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Entries in Dawn Wilson (55)

Thursday
Apr202017

Our Stuff vs. God's 'Stuff'

As I entered Pam Farrel's two-day post about downsizing (Part 1; Part 2), I (Dawn) searched my own heart.

"Lord," I said, "Pam wrote, 'You don't own your things; your things own you.' I get that. Does my stuff have me?

"And beyond that, Lord, does YOUR stuff have me?"

It was a strange question that filled my heart that morning, but one I had to answer honestly.

I had already been dealing with the idolatry of things. All the possessions in my home that consumed my time and attention.

The things I bought that were frivilous. Trinkets.

Things that cluttered my home and inhabited my heart.

The truth is, when our lives are cluttered with the things of this world, we may be crowding out the things of God.

So we start weeding out, downsizing, simplifying our homes, our closets, our storage spaces. And that's all good.

It's good to simplify our lives too. It creates freedom. Breathing room.

But I've noticed, when we clear spaces in our homes and heart, something else usually rushes in to fill that space.

I got rid of one "collection" in my home only to replace it with another one. It still wasn't the best use of my financial flow. And soon after I started dealing with my idolatry of food (gluttony), I found another idolatry rushed into the vacuum (pride of self-accomplishment).

The Lord doesn't just want things to be deleted from our lives; He wants to fill our lives with something better.

He wants to fill us with Himself.

I started asking the Lord, "What can I add to my life that will bring you more glory?"

I wanted my "stuff" to be used for God's glory and to bless others as Pam suggested. And I wanted the Lord to fill my home and heart with more of Himself too. I wanted to be a vessel of honor, for His use.

It's not about despising our "stuff"—despising the things of the world. It's about finding our highest delight in the Creator of the world and in His Word, and bearing good fruit for Him (Psalm 1:1-3).

Focusing on God's "stuff" means focusing on the truth of His Word and responding to it in humility, obedience, and God-glorifying service.

That may mean changing our thoughts, especially any lies we believe. We muat be careful how we think, because our lives are shaped by the thoughts of our "heart" (Proverbs 4:23). We must fix our thoughts on those things that will build our lives and glorify the Lord (Philippians 4:8).  We must be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23).

But most of all, it's following the replacement principle, the dynamic the Bible describes as "put off... put on."

Without the biblical replacement principle—found in Ephesians 4:22-24 and Philippians 3:12-14; 4:8—we may be simply replacing one bad habit with another bad habit, or one idolatry with another idolatry.

We must put off (get rid of) those things that fill our lives that do not please the Lord. We must confess our sins as the Holy Spirit illuminates our heart reveals them to us (Ephesians 1:15-18; 1 John 1:9). Our sins begin in our hearts and work their way outward, so we need to start with the heart.

It's not enough to recognize the fruit of sin; we need to get to the root and yank it out.

For example, overeating was not my root of sin; the gluttony was a result of idolatry in my heart—seeking satisfaction in food rather than the Lord. THAT was the root.

We are renewed in our spirit (sanctified) when we begin to appropriate and apply the Word (John 17:17) and REPLACE our sinful desires, thoughts and attitudes with biblical desires, thoughts and attitudes (1 Timothy 4:7; Romans 6:11-14, 16-19). We allow the Word to train us!

It's not usually an overnight process, but a transformation that happens over time as we yield to the Spirit of God (James 1:21-25).

In that transformation, we put off (eliminate) some things (our sinful stuff), and put on (embrace) other things (God's holy and honorable "stuff").

For example:

But the point is, once we identify our "stuff," we discover God's "stuff"—His absolute truth about our sin—and we embrace it and do whatever we can to make the truth of His Word an active part of our lives (reading, memorization, responding in obedience, etc.). In other words, we surrender our lives to His control.

So... as I am deleting the frivilous and foolishly time-consuming things in my home that clutter and rob me of freedom or joy, I am also asking the Lord to help me delete the things that do not please Him, and REPLACE them with things that delight His heart.

Is this your desire too? Where will you begin to deal with YOUR "stuff"? Where does seeking God's "stuff" begin?

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.

Thursday
Mar232017

What Does 'Walking in the Light' Look Like?

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

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

But it's often misunderstood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So HOW are we to walk as children of light?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. We're to keep our MISSION FOCUS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexels at Pixabay.

Monday
Mar202017

Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help

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

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

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

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

1. Virtual Hugs

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

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

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

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

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

I invite the Lord into the encouragement process.

