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   and Founder:

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Entries in Upgrade Your Life (12)

Saturday
Feb172018

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 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
Jan232018

Bounce, Don't Break

Deb DeArmond is passionate about family matters, and she encourages healthy interactions in all kinds of relationships. But in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she helps us deal with recurring struggles and trials.

"Returning struggles. Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again," Deb says. "They can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God. How to manage? Bounce, don't break!"

I (Dawn) just dealt with a recurring struggle in early January. "I thought I'd already dealt with that," I said. It made me feel weak as I reeled in confusion. But I attest to what Deb is saying. Resiliency as we trust in Christ enables us to move forward.

Deb continues . . .

I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She was watching me. Again.

She wasn’t a creepy stranger on the street, but a trusted colleague. Her intentions were good, but it was uncomfortable.

Carrie was one of a handful of co-workers who knew of my heart problem. She’d been with me—on the road two years earlier—when it began. I knew she was concerned; our work assignment this day brought heat and elevation into the equation. Both could create issues for me. And they did.

After my initial diagnosis, I had surgery that corrected the problem.

The doctor was sure it would not re-emerge. He was wrong. A year later, a second surgery and more assurances felt less certain for a permanent solution. I felt great for five months, and then it returned.

And now Carrie, and a handful of others, made it their personal mission to watch me like a hawk.

I never questioned their motives, but the fact they felt the need to monitor me made me feel old, frail, and weak. I am none of those things. But there are days, I work hard to convince myself of that truth.

Returning struggles.

Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again. And whether they're health problems, financial struggles or any recurring hardships—they can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God.

So, what's the key to keep moving forward with peace and confidence?

BOUNCE—don't break.

B — BELIEVE.

Our confidence is in God's faithfulness.

He loves His children and strengthens us for the situation, even when He doesn't remove it. I've discovered new levels of certainty that He's ever present.

O — OFFER

Offer thanksgiving and praise for the solution.

Faith is trust in God that doesn't demand He deliver on our timetable. Honor Him by trusting His Word.

U — UNDERSTAND

Understand you may not understand.

As toddlers, our favorite question was "Why?" As adults, we are just taller two-year-olds—with an overwhelming need for an answer.

Sometimes God provides us that insight; sometimes He does not. Be okay with not knowing.

N —NAVIGATE

Navigate your new normal.

  • Curb spending on restaurant meals.
  • Consider how best to invest your energy level each day.
  • Accommodate changes that minimize the impact of the issue.

C — COMMUNICATE

Communicate with family and trusted friends about your circumstances, especially when it's health related.

The colleagues I travel with know what to do if I have an issue. They know how to access the information on my phone and are clear about the details that would be needed in an emergency.

E —EDUCATE

Educate yourself in the promises of God's Word and the issues you face.

  • Financial problem? Take a class on financial stewardship.
  • Health issue? Ask your physician for information and suggestions for books or articles that can help you learn about your options.

What does the Bible say about struggles?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” James 1:2-4 (ESV).

Blessed are the FLEXIBLE, for they shall not break!

What can you do to bounce into action?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's new book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Thursday
Dec212017

How Ready Are You to Celebrate Christmas?

Yvonne Ortega writes a lot about broken people, and to be sure, there are many broken people who struggle during the holiday season; but God desires to do beautiful things in their lives. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts before Christmas arrives.

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest," Yvonne says, "how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

I (Dawn) am one of those "ready early" kinds of people at Christmas, because I want Christmas week to be as peaceful as possible. But having a ready heart is not the same as a ready home.

Yvonne continues . . .

I’ve had people tell me, “I’m all set for Christmas. I bought the gifts in August, decorated the house, trimmed an artificial tree, filled the Christmas stockings with small treats, and mailed the Christmas cards.”

Others have told me, “I’m ready as can be. I did everything over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I can sit back and enjoy the Christmas lights, programs, and parties.”

From an earthly perspective, the person appears to be ready. However, as Christians with a heavenly perspective, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Our readiness to celebrate his birth has nothing to do with Christmas decorations, a trimmed tree, gifts for family and friends, stockings filled with goodies, or Christmas cards.

These three steps will help you decide how ready you are to celebrate Christmas.

1. Have you forgiven family members, friends or co-workers who hurt you?

You don’t want anything standing between you and God.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Do you still feel unforgiven for past sins? Are you burdened with shame and guilt?

If you’ve confessed your sins, God forgave you. He didn’t make a mistake when he did that. You can do no less.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

2. How often do you read your Bible, pray, and go to church—especially during the Christmas season?

If you do these things, how do you do them?

Do you do them on the run with an eye on your watch?

Do you do them grudgingly or cheerfully?

My late mentor often said, "You make time for what’s important to you."

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (NIV). You show your love by how much time you spend with the Lord and get to know him.

Make time for the most important relationship in your life. It is one that will last for eternity.

3. How comfortable would you feel if your family, friends, and coworkers evaluated your trust in God?

Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a car, or a home. Maybe you received a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or have a prodigal child in the family. You may have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one. Any one of these situations can cause turmoil in your life.

It can also result in your questioning your faith and God’s character.

Rate your confidence in his promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

As I wrap up, I ask you the same question I did at the beginning:

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest, how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle), Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), and Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Forgiveness, all available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic of candle, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul072016

To Tell the Truth

Deb DeArmond loves to build strong relationships, especially marriage relationshps. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she reminds us how "truth" can strengthen and empower any relationship.

“It’s not always easy to tell the truth," Deb says. "The truth can sting, bruise or even break a heart. And we may worry about the impact it will have on someone we deeply love ... like our spouse.”

This is something I (Dawn) have debated with many people. Truth must always win out, but there's a way to be honest that will honor God.

