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Tuesday
Nov132018

Tough Choices to Live a Life of Integrity

Becky Harling is funny, insightful, and intensely passionate that women learn how to live in emotional and spiritual freedom. In this Character UPGRADE, she writes about the choice to live in integrity.

"We’ve all experienced the crushing disappointment of Christian leaders that we’ve admired who have failed morally," Becky says. "What exactly is a life of integrity and how do we insure that we live a life of integrity and finish well?"

I (Dawn) am heartbroken to know of Christian friends in places of leadership who chose sin over a life of integrity; but Becky's words of warning and encouragement aren't just for leaders—they are for all of us.

Becky continues . . . 

Steve’s parents came and visited us this past summer. Now near 90, their lives have been marked by steadfast integrity. As a result, the generations after them have been blessed.

As I’ve was thinking about how God has used their integrity, I read Psalm 101.

In this delightful, short Psalm, David gives us very specific choices we can make to live a life of integrity.

Now I have to warn you, some of these choices are TOUGH!

Honestly, they go against the grain of our human sinful nature; and at times, they’re downright inconvenient.

But, the payoff is the legacy of integrity that’s left for those who are following behind. I know that’s what I want to leave behind. What about you?

If you want to leave a legacy of integrity to those coming up behind you here are three choices from Psalm 101 that you can make now!

1. Praise God for His love and goodness continually.

“I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1).

The Hebrew word for praise that’s used here speaks to a celebration, praising God with song. Every day should be a celebration of God’s amazing love and goodness, but often that’s not the case, because we focus our thoughts on what we don’t have or what we wish we had.

What if you began every day by thanking God and praising Him for His love and goodness in your life? My guess is that you would live a more positive life, and you’d definitely be on your way to a life of integrity.

When we focus on God’s love rather than on all the things that go wrong in life, we’re more likely to make positive decisions. We’re not as grumpy and cranky.  

The next time you’re tempted to complain or gripe about something, shift your focus to God’s faithful love. Watch how your spirit grows more joyful almost instantly.

I’ll never forget when my friend, Jill’s, dad was admitted to assisted living. Often during that season of life, folks become cranky and resentful. But not Jill’s dad!

When Jill called Ed to ask how he was doing, he responded exuberantly, “Jill! This place is awesome! It’s like a cruise ship. I love it!”

Every time, we went to visit Ed, we left encouraged. Even during the last months of his life while he was enduring pain, Ed talked about the goodness of God and nurtured a thankful spirit.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the way I want to be, and that means I have to nurture a thankful heart now!

2. Be careful what you set your sights on. 

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile” (Psalm 101:3).

Immoral choices don’t just happen. They usually start with lustful thoughts that have been nurtured.

We need to be careful and exercise a heart of discernment about what we gaze on and fill our minds with.  Sometimes even the news is so graphic and argumentative that we need to shut it off.

When you’re watching T.V. or a movie, ask yourself,

“Is this helping me follow Jesus more closely, or is it creating anxiety, worry, fear or lust in me?”

3. Walk away from gossip and dissention. 

"Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate” (Psalm 101:5).

It’s so easy—you’re having coffee with friends, and one friend starts to “share” how frustrated they are with a different acquaintance.

They need to process. So you listen, and soon you’re drawn in to something more deadly than just processing a frustration.

Here’s the thing: we’re called to not have any part in slander.

So, what do you do? You could say something positive and walk away. You could change the topic. Or you could say, “I’m not comfortable cutting that person down. I don’t have all the facts, and I don’t want to be guilty of gossip.”

Friend, these are sometimes hard choices. It may seem that they’re not very big choices, and what do they really matter?

But they DO matter.

By making choices after God’s own heart, one choice after another, you’ll be building a life of integrity. 

Which of the three tough choices do you struggle with most? What can you do to upgrade your level of integrity?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of qimono at Pixabay.

Thursday
Oct252018

Your Next Right Thing

Pam Farrel wrote earlier on this blog about a decision-making skill—making the obvious choice—and now, in this Choices UPGRADE, she's adding another decision-making skill: Do Your Next Right Thing.

Pam says, "Since college, more than four decades ago, I have made it my daily prayer: 'Lord, show me the next right thing. Then, as I see the next right thing, I do it!

"God has been faithful to upgrade my life as I have been faithful to do the next right thing."

I (Dawn) attest that God is faithful when we are faithful; and when His children struggle, He still is faithful! I appreciate Pam's wisdom here!

Pam continues . . . 

Elizabeth Elliot, a woman whose husband, Jim, was murdered as a martyr in the jungles, leaving her with an infant daughter, adopted the simple decision-making method ofDo the next thing”—love the next person; care for the next need; answer the next call.

She moved from a life that was unraveling to a strong vibrant ministry and personal life by simply doing the next thing.

