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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Mar142019

What My Sick Dog Taught Me about Trust

Debbie W. Wilson is one of my heart sisters. We met on Facebook and we both desire to align our thoughts and behavior with the Word of God. But her Spiritual Life UPGRADE is especially dear to me, helping me to better receive God’s will at a difficult time in my own life.

“I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room,” Debbie said.

I (Dawn) so understand that. We’ve done that with our maltipoo, Roscoe. But it was for his good! I love how Debbie expresses this simple-but-profound truth.

Debbie continues . . .

I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that.

Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels.

One week, Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her—and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting God in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better.

But was that true?

Imagine me explaining Max’s condition to him.

  • I could read him the symptoms off the Internet.
  • I could show him his lab reports.
  • I could remind him how he almost died.

But would that help Max have his blood drawn?

I understand the treatment of Max’s illness better than he does. I know the pain of the needle is brief and the benefits are lasting. How much more does God understand my trials?

Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But some 'whys' remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is so much less than the distance between God’s thoughts and mine.

If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, do I think I can understand why God takes me through pain and loss?

But God has not left me without assurance.

He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity.

Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master.

The hurt is real, but if He allows it then we know it is to benefit us.

As God’s child I can’t shed a hair without God noticing.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them.

He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 NASB)

What pain or disappointment has God allowed to touch you? What would trusting Him look like for you?

Debbie W. Wilson aspires to connect people’s hearts to God and help them discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible teaching ministry. She enjoys exploring new places, reading a good mystery, and laughing with her two standard poodles. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

The photos with those two gorgeous poodles are from the author, Debbie.

Tuesday
Mar122019

God in Three Persons Speaks to Us

Gail Goolsby always challenges my thinking, and in this article, she doesn't disappoint. Her Biblical Thinking UPGRADE encourages us to consider how the three persons of God are speaking, so we can find guidance in the tough questions of life.

“The concept of the Trinity is confusing and denied by many religions,” Gail said. While living among Muslims in Afghanistan, I avoided this theological topic altogether.”

At first, I (Dawn) was taken back by Gail's words. Why would anyone avoid the topic of the Trinity, one of the basic foundation truths in scripture? But then Gail clarified—we can teach the concept without saying the word, "Trinity."

Gail continues . . .

While the Bible doesn’t use the word Trinity specifically, we find many references to God as Father, Jesus as His son, and the Holy Spirit—separate persons.

The occasion of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) identified all three as the Father spoke from the heavens and a dove symbolizing the Spirit descended on Jesus.

Needing to Hear from God

My husband and I sat at a picnic table on the lovely grounds of CBN University (now Regent University) in Virginia Beach in the early 1980’s. We were with a group of prospective graduate students.

The outdoor BBQ supper allowed guests to meet casually with faculty to ask questions and see if this was God’s plan for their further education.

The dean of the newly acquired law school at CBNU was Herbert Titus, a former ACLU lawyer now radically transformed as a Christian.

He sat before us in his tailored suit, French-cuffed white shirt, and yellow silk tie. With an inviting smile, he patiently listened to our life stories and present wonderings about a major life change.

“I first considered seminary about three years ago,” my husband related, “but it wasn’t the right time for us in many ways.”

With two young children and another on the way, I was still wondering if the time was right.

“How do you know when God is directing, and not our own wills?” my husband eventually asked Dean Titus.

I have never forgotten his reply.

"The Trinity Speaks in Unison."

Dean Titus shared with us how he and his wife of three decades made their decisions since embracing Christ as Savior:

“We look for answers from each person in the Trinity, and wait until the three parts line up in harmony.”

1. God, the Father of All Circumstances

He started by pointing to creation, God’s divine plans for the children of Israel and the sending of His Son, Jesus. 

“I don’t subscribe totally to the open door-closed door method of decision-making, because situations change. It can be dangerous to depend on circumstances alone,” he explained.

“But we absolutely look wisely and thoroughly at what is happening around us, the needs of our family and finances.

