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Entries in Dawn Wilson (79)

Wednesday
Aug282019

Whom Did Jesus Praise? Will He Praise You? (Part 2)

In Part 2 of this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to consider some of the people Jesus praised while He was on earth.

Jesus might offer us words of praise, but we need to be praiseworthy.

In Part One of “Who Did Jesus Praise?” we saw the praise He shared with to those who would trust Him without “seeing” Him physically, a near relative (John the Baptist) who bravely took a stand against his culture and proclaimed the truth, and a disciple who proclaimed a powerful statement of faith.

In Part Two we will examine two others: a woman who stretched out her hand, and a woman who gave sacrificially… and we’ll think ahead to our praise in heaven!

Again, we’ll consider how we might win Jesus’ praise.

4. Woman touching the hem of Jesus garment

Luke 8:43-48 and Mark 5:21-24; 35-42 tell the story of a woman who had “an issue of blood” (for 12 years!) who touched Jesus’ garment, likely His outer cloak.

Though Jesus simply pointed to her simple act of faith—and He told her to “go in peace” and know that she would be freed from her suffering—a response of love that showed His great love for the woman.

The bleeding woman was fearful. Religious Jews felt it immodest and inappropriate to touch men in public. The woman was also ritually unclean (Leviticus 15:25-27). She could have faced serious consequences when she reached out to touch Jesus’ garment.

Yet she bravely reached out in her desperation.

She had lived for over a decade as an outcast socially and spiritually. So she took a huge risk. She touched the edge of His cloak (Matthew 9:20). This was a special area. Ritual tassels (tzitzit) were on the “corners” of the garment (Numbers 15:37-41).

The Messiah who would come, according to Malachi 4:2, would have “healing” in his wings. Jewish writings say these “wings” represent the four corners of garments with the “wings” or tzitzits. The woman grabbed for one of these wings, which would normally be a great affront to Him.

But Jesus’ response was gentle and loving (Mark 5:34). He told her to take heart, and in a sense, He was praising her fearful-yet-audacious faith. He wasn’t like the proud priests in His day; He was always focusing on the people’s redemption. Jesus was also unlike the Jewish men who did not see women as men’s equals. Paul clarified this when he said “there is neither male nor female,” because all are one in the Messiah (Galatians 3:28).

Like this woman, we need to be brave, bold, and reach out to the Lord to find healing and help in our own time of need. Jesus wants us to do this, and He would praise us when we do.

5. One Who Gave Her All

We find a story about a special, sacrificial woman in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4.

Nothing was hidden from Jesus’ knowledge. He sat in full sight of the “treasury” in the Temple, the place for voluntary contributions. He observed the rich people casting in their gifts. But he also saw a poor widow who threw in two mites, two small brass coins.

His observation was that the poor widow had given more than all the others. She had given all she had to live on. She gave out of her poverty.

Jesus sees people’s hearts. He knows their circumstances. He sees through facades and how we 'keep up appearances.'

People might laud others who make huge financial gifts, but Jesus took time to praise one whose gift weighed in heavily because of her great sacrifice. He noticed her sincerity and generous heart.

The truth is, Jesus still sees the “treasury” in our giving and living.

The Lord observes our thoughts, deeds of charity, and especially the way we worship.

He sees our motives. He knows whether we give of our time, talents and treasures to be seen by people, or whether we give “as unto the Lord.”

Jesus praised the widow that day. Someday, the feeble efforts of God’s sincere and generous children—gifts made and things done to honor Him—will also be commended.

And lets we think we have anything to give, even the poorest and simplest of us are not excused from gifts and good works (2 Corinthians 8:2-3). God will always know our deepest heart, will and affections. The amount we give is not what concerns Him as much as our willing mind (2 Cor. 8:12).

He accepts and praises our obedience and love, not the measure of our gifts.

6. Will We Hear a “Well Done”?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but it’s something to think about.

In Matthew 25, we see Jesus—by way of a parable—suggest He will praise (commend) and also reward the deeds done for Him, for His glory.

The master in the parable says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

Then he praises the servant for his faithfulness, says he will be rewarded, and he should “enter into the joy” of his master. The “Master” in this parable is Jesus himself. The servant is us, Christ-followers. The Lord will reward those who do their best to serve Him.

