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Entries in Courage (5)

Tuesday
Mar062018

Your 3:20 Life!—a Breakthrough to Gain God's Best

When I first saw some statements by mega-author Pam Farrel about something called a "3:20 life," I invited her to share the concept with us. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she suggests a simple habit that can change our entire perspective.

"What do you think might happen," Pam asks, "if you put feet to your faith and acted on the belief that God really cares about your hopes and dreams?"

Several years ago, I (Dawn) remember gazing at a wall in the Farrels' home that was covered with framed book covers of all the books they've written. I thought at that time they were already putting feet to their faith. But as Pam explains, God often stirs us up afresh, because He has new growth and new adventures in mind!

Pam continues . . . 

How would you live if you really trusted in the power of the God you read about in the Bible—but for YOUR life, on behalf of YOUR future? 

It was an ordinary day, but the extraordinary God challenged me in an unexpected way.

As I remember it, the Facebook post was simply a friend sharing that she was on her way to pick up her kids at school, and it was 3:20 and she was praying the verse her pastor had challenged their church to pray—Ephesians 3:20.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us." (Amplified version)

That day, it was as if God pushed me off a high cliff and I dove into the deep waters of His Majesty with a rush of excitement.

  • Lord, what if I made the commitment to pray Ephesians 3:20 every day at 3:20?
  • And what if I put my whole weight into my commitment, and prayed believing for many of the hopes, dreams, prayers and secret longings of my heart that only You and I talk about?
  • What if I set my alarm on my phone and pray at 3:20—not matter where I am or who I am with?
  • What if I really took you up on your offer to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all I can ask or think?
  • How would my life change?

That was almost four years ago. At the time, Bill and I were in what felt like a deep, dark, endless, hopeless pit that was an excruciatingly difficult mix of an overwhelmingly heavy workload of responsibilities: ministry, traveling, writing and speaking accompanied with weekly commuting to care for ailing, aging parents which created a burden financially, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.

I woke up daily dreading getting out of bed for fear of even more bad news. 

But this Ephesians 3:20 day, God was inviting me to become a more believing, praying adventurer with Him.

Too often we Christians allow the Word of God to become a nice book with a pretty leather cover that we might open for emotional comfort, or even for intellectual study. But rarely do we hunger for the Word to spur us forward in a “cattle-prod, get-out-of-our-comfort-zone, jump-from-the-plane-with-only-the-ripcord-of-the-character-of-God-to-save-us” kind of abandon. 

Seldom do we plunge head-first with only the bungee cord of the Word to rebound us to the safe center of God’s will.

It is an infrequent thrill to take the action steps of radical obedience when the full weight of your hopes, dreams and wild and wonderful imaginings will ONLY succeed if God shows up.

Powerfully. Supernaturally. Mightily!

So, what has changed in me and my life since I took God up on His offer to do “exceedingly, abundantly” more than this visionary, positive optimist can ask, think or dream?

First some things changed IN me.

1. Change in ALIGNMENT

Before you write this off as some “name it and claim it” prayerful magic pixie dust, dig a little deeper with me.  

The verse begins, “Now to Him who is able to do.” It is clear that I am NOT able—the power rests completely in GOD.One word that really wows my soul is the word “able” (dunamenō), because it is akin to the word we often use—DYNAMITE!

The power God will apply to your life and mine is EXPLOSIVE.

And it is CREATIVE.

God does the “do-ing”. The same Creator who designed and spoke the world and humankind into existence is the God who creates, manufactures, makes and produces His will in our lives. This spiritual “TNT”  is why Jesus can say things that make most of us very uncomfortable—but in a good way—like, Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20).

God wants to move our mountains. However, to see this kind of dynamite, earth-shaking power, it means me (and you) moving to see God clearer.

  • It is adjusting my sails to catch God’s wind.
  • It is aligning my heartbeat to match God’s.
  • It is putting on God’s spectacles to see my life from His heavenly perspective.
  • It is making the commitment to keep the defroster on and let the wipers of the Word keep the rain, fog, snow, and sleet off the faith windshield of my life so I have God’s vision for the path and plan ahead.