Deb continues . . .

July 7 is National Tell the Truth Day. I’m sure God expects it to happen more often than just one day each year. And He has a lot to say on the matter of truthfulness—how to do it, why to do it, and the price of failing to do it. 

Telling the truth is a lesson we learned early in life. Mama and Daddy, the Sunday school teacher and every adult we knew reminded us of the importance of truth-telling.

And children are often known for telling the whole truth—sometimes to the chagrin of their parents, who hadn’t counted on a personal family moment being shared with the pastor or the next-door neighbor!

As adults, however, the truth can feel more complicated.

  • “Oh, it’s okay. It’s no big deal.” (He has no idea how it hurt me. Again.)
  • “What she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.” (Maybe someone else will tell her.)
  • “I’ll just let it go.” (It’s not worth the effort or thought required.)
  • “Sure. That’s fine with me.” (Forget it. She won’t listen anyway.)

It’s easy to convince ourselves that it would be too uncomfortable for the other person to hear the truth.

More likely, we’re the ones who aren’t comfortable. We may be unsure the relationship is strong enough to withstand honesty. Experience might suggest the truth is not welcome or perhaps it’s has been used as a battering ram in the past.

No wonder we simply let ourselves off the hook—even with our husband or wife. It’s easier.

The Word is clear about the truth:

“But speaking the truth in love, you may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15 NKJV).

And there’s the rub. The truth is to be spoken, no question about that. But it’s always to be done in love.

Without love, it’s just a set of facts, information, data. And data often fails to inspire, encourage, motivate, or move the heart to understanding. And what’s a marriage with out understanding?

In the research for our book on marital conflict, we discovered that many couples have surrendered—no longer telling one another the truth. They’d rather live what was described as “living compatibly” than to trouble the waters in what they feared would be conflict they couldn’t contain.

Conflict isn’t the problem. It’s how we handle conflict that determines whether the end result is discovery or damage.

We often regard confrontation as aggressive. It doesn’t have to be.

Confronting one another in love restores connection. It says, “I love you enough to fight along side you for our marriage.” Your marriage has an enemy, but it’s not your spouse.

Just because there’s quiet in the house doesn’t mean there’s peace. God wants so much more for our marriages and our lives.

So why not make a fresh commitment to the truth today—with yourself and your spouse. No fudging on facts. No little white lies.

Love will make the way.

What truth is overdue today? How can you wrap it in love?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her books provide tools, tips and biblical perspective to build sound relationships within marriage, as parents, and extended family-including mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Deb and her husband of 41 years, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb and her books visit her "Family Matters" site.

Monday
Dec232013

The Greatest Upgrade of All

As I'm pondering the meaning of Christmas on this Christmas Eve, I'm thinking about the ultimate UPGRADE.

The greatest upgrade of all time originated in the heart of God. He desired to transform our minds and hearts so He could have a relationship with us. But to do that, He had to do something about our desperate sin problem.

So "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14). God didn't send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). This perfect baby would grow up to be our restitution with God - the "atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 2:2; Romans 6:23). This had to happen because God could not have a relationship with sinners like you and me; we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), alienated from the Creator God.

The Author of Life loved us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8) and desired to give "forever life" to us, but we cannot receive His gift until we believe in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and in the power of His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 10:9-10). We need to place our trust in Jesus' work for us.

God's salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8). There are no good works or attempts at self-help that can make us right with Him. Self-help tends to cultivate independence from God, and much of it can lead to unbiblical thinking - being "wise" in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:5-7).

God says we can be justified - legally declared righteous by Him - on the basis of Jesus' shed blood (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:22). We receive God's mercy and forgiveness, and His purposes for us are all wrapped up in our relationship with Christ.

The miracle is, God exchanges our sin for Jesus' righteousness. It is the greatest, most transforming upgrade of all time ... if we will receive it.

And then, God does not leave us alone in our daily struggles. He gives us another gift, the Holy Spirit,  and He sanctifies us - He makes us holy (John 17:17; Romans 6:6; Hebrews 10:14; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Jude 1:24). He makes us "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our loving Father God continues to work in our lives to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

We have the joy, privilege and opportunity to cooperate with God in His work of making us more like His Son.

In other words, we "upgrade" in our daily choices whenever we trust God, surrender to His control and obey the truth principles and commands of scripture in every area of life: finances, marriage, attitudes, parenting - everything!

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

Everything we will ever be and do to glorify God is accomplished through our union with Jesus. We will glorify and enjoy the Father as we learn to "fear" Him properly, look to Jesus, walk in the Spirit and become wise in the Word (Proverbs 9:10; 16:6 Hebrews 12:2; Galatians 5:16; Colossians 1:9-10).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson once wrote, "The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions .... We glorify God when we live to God." We can glorify Him in the ordinary ... the everyday choices we make. And that is the purpose behind all the "upgrades" you will see on this blog and website.

This Christmas - remember:

Your transformation began in the heart of God, and He is pleased when you cooperate with His work in your heart!

The Father's love was poured out to us in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, and His love continued to pour out when Jesus died for our sins. We still hear His words echoing through the ages:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47).

What an upgrade!

How has God changed you ... encouraged you ... challenged you ... and made you more like Jesus? I'd love to hear your story.

Or ... do you still need to trust the Savior? You can do that today. Here is a suggested prayer you might pray:

"Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life. I ask You to teach me how I can now make choices every day to please and honor you. Thank you, Jesus."

Friend, if you have prayed that prayer, let me know so I can rejoice with you.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. In these ministries and as President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM San Diego), Dawn encourages, edifies and energizes women with scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. Dawn and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons and three granddaughters.

Note: The Heart Nativity Ornament is from Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, Michigan.