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   Dawn Wilson

 

Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (395)

Tuesday
Jun192018

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 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 Marlene_Charlotte at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun122018

Where's My Reward?

Susan K. Stewart is a seriously practical woman who writes books that help writers, teachers and others. I'm guessing she probably doesn't get a lot of praise; but she is a woman of excellence. In this Service and Ministry  UPGRADE, she encourages us to think about service in a fresh way.

“We know we’re called to serve,” Susan says. “but we don’t think about service as a reward. And that’s something we can cultivate.”

Hmmm.... I (Dawn) don't think I've ever truly thought about service that way.

Susan continues . . .

Anne Steele’s hymn, “Self-Consecration,” was published in 1848*. More than 150 years later, the words of the second verse are a prayer I want to not just say, but also mean.

I will resolve, with all my heart,

With all my powers, to serve the Lord;

Nor from His precepts e’er depart,

Whose service is a rich reward.

The striking part of this verse is not the resolve to serve the Lord and keep his precepts. What my heart clings to is “service is a rich REWARD.”

We know we’re called to serve. Haven’t we heard hundreds of sermons? Read dozens of books on a servant’s heart, servant leadership or service as worship?

Many espouse the idea we serve to receive a reward, whether here or in heaven.

Very few say anything about the act of serving BEING the reward.

Often we think of reward as a tangible item, like a trophy or medal.

I get a humorous picture in my mind of us standing on platforms as God directs the angels to pass out the trophies and medals.

Will there be a pizza party when the ceremony is over?

Among the many definitions of service found in Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary are such things as:

  • “the serving of a master,”
  • conduct or performance that assists or benefits someone or something,” and
  • “the habit or practice of serving God or the acts done with that intention.”

How do these definitions apply to receiving the reward of service?

“The serving of a master.”

I don’t think any of us would question our service is to our Master, Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of references to serving God and others. Even Jesus said He came to serve (Mark 10:45).

So we can conclude we are called to serve. God has even given us gifts to use in service to others (I Peter 4:10).

Conduct or performance that assists or benefits someone or something.”

Service is to assist or benefit someone else.

Again, we look to Jesus for our example. Think about His first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12). Who benefited? The bridegroom who was lauded for saving the best wine for last. It’s important to note Jesus was not credited with the good wine.

“The habit or practice of serving God or the acts done with that intention.”

Should I say this goes without saying? Our service is to God.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to give in secret, to pray in secret, and fast in secret (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). He tells us those who do so in public receive a reward from those who see them.

Is it too much of a stretch to think Jesus also wants us to serve in secret?

Paul tells servants to serve heartily as to the Lord, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23-24). Paul considered his reward to be the ability to share the gospel (I Corinthians 9:12-18).

Neither of these are what we modern believers have come to think of as rewards.

How then do we develop the reward of serving?

1. Consider our gifts.

If God gave us gifts to serve, we need to consider what those gifts are and how to use them to the benefit of others.

Some gifts, such as teaching, are more visible. Certainly a Sunday School teacher is using a gift that all can see to teach others. If that teacher has the edification of the students foremost that is the reward. Other gifts, like intercession, are quiet, unseen. The pray-er uses the gift for the benefit of others.

2. Go where there is a need.

Serving God and others doesn’t mean volunteering at church.

Caring for children or a loved one, going to work daily to earn a family income, or even picking up trash along a roadside are all silent service. This service certainly isn’t glamourous.

It is, however, a reward.

When a call for volunteers is made, don’t rush to heed the call. Sometimes home-grown activities are our call.

3. Pray.

Well, yes, we should pray before entering into service.

Pray that the reward will be the service itself.

Pray to serve as a God-pleaser, not a man-pleaser (Ephesians 6:5-6).

Pray with me to resolve to earn the rich reward of service.

What will you do receive your reward of service?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? plus the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can learn more at her website www.practicalinspirations.com.

* Steele, Anne. “Self-Consecration.” A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion. (1848).

Graphic adapted, Trophies Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash.

Friday
Jun082018

Tell Me Another

To read Kaley Rhea's writing is to hear her talk. She's real, relevant, righteous and right-on! In this Uplift UPGRADE, Kaley gives us a fresh perspective on the Lord's relationship with us. And it's all good.

"I don’t tend to get attached to things," Kaley says. "My nostalgia-o-meter may be broken."

I (Dawn) thought that was an overall Millennial thing. As an older woman, I'm finding my family of millennials don't want my "stuff." But there's a greater, deeper truth here.