Praying Ephesians 3:20 keeps my heart in tune to God’s heart.

2. Change in APPRECIATION

This Creator God then out does Himself when He promises to do “far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think.”

Get this: When God is trying to impress something on a soul, He repeats himself. That is what He does here—three times.

(1) “Far more abundantly” means superabundantly, immeasurably more. 

(2) “Beyond” is hyper, or to go above and beyond, or over the top for the benefit and betterment of another.

(3) “All” means “each and every part, the totality, the whole.” Yep, God goes all the way, gives the whole enchilada, carries the plan to the finish line, ushers us into the end zone, over the goal line and into the winner’s circle. God doesn’t pull up short on His plans for us.

Now we may not fully comprehend His timing or His methods but we can rest assured in His ability to bring victory in His way, using His methods, in His time.

His plans will be better, greater, and more wonderful than anything I can ask or request. His ways will be so much more than I can think, consider, ponder, perceive, or dream up! (And if you ask my husband, I can dream up A LOT!)

God is just infinitively, wiser, smarter, and grander! While I can create hopes and dreams, God can turn hopes and dreams that line up to His best for us a REALITY!

Praying Ephesian 3:20 keeps me living in humble awe of the God who elevates and lifts us to His best for our lives. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).

3. Change in ACCESSIBILITY

This creative power to make hopes, dreams and awesome imaginings come into being is done “according to His power that is at work within us."

This dunamis power is the miraculous, marvelous, might of God that works within us. If we peek forward, we see that God’s ability and strength is given for our good (v 20) and for HIS glory (v 21). “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  

This dunamis term for the power of God is repeated 120 times in the New Testament. God weaves Himself and His power into our lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:8 explains, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” While I have always sought to walk moment by moment in step with God’s Spirit, praying Ephesians 3:20 has kept me ultra-sensitive to the tiniest whisper, course correction or prompting to pursue an opportunity.  

If we picture this God-powered plan in human terms, God builds our elite race car (us and His plan for us); He is the rocket fuel propelling us forward; and we are in the driver’s seat with the Spirit of God inside steering and guiding us in the most exciting race set out before us (Hebrews 12:1).

Our biggest (and sometimes the hardest) job is to yield enthusiastically to God’s leadership in our heart and life.

Praying Ephesians 3:20 allows God to live His best life:

  • FOR us
  • THROUGH us
  • to BLESS us
  • and BUILD us,
  • and to bless others through us.
  • and build His eternal kingdom using us

So, this is what God changed IN me.

What did God change FOR me in the process?

  1. God gave us the courage to sell our home. (It took about 18 very long months to prepare and find God’s buyer—a church planter and his family!)
  2. God challenged us to be compassionate enough to move nearer Bill’s parents (one frail of body, the other frail of mind), and be bold enough to sell and give away 90% of our belongings to move on to a live aboard boat!

The 3:20 life was very rigorous in getting us to this space where we are moored in a lovely marina, but God and His dynamite power was WITH us each step along the way!

We watched miracle after miracle unfold as God knocked down obstacle after obstacle.

We LOVE our simple beachfront 3:20 Life—teaching #biblefromtheboat, living a healthier pace while embracing a more physical active life where we kayak to get our mail and enjoy breath-taking sunsets of over the Pacific Ocean.

My husband, Bill, and I are writing a soon to be released workbook: Your 3:20 Life: Breakthrough to God’s Blessings to help build a life to look forward to living.

Are you ready for God’s 3:20 life for you?

Pull out your phone, set the alarm to ring at 3:20 each day; and if you are like me, you will wake up each day looking forward to the “exceedingly abundantly” moments God has in store for you!  

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of over 45 books including bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and her newest Your 3:20 Life (both co-authored with her husband, Bill) To learn more about Pam and Bill Farrels ministry and how they can help you live Your 3:20 Life, go to www.Love-Wise.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb212017

Comfort Zone / Chocolate Zone

In this UPLIFT post, Rhonda Rhea encourages us to step out in faith—maybe more faith than we think we have.

"Think chocolate is not the answer? Maybe," Rhonda says, "you're not asking the right questions."