Paul proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15:58, our labor is “not in vain in the Lord.”

In Matthew 25:34, in another parable, Jesus pictured the Day of Judgment and said those on His right—true believers—will enter into God’s prepared Kingdom.

Jesus, in commending Christians, says our love and service to others is the same as loving and serving Him (Matthew 25:40).

Oh, how I long to hear Jesus say “Well done” to me! Do you want to hear that word of praise too?

Observing those Jesus praised, we might again examine our own hearts:

  • Am I being brave in reaching out to Jesus with my needs, especially my desperate needs?
  • Am I sharing sacrificially with my time, talents and treasures?
  • Will I hear my Savior say, “Well done?” (If not, what do I need to change now?)

Again, as you consider these three points—will you win the praise of Jesus?

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 Christianity.com (wiki posts) and 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 Foto Rieth at Pixabay.

Wednesday
Aug282019

Whom Did Jesus Praise? Will He Praise You? - Part 1

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE in two parts, Dawn Wilson encourages us to consider some of the people Jesus praised while He was on earth.


In Part 1 of “Who Did Jesus Praise?” we'll consider: (1) a group of people Jesus praised, (2) one of His near relatives, and (3) a woman He noticed who probably thought no one was watching.

Let’s explore each point of praise.

1. Those with “Unseeing” Faith

Thomas believed because he saw the resurrected Jesus—he trusted his senses—and Jesus gave him measured commendation (even though it was also a bit of a rebuke because his faith was slow and late). Thomas had an opportunity to believe Jesus was resurrected without seeing, but he rejected it. We have that same opportunity today.

Jesus, speaking to Thomas, also Jesus praised those—by saying they were blessed—“who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Jesus’ words looked forward to the birth and development of the early Church.

That would also be Christ-followers today!

It's people who see “by the eye of the Spirit”—those who base their confidence on the convictions of their faith.

Peter said,

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now; you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).

Bible commentary writer Albert Barnes said, “All faith is of things not seen; and God blesses those most who most implicitly rely on His Word.”

Authentic faith depends on God’s words to us and not our eyes of flesh. Jesus praised those who would have faith that the Word of God is true concerning Him.

If I want to please the Lord, I will have “unseeing faith.” So will you!

2. One Who Turns People to Righteousness

In Matthew 11:7-19, we hear Jesus’ analysis of His friend John. (This is John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin who he likely loved (Luke 1:36)—not John the apostle, who Jesus also dearly loved).

John the Baptist was a prophet of God, but Jesus said he was “much more” (Matthew 11:9). John, unlike the Old Testament prophets, could be considered a New Testament servant of God. He was in a unique position of ministry in-between the testaments. He was a great witness regarding the Lord.

John pointed people to the Messiah, preparing the way of Christ. He preached repentance in preparation for the blessings of God and God’s Kingdom. John pointed Jesus out as the Lamb of God who would take away sin (John 1:29-37).

John baptized Jesus, and in that great event he heard God’s pronouncement about Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). Jesus said there had not risen a greater than John the Baptist born of woman (except for Himself, of course). Jesus said (in Matthew 11:14) John’s ministry was like Elijah’s (see also Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6).

John turned many to righteousness—he was anointed by God for a great responsibility.

John was also a New Testament martyr. He was eventually arrested and killed for Jesus’ sake. He had lived and died what Jesus taught to His disciples in Matthew 10, and John’s enemies sought to kill him, just like they sought Jesus.

It is likely John, while he was in prison by Herod, likely for over a year when he wondered whether the Messiah would come to “set the prisoner free and loose the captives.” He asked two disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

The majority of Israelites were not receiving Jesus as Messiah and He was strongly rejected by the leaders. John likely wondered why Jesus wasn’t moving quickly to do His messianic work. (There’s a great post on this here.)

Jesus sent a message to John about the miracles He was performing, and then He proceeded to praise John. Jesus understood the trial His beloved relative was enduring. There was no condemnation.

John would have to trust that his relative, Jesus, knew what He was doing. And Jesus’ words to him were enough to bolster his faith.  