2. Vertical Help

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

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

In other words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday
Mar072017

4 Ways to Turn Intentions into God-honoring Action

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages action! Intentions are great, but they don't change the world.

"You can't build a reputation," Henry Ford said, "on what you are going to do."

That's not just true of a reputation; it's also true of anything important to us.

Whether it's in ministry, writing, a professional career, marriage, parenting, finances—whatever—intentions are only a starting point, not a means to build anything lasting or worthwhile.

Don't get me wrong. Plans and intentions are wonderful. They're necessary for success. But plans are, in and of themselves, fruitless. We have to move beyond intentions to action. 

Words are important, but ultimately, our lives are measured by what we do, not what we say.

So how do we turn our good intentions into actions that please the Lord?

I would suggest FOUR STEPS.

1. Examine Your Intentions

Good intentions aren't always good. Sometimes good intentions can be used to justify sin.

I laughed at a cartoon of a burglar before a judge. He told the judge, "Yes, I robbed the bank, but I had the best of intentions."

We see this justification of intentions in the life of Paul as he, thinking himself righteous, persecuted the church (Acts 23:1; 26:11-12). We also see misused intentions in the life of King Herod. He thought he was doing the Jews a favor—he had good political intentions—but he ended up imprisoning Peter (Acts 12:1-4). As Christians, we must examine our intentions before we move ahead.

Be sure your foundation for intentions is solid and biblical.

2. Count the Cost.

Jesus counseled His followers to "count the cost" before moving forward in a big project (Luke 14:28-30). On the surface, it appears He advocates careful decision-making.

But His counsel goes beyond our decisions to our discipleship. Masses of people followed the Lord for many reasons: free food, the miraculous healings and other miracles. But Jesus knew their hearts.

His counsel about counting the cost is part of a larger passage (14:26-33) that laid out what it meant to be His follower. While eternal life is free, discipleship "costs" us something.

It means recognizing He is Lord, and transfering the ownership of our lives and all we have to Him.

This changes the concept of our "intentions," doesn't it? "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

Surrender every good intention to the Lord and His plans.

3. Fight the Flesh

I recently read an article that addressed humans' "internal guidance system," claiming we have "two brains: primitive and intellectual." The primitive brain or guidance system, the author suggested, was not evolved and it worked against our intellectual brain. So, accordingly, we know what to do, but our actions don't always synchronize with our intentions, because sometimes we are controlled by the primitive brain.

I smiled, suddenly "hearing" Paul's words in Romans 7:19: "For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do."

Rather than a "primitive brain" and an evolved "intellectual brain," I think we are really battling sinful flesh. It is the sinful nature we inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12; 7:14-24; Psalm 51:5). With deceitful hearts, we struggle with the "deeds of the flesh" (Jeremiah 17:9; Galatians 5:19-21).

There are consequences to our sinfulness. One of the consequences is, the flesh can really sidetrack us in our best intentions!

Through God's grace and walking in the Spirit, we can overcome the flesh (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:11; Galatians 5:16; Romans 13:14; Psalm 119:11).

We can starve out it's influences in our lives (1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:6).

Fight the flesh to give your good intentions a fighting chance!

4. Check Your Obedience.

Many times we are sincere about our intentions, but we don't follow through.

At the Bema Seat of Christ, it will be our obedience that stands strong in the face of judgment—our good works after salvation, not our intentions (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

I have often heard this passage preached:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21)

We can have lots good intentions as Christians, but if we are not obedient disciples, committed to honoring God with righteous thoughts and behavior, we will not be seen as one who has borne fruit for the Kingdom. We will, in fact, suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).

One of the deceiving things about intentions is they can tempt us to rest in a false sense of confidence and security. Sometimes we think because we have already "decided" to do something, we're moving forward.

Deciding is not doing.

In the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-31a), Jesus taught about intentions versus obedience. When a father asked his first son to work in the vineyard, he refused, but later thought better and obeyed. When he asked the same question of the second son, the son said, "Sure, I'll go"—but he didn't follow through. He didn't obey.

The first son did the will of his father because he acted in response to the Father's will.

Many of us have heard clear instructions from our heavenly Father—perhaps during a time of prayer or Bible study, at church or in another gathering. Our hearts were moved. We may have intended to obey, but have we?

Determine to follow through on wise, biblical intentions... obey the Lord!