Ok now. Rhonda had me (Dawn) at the word "chocolate." Say that word and I'm like a dog hearing the word "squirrel." But knowing Rhonda, there's some spiritual truth in here somewhere.

She continues . . .

Okay, I do know chocolate is not really the answer to all the world’s problems. But it does sort of make a challenge a bit more palatable.

Chocolate-coating our discomforts—couldn’t hurt, right? Sometimes chocolate is not only in my comfort zone, but chocolate is my comfort zone.

Did you hear about the recent scientific study that determined 10 out of 9 people appreciate chocolate? It doesn’t matter so much that the math doesn’t exactly work, I don’t argue with it.

As a matter of fact, I’ve sometimes wondered how much it would take to cause me to say the words “Now that’s just too much chocolate.” And while I don’t know how much, I’m more than willing to explore the topic through my own personal research.

Other studies—real ones—are always citing more ways chocolate is good for you. So I’ve decided to no longer consider myself a few pounds overweight.

I’ve decided to instead think of myself as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s my comfort zone and I’m sticking to it. Also, it’s sort of sticking to me.

There are comfort zones and there are comfort zones.

When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable.

We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step out of their comfortable lives and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life I can promise will happen, but I can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone.

Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

His is the zone of victory—even miracles. Paul spoke of how the churches in Macedonia, though they were in a zone of great discomfort, gave “as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability,” (2 Corinthians 8:3, NIV). God makes it possible for us to do more than is possible for us to do. It’s “10 out of 9” kind of math, only it’s very real.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

There’s great comfort there. Sometimes there’s even chocolate.

Where might God be asking you to step outside your comfort zone and into a place of growth?

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.

Tuesday
Feb142017

Valentine Valor

A strong marriage requires good communication, and in this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, Deb DeArmond encourages marriage partners to be brave and cultivate better heart communication.

“Marriage is not for the faint of heart," Deb says. "It’s the HEART-est work you’ll ever do.”

The "heart-est" work — I (Dawn) love that! Hard work we accomplish on behalf of loving marriages is well worth the effort!

Deb continues . . .

I was recently asked by a young friend, “What’s your secret to a happy marriage?”

My response took her by surprise.

“We discovered it’s better to find the courage to fight than the strength to run.”

Let me clarify. We don’t believe stepping into the ring to take our shots at one other is the best way to come to agreement. That’s what happens when we forget Christian marriages have a very real enemy.

But it’s not your spouse.

So, we do fight, the enemy, together, for the life of our marriage—and it’s always been worth the effort.   

As my husband and I have ministered to marrieds, a familiar pattern often appears: “We don’t fight. We try to avoid conflict. It’s not healthy.”

They go along to get along, remaining silent, as they disconnect from one another, bit by bit, till there’s very little left of the love they proclaimed at the altar.

Silence can speak volumes.

Just because it’s quiet, does not mean there’s peace in the house.

And it’s not the way Jesus dealt with relationships that He valued.

My favorite example:

Jesus asked Peter three times after His resurrection - “Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus confronted Peter because He loved him, and the relationship was important to Him.

He did it to restore the connection. He did it to restore Peter.

The goal of confrontation is to connect. And to make that happen, the language of confrontation must be love.

Healthy confrontation requires valor, otherwise known as courage, bravery, or audacious boldness.

What’s that look like?

Here are three Valentine’s Day opportunities to bravely step into a healthier, more intimate marriage.

1. Speak up.

Bravely say what needs to be said—speaking the truth in love. No matter how long you’ve been married, your spouse can’t read your mind.

When couples retreat into silence, they no longer have enough hope or ambition to fight. Silence says, “I give up.”

One gentleman told us he and his wife never experienced any conflict until 20 years into the marriage when she announced she’d “had enough and wanted a divorce.” He was stunned when she presented him with a list of grievances, carefully compiled, but never shared.

2. Confront courageously.

Confront the issue, not the person. Be aware of your tone, timing, and the words you choose.

“I’d like to talk about what happened last night at your folks. I was embarrassed when you . . . .” Describe your issue with the behavior rather than attack the person.

And return the favor: are you confrontable? Are you open to hear from your spouse?