"God speaks through our environment which He determined for us.”

2. God, the Son—the Living Word

Dean Titus went on to remind us that Jesus is Truth and represents God’s will and word for us in the flesh.

“Having the written Word for us to study, memorize, and refer to at any time is a gift to knowing God and His will for our lives," he said. "My wife and I read it together and separately, sharing what God shows us. These pages offer powerful and trustworthy help in black and white.

“Be specific in asking for such guidance and let the Word speak to your heart and mind.”

He encouraged us: “Write down the verses that come to the surface and investigate them in prayer.”

3. God, the Holy Spirit

Here our mentor told us a bit more of his faith journey and newfound understanding of the role of the supernatural.

“God is clearly a spirit beyond our human understanding and our ties to the physical world," he said. "The power and importance of the Holy Spirit is embraced around the globe more so than the science-based, senses-determined culture of the West.

"My wife and I are late-comers to this knowledge but appreciate the confidence that comes when the Holy Spirit speaks to us.”

Our mentor invited us to not only look for affirmation from the other two leadings—from circumstances and scripture—but also to look for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

And sometimes that comes in unusual ways.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Following our visit, my husband and I did as Dean Titus prescribed and came to believe we were indeed directed by God to pursue seminary training. Those years were extremely difficult and caused us to depend on God in new, sometimes painful ways.

Having the strong, unified message from all three persons of God helped us stay the course until the end.

After working and going to classes full time for four-and-a-half years, my husband earned his MDiv. We left our time in Virginia Beach without debt, with a storehouse of life lessons and more trust in God than ever before.

God is always speaking and offering us guidance. What questions would you like to ask the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit today?

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, ACC is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan, and credentialed life coach with the International Coach Federation. Gail and her pastor husband of 40 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well. Find out more about Gail on her website, gailgoolsby.com.

Thursday
Mar072019

When Life Throws a Curveball

Dianne Barker speaks clearly and wisely about many of the issues women face. In this Perspective UPGRADE, she writes about the inevitable curveballs in life.

Dianne prayed: "I didn’t see that coming! Lord, is this from you?"

I (Dawn) understand curveballs—believe me. A recent unexpected medical diagnosis sent me reeling!

Dianne's wisdom about life's curveballs is excellent.

Dianne continues . . .

I thought we’d agreed on plans. Still celebrating a national bestseller, Twice Pardoned, I asked the Lord. Where do we go from here?

Without giving Him a chance to answer, I responded to my own question.

I’ll just continue writing bestsellers, of course.

Then I got this curveball.

Being a fan of baseball, I researched the meaning of curveball and learned it’s a slow pitch causing hitters to be off-balance and swing too early. An experienced pitcher using a curveball can impact the game.

You’ve seen a hitter, anticipating a fast ball, scrunch his face and sling his bat after being tricked by a curveball he didn’t expect.

The ink was barely dry on Twice Pardoned when God began leading me from a very public life as successful journalist, speaker, and bestselling author to what I now call a shrunken life.

Caring for my parents and my husband’s parents as they declined in health kept me out of the publishing loop for fifteen years. No bestsellers.

I believe in the sovereignty of God, and He used that time to draw me to himself.

Looking back, that hard place was a sweet period of my life.

During that time, I discovered a simple explanation of the word sovereignty while having a conversation with my son who was home from college for the weekend.

I don’t remember the discussion, but I must have been bombarding him with concerns and fears. He made a comment that changed my life.

“If God isn’t in control, who is?”

What I know about sovereignty:

  • God IS in absolute control.
  • Everything that comes to me is filtered through His loving hands.
  • Whatever touches my life, He will use it for my good and His glory. 

That’s what I know. And that’s truth to trust in when life throws a curveball.

When that happens, I say to self:

God must have a lot of confidence in me to trust me with this challenge.

And after sufficient grieving, I manage to praise Him in spite of my questions and fears. I don’t know the outcome, but I know the One who controls the outcome.

And He loves me.

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand...” (Psalm 31:14-15).

