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Entries in Choices (12)

Thursday
Jun292017

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Victories

Victories don't just happen. In this Victory UPGRADE, Dawn shares five ways to set yourself up for some fresh victories!

When I met Joni Eareckson Tada, I was overwhelmed with the sense that this woman is not a victim, in spite of her quadriplegia. She is a victor! Likewise, Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs, has the mindset and makes the choices that set him apart as a victor in Christ.

I can't tell you the times I've nearly wept, realizing how petty my struggles are compared to theirs. But the same truths that have enabled these victors to rise above their trials are available to me.

As Nick says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

I've always loved that exciting moment when runners "set up" in their lanes at the starting block to run a race. To be a victor, we need to intentionally set ourselves up for the victories we so desire.

Here are the five ways I'm learning to set myself up for fresh victories.

1. Set Your SPIRIT

The first thing to acknowledge is our utter incapability to fix ourselves.

Without Christ, we are lost and struggling sinners. But in Christ, the possibilities for change are endless! The Father is making believers like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit!

To pursue victory, we must first set our spirit on the Spirit.

Knowing we are "crucified with Christ" and that now Christ lives in us, we determine to "live by faith in the Son of God." And how do we do that? We learn to "walk in the Spirit"—to keep in step with Him—so we will not gratify our fleshly desires. We "sow" to the Spirit if we want to cultivate a life of victory over sin.

We lose many battles because we forget our struggle is not a simple flesh-and-blood skirmish. It's a tough, spiritual war. We struggle against powerful forces of evil, and we must go to battle with spiritual, God-supplied weapons.

2. Set Your MIND

Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on "things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

A focus on eternity can help us make better decisions and live a more victorious life.

Sitting in a revival conference many years ago, the evangelist's words stirred my heart: "There are only two things you can take with you to heaven," he said. "Only two things pass from this world into eternity: the Word of God and human souls."

Those words greatly impacted my perspective and priorities. When life is boiled down to those two things, it's remarkable how some choices are simplified and others eliminated.

Christian victors have an eternal perspective.

David Ring, who has cerebral palsy, explains it this way: "I'm still in the oven. God's still in the kitchen, and God's still cooking on me. And when God is finished cooking on me, God is going to pull me out of the oven, and God's going to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

David is an example of a believer whose perspective is being transformed by the "renewing" of his mind. Just as we are to walk in the Spirit, we're also to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A person's mindset colors responses to life's circumstances.

While we may legitimately be victims of others and need to learn new ways to respond to our pain, in many cases, our victimization comes from within. We may be labeling ourselves as victims as an excuse not to change, or to receive pity from others.

Our focus makes a huge difference. For instance,

  • Victims focus on losses, while victors realize the "gain" possible in tough circumstances.
  • Victims see people conspiring against them; but victors realize we are all sinners and we're likely to wound each other as we rub shoulders--so they learn to forgive and give grace.
  • Victims wear themselves out trying to achieve elusive approval and contentment. Victors have learned to live for an audience of One.

So set your mind on heaven and the things of the Spirit, and you'll escape a lot of "victimhood."

3. Set Your AFFECTIONS

It's not only the mind that needs setting. While charging his son Solomon to build the temple, King David told the leaders of Israel, "Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God" (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

David, who had a heart for God, took time in the fields as a shepherd boy to develop his heart relationship with God; and God used these experiences to develop David's character and leadership skills. Though he made foolish choices in his later life, he always deeply honored and loved the Lord.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to set their affections when He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." It's a choice.

4. Set Your BODY

Along with setting our mind, Paul, in Rom. 12:1, appeals to believers to "present" their bodies to the Lord as "a living sacrifice." He also speaks of yielding our bodies as tools of righteousness. That's an intentional decision—to set our bodies before the Lord and allow Him to use us.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies, and bring Him glory with our actions in the body.

5. Set Your GOALS

When we have given God our spirit, mind, affections and body, we are ready to set some goals.

The Bible gives us a balanced view of goal-setting. We're to make plans, but to plan with humility and seeking God's wisdom and will.

