevant, implausible or imaginary.

That is where my mind, in its natural state, wants to live.

That is not a happy place to live. There are sharks there apparently.

Philippians 4, verse 6 reads, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I hear and see this verse quoted a lot. Maybe you do, too, and you’re like me and think Okay, easier said than done, Paul, thanks.

But have you noticed this verse does not begin with a capital letter? There is a run-up to this statement in verse 5 that causes it to make so much more sense. It says simply, “The Lord is at hand.”

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious…”

Let me tell you, something, friend. If I am at hand, you need to be anxious. If you are at hand, worry is the completely correct response. But the Lord is at hand. Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became flesh, the One through whom everything that is made has been made, the defeater of death, our champion, risen from the grave—He is at hand. Don’t worry.

Furthermore—and I love this—when the Lord is at hand, instead of worrying, I can pray. When the Lord is at hand, I can check my arrogance at the door. When the Lord is at hand, I can be thankful.

What?

I have a brain built here in a fallen world. It will tell me the appropriate response to every cut and scrape is to worry about sharks.

And you know what? Sometimes there really are sharks out there. But how wonderful to know my Lord knows this. He knit my brain together. And in his incomprehensible kindness, He’s already told me what to do when I feel worried. I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel so loved.

Final Words:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2a).

A prayer when faced by our sharks, real or imagined:

Lord Jesus, thank You so much for being everything I need. For being bigger than my darkest fears and for loving me enough to allow me to draw close to You when I’m anxious. When I am tempted to give in to worry, renew my mind, Lord, by Your Spirit, and set it on you. AMEN!

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, a novel releasing in a few weeks. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.