Jesus defended John’s integrity and believed John was firm in the faith. John wasn’t a fickle man, tossed about by public opinion and or conformed to their way of thinking. And he was highly disciplined. He was a great witness for the Lord—fervent and zealous—and God gave him the opportunity to announce the coming Kingdom, even though others would see it in its glory, not him.

Jesus indicated the most humble believer would have greater understanding and opportunity than John—and potentially be greater than John.

Believers today can also prepare the way for the Lord—for His second coming. We can, like John the Baptist, call believers to repentance. We may find opposition when we take a stand, share the Gospel, and point out the sorrows of sin. Many, like the proud and worldly scribes and Pharisees, will oppose us like they opposed John.

Remember, greatness with God is determined by faithfulness and obedience!

3. A Disciples’ Confession of Faith

In Mark 8:27-29, Jesus praised Peter for his extraordinary statement about His identity.

Jesus asked His disciple, “Who do PEOPLE say that I am?

Peter, outspoken and usually a spokesman for the disciples in the Gospel records, replied that some said Jesus was John the Baptist. Others said Elijah, and still others said He was one of the prophets.

Jesus purposely set up this scenario, a contrast, between what His closest friends thought about him and what the people outside that group—who didn’t really know Him—thought about Him.

Clearly, the view of the crowds wasn’t accurate enough or high enough. Jesus was a prophet, but so much more, and the disciples had begun to see that. God the Father was opening their eyes.

Jesus zeroed in on Peter’s thoughts and heart, asking,

“But who you YOU say that I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Peter saw Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One. In the Old Testament, under the old covenant, prophets, priests and kings were anointed (1 Kings 19:16; (Exodus 40:12-15; 1 Samuel 16). And

Peter likely saw Jesus’ Messiahship in that way.

Jesus, the Messiah is:

A Prophet (Matthew 21:11; Luke 7:16; Mark 6:4) – He taught the Word with authority, often speaking in parables (Mark 1:22). He foretold the future, predicting His death (Matthew 17:22-23), foretold Judas’ betrayal (Matthew 26:20-25) and Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:31-35). He predicted the Holy Spirit’s coming (John 16:7-15), His followers’ persecution (John 16:1-4, 33) and the Temple’s destruction (Matthew 24:1-2). He prophesied His second coming (Matthew 24:30-31; John 14:3). He also performed miracles like other prophets, and compared Himself to other prophets (Luke 4:24-27).

A Priest. His is the believer’s ultimate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:2; Genesis 14:18). Jesus is our great High Priest forever.

A King. Jesus was given the title “Son of David” and the rightful eternal king after David’s kingship (2 Samuel 7:16; Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16). This was foretold to Mary by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:32-33). The “Son of David” would be a ruler and a deliverer for God’s people. Jesus will return to earth to rule during the Millennium, and then forevermore (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) with all authority (Matthew 28:18). He who has a name above all names will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).

That is Jesus’ true identity. Peter recognized Jesus as the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

And Jesus did not deny it. He praised Peter for this confession of faith.

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-17).

When we don’t understand who Jesus is, it can erode the Church’s foundation. It is also far more intimate: it can erode our individual faith.

The Lord—in the Word of God—reveals who the Father is, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. We need to study the scriptures to be sure we get their identities right, so we can also make praiseworthy confessions of faith like Peter!

Observing these these who Jesus praised, we might examine our own hearts:

  • Do I have authentic faith, dependent on God’s Word and not what I see in my circumstances?
  • Am I taking a brave stand against lies in the culture—even when opposed—and sharing the Gospel with others?
  • What is my confession of faith concerning Jesus? Do I truly understand who He is and why that is important?

In Part Two of this post, we will consider two women—a woman who boldly stretched out her hand, and a woman who gave sacrificially—and our hope for future praise.

Do you need to make some adjustments to win the praise of Jesus?

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 Christianity.com (wiki posts) and 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 Foto Rieth at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun272019

Fears, Fears ... Go Away!

Dawn Wilson is the creator of Upgrade with Dawn. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gets honest about her fears and how the Lord has encouraged her to confront them with His truth.

I argued with the Lord a bit.

“I’m not a fearful person; I know better than that.”

But the Lord pressed a few examples into my thoughts and I had to admit, I was filled with more fears than I thought.