When making any goals, be sure your priorities are biblical. Don't worry; seek and trust the Lord

We certainly don't honor God with laziness. He expects us to use His wisdom and be diligent so we be can be successful. That doesn't mean we can be presumptuous either! James says it's better to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Set your goals, but know the Lord is sovereign and He may change your plans.

We live in a fallen world. We will not be perfect until heaven. But we can't make excuses and coast spiritually.

Intentional, biblical choices will encourage more and more victories!

So, are you all "set" for victories? Which of these "sets" needs a little tweaking today?

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 Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Avoid Drama by Choosing Your Friends Wisely

Cindi McMenamin would love to see women display more and more strength as they embrace life-changing truth. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she explains how we can have less drama and more soul-strength by choosing friends carefully.

She asks, "Do you find there’s much drama in your life? If so, it may have to do with your choice of friends."  

I (Dawn) know this is true. Today I have different "levels" of friendships—intimate, ministry-based, casual, and sad to say, "guarded." Friends are truly a blessing, but we still need to pray carefully about the people we invite into our hearts.

Cindi continues . . .

Christian women often get the idea that they must be friends with everyone. Yet the Bible tells us,

“The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Proverbs 12:26, NIV).

Sometimes you and I don’t actually choose our friends—they just find us and before we know it, we’re hanging out with someone who is either helpful or a hindrance. But if you and I want to dial down the drama in our lives, it would be wise to take inventory of our friendships.

As I was writing my book, Drama Free, I included a list of the five types of friends you and I need in our lives. As you read through this list (which is not in any particular order), you might want to take mental note of the kinds of friends you currently HAVE to get an idea of how balanced you are.

You might also use this list as a guide to praying about the friendships you might STILL need.

1. The Fun Friend

Let’s admit it. We all need someone who is fun to be with, who makes us laugh, who encourages us to set the work aside, have some fun, live a little.

You and I can’t spend every waking moment with this friend because if we did, we’d never get anything done. But if you have a friend who can balance the fun with responsibility and maturity, and encourage you to let go of work now and then and not take yourself so seriously, you have found a treasure.

Who encourages you to not take yourself so seriously?

2. The Firm Friend

I’m not talking about the woman who is constantly working out and has considerably less body fat than the rest of us. Although you and I need her too (we’ll get to her later), we need a friend who will firmly tell us what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear.

While your fun friend may encourage you to laugh it off or live for the moment, your firm friend will often remind you of what’s best for you, even if it isn’t fun or even comfortable. She does this because of her love for you and her ability to see beyond the moment to what really matters.

And if she’s able to be firm with a generous dose of grace and love, hold onto her. She is a rare gift.

Who tells you what you need to hear instead of just what you want to hear?

3. The forward-moving friend

You’ve seen her. You probably even admire her (or maybe you can’t stand her because she has it all together!).

She gets excited about New Year’s resolutions and seeks out people to join her in them each January. She talks about what she’s reading, what she’s learning in her Bible study, or the latest class she’s taking to explore something new.

Do you have someone to challenge you to be more healthy, read more books, think more deeply, hone your skills?

We all need to keep moving forward personally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Who challenges you to move beyond where you are right now? 

4. The Faithful Friend

Every woman needs a friend who will be there through thick and thin. Through the dark days, through the sick days, through the days you are having difficulty and just need someone to understand.

Not only is the faithful friend always there, but she’s loyal—meaning she would never talk behind your back or re-evaluate the friendship if she thinks she’s giving more than you are.

A faithful friend doesn’t keep track of how many times she has called you vs. how many times you take the initiative to call her.

She will pick up with you wherever the two of you left off.

The opposite of the faithful friend is the gossip or critic. Proverbs 16:28 says “a whisperer separates close friends.” Your faithful friend is the one who will never be whispering to others about you.

Who can you always depend on, regardless of season or schedule?

5. The “Faith-filled” Friend

Do you tend to be a worrier? Do you stress out when a situation seems out of control? If you hang around others who do the same, you will fuel each other’s fire of fear and doubt.