I adapted her statement to “Do the next RIGHT thing.”

Moving from “right thing” to “right thing” moves your life forward, step by step.

Let me give you a series of simple examples/

When I was in college, my parents were going through a divorce, so I helped my mother move she and my siblings back to the safety and serenity of her parent’s family farm.

That was the next right thing.

I was already registered for college, so I moved into the dorms when my parent’s marriage dissolved and they each moved away from the city we had been living in. I worked hard to get A’s in my classes because no one: not my mother, my father or me, needed any more drama from any cause, especially from me.

That was the next right thing.

To guarantee I would have money to live on in this unstable time, I also applied and was hired for two part-time jobs.

That was the next right thing.

I was a competitive gymnast, so I enrolled in a PE class for gymnastics, and a coach noticed my skill, and invited me to try out for the diving team—which had potential for a scholarship. I made the team.

That was the next right thing.

A friend I made on that swim/dive team invited me to a Bible study. I went and during the prayer at the end of the meeting, the leader gave those attending the opportunity to commit or recommit his or her life to Jesus. I prayed and recommitted my life to Jesus.

That was the next right thing.

The leader invited me to return the next week and bring friends. So the next Sunday, I went through the dorm and invited everyone, and 20 people came with me.

That was the next right thing.

It was obvious to the leaders that I had the seeds of leadership in me, even though I was new to walking in the faith. So one of the women leaders, invited me to attend a one-on-one mentoring discipleship appointment with her. I said, “Yes!”

That was the next right thing.

I committed to coming each week to both the large meeting and the one-on-one meeting. Then she challenged me to read the Bible, every day. So I did.

That was the next right thing.

She then upped the challenge to share my faith on campus. So I did it—everyday!

That was the next right thing

This created a track record of trust, so she invited me on to the leadership team. I said, “Yes!”

That was the next right thing.

The leaders were all invited to a leadership conference for more training. I said “Yes!” .

That was the next right thing.

At that conference the speaker challenged us to consider the call to fulltime ministry. I prayed, “Not my will but Yours, God.” 

That was the next right thing.

At that same conference, after that extended quiet time with God, I walked in the lobby, and a handsome young man, asked me, “What did God teach you?” I shared all God had taught me that day.

That was the next right thing.

That young man was Bill Farrel. We began dating, and asked God to lead our relationship

That was the next right thing.

On December 14, 1979, I married Bill.

That was DEFINITELY the next right thing!

See how a series of smaller wise choices grew into a series of more important right choices?

Then those more important choices grew into a few very vital life choices—all by doing “the next right thing”. 

Do the Next Right Thing is the principle reflected in this verse:

They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion (Psalm 84:7 NIV).

When you move from right thing to right thing, you progress forward from strength to strength.

Doing the next right thing propels your goals, your character and your life forward.

What is the next right thing God is calling YOU to do?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of 46 books including bestselling, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience and 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together—which this blog post was adapted from. Find out more about Pam and Bill Farrel at Love-Wise.  

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MabelAmber at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Oct232018

Waiting for God's Beautiful Timing

Sally Ferguson, a retreat planner, teaches women how to get away from the craziness of life and wait on the Lord. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she reminds us of a precious principle for intimacy with God.

"I look out the window at my backyard," Sally says, "where reside two apple trees, one Granny Smith and one Red Delicious. My three year old granddaughter persistently reaches for the miniature fruit, hanging on the branches."

"'Not yet,' I tell her. 'The apples need time to grow and get sweeter. Their colors will change when they’re ready.'"

Growing up in the Midwest, I (Dawn) saw many such apple trees. I know exactly what Sally's talking about. It's a beautiful illustration for patience.

Sally continues . . .

I often expect life to be ready, for me, too.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God has made everything beautiful in its time, but I impulsively seize opportunities that aren’t ripe yet, and wonder why they taste bitter and feel tough.

Why is there such mystery around when things happen?

       Four ways to know when God’s timing is ripe.

1. Do you have a skillset needed for the job?

People have a way of volunteering us for their projects.

While we’re being taught to learn to say “no” for our own sanity, there are times we do need to say “yes,” for theirs.

In John chapter 2, Mary asked Jesus to take care of the punch at a family wedding. Jesus said, “It’s not my monkey, not my circus.” (Not His actual wording!)

But He helped anyway. Verse 7 says He knew what to do, and He helped save the family from great embarrassment in front of their community.

There are times when I know what to do, and need to get involved, even if I think it’s lousy timing.

2. Does it require an act of faith?

Occasionally, I get the most bizarre ideas, yet cannot escape their unrelenting nudge.

Is it me, or is it God’s idea?

The best thing I can do is ask the Lord to make it absolutely clear with my next step.

In Matthew chapter 14, the wind was whipping around Peter’s feet. He had stepped out of the boat to walk with Jesus, but the splashing waves redirected his attention.