3. Boldly examine YOUR heart first.

It’s easy to see the flaws in our partner; tougher to see the cracks in our own facade.

  • Do you have to have the final word?
  • Are you quick to point out your spouse’s shortcomings, but don’t see your own?
  • Do you nurse a grudge like a baby at the breast?

If you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws, God will reveal them to you. Ask Him to help you grow in those areas.

Speaking up is a risk. But the goal of genuine, authentic connection is worth chasing, even when it might create some tense or painful moments.

Are you brave enough to take that step?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Author and speaker, her newest book is entitled Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers whether newlywed, or long-time married create the life God meant marriage and family to be. For more information about Deb, visit her website, Family Matters.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Wednesday
Jan202016

Finish Well: Take Courage

If we want to finish well, I believe the first thing we must do is take courage!

As I (Dawn) mentioned in an earlier post, I am resetting my priorities and goals in order to "Finish Well" ... to complete the rest of my life with joy. I think it's important for seniors to pause and evaluate, to determine what needs to change in order to someday hear God's "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21), but also for a better life while we are on earth.

God, I believe, gave me three marching orders last June: (1) Take Courage; (2) Build Strength; and (3) Embrace Freedom.

In this and the next two UPGRADE posts, let's consider these three "resets."

Today, it's TAKE COURAGE.

I think these are days when Christians must be brave. There is too much at stake for our nation, churches and families for us to sit back, timid shadows of the warriors God calls us to be "for such a time as this."

The Israelis have a word for this: hazaq (pronounced Hah-zahk).

Hazaq is a verb meaning to be or become strong, firm or courageous. It is one of the Hebrew words used for man's power ("strong hand") and also God's power.

Hazaq was often used in the Old Testament to encourage soldiers to be strong (for example, Deuteronomy 31:6; 2 Samuel 10:12) and not be afraid of their enemies, because God would go with them. According to a biblical scholar friend of mine, a form of this phrase (Raq hazaq) is still used today by Israeli soldiers. They shout, "only be strong".)

We see this concept in Psalm 27:14:

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (ESV)

We are to wait for and confidently expect the Lord! We are to allow our heart to "take courage" in Him!

Marvin Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham,* describes how, in ancient and modern-day synagogue services, an entire congregation will shout loudly to each other, "Hazaq! Hazaq! Venith Hazeq!" ("Be strong. Be strong. Let us strengthen each other.")

One of the secrets to taking courage is to come alongside each other, supporting each other in the battles we must face!

I think there are at least four practical ways we can be strong and "Take Courage"—especially in the second half of life.

1. Face Uncertainties Bravely.

Our confidence is in Christ, as Psalm 27:14 indicates. Because our confidence is not in our weak flesh, we can face the uncertainties of life bravely.

In fact, when we trust the "arm of flesh," we are playing into the enemy's desire to destroy us! (See Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 17:5; 2 Chronicles 32:8.) We must always face life's uncertainties with the Lord, not in our own strength!

It's foolish to stay up worrying at night, afraid of the unknown. God is faithful in our future as clearly as in our past and present. And what's even more precious, if we have trusted Christ, God is our loving Father. He desires what's best for us—no matter our circumstances—and we can trust Him.

Wise King Solomon said it plainly:  

"Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence..." (Proverbs 3:25-26, ESV).

2. Confront Your Weaknesses.

Face down your weaknesses. And your failures. And your sins.

God can enable us to courageously face who we've been, what we've done, and who we are in our darkest moments even now. Covering up or hiding what is true about our lives is not the path to growth or freedom.

We like to stay hidden in the darkness, hiding our ugliness. We don't want to come to the Light of God (John 3:19-20); but who do we think we are kidding? Jeremiah says our "ways" are not hidden from God's sight (Jeremiah 16:17; Isaiah 29:15).

We must come to God and welcome Him to enter the secret places in our hearts if we ever hope to have mercy, forgiveness and strength in ministry.

  • "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy" (Proverbs 28:13, NIV)
  • "... Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12b, NIV)

When we have that merciful freedom of forgiveness, there's no need to fear being "exposed."