Life is unpredictable, but my response to curveballs can impact the game.

I choose to live by this decision:

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17).

I don’t welcome curveballs. But I’m certain the Lord will lavish me with love and use my experience for good while gaining glory for Himself.

Knowing that replaces my fear with expectation.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5).

Let me ask:

How do you respond when life throws a curveball?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

Saturday
Mar022019

Grasping God's Ropes of Hope

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares how a medical diagnosis caused her to re-evaluate a familiar biblical word.

"As a Christian," Dawn says, "I believe in eternal hope, but the word "hope" was never a word I gravitated to or used much otherwise, because I mistakenly thought it was—I confess—for weak and "emotional" believers.

"Never mind that the word is found repeatedly throughout scripture: 129 times in 121 verses!"

Dawn continues . . .

I want to be honest and authentic here.

A medical diagnosis in mid-January, 2019, totally changed my perspective, perhaps because I was suddenly the one who was weak and needing hope. The doctor said I have an incurable disease, and my thoughts and emotions scattered everywhere.

Oh, how I needed hope in the moment I received that life-changing report.

What I discovered is, first, what "hope" is not, and second, how all hope for the Christian is linked to the surety of hope in Christ throughout our lives as well as in eternity. God cares about us womb to tomb, and He sends us ropes of hope to remind us of His presence every day.

From womb to tomb, God is there!

I discovered many "ropes of hope" God sent my way during my health crisis. Let me share a little of what God is teaching me:

1. What Biblical Hope Is NOT

Hope is not doubt or any shade of doubt. It's not related to a feeling, but rather a reality based on truth.

We show a measure of doubt or uncertainty when we say some doubt-filled things. Things like:

  • "I hope it doesn't snow tomorrow." (But it just might.)
  • "I hope I win the lottery." (But with the millions who bought tickets, fat chance!)
  • "I sure hope I'm going to heaven." (But don't you want to know for sure?)

The Old Testament saints didn't relate to God with "hope so" faith.  The Hebrew word for "hope" is batah. It is related to the concept of security and confidence. The concept of doubt was not connected with hope in the Jewish mindset.

We see this in verses like Psalm 16:9:  

"Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure."

In the New Testament, the word for "hope" is the Greek words elpis and elpizo.

For the most part, we don't see doubt running rampant in New Testament saints either. In fact, their proclamations we're more like "There's no doubt about it!"confident statements of assurance. God worked in their hearts to build their faith and hope.

Even doubting Thomas didn't doubt for long. The Lord changed his doubts to confident faith, the basis for gratitude and hope.

We see this confidence in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see." Properly read, "The Faith Chapter" (Hebrews 11) oozes with confidence in God in the midst of great trials; it was faith in action.)

And that brings me to a second concept about hope.

2. What Biblical Hope IS

Biblical hope is founded in faith—and in a faithful God.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation or assurance Christ-followers have based upon the One who has proven Himself faithful time and time again. In other words, biblical hope is built on faith (Romans 8:24; Titus 2:13)

It's based on a sure foundation—Jesus, the solid "Rock" of our salvation. Jesus said, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19). Believing that, we have great hope.

When we trust the words, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has eternal life" (John 6:47), we are expressing confidence in the One who died to set us free from sin's shakles and give us life with Him in heaven.

Biblical hope is founded on:

  • God's Word,
  • God's character, and
  • Our Savior's finished work.

God promised His children "the hope of eternal life" from before time began (Titus 1:2); and Christians are to testify to this living hope whenever anyone asks us about our confidence in God and His provision—the Gospel, God's plan of salvation (1 Peter 3:15).

Grasping Ropes of Hope

I read a great illustration about the difference between faith and hope:

The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement part tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement part, based on his father's word—that is FAITH. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is HOPE.

The child's natural trust in his father's promise is the faith; the child's squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of the hope. Faith and hope are complementary. Faith is grounded in the reality of the past [God's faithful word]; hope is looking to the reality of the future....."

