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And UPGRADE'S Founder

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Entries in Dawn Wilson (66)


The Strength of a Nation

In this Independence Day UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to focus on our homes, the heart of our nation.                

President Abraham Lincoln said it well, "The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people."

My heart is heavy for the homes of America.

We have forgotten God, the One who built this nation.

Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

Without the Lord, our "building" is fruitless.

We need the strength that comes from building on the solid Rock. As the old hymn says, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand."

Look around at the confusion and chaos in our nation. Selfish agendas and godlessness reign.

We desperately need the wisdom and peace that comes from intimately knowing the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 3:15).

Won't you take a minute in your INDEPENDENCE DAY celebration—today or tomorrow—to CRY OUT TO GOD on behalf of our homes, our churches and our nation?

Let this Independence Day be an awakening to the presence of God, and fresh DEPENDENCE on Him.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand a writer at 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 Entab at Morguefile.


Righteous 'to the Core'

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson reminds us to guard our "heart"—the center of our spiritual life.

"Maybe," Dawn says, "I was trying to be cute in Sunday school—I don't know—but the Lord sure  zeroed in on my 'clever' quip."

My Sunday school teacher, Dr. Dirk Van Proyen—who is also a deep and godly seminary professor—began class with an illustration before expounding on Matthew 15:1-9 and related scriptures about how Jesus dealt with some self-righteous Pharisees.

He held up two apples. They both looked solid and inviting on the outside. But then he described how some apples become rotten from the core out. The rottenness is only discovered after we bite into the apple!

He then explained how the Pharisees stalked Jesus and tried to trap Him with a question about His disciples supposedly not following the Pharisees' "traditions."

But Jesus didn't fall for their distortion of truth. He pointed out the Pharisees' hypocrisy.

They were "rotten," Dr. Van Proyen said, "to the core!"

My teacher made his summary statement about what we could learn from the day's lesson, and class was officially over. As usual, a well-taught class challenging us to seek God and live according to the truth of scripture.

But then I raised my hand. I just had to say it.

"In other words, we need to be RIGHTEOUS to the core," I said.

Ordinarily, such a display of "brilliance" would have earned me one of the professor's coveted whiteboard stars. The class was obviously impressed.

But since it was the end of class, my husband simply leaned over to me and said, "That would normally have gotten you a star."

I smugly thought, "Yeah, I WAS pretty clever with that one, wasn't I? Bet NO ONE ELSE thought of that."

Nearly strangled myself patting myself on the back.

Then I got home and the Lord hit me squarely in my pride.

"Daughter, you need to be sure that you really ARE 'righteous to the core.'"

And I knew exactly what God meant.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with being clever and wise. But it's wrong to gloat, to think we're "one up" on anyone else. We're to let others praise us, the Bible says, and not praise ourselves—we're only to boast of the Lord (Proverbs 27:2; Jeremiah 9:23-24).

I argued with the Lord a bit. After all, I did let someone else praise me—my husband!

Again, the Lord nudged my heart.

Check your humility, Dawn. Check your heart.

The funny thing is, Dr. Van Proyen spoke about the heart too. I heard it, but I missed it.

I got so caught up in the academics of the lesson, I missed the personal application.

So the Lord had me revisit the lesson. And I saw it clearly. Jesus had a lot to say about the heart.

1. We can be outwardly clean, but in our hearts we can still be rotten to the core.

That was the whole point of Jesus' conversation with those who tried to entrap Him.

The Pharisees delighted in strutting around, boasting about their knowledge. With high-sounding criticism, they laid the heavy burden of man-made rules on people instead of teaching them the simplicity and wisdom of the Word of God.

But Jesus saw their hearts.

We can fool others, but God will always see our core.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our delusion about our own spiritual health, we can even fool ourselves!

The heart really is deceitful, isn't it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

2. We can worship God all we want, but if our hearts are "far from Him," our worship is empty.

As I sat reflecting on Sunday afternoon, I wondered how many times I've attended a "worship service," but—even as a believer—my heart was more Pharisaical than Christlike.

We can go through the motions and do all the "right" things—and still not be righteous.

As I read these words, tears came: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me...."

Jesus, refering to Isaiah's prophecy, said the judgmental, burden-laying, hypocritical person's worship is "vain" or worthless (Matthew 15:7-9; Isaiah 29:13). It's empty. Fake. A farce.