Kaley continues…

Seriously, I’m over here like:

  • First Grade macaroni art? That was years ago; let’s let this go.
  • Backyard clubhouse my dad built? This thing is a rotting deathtrap; burn it.
  • A great, great aunt’s collection of fabric scraps? Why do we even have this?

Somebody—I hope—is reading this and nodding with me, thinking, Yes, girl. Same.

But I know some of you are reading this and going, You cold-hearted monster. Okay, I’ll own that.

But lemme tell you a story.

My sister Allie has a one-year-old little girl named Emerson. Emerson and I, not to brag, are buddies. So because we’re buddies, not long ago I sat on the floor with her while we watched a kiddie program.

As we sat, I found myself getting pulled into this show. I don’t know how it happened.

There was a princess, and she was still learning how to be a princess, and in her moment of victory, I found myself getting choked up. Like I had to pause and take a moment.

The emotions in a preschool animated musical got to be too much, and I had to pull up and do some focused breathing. Me. The unsentimentalist.

You know who made fun of me in that moment? My grown adult mom and sister.

And do you know who else? Nobody else, because Emerson is an emotional person and showed a mature amount of empathy.

All right, it was super funny.

It occurred to me (and Emerson, probably) that I did not become affected when I saw a picture of that animated princess. My eyes didn’t well up when I read the show’s description. Or when I learned her name.

Nothing about that silly show came anywhere close to touching me on a deep level until I learned her story.

Until I saw her struggle. Until I knew her kind, little princess heart.

I do not connect very well or very often to THINGS. But I can connect to a STORY.

Do you wonder sometimes about the different ways God could’ve chosen to relate to us?

He could have said, “I am God, and you are human. Worship me.” And that would’ve been right and just. But we wouldn’t have known Him.

He could have said, “If you possess this amulet or such and such trinket, or say these words to this statue, you may know My favor.”

He could’ve looked at us and been altogether like, “Nah.” But He didn’t.

He gave us His story.

From the beginning of time, through the Old Testament to the cross, the resurrection and the revelation, He loves us so much—has such a desire to connect with us—He wrote it down.

The places. The people. The evidence. The truth.

Does that blow your mind? That blows my mind!

Sometimes I get so caught up in mining the Bible for “What is right in this situation?” and “How does this apply to my life?” that I miss the joy of being swept up by God’s own history.

I forget to marvel over and revel in the God who is present in every page, in every story, in every moment He chose specially to preserve for millennia so my human tinymind could process even a fraction of an understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Deep breath.

Am I getting emotional now? Emerson, get the tissues!

Wonder at these things with me:

  • What we have is not a religion of relics we have to search out.
  • What we have is not a boss wearing a nametag or a lord bearing a title instead of providing an introduction.
  • We have a God who gave us His stories.
  • We have a Friend who invites us to know Him.
  • We have a Father who proves He has known us since before we knew anything.

All that gets to this cold-hearted monster’s heart every time.

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18-22).

How do you approach the Word of God? What story from the Lord speaks to your heart today? Take time to pray and say, "Tell me another, Lord!"

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing soon, with two more novels in the works. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

This post is adapted from Messy to Meaningful: Lessons from the Junk Drawer by Monica Schmelter, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea.

Tuesday
Jun052018

When Your Last Living Parent Passes

Have you ever noticed that broken people—healed by God's grace—share His truth in a powerful way, straight from their heart? Yvonne Ortega is the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® series.

In this Grief UPGRADE, she encourages us to seek God's caring presence and peace, just as she does.

“‘Dad passed,’ my younger brother said on the phone. For a couple of minutes, I couldn’t say anything," Yvonne said. "Our last living parent passed.

"I felt broken again. Perhaps my brother felt the same way, but he didn’t say so.”

I (Dawn) still have one living parent, but I've thought about this topic many times lately.

I don't think we're ever prepared for a parent to die, but perhaps we can prepare our hearts to continue to live.

Yvonne continues . . .

Daddy wanted to live to be 100 years old. He got close to that, but his body wore out.

He had a massive heart attack on Palm Sunday, seemed to improve, but slipped away nine days later.

His mind also wore out. He had dementia.

I’ve learned three things about my heavenly Father that help me cope with the loss of my last living parent.

1. I’ve learned that God cares about orphans.

Psalm 68:5, in talking about God, says,

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (NIV).

God is a Father to me. As a caring parent, He loves me, watches over me, and guides me. He will fill in the gap.

I can go to Him in prayer, call him "Father," and feel confident that He will be a faithful parent to me.

Deuteronomy 10:18a says, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow.”