That’s why every woman needs a faith-filled friend who doesn’t worry or talk about the “what ifs,” but trusts in the Lord and helps fill up others with her faith.

When your concerns cross the line into worry, doubt, and fear, that’s when you need your faith-filled friend to remind you Who is ultimately in control. 

If you have at least one friend in each category above (or all the categories are covered by the few friends you have), you are rich beyond measure.

And if there’s a friend on that list that you don’t yet have, you know what to look for—and the kind of friend to be as well.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of fifteen books, including her newest, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.                        

All Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay, except for the Faith-filled friend graphic, courtesy of Lightstock.

Tuesday
May302017

How to Conquer Your Conundrum (Confusing Problem)

What do you do when faced with a "conundrum"—a confusing or difficult problem or challenge. Dawn Wilson suggests 10 steps to conquer your conundrum in this Life Choices UPGRADE.

We all have conundrums. They can be challenging, bothersome, scary—and all of these things at the same time! What do you do when you are perplexed and just don't know how to move forward?

Here are 10 steps that can help you conquer your conundrum.

1. Prepare

Invest time in a quiet place with your Bible and other resources—even a laptop with the Internet for research, if you don't think you'll get distracted. Just as God told His people, "in quietness and confidence" is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15b), we will find strength when we pause to reflect and prepare.

Just like anything worth pursuing, preparation will help with processing your thoughts and focusing on fresh goals.

2. Pray

ASK the Lord for His wisdom (James 1:5). But remember prayer is not just you talking to the Father.

Be willing to say, "Speak Lord. I'm listening!" Better yet, "Whatever you tell me to do, Lord, I will obey." That's where the blessing comes in (Luke 11:28; James 1:25b).

3. Anticipate

Trust that the Lord WILL speak to your heart and clarify direction (Proverbs 3:5-7). Maybe He will use His Word. Maybe the Holy Spirit will remind you of a truth you already know. Anticipate His voice and "marching instructions."

You may find a word from the Lord in a solid, biblical book, or as you listen to a sermon or message. You may even hear the Lord speaking through a hymn book.

Once, when I was struggling with direction, I flipped through a hymn book and ended up on the old song "Trust and Obey. It was like the Lord said to me, "You don't need any new information; you haven't obeyed what I already told you!" I took care of that and God gave me fresh insight.

The point is, anticipate God's direction and obey it, rather than being "wise in your own eyes" (v. 7).

4. Think

Take time to brainstorm, if there are several options available to you and you're not sure which direction to move. Weigh the facts. Think. Do your best to DISCERN what the Lord might be saying (1 John 4:1; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 4:12; 5:14; John 7:24; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Some people even make a "pros" and "cons" list. But be careful with that. Once I had a long list of "cons," but the Lord confirmed I should move ahead. It made no sense at the time, but it was clear later the Lord had a plan I couldn't see.

5. Study

I included this one because I know human nature!

Just in case you treated #4 lightly, stop now and go a little deeper. Actually research the very best options in light of scripture. See if they align with what God has said, because He will not lead contrary to His Word.

As you study, be sure you are walking in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God "searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV).

6. Consider

Imagine possible outcomes. Count the cost for each one and weigh them carefully. (A biblical example: Luke 14:28).

Consider whether you are ready to move ahead and pay the necessary price. That price might not just be financial. There might be a cost emotionally, spirituallly, or to your family.

7. Learn

Seek out and listen to wise counselors. There is usually safety in a "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14: 15:22). Be sure you have a teachable spirit. Pride has hindered many wise decisions! (Proverbs 9:9; 13:18; 1 Peter 5:5).

And this would be a good time for more prayer: "Holy Spirit, teach me. Guide me in Your truth" (Psalm 25:4-5).

8. Challenge 

This is where it might feel "impossible" or confusing.

