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Thursday
Jun302016

3 Falls to Consider

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson suggests how considering three "falls" can help us grow in our relationship to the Lord.

We don't have to look far in our culture, and even in the church, to see the consequences of The Fall in the Garden of Eden; but there are two other "falls" that can have consequences—good ones—in our lives too.

1. The Fall of All Falls

Everything God made—man and woman, animals, plant life, the universe—was "very good," according to Genesis 1:31. Yet Adam and Eve doubted God's goodness and questioned His Word. They listened to the lie of the serpent. And it was a great fall (Genesis 3:1-24).

In "Lessons from the Fall," W. Phillips wrote, "... the serpent offered an alternative interpretation of God's motives" and called into question God's character and trustworthiness. The serpent "reduced God's Word to the level of a mere viewpoint," Phillips wrote, "while man became the measure of what is 'true for me'."

As a result, Eve deliberately decided to defy and disobey God's command (verse 6).

We see this same outworking of The Fall in mankind today.

Man questions God's Word and substitutes personal truth for God's Truth.

Because of The Fall, there are four truths still in effect today:

  • What God says (God's Word) is still our measure for holiness. It's our standard for knowing and obeying the Lord and rightly relating to Him (1 Corinthians 15:45), not our viewpoints or some new standards we create.
  • We still have a terrible sin problem. It's not what happened to us in our environment at any stage of life. (Even in a perfect environment, we still choose to sin.) Sin brings "death"—spiritual separation from God (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:12).
  • Suffering is still an awful result of The Fall. Sin led to all the suffering in the past, and is at the root suffering we see today (Romans 8:20-22).
  • Our only hope, our only solution, is still Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22).

And that brings me to the second "fall."

2. Our Need to "Fall" before the Cross

When Adam and Eve sinned, God provided the means for rescue. Genesis 3:15—known as the "protoevangelium" (first gospel)—is God's promise of the time when Satan (the serpent, see Revelation 12:9) would be crushed by "the seed of the woman," a future savior. Many Bible teachers consider this a direct reference to Jesus.

Just as Adam represented all mankind, and sin brought death, in Christ—the believer's representative head—brings life (1 Corinthians 15:22). Galatians 2:20 says we were "crucified" with Christ ... and it's not our life we enjoy now, but His!

Life from death. Old Testament saints looked forward to that redemption; and believers today look back to the cross.

I say we must "fall" at the cross, because coming to Christ takes the true humility, the bowing of our hearts before Him. We acknowledge we have "gone astray," turning to our own way (Isaiah 53:6). We admit our understanding is "darkened" and our hearts are hard (Ephesians 4:18).

God calls us to fall before Him (in our heart, if not our body) in repentance and faith (Acts 11:18; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-13).

Falling at the cross means fully embracing God's amazing grace.

In the words of an old hymn:

Upon that cross of Jesus Mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One, Who suffered there for me;

And from my smitten heart, with tears, Two wonders I confess,
The wonders of His glorious love, And my own worthlessness.

I remember well the night I more fully understood what Jesus had done for me. I fell to the floor and wept ... and arose from that solemn time smiling with new-found joy, so grateful for the grace of the Lord.

It's once-and-forever salvation. But that doesn't mean we're never broken over our sin again.

3. Fallings of Surrender.

There have been many "fallings" since that evening I fell "Beneath the Cross of Jesus." These are the fallings of surrender—of giving up, letting go.

It is the choice to die, like a seed falling to the ground and "dying" so God can bring forth a great harvest (John 12:24). It is the choice to yield my rights to my Lord.

Falling in surrender involves acknowledging weakness. It is dying to self-suffiiency too. It says, "In me dwells no good thing" apart from Christ (Romans 7:18), and without Him, I "can do nothing" (John 15:5). It's for broken people who know we can't handle everything, in spite of our silly attempts to prove we can.

Falling in surrender is radical self-denial—losing our life for Jesus' sake (Matthew 16:25).

Surrender is not an option for true disciples. But, and it's not surprising, this is the "fall" many reject. Our entire culture promotes self-effort and self-sufficiency. We recoil from showing weakness and admitting needs.

Surrender is often equated with failure, because our definition of success is skewed.