God will defend me. When the need arises, I don’t stand alone. I can run to Abba’s arms in confidence and feel safe.

2. I’ve learned to meditate on the names of God.

El Roi means the God who sees me. Since He sees me, God knows I experience bouts of loneliness. As God comforted Hagar in Genesis 16, He will comfort me.

God knows where I am and what I need.

Another name of God is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is our peace. In Judges 16:24, Gideon built an altar to the Lord and called it "The Lord Is Peace."

I admit, every so often I want to call Dad, but remember I can’t do that anymore. Other times, I tell myself I need to buy more greeting cards for Dad. I used to mail him two cards a week. Then I remember he’s in heaven.

I’m happy for him, but I miss him. In those moments, I call on Jehovah Shalom and claim His peace in my life.

3. I listen to praise and worship music.

One of my favorite Scriptures about the importance of praise and worship is 2 Chronicles 20:21:

“Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’”

My battle is coping with the loss of my last living parent. God’s Word showed me the most powerful weapon—praise and worship.

I praise God continually that my father accepted the Lord last summer.

Then I fight the battle with God’s love and strength as He brings me to a more beautiful tomorrow.

What will you do when you lose your last living parent or feel lonely because of other circumstances?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a professional speaker, and a speaking and writing coach. She’s the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Grief, Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward, and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne will speak at a Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Conference October 19–20, 2018 in Virginia Beach and would love to bring that conference to your area. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
May312018

The Perfect Wedding

Jeanne Cesena has written an unusual Marriage UPGRADE about weddings. Her goal is to get us to think rightly about our role as the Bride of Christ.

Jeanne begins with a story:

"My wife had an affair, she left me, and is now a prostitute. God told me to go get her, pay to bring her home so she can be the happy mother and wife. My reaction: Okay God where is she?"

I (Dawn) think some of you might recognize that story from the book of Hosea in the Old Testament.

Jeanne continues . . .

This is an example of how God accepts us as His bride. And how we, as the church, take our rightful place as the Bride of Christ for all eternity.

This is an example of The Perfect Wedding.

In Hosea, God gives us an example of our sins and His eternal commitment. No matter how many sins we have committed, He will accept us as we are today.

Let me summarize the verses about Hosea and his wife-to-be.

1. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute.

Her name was Gomer. They married and had three children and God let Hosea know he is not the father of the third child.

Not only did she cheat on him and have someone else’s child, she then left him and went back to being a prostitute!

2. God commanded Hosea to love her.

“... God ordered me, start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy" (Hosea 3:1 MSG)

We see an example of Hosea paying a price for his bride.

In Heaven, we "hear" a similar conversation between God the Father and Jesus Christ. Jesus had to pay the ultimate price of dying on the cross for our sins.

3. Hosea obeyed God.

“I did it. I paid good money to get her back. It cost me the price of a slave. Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me. No more being a harlot, no more sleeping around. Your living with me and I am living with you" (Hosea 3:2-3 MSG).

Hosea recommitted himself to their marriage. He renewed his wedding vows.

But his wife Gomer was in a whole different place.

Gomer must have felt shame and hurt over what she had done to her husband and children. Maybe she felt she was not a good wife and mother.

She felt she could not stay in a home environment, and she went back to what she knew—prostitution and sleeping around on her husband.

She must have felt more comfortable with the chaos in her life as a prostitute than trying to be a loving wife and mother. So she left. 

When Hosea found Gomer, she was standing in a place of sexual slavery and about to be sold. She had no life of her own. Hosea paid to get her back, as God told him to do. She was his wife.

We are Jesus’ bride. We already belong to our Creator. But He paid a price for our salvation.

Just as Gomer had to accept Hosea’s forgiveness, we must do the same. We must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, because He died and paid the price for the forgiveness of our sins.

There's nothing that should keep us from living a life as the "kids" of our Lord and King. We were created with a purpose for our lives. But sometimes we pretend to be the harlot. 

Be who you were created to be.

Take action—take your first steps to a godly, purposeful life. Work out your salvation and take steps to find and live your life with purpose.

Get ready to celebrate as The Bride of Christ at the Perfect Wedding!

What sin is god speaking to you about that is causing pain in His heart? How or what can you change to recommit your life to Him? What are your "wedding vows"—your commitment to the Lord?

Jeanne Cesena is a strong woman, her strength built through many trials and a growing reliance on the Lord she loves. Enduring threats, abuse, abandonment and psychological struggles, she has come to see the Lord as her hope and healing. She is married, has three children—including a "bonus baby" at age 40—and a powerful message to women about God's redeeming power.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.