Oh, dear Lord. Have mercy.

3. We can choose to remain "rotten to the core," or we can turn to Christ who can make us righteous to the core!

Paul wrote,

"God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

The word "righteous" refers to a person who is morally right or virtuous. The unrighteous, Paul said, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9a); but—wonderful truth—Christ has become every Christian's righteousness, sanctification (holiness), and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

In His encounter with Israel's elite, Jesus said our righteousness must "exceed" that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). We can't, like the Pharisees, try to earn our way into the kingdom through our own self-righteousness. We must instead trust in the righteousness of Christ on our behalf (which is positional righteousness).

Our good works (or practical righteousness) must only come AFTER salvation, because all of our own righteousness (before Christ) is like smelly, filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

And, scripture teaches, any good works done with the wrong motivation stink too! (Proverbs 16:2; Romans 8:8; Philippians 1:17; Proverbs 21:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:4)

That's too easy to forget.

We forget we have NO righteousness apart from Christ.

Yes, this side of heaven we will always face the presence of sin; but without God's merciful, regenerating and transforming work in us daily, we cannot conquer sin or live out righteousness. We cannot bear good fruit (John 15:4-6). When we are born of God, our heart changes and we no longer desire to "go on sinning" (1 John 3:9), but there is still a war within and deliverance only comes from our victory in Christ and through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:14-25; 8:1-13).

That is why . . .

4. We must learn to learn to walk in the Spirit if we want to live out practical righteousness.

I was a Christian for many years before I understood what that meant. I thought walking in the Spirit was only related to occasional supernatural expressions of the Spirit, as in the days of the early Church. But walking in the Spirit is meant to be our daily practice!

To walk in the Spirit, we must daily—and throughout our day:

  1. acknowledge our utter helplessness to do anything good apart from the Holy Spirit's control and enablement (Romans 7:18);
  2. confess sin and ask God to work—to clean and renew our heart and empower us to live righteously (Psalm 51:10);
  3. die to sin's influence and be alert to the Holy Spirit—trusting Him to equip and enable us to "keep in step" with Him (Romans 6:11, 14; Galatians 5:6, 25);
  4. act righteously—or practice making right choices in accordance with who we are now in Christ (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 2:10); 
  5. and express gratitude to the Lord for any wisdom, strength, power and influence we have—and any right choices we make—because He alone is our righteousness, He alone is our victory, and He alone deserves all glory! (1 Corinthians 15:57)

I "got the message" that day, and I truly want to be righteous to the core. Don't you?

How is your heart today? How is your worship? Are you walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at 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 Marlene_Charlotte at Pixabay.


Practicing the "One Anothers"—Dos and Don'ts

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages readers to not only study the many "one anothers" of scripture, but also to incorporate them into daily living.

One of the first teachings of biblical truth that changed my life after becoming a true, biblical Christian was the study of the "one anothers" of scripture.

At first, they were a nice list of Christian-sounding scriptures.

But as I began to mature in my daily walk with God, I realized the "one anothers" of scripture are a gift. They teach us how to interact in the body of Christ.

I want to share what is by no means an extensive list of the "one anothers" in scripture, and in some cases, to share some insights. Then I want to share a second list that I only recently began to put into practices.

1. Things we SHOULD DO to, or for, "one another"

I don't know about you, but that list is overwhelming!

But imagine how your family and church—and as a result, possibly your community—might change if you lived according to that list of "one anothers."

Imagine how the Lord might work in and through you if the "one anothers" were more than a list!

But that positive, powerful list is not the only one to consider.

The scripture also is clear about some things we should be careful NEVER to practice!

2. Things We SHOULD NOT do to "one another"

  • Don’t JUDGE one another. (Romans 14:13)
  • Don't bite and DEVOUR one another; don't "annihilate" each other. (Galatians 5:15)
  • Don't PROVOKE or challenge one another—this is related to envy and being conceited or boastful. (Galatians 5:26)
  • Don't bring LAWSUITS against one another. (1 Corinthians 6:7)
  • Don't DEPRIVE one another sexually in marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
  • Do not LIE to one another. (Leviticus 19:11; Colossians 3:9)  
  • Do not speak against (BAD MOUTH) one another. (James 4:11)
  • Do not COMPLAIN or grumble about one another. (James 5:9)
  • Do not INJURE or wound one another with infighting. (Watch your words; be a peacemaker.) (Acts 7:26)
  • Don't QUARREL, separating from one another in sharp disagreement: destroying unity. (Acts 15:39)
  • Don't be HATEFUL to one another. It's part of your "foolish" past before you knew Christ. (Titus 3:3)

We can either choose to be intimidated by those lists, or we can realize there is no earthly way we can live according to these biblical standards except through the amazing and transforming grace of God.