  • We may need to challenge our fears and perceived limitations (Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:10).
  • We may need to confront some lies and bolster our mind and heart with God's truth (John 8:44b; Ephesians 6:11).
  • We may be suffering from "analysis paralysis" at this point and need an encouraging, godly friend to help us see reality or seek God's perspective. Reach out and ask for help.

9. Act

There are usually two courses of action at this point.

We'll either take the best possible action with discernment; or we'll decide to trust and wait a little longer—with God's guidance. Both can be wise actions if we're following the Lord's direction (Psalm 32:8) and believing He will not withhold anything from us that will enable us to walk close to Him and "uprightly" (Psalm 84:11b).

We don't want to lag behind if the Lord is nudging us to move forward with courage; but we don't want to rush ahead—rash or foolish—for the sake of just making a decision either.

10. Rest 

We may not ever have complete peace; we are very human.

It's good to know we can trust the Lord for course corrections. And even in our missteps we can recognize God's grace. He will transform our sins and foolish mistakes for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So after you follow all these steps and any others the Lord may give you, simply rest in Him. HOW?

  • Cast your cares on Him and release all striving.
  • Submit to His will.
  • Relax in His love.
  • Embrace Hope.

You may feel confused, but remember: Your "conundrum" has not taken God by surprise.

Which of these 10 steps will help you the most today as you ask the Lord for help with your most pressing and confusing question or problem?

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 Workbrite1 at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Dec272016

Making Peace with the Dishwasher Door

In this Attitudes UPGRADE, Rhonda Rhea reminds us we may not be in control of circumstances, but we are all in charge of our attitudes.

"Forget all those personality tests," Rhonda says. "Never mind the character studies. If you want insights into your own psyche, try the dishwasher."

Try the WHAT? Like I (Dawn) said, Rhonda is a pro at twisting everyday stuff into lessons for us all.

Rhonda continues . . .

The dishwasher is a handy-dandy machine that can reveal what you’re really made of.

All you have to do is follow these simple operating instructions: 

  1. Leave dishwasher door open.
  2. Unwittingly apply shin forcefully to side of the open door.
  3. Repeat as needed.

There’s your temperament analysis.

A few years ago, there was a week or two when our dishwasher door wouldn’t stay closed. By the end of that time, I’m pretty sure I had taken a lot more personality tests than one personality can reasonably handle. Also more than one person’s shins can reasonably handle. My legs looked like a couple of old bananas.

Are those leopard print leggings?

No. No, they aren’t. … I wasn’t wearing leggings.

I’m not sure why I didn’t get better at maneuvering around that thing. Or even remembering that it was there.

Why didn’t I just learn to hurdle? I should’ve been Olympic-event-ready after the first few days.

It was, in fact, a strong leg survival instinct that inspired us to get the door fixed. And in the couple of weeks before it was fixed, there’s a good chance my family may have seen a little more of my “personality” than they wanted.

We often find out what we’re made of when we run into difficulties. Maybe even more so when we run into those difficulties really hard.

How do we respond when we hit a surprise painful situation?

  • Anger?
  • Bitterness?
  • Self-pity?
  • Thinking life is unfair?
  • Thinking God is unfair?

How we respond directly relates to the peace we will—or won’t—experience in a painful situation.

It’s not so much a personality thing. It’s instead about what we let happen by our own choices.

In Colossians 3:15 Paul says, “And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts” (HCSB).

There’s an important “let” in his instruction. We need to “let” His peace rule.

Sometimes we let personality—or some other aspect of ourselves—control our hearts. There are times when we focus on difficulty or injustice and end up letting bitterness rule. Or negativity. Or defeat and self-absorption. Sometimes we just plain surrender to sin and let it rule.

All those fleshly things certainly will control our hearts if we let them. They want that control.

Our flesh has a strong survival instinct.

The Greek word translated “control” in this passage is a word that means to be a referee or director—like one who presides over an Olympic game. The indwelling presence of our Messiah and the peace that He gives will referee our every internal battle. And peace wins the day at every point we will “let.”