Good intentions, like New Year's resolutions, are only as good as the results.

In summary:

  1. Be sure your foundation for intentions is solid and biblical.
  2. Surrender every good intention to the Lord and His plans.
  3. Fight the flesh to give your good intentions a fighting chance.
  4. Determine to follow through on wise, biblical intentions ... obey the Lord!

We will not be perfect in our follow-through. We are still sinners. But sinners saved by God's transforming grace have the empowering Spirit to help us fight our battles and obey the Father.

The blessing to my heart is a wonderful truth: Our heavenly Father is "the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness"  (Exodus 34:6). When I am not faithful to my Lord, He is still faithful to me (Romans 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23).

God sees the believer's heart and know every intention; and He is a compassionate and faithful Father. 

What are some good intentions you have that you have yet to act upon? Would any of these points help you follow through?

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.

Wednesday
Dec212016

Really ... the "Elf" Made Me Do It!

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn reminds us to make wise, proactive choices—even at Christmastime!

My Christmas "Elf on a Shelf," Ella Noelle, is responsible for all the things going wrong in my life this Christmas.

She's responsible for:

  • My cookies that burned.
  • My nearly-empty wallet.
  • My 2-1/2 pound weight gain.
  • My overbooked calendar.
  • My angry outburst at the guy that cut me off on the way to the mall and my impatience waiting in a 40-minute line because I waited too late to shop.

Yeah, right.

I can say Ella Noelle is responsible all I want, but it doesn't make it so.

It's sort of like "The devil made me do it." 

No. The devil may tempt us, but he can't force us to sin.

I remember when comedian Flip Wilson (no relation) made that remark famous in the early 1970s. For some time after, many of my friends used that as their excuse for foul-ups.

I remembered my childhood imaginary friend, Stinky Sam. Whenever I was caught in a sinful act, I'd tell myself, "That was Stinky Sam"—while I'd stand there looking totally (and adorably) innocent, sometimes holding the evidence of my "crime."

I think with some Christian maturity, I've finally outgrown those silly blame-game episodes. I've put the childish ways of blaming others behind me (1 Corinthians 13:11). I've taken more responsibility for my foolish choices.

Until I haven't.

Just yesterday, I caught myself blaming the devil after I took the third Christmas cookie.

I asked my husband, "Who emptied my wallet?" (after a trip to the mall).

I couldn't believe it was ME who uttered those nasty, impatient words at the store clerk.

The truth is, I still have to learn a lot about "owning up" when I blow it.

We're all responsible for our own ugly stuff.

The scriptures teach us the concept of personal responsiblity (see Ezekiel 18:20). Both negatively and positively, we all will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8; Isaiah 3:10-11).

Here are biblical examples of some who tried to dodge responsibility when they sinned:

  • Adam and Eve tried the blame game, but God confronted them about their sin (Genesis 3:12-13).
  • Cain tried to cover up his sin, but God found him out (Genesis 4:9).
  • Jonah tried to duck out of his disobedience, but he still had to answer to God (Jonah 1:7-8).
  • Achan was responsible for his hidden sin at the city of Jericho (Joshua 7:14-15).
  • David finally had to "fess up" to his sin—and he recognize who he had ultimately sinned against! (Psalm 51:4).
  • Pontius Pilate said he was innocent and blamed the Jews for Jesus' crucifixion, but God saw his heart (Matthew 27:24).

God's word of warning to us is: "Be sure your sin will find you out!" (Numbers 32:23). God sees and knows. We are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

He takes note of even our secret sins  (Psalm 139:1-4, 11-12, 23-24; Psalm 69:5; 90:8; Jeremiah 16:17-18). But He can help us turn from those sins hidden in our hearts (Psalm 19:12).

Today, I praise the Lord because He has a solution for our sin.

The great gift of Christmas is God reaching down to man with abundant grace.

In great love and mercy, when we confess, our faithful Father forgives (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13).

The biggest responsibility we have is to repent, believe the Gospel and live for Christ—making the wise and godly choices that please Him (Mark 1:15; 1 John 4:9-10).

We can't blame anyone but ourselves if we fail to do that: not the Elf, the devil, or even Stinky Sam!

Are you blaming others or trying to cover up your sin? How can embracing the great truth of 1 John 1:9 encourage you to come clean before the Lord and move forward in freedom?

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 Heartsand 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.