The truth is, since 1971, I have believed my Father's Word about eternal life. I staked my whole life now and forever on that truth. I know God has purpose even in my illness.

As Pastor Alan Redpath once said:

"There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose."

When I received my medical diagnosis, hope really came into play. Through hope, I have learned to express hope-filled joy—the childlike "squeals of delight"—even in the midst of bothersome side effects and extreme exhaustion. I not only believe God is sustaining me and I have an eternal home with Him; I'm getting more excited about going to heaven. 

Pam Farrel wrote about joy in her own difficult situation in her creative devotional study experience: Discovering Hope in the Psalms:

"When friends would ask, 'How are you?' I didn't know how to answer. So I went to the Word and read Psalm 30:5... JOY! That's what I needed. I immediately went on a joy hunt ...

"Joy was becoming my lighthouse of hope. ...

"That's the power of the Word. Its joy is not only your lighthouse; God multiplies the light as you share your hope and praise Him."

These days, I take action quicker when I feel overwhelmed:

1. God wants me to be tough.

So when Satan schemes and tells me lies about the future, I stay in the fight and remind him where he's going! And I remind him of God's words. In doing so, I gain FRESHLY-INSTILLED hope.

2. God wants me to stay thankful.

So when compassionate friends write or call to tell me they are praying for me, and share words of scripture, I am grateful; and as I praise God for them bolstering my faith, I see FRIEND-SHARED hope grow.

3. God wants me to embrace truth.

So when tears come because I cannot bear the thought of someday leaving those I love, FAITH-BASED hope reminds me I will see all my Christ-trusting friends and family throughout eternity.

In other words, I sow solid biblical fortitude, heart gratitude and powerful truths among my tears—and they blossom into many beautiful things.

I am grateful I'm not alone in this hope journey.

So many people from all the seasons of my life are sending their love, encouraging me, helping me in practical ways, and bearing this burden with me.

I'm thankful for all these strong Ropes of Hope I'm receiving that help me "bear up" under this new trial.

These days, scriptures about hope come alive. They are not for "weak Christians," they are for broken believers who chose to trust God and not themselves in their hour of need. They are for me!

John Piper wrote:

"Hoping in God does not come naturally for sinners like us. We must preach it to ourselves, and preach diligently and forcefully, or we will give way to a downcast and disquieted spirit."

One of the most powerful actions I'm taking these days is to do just that—to preach to myself. To stand against Satan's lies and argue down the disquieting emotions within me as I allow God's Word to "throw me a rope of hope."

But I must grasp those ropes firmly.

I feel like the psalmist when he wrestled with his emotions and then counseled his heart:

"Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? (The STRUGGLE)

"Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God." (The SOLUTION!)

(Psalm 42:5, HCSB)

We all have a choice in how we will respond to trials and great difficulties. Seeing from God's perspective—knowing our sovereign God makes no mistakes and He is up to something wonderful—increases our hope.

As Dr. David Jeremiah wrote in A Bend in the Road:

"How will you choose to deal with your personal crisis—as an emergency or an opportunity? A stumbling block or a steppingstone?

"The moment you and I can begin to see things through the heavenly lens, the picture becomes bearable—and we find new strength."

Perhaps you struggling today with a heavy burden, desperately needing hope. God is the only sure foundation for your hope. The Lord is constantly throwing you "ropes of hope." Slow down and become more aware of them. Grasp for them. They will not break.

In trusting Him, you will see your hope grow.

What biblical truths can you believe today, and not only believe, but preach to yourself so you can overcome doubts and rejoice in hope? Who can you throw a "rope of hope" to today?

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

Wednesday
Feb272019

Taking a Social Media Sabbatical

What I like about Cathy Horning is 1) her ability to take simple Gospel truths and make them immensely practical in our lives; and 2) her authenticity. She lives what she shares with others. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Cathy asks us to hone in on a potential pitfall in our lives: social media.

"Twenty years ago, social media was born," Cathy says. "Its wondrous platforms have expanded our ability to connect and stay connected—instantly and regularly—with family, friends and others from around the world."