3. Stand for Righteousness.

And then, when our spiritual house is in order, we're in a better position to have spiritual influence. And oh, how this world needs spiritual influence ... BIBLICAL influence.

Even as we are courageously taking all our sins and faults before the Lord—"confessing" them, agreeing with God about them (1 John 1:9)—we need to remember who we are in Christ!

We are already righteous in the sight of God, because of what Jesus has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:22a; 4:5; 10:4).

The life we now live is "in the Son of God" who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). In and through Christ, we can approach God with freedom and confidence. And in that confidence, we can stand against the wickedness in our world.

We can stand for righteousness, knowing God will be with us, enabling us to do the work He calls us to do.

4. Become a Warrior.

God calls us to be soldiers in His army. We must determine to impact this world for Christ, using our spiritual gifts and the Christian disciplines as tools for our warfare.

In Christ, we can be a soldier of the cross. We can go into to battle, enabled for the fight by the grace of God.

  • Some will do battle on the front lines, exposing Satan's lies with the truth of the Word of God.
  • Some will battle as mighy prayer warriors for those in the thick of the conflict.
  • We all have a part. No one should be standing on the sidelines.

So take courage! In Christ, you will finish well.

Which of these four "Take Courage" goals is hard for you? Ask the Lord to show you how you can change in order to finish well.

* Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, p. 190.

Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM). Dawn is the co-author of a devotional, 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.

Graphic adapted, from pixabay.

Monday
May132013

How to 'Suit Up' with Courage

Are you a courageous woman? I am turning into a courageous woman; it doesn’t come naturally, believe me!

I have to “suit up” for it. And so can you.

Here are some of the spiritual gymnastics I go through in “scary” times—what I remember:

1. Courage speaks up and acts. Look at life through the lens of God’s calling, promises, and strength. Move beyond fear. driven by the plan of God and a cause greater than yourself. Courage speaks up: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Psalm 107:2a). Like Queen Esther, courage sees the bigger vision and steps forward to do her part (Esther 4:13-17). Courage embraces the solid hope that God can redeem any situation.

2. Courage isn’t afraid to be different. Author Leslie Ludy said (Set-Apart Femininity, p. 89) she read a speech given by a Jewish father at his son’s bar mitzvah. He told his son not to apologize for being Jewish, but rather, to embrace the holy calling of being a Jew. "To be holy is to be different," the father said. "That which is holy is set apart.” Ludy makes this application: “A set-apart young woman has the courage to be different." *

Did you ever sing this song? "Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!" ** Daniel knew who he was, even in a pagan culture. His significance and purposeful choices were wrapped up in God and reflected his commitment to the Lord (Daniel 1:8-16).

3. Courage counts on God’s presence and power. “Don't be afraid. The Lord will be your helper and never leave your side” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Pastor Bill Elliff wrote, "Everything flows from the presence of God." Everything you and I will ever need – including courage - comes from the God of power, provision and peace. Count on the ever-present Spirit of God (Acts 1:8; 4:29-31; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:15-20).

4. Courage is born in faith. The scriptures advise us strongly to "Be on your guard; stand fast in the faith; be courageous, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). Paul's words echo God’s command to Joshua: "Be strong and of good courage ... very courageous" (Joshua 1:6-7). I can rest in God, knowing He is working behind the scenes and His plans cannot be thwarted.

5. Courage counts the cost. A woman of courage thinks before acting. Jesus’ invitation to follow Him came with the promise of tough times and a personal cross (Matthew 10:34, 38-39; John 15:20; 16:1-2). Paul warned that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus”—and that takes courage in our wicked culture—"will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).

Courage might mean speaking up to a store clerk at the Holy Spirit's promptings, or it might entail taking a stand against an evil cultural trend. Courage obeys God in spite of the results or  man's responses (Acts 5:29). 

6. Courage suits up for battle. We need spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:11) because there is a battle! A relentless, set-on-our-destruction enemy has stepped up his tactics in these last days. We must be vigilant against him (1 Peter 5:8).  

Which of these aspects of courage is toughest for you when God asks you to do “scary things”?

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of UpgradeWithDawn.com. Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God.