Yet Jesus still invites us to fall in surrender, because He knows that's where the miracles of life happen. That's where we yield to His control, where He moves in, and where He begins to use and bless us.

We want abundant life. It all begins with our recognition of sin, our receiving of the Savior, and our relinquishment of our weakness to His great strength.

In Christ, we're given life and then continuing abundance as we fall before Him in sweet surrender—resting in His grace.

When you consider the three falls, what does the Spirit of God speak to your soul?

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), andUpgrade with Dawn. She is contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

 

Tuesday
Jun282016

When Forgiveness Seems Impossible

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Yvonne Ortega addresses a crucial area in our walk with the Lord: forgiveness when it's hard and seems so impossible.

"For seven and a half years, I struggled to forgive an abusive former husband," Yvonne says. "I stomped and cried. Why should I forgive him? He didn’t ask for forgiveness, and he didn’t apologize. "

Oh, have I (Dawn) been there. I struggled with forgiving an abuser. For a long time, I resisted. So I know what Yvonne writes is true!

Yvonne continues . . .

Perhaps you wonder how I managed to forgive him. It wasn’t easy.

Here are three tips to forgive, especially when forgiveness is difficult.

1. I realized forgiveness is for my PHYSICAL health.

When I was filled with anger, bitterness and rage, I didn’t sleep well. I was tired most of the time. My lower back hurt, and I didn’t eat well either. My problems with digestion were so bad that I lost 20 pounds. I looked like a bag of bones—pale, thin, and tired.

I thought about 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV) which says: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?”

I had to take better care of God’s temple.

What will you do to take care of your physical health?

2. I realized forgiveness is for my EMOTIONAL health.

I was caught up in an emotional prison of unforgiveness. Instead of thinking about how to improve my life, I went over and over the terrible things my ex-husband said and did to me and our son. That left me depressed.

I was fearful that he would repeat his behavior whenever we saw him or our son visited him. That made me anxious.

Philippians 4:8 (NIV) gave me a different perspective. It says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

What about you? Is your mind shackled to someone who hurt you? Does that leave you depressed, fearful, or anxious? 

3. I realized forgiveness is also for my SPIRITUAL health.

I ignored God’s command to forgive my ex-husband and that unforgiveness broke my spiritual communion with my heavenly Father.

My prayers weren’t prayers, but pleas for revenge.

I asked God to get him good and let me live to see it. When I read the Bible, it was to find a reason or an excuse not to forgive. My Bible study and prayer life deteriorated. So did my church fellowship.

Colossians 3:13 (NIV) says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

God had forgiven me thousands of times. Now I had to forgive as the Lord forgave me and get close to God again.

Are you as close to God as you once were? How thick is the wall that separates you from spiritual communion with him? How is your disobedience affecting your prayer life, Bible study, and church fellowship?

Today I have peace, freedom and a full life.

The Lord blesses me with peace (Psalm 29:11), and I am free in Christ, no longer burdened by a yoke of slavery to unforgiveness (Galatians 5:1). I’m living the abundant life Jesus came to earth to give me (John 10:10b). 

Will you forgive for your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing?

Yvonne Ortega is a professional speaker, author, licensed professional counselor, World Class Speaking Coach, and the author of the newly-released Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness—available at Amazon.com along with two other books: Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne has not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer, and the death of her only child. With honesty and humor, she uses personal examples and the truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Visit www.yvonneortega.com.

Thursday
Jun232016

Breathe Life! How to Upgrade Hope

Pam Farrel is a pro when it comes to applying biblical truth to the tough situations of life. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she inspires us to "breathe life" and hope wherever we can.

"God is a specialist at breathing life into seemingly hopeless situations," Pam Farrel says.

And there is the secret. Although Pam is a relationship expert, the best "specialist" in hope is the Lord, and Pam encourages us to tap into that power source.

Pam continues . . .

My grandmother scarred her lungs rushing into a barn on fire to rescue animals. As an elderly woman, she needed her oxygen tank to breathe life into her.

In a similar way, God wants us to be those who breathe life into difficult moments—and sometimes into difficult people!  

The Lord, Himself, is the breath of life:

 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”  (Gen 2:7 NKJV).