Ask the Lord to help you depend on Him, and walk in the Spirit daily.

The Lord can help you practice these one anothers more and more as you trust Him and obey.

Which of these "one anothers" is hardest for you to practice? Why? What is the truth of scripture that can encourage you to change?

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 and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at 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 coffeebeanworks at Pixabay.


Who We Are and What We Have—In Christ

Sometimes we forget who we are. And forgetting can have sad, even devastating consequences.

When I realized who I am and what I have in Christ, it revolutionized my thinking. And the more I focus on these truths, the more freedom, peace and courage I have in my life and ministry.
There are three things I discovered in my study. In Christ, I have a new identity, absolute security, and God-given dignity.

Let me unpack those for you here:

I. In Christ, you have a New IDENTITY

II. In Christ, you have Absolute SECURITY

III. In Christ, you have God-given DIGNITY

I encourage you to study each point, and rejoice in who you are and what you have in Christ.

Which of these categories of who you are and what you have in Christ speaks to you today? How will you allow it to change or encourage you?

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 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 Lightstock.


Encourage Others With Hope

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites readers to encourage their hearts with hope in God but not to stop there!

Confusion. Chaos. Deep wounds and pain. Disappointments. Betrayal. Again and again we face overwhelming circumstances.

And if it were not for the Lord, we would be overcome.

My sister Pam struggles with many trials, but she shines for Jesus as He continues to do a mighty work of grace in her life.

After a recent fresh struggle she texted me, “In darkness is hope.”

Her words struck me hard and made me cry, because I know how deep darkness has entered her life since childhood. But I’ve also seen the light of hope in God and His Word bring her peace, wisdom and joy.

Not too long ago, we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The Reverend said in his final sermon in 1968, “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Our greatest hope can come alive when we need it—and when we need the Lord—the most.

Words by the writer of Hebrews and the Old Testament Psalmist have become two resources of hope for me in recent days.

In Hebrews, we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast” (6:19a). Believers were encouraged to “take hold of the hope set before us” so they could be “strongly encouraged” (6:18b).

God’s kind of hope “does not disappoint us,” the Apostle Paul said, because “God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).

The need for hope goes back to the Garden of Eden, when the Lord gave the first two human sinners hope for salvation (what is commonly called the Protevangelium in Genesis 3:15). God's promise gave them great hope, even in the midst of their punishment for sin.

Throughout the Old Testament we sense the deep longing for the Messiah, the Promised One, to come. It was a cry of hope in God, and we hear that heart cry repeatedly in the psalms (Read Psalm 2; 22, 45; 72; and 110).

The cry for hope is loud in the psalms. Listen to the Psalmist’s prayer of lament and allow your heart to feel the pain.

“My heart is in anguish within me … fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me” (Psalm 55:4-5)

But listen too to his honest plea for help and his assurance of God’s presence and help in the midst of his struggles.

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.… I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge….” (Psalms 54:2 and 142:5).

The Psalmist confidently proclaimed God as the source of his hope; and we need to point our hearts toward God and His Word too.

We need go beyond our own need for hope to encourage other people to place their hope in the Lord.

It’s wise to encourage hope because:

1. Hope brings spiritual and emotional rest.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

2. Hope anticipates God’s response.

Job longed for God to grant what he hoped for (Job 6:8), but the Psalmist prayed with assurance: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

3. Hope enables confidence in God’s sovereign care.

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

4. Hope in God’s unfailing love delights His heart!

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

There are, of course, many other reasons hope is a worthy focus for us and those we love. Pam Farrel wrote about many of them in her book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, which I recommend.

Why would we NOT encourage more hope? Be proactive. Think of at least one person you can encourage with God’s kind of hope 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 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 Kareni at Pixabay.