When fear crept up, he cried out for help.

Jesus asked Peter to trust Him, but He didn’t change the circumstances first.

Verse 32 says the wind died down when they climbed into the boat. Not before. Not after. But at the right time. Obedience has its reward.

3. Will God get the glory for something bigger than what you could have done?

Matthew 14:33 says the people in the boat worshipped Jesus when they saw what happened.

My impatience demands action. But, when God moves, the “wow factor” usually stops me in my tracks.

It’s at that point I know the result is much more than I dreamt and requires a level of trust previously unknown.

Who am I, to rush God?

Isaiah 5:19 proclaims an indictment on me for telling God to hurry up! He promises He will swiftly take care of things when the time is right (Isaiah 60:22); and He will do it for His own glory (Isaiah 48:11).

4. Do you have peace about the outcome?

Even though we can’t see the future and the outcomes of our choices, we can trust the One who does.

My NIV footnotes say about Psalm 27:3, “Confidence gives us patience to wait for God’s timing and not demand immediate response to our petitions.”

Oh, to have that confidence and complete trust in the Lord!

Why does God appear to be silent when we ask Him to answer our prayers? My friend, Mary Corey said, “It’s to keep us close to Him, when He seems to be taking too long.”

Let the waiting draw you closer to the Lord.

When God is moving, nothing can stop the momentum of His work in our lives. It’s exhilarating to be in that tsunami of change.

However, we have to wait for that to happen. Ephesians 1:9-10 says He is waiting for history to reach its full potential.

Here’s a secret: Mark 1:15 declares the time to be ripe, now, for us to submit to the Lordship of Christ. Let’s act on what we know to do, and wait for God to do His thing.

When we surrender our agendas to Him, He’s never too late.

Are you ready to pause? Use your skillset, faith, trust and confidence in God to guide your resting and waiting for Him to move on your behalf. The fruit will all be worth the wait.

How are you growing while you wait for God’s timing?

Sally Ferguson loves planning women’s retreats. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Visit her latest retreat release here.  

Graphic adapted, courtesy of mploscar at Pixabay. 

Thursday
Oct182018

12 Traits of Unsafe People

Counselor and Bible teacher Debbie W. Wilson helps people develop relevant faith. She also teaches people practical wisdom from scripture. In this Relationship UPGRADE, Debbie clearly defines a group of people that might harm us.

She asks, "Do you have an unsafe person in your life?"

I (Dawn) do have some people that seem to flash warning signs when I'm with them. Most people have some "unsafe" people in their lives, and sometimes it's hard to know how to respond to them. I'm glad Debbie is tackling this issue.

Debbie continues . . .

Jacob’s father-in-law and employer for twenty years was an unsafe person. Laban’s name means white. But he was a dark cloud for Jacob.

Unsafe people live, work, and worship among us.

They may appear friendly and good. But beneath their scrubbed exterior lies a dark streak.

Laban betrayed his daughter Rachel and Jacob by switching the bride the night of the wedding. He cheated Jacob by changing his wages ten times.

His story helps us identify the unsafe people in our lives.

               12 Traits of Unsafe People

1. Unsafe people use you as long as it benefits them.

Laban wanted Jacob to stay while Jacob made him prosperous (Genesis 30:25-28).

2. Unsafe people are reasonable to your face but undermine you behind your back. 

Laban agreed to give Jacob the spotted and streaked animals as his wages, but he gave them to his sons instead. He thought leaving the solid colored herds would decrease Jacob’s chances to raise spotted animals (Genesis 30:34-36).

3. Unsafe people are threatened by your success and disregard your faithfulness.

Jacob’s growing herds threatened Laban’s sons. Laban’s attitude changed toward Jacob. They forgot Jacob’s work had made them rich (Genesis 31:1-3).

4. Unsafe people can’t thwart God’s blessings or will for you.

Every time Laban changed Jacob’s wages, God intervened.

If Laban said, “The speckled ones will be your wages,” then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young (Genesis 31:4-9).

5. Unsafe people don't determine your well-being.

Rachel and Leah acknowledged the bounty their heavenly Father had provided in spite of their father wronging them (Genesis 31:14-16).

6. Unsafe people are on God’s leash.

Jacob was no match for Laban’s men. He didn’t have to be.

God appeared in a dream and stopped Laban from attacking Jacob (Genesis 31:24).

7. Unsafe people manipulate with guilt and shame.

They make you the villain and themselves the victim.

Jacob had the cooperation of his wives (Genesis 31:4-16), but Laban accused him of carrying them off like captives in war.

“You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing.” (See Genesis 31:26-28.)

8. Unsafe people's true intentions come out through their unguarded words.

“I have the power to harm you; but God stopped me” (Genesis 31:29).

What? I thought you said Jacob had no cause to run off in secret.