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:24–25).

God wants us to be more like Him, more of a life-giver.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God’s heart is evident :

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

This “choose life” principle can be extended to apply to all kinds of situations: the seeming death of a dream, the spiraling downward of the life of someone you love, a business on a decline or in any situation that feels stuck or hopeless.

Seek to breathe life by simply asking:

  • What would bring life to this situation?
  • What would bring life to this person?
  • Who has the skills, talents, time, and/or energy to resuscitate or revive this circumstance (or person) to bring life?

Most recently, our family saw this “life-giver” philosophy change a situation that seemed beyond hopeless.

My father-in-law is 86 and he had fallen. He was being released from a convalescent home, but he was not strong enough to function in his home—and my 86-year-old mother-in-law was too feeble to give the kind of care needed.

We had a full speaking schedule and it is our sole income, and thousands of people in our audiences would be impacted if we cancelled, so it was near impossible for either Bill or me to be the caregiver. (We were willing, but it felt impossible.)

However, we knew both mom and dad would be more comfortable if the caregiver could be someone they already knew.

Our youngest son, Caleb, came to us and said, “I believe God has called me to breathe life into Grandpa’s situation.”

Caleb was a recent graduate from an engineering program, and he had three weeks available to use before moving to another state for his Master’s program. Caleb was football player and had just completed building a block home on the mission field—so he was strong enough to carry his grandfather. Also, because Bill’s father was an aerospace engineer, the two already had much in common.  

Caleb moved in, was trained by all the health care professionals, and began to rehab his grandfather. In addition, those two engineers redesigned doorways and gates, a patio, a desk and a wheelchair to make them more user-friendly for Dad. 

Caleb is such a workhorse that when he wasn’t caring for grandpa, he rebuilt the patio, a ramp, a gate and several other areas of their home to help give Dad independence and access.

In just two weeks, Dad went from what appeared to be death’s door, to stronger mentally and physically than we had seen him function in several decades.

Caleb breathed vibrant life into the situation!

Who can you breathe life into today?

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success At Keeping It All Together.

Graphic: adapted, courtesy of Jan Schultz, Webdesigner Stuttgart, Unsplash.

Monday
Jun202016

The 3 R's You Need to Rid Fear

Bible teacher Debbie Wilson regularly speaks and writes to help people develop refreshing faith. In this Attitude and Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she describes three ways to remove fear from our lives.

Debbie says, “I had a supervisor who once said, ‘If the devil can’t steal your victory he’ll try to steal your joy.’”

Yes, I (Dawn) agree. Our enemy is a liar—we know that from scripture (John 8:44)—but he's also a thief and destroyer of anything good (John 10:10a).

Debbie continues . . . 

I’ve found my supervisor's words to be true.

My surgery had gone without a hitch. The mass my doctor was so worried about was benign. You’d think that would quiet all my concerns. But new ones darkened my slumber.

I awoke to a fierce struggle in my mind.

Two phone conversations and a YouTube video, the week following surgery, had sown seeds of doubt about my decision to keep my healthy organs. My doubts sprouted into suffocating fear during my sleep.

The video had popped up, ironically, after I’d finished watching one on prayer. In it, Angelina Jolie told how her doctor had begged her, with tears, to remove her ovaries. In my sleep, these women’s fears became my own. Had I been wrong to keep my healthy ovary?

What types of fear threaten your peace? With all that is going on in our world, there are plenty to choose from. Reason wasn’t enough to conquer mine. Let me explain how God rescued me and how to quiet your own unease.

Three R’s to Remove Fear:

1. Recognize the source. 

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV).

My doubt had to be a dart.

Even in my sleep I recognized its destructive nature. What could I do about my decision now? Surgery was over. (Read more about how to recognize DARTS here.) 

2. Remember God’s character. 

"Which one of you, if his son asks him for…a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV)

I’d asked God to guide me as I researched and prayed about my decision before my surgery. His leading had been consistent. Was I to believe that God had intentionally withheld the information I needed until it was too late?

This doubt slandered God’s very nature.

3. Refresh your faith.

Faith—not reason—is the antidote to fear.

Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (see Romans 10:17). In the wilderness, Israel had to gather fresh manna every morning. Leftovers rotted overnight. Our faith also needs daily renewal.

That morning God led me to the first chapter of Joshua:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

I’d never noticed the connection between the first and second part of this verse before. This was a command!

God had appointed Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. How could he help his brothers enter God’s rest if fear and discouragement held him hostage?

God has commissioned us to be His ambassadors and shine as lights in a dark world. How can we shine the light of Jesus when our hearts are clouded with worry? How can we show people the Prince of Peace if anxiety rules us?

While I’ve often wished for a dial to modulate my emotions—dial up courage, joy, or hope as needed—God’s way is higher. He’d rather me be strong in Him than feel strong in myself.

God used my fear to remind me He is with me. Those who know Jesus need never stay in fear and discouragement.

How has God used fear to strengthen your walk with Him?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, 24 years as a Christian counselor and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks and writes to help people discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share Debbie's journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Thursday
Jun162016

Taking Care of Yourself as a Leader

Nali Hilderman teaches women in a biblical framework, and in this Leadership UPGRADE she encourages women in leadership to take time to rest and refuel.

“While leadership can be incredibly life-giving and exciting," Nali says, "there are times when it is draining and exhausting too.”

Oh Nali. That is so true. Leadership can be a blessing and a burden at the same time. The Lord calls us to be wise in balancing our schedules—to build our lives, not just the lives of others.

Nali continues . . . 

As a leader, are you weary? If you’re anything like most other leaders, I would venture to say that your answer is yes! 

While leadership can be incredibly life-giving and exciting, there are times when it is draining and exhausting too. It’s the excitement of influencing others and utilizing your gifts that make leadership worth it in the long run, but what do you do when you find yourself in those seasons of weariness?

And how can we work at preventing those seasons? 

It may seem selfish or counter-productive to do this, but Christ, the perfect leader, provided an example of this during His ministry when He left the crowds to spent time with the Father or just the disciples (Luke 4:42, 5:16; John 13). And He encourages us plainly to come to Him when we are tired and weary so He can help us (Matthew 11:28-29)!

Therefore, I want to suggest three ways to take care of yourself as a leader so you can continue to be effective in loving and serving others.

1. Participate in Life-Giving Activities

Most of us have activities that bring us deep joy and provide “soul time” that are not related to our work as leaders. It may be exercise, art, reading, spending time in nature, napping, cooking, taking a bubble bath – or any number of things!

Sometimes our schedules are so busy that we feel like we don’t have time to do anything but what’s already on the calendar, but if we are to continually pour into others throughout our day, we must find time to participate in activities that provide respite for our soul.

I challenge you to discover these areas and set aside time in your calendar to participate in them!

2. Find Others That Pour Into You

As a leader, you are probably constantly pouring into others around you. This is usually very life-giving and one of the main reasons we get involved in leadership in the first place, but, do you have someone pouring into you? Do you have a mentor? Do you have friends, or a small group of people that you do not “lead” that refresh and revitalize you and care for your soul? 

This is absolutely vital as a leader to have others lead and guide you so that you are refueled to lead and guide others. 

Scripture is full of examples of the life-giving nature of the body of Christ. See, for example, the relationship between the Apostle Paul and Timothy as Paul instructs, encourages and mentors the young minister in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 1). I encourage you, likewise, to seek out and spend time with these vital care givers in your life on a regular basis.

3. Find Sustenance from the Lord

For many of us who are leaders in Christian ministry, there’s a tendency to always “do ministry”—even in our personal time with the Lord.

As a leader, it is vital that you protect your time with the Lord as just that – YOUR time with the Lord.

Make sure that you are abiding in Christ for yourself, not your ministry, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). 

And the Word says that if we seek Him and His Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33), then all other things shall be added to us. How is your time alone with Christ? 

How’s your weariness level? How are you doing in taking care of yourself regarding to these three areas? Making sure you take care of yourself is vital to continuing to love and care for others as Christ has commissioned you!

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history at San Diego Christian College and Director of the college’s Dr. Henry Morris Leadership Program. She studies women’s history and Christian theology, trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality. She attends Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA.

Graphic of woman in nature, courtesy of Morguefile.