Is there anything else you’re letting control your heart? Let His peace control instead. That’s the way to hurdle over any difficulty and win. Not just an Olympic win. A life win.

It’s at our humble surrender to His peace that we’re able to be fruitful, joy-filled, thankful—successfully passing every test. Even a personality test.

Yes, even the dishwasher-door-to-the-shin personality test.

What is your "test" this week? Will you let God's peace control?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Graphic, courtesy of HomeBuildingLessons.com.

Thursday
Sep012016

Why Do I Do What I Do Wrong?

Kathy Collard Miller is an author and speaker who encourages women to apply practical principles from the Word of God. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she explores some ways to find the underlying causes of destructive responses.

We’ve all said things like, “He makes me feel…” or “I feel bad when she does that.” But the truth is we are responsible for our own choices," Kathy says. "Putting that into practice can actually diminish unwise choices."

I (Dawn) think that is fascinating because so many people think they can grit their teeth and swear to never respond hurtfully again. I've done this—haven't you? Kathy's insights help us consider the "why" behind our responses.

She continues . . .

It’s easy to blame a person or circumstance for the way we’re acting, but the truth is our wrong reactions have a long history.

It’s true for all of us. We see the pain we cause others or even ourselves, and it seems like we should just grab God’s power and never do it again. But there are reasons for our continuing ungodly choices.

Heres how to discover and correct the underlying causes.

 1. Look to the past to see the beginning.

When painful things happen to us as children, we blame ourselves. We “hear” a message that somehow “I’m the cause. I must be hopeless, unloveable, incapable," etc.

When I was molested as an eight-year-old, I felt like a shameful little girl who should have prevented it from happening:

“I better act perfectly to hide my dirtiness.”

Of course those were lies, but I believed them.

Anytime someone implied I should do a better job at something, I became angry— blaming them; I didn’t want to be exposed as imperfect.

As an adult, by seeing the lies I was believing, I replaced it with God’s truth:

I wasn’t responsible for the abuse, and God loves me even though I’m imperfect.

Author Mike Wilkerson writes,It’s not our raw experiences that determine our lives but the meaning we make of them—the stories we tell and the stories we believe.”

2. Look to the present to see the threat.

Every time we react sinfully (anger, contempt, procrastination, passive/aggressive, etc.) we feel like someone or something is threatening our good self-image, our comfort, our finances—anything we value.

Many times what we value become “idols.” We “worship” those rather than looking to God to define, comfort, or provide for us.

James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (4:15-16).

The most difficult thing is surrendering to however God allows people to treat us or circumstances to assail us.

That doesn’t mean we never share our opinions or take action. But instead of automatically reacting, we must seek God first. Just because it seems “natural” to respond our usual way, we may not be reacting “supernaturally” in God’s power. Blaming, worry, defensiveness and other ungodly reactions seem to protect us but don’t bring glory to God or fulfill His will.

3. Look to God’s perspective of the person or situation.

When we overreact, we take other people’s actions personally. We feel like were back to being blamed, labeled or attacked like we were as children.

But most of the time, that person is just trying to protect themselves. It’s not about us, it’s about their insecurity or lack of trust in God.

And any difficult circumstances is God’s gift of transforming us, not to destroy us. Instead of fighting off the “threat,” we can look through God’s eyes of love and grace.

One perspective is to have “godly sorrow.” Godly sorrow sees another person’s attack as hurting them, not us.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:1-3 ESV).

Can you imagine that kind of surrender?

Paul didn’t take their attacks personally; he wanted the best for them.

God can empower us to have that kind of reaction. We can be gracious as we speak the truth in love.

Which of those three insights would you like to concentrate on so that your “natural” reactions can turn into “supernatural” reactions?

Kathy Collard Miller loves to help women trust God more through her 50 books and her speaking in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her website/blog and discover more about her speaking ministry here. Kathy has authored many magazine articles and more than 50 books, including Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries and her newest book Choices of the Heart, a Bible study, available here. The insights in this blog are based on her book Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today found here.

Graphic: courtesy of PourquoiPas, Pixabay.