I (Dawn) love social media. I use it for family connections, but also for ministry. But lately, I've seen ways I've let it control me, rather than me controlling it!

Cathy continues . . .

Social media allows us to exchange wisdom, inspiration, recommendations and photos.

Plus, it is an amazing ministry tool to share prayer requests and answered prayer, Bible verses and spiritual encouragement, and, my personal favorite, God stories to build up each other’s faith.

For ten years now, social media has been a significant part of my daily life. And, I love it!

Most of the time.

So this past December, while reading Luke 1 and 2 in preparation of Christmas, I was surprised to find myself struck by a passage I had never before paid attention to.

I read in Luke 1:24, “Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months remained in seclusion.”

Why had she done that?

I pondered this mystery, as a deep knowing welled up within me. God was asking me into a seclusion of my own.

Instantaneously, I understood my seclusion was to be from Facebook and Instagram. This was a severe request for an active participant and social media lover. Yet, I recognized God’s voice calling me to do this hard thing.

On January 1, I shared a post to explain my absence. I deleted my Facebook and Instagram apps. Then, I began a sabbatical from the community I had grown so fond of.

And, as I stepped away from social media, the Lord immediately brought two scriptures to mind:

"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. Rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you" (Romans 12:3).

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself" (Philippians 2:3).

From the start, I knew God was going to do heart surgery.

Now, two months in, there are observations I am making and lessons I am learning which I pray might benefit you as well:  

  • Social media can DECEIVE us to believe others cannot live without our “wonderful posts.”
  • Social media can DISTRACT us and keep us continually checking our devices for likes, comments and new posts.
  • Social media can DIVIDE our hearts, pulling our time and attention toward a life-sucking medium and away from the life-giving Word of God, worship and prayer.

On the other hand:

  • Time away from social media has FREED me up from perpetually checking my phone, as well as it’s propensity to spread me thin and exhaust me with its volumes of information and interaction.
  • Time away from social media has helped me to RE-FOCUS. My attention span and capacity to concentrate have rebounded. My mind feels refreshed and restored.
  • Time away from social media has given me FRESH FAVOR. When I open God’s Word, I see new truths and insights like I’ve never experienced before. Plus, I find myself more sensitive to and available for prayer and divine appointments during my day.

Finally, I have observed:

1. I have more TIME!

One area I have neglected in my social media busyness is my filing and paperwork. Today, I am caught up. Every paper has been tended to, filed or tossed.

2. I must have more TRUST!

  • Without social media as my platform, I must trust the Lord with the promotion of my new book.
  • I must trust Him to be there for and speak to those who tell me they look forward to and depend upon my posts about marriage, parenting and our faith walk.
  • And, I must trust Him to take care of my family and friends, as I realize how much I have come to depend on Facebook and Instagram to alert me to what they are up to and what their needs may be.  

3. Gratefully, I have also rediscovered TRUE TREASURE!

My precious daughter told me, “Mom, you seem more present!”

I see this too. Especially, when I am with my grandchildren, my children, my husband, and other family and friends.

Do I miss social media? YES! Some days, terribly.

Am I tempted to check in? Oh, yes!

Yet, I am certain God has called me to this sabbatical. Daily, I seek what He wants to teach me and what He needs to do in my heart, during this season.

When, and if, the Lord releases me to return to social media, I will possess a deeper knowledge of it’s hazards. And, I will set up boundaries to guard against it robbing me of right priorities or shortening my attention span or distracting me from my true treasures.

Can you relate to any of these social media pitfalls? Have you ever taken a break from it? If not, I pray you might see the benefit of taking time away?

Cathy Horning loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than encouraging women how to walk in His ways. Cathy is a popular speaker, blogger, and writer, as well as a beloved wife, mom, grammy, mentor, encourager, and friend. She is the author of Letters From A Mother’s Heart, Timeless Truths From One Mom’s Journey.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of FirmBee at Pixabay.