9. Unsafe people are mercenary.

Decisions are based on personal profit—not kindness, relationship, or right and wrong (Genesis 31:38-41).

10. Unsafe people believe they are entitled—me, my, mine! 

Jacob worked twenty years for his wives and flocks.

Laban said, “They’re mine!” (Genesis 31:43).

11. Unsafe people hypocritically accuse you of their ill motives.

Laban said, “If you mistreat my daughters….”

Laban had already wronged Rachel and Leah (Genesis 31:15, 50).

12. Unsafe people are distrustful because they assume you share their ill will.

Laban wanted a watchtower to keep Jacob from harming him and promised he wouldn't pursue Jacob.

Yet, Laban's the one who chased Jacob to harm him and had repeatedly cheated him (Genesis  31:51-52).

Laban debunks the myth we should trust people just because they are family members, authority figures, or claim to be believers.

Don't feel guilty if your caution light flashes when you are around someone.

Ask God for discernment and then boldly heed it.

Eventually, Jacob and his family had to separate from Laban and his sons.

The Bible says:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18 NIV).

Sadly, sometimes it is not possible to live at peace with some people and be true to our walk with God.

What traits concerning the people with whom you live and work alert you to proceed with caution?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks, writes, and coaches to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God: It's Not the Size of Your Problems, but the Size of Your God and Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets to God's Rest. Find her at her blog, Refreshing Faith.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MGDboston at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Hypocrisy Check, Please

Speaking into the lives of Millennials but with truth for every season, Kaley Faith Rhea provides both humor and insight. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she tackles the hypocrisy problem with grace and truth.

Kaley says, "One of the first things they’ll tell you at Singleness Camp: 'Never go on a second date with someone who’s rude to the restaurant wait staff.'"

HA! I (Dawn) think that's simple common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people can't decipher the lies of a hypocrite.

Kaley continues . . .

This isn’t a post about dating or singleness. But as a single person, I hear a lot of dating advice, good and bad, and it’s interesting to me the seemingly universal nature of this rule.

People will tell you stories.

“The date was going well, and he seemed really nice… until he thought he saw a hair in his salad, and he made the waiter cry. I blocked his number while we were still at the table, and he was so offended.”

Or “She seemed cool. But then she sent her food back three times and started swearing about the silverware? I ran away. Just literally started running. In. A. Direction.”

People of all different philosophies, backgrounds and theologies seem to agree: if you come across someone who wears different faces for different occasions, do not align yourself with that person.

But what about me?

I have to confess, I align myself with… myself far too often and way too staunchly.

It is so easy to spot hypocrisy when it’s sitting on the opposite side of the table.

But when I allow myself the comfort of that sort of farsightedness, the only real change I can effectively affect is adding fuel to the fire of my own arrogance and blindly participating in the irony of my own hypocrisy.

The number one way for me to fight hypocrisy is to ask the Lord to fight it—in me.

Remember Romans 2:1-5?

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 

"We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 

"Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Oh, man.

To be clear, it’s NOT hypocritical to call wrong things wrong or right things right based on the Word of God. And it is absolutely right and just to call out abuse where it exists and remove abusers from positions of power, every time.

But in my everyday, it’s hypocritical when I hard-heartedly set myself up as righteous as if anything other than the sweet, miraculous, merciful grace of God could ever make me right.

It’s hypocritical when I decide God should deal graciously with my sins, but I should deal harshly with yours.

It’s hypocritical when I call your wrong things wrong and my wrong things nothing.

So here’s my little checklist that starts with this prayer:

Holy Spirit, soften my heart, and don’t allow me to hide or to justify. Lead me to repent, fully confident in Your goodness, trusting in Your mercy, and grateful beyond words for the powerful way You forgive and produce real heart-change.

Hypocrisy Check:

  • Am I doing anything that's counter to God's Word of His character?
  • Am I doing anything I would be upset with someone else for doing?
  • Am I doing anything that is entirely about being seen by someone rather than being Jesus to someone?
  • Am I miffed at someone for not putting me first when I'm definitely not putting them first?

In Luke 6:41-42, Jesus gives us this famous word picture.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

"How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.”

You hypocrite? Sigh. ME hypocrite.

But the Lord doesn’t leave us there, all log-eyed and useless.

And isn’t it wonderful how, even in all the moments we don’t deserve a second date, our sweet Savior has still lovingly, unflinchingly called us his bride?

Just in case you're wondering whether you are log-eyed, go back over that Hypocrisy Check. Is there something you need to confess to the Lord and allow Him to change in you?

Kaley Rhea is the St. Louis-area co-author of Christian romantic comedy Turtles in the Road (along with mom, bud, and writing partner Rhonda Rhea) and this year’s non-fiction release Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and Monica Schmelter). To read more by Kaley, visit her blog.