When my children were small, I feared for their safety. Then they grew up and I found out—once a mama, always a mama—I still had fears for their safety. And I added my grandchildren to that fear list too! I was afraid of my husband’s safety in his many travels too.

Many fears have come, but I’ve suppressed them all rather than dealing with them biblically.

Then, this past January, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Talk about fears!

Somehow, that first day in the hospital, I kept repeating a verse I learned long ago: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

Still, my mantra from February through late April was pretty much, “Fears, fears… go away!”

All that time, my cancer treatment wasn’t working, and I became anxious and afraid.

Maybe I going to only live a year, I thought. I started downgrading my priorities list to something simpler and more manageable. What would I want to accomplish if I only had one year to live?

I started developing a plan, and the only time I cried was when I thought of leaving my family members.

Thankfully, in early May, my oncologist decided to upgrade my cancer treatment. He prescribed a super-expensive drug, which the Lord graciously covered for almost five months through a nonprofit grant.

But my fears that the drug wouldn’t work—or that it would tank my hemoglobin, one of the oncologist’s concerns—continued.

Beneath the surface ... subtle fears. But fears that still had a grip on my heart.

In many ways, I was trying to trust the Lord through all this. I chose to praise and worship Him. I wrote about my struggle on Facebook. I tried to be honest about how I was trying to overcome my fears; and many friends—I call them #TeamDawn—encouraged me.

  • "You're in God's grip."
  • "I'm praying God will completely heal you."
  • "Keep trusting!"

Most people praised me for being a good example. They recognized the battle, but also some of my victories in trusting God.

Yet the toxic thinking continued. Especially in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.

And then around Mother’s Day, one of my daughters-in-love, Tracy, gave me a book. Switch on Your Brain by cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf,* who is also a Christian. It's heavy-duty science, but fascinating to realize how science is catching up with the Bible!

The book affirmed me in all that I’ve taught for many years: As we think, so we come to believe, and so we choose. My ministry, Heart Choices Today, is built on that simple-yet-profound concept.

We build our thoughts, choices and habits based on what we’re thinking.

As I read the book, the Lord began to speak to me about my toxic thinking and the fears and anxieties that wouldn’t seem to go away no matter how I wished them to leave.

There was a lot at stake! And Dr. Leaf made a strong case:

She wrote that fear alone triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses in our bodies, activating more than 30 different hormones.

Left unchecked, toxic thoughts (like fear) create ideal conditions for illnesses.

I figured "unchecked" fears weren't going to help me battle my illness!

So I decided to do what the book recommended. I'm a writer, but I don't journal. Yet using Dr. Leaf's processyou'll have to get the book to read about that—I began a 21-Day Detox to confront my anxious thoughts and fears. I chose scriptures to study and I am memorizing key verses to make them a deeper part of my life—replacing toxic thinking with strengthening, biblical truth.

It's an ongoing process, but here are some things I've already discovered during my Detox from the scriptures I'm studying.

  1. Fear does not come from God (2 Timothy 1:7). It is a learned response.
  2. God gives me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind (also 2 Timothy 1:7). A sound mind is right thinking!
  3. It is possible to be in “bondage” to fear—or any other fleshly attitude (Romans 8:15). This verse is talking about fear we suffered before knowing Christ, but now we have a Heavenly Father, and the Spirit does not make us “slaves” to fears.
  4. God’s presence, strength and help allow us to not be fearful (Isaiah 41:10). He’s got a firm grip on me!
  5. Whenever we are afraid, we can choose to trust the Lord (Psalm 56:3-4). That was the only verse I could remember in the hospital in January—but it was enough!
  6. God will never leave or forsake me, and because of that, He wants me to be “strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
  7. I can cast all my burdens, including fearful times, on the Lord, and He will sustain me— strengthen, support and encourage me, and cheer me up! (Psalm 55:22).
  8. I don’t need to be afraid of bad news (but instead need to live in light of the “good news”); and when I think rightly, my heart will be firm and steady, not afraid (Psalm 112:7-8).
  9. I don’t need to be fearful or anxious about anything, but instead, I can pray about everything, with thanksgiving, and God will give me His peace… and He will then guard my heart and mind in Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
  10. Like a loving father with a trusting child, God holds my right hand; and He is the One who helps me (Isaiah 41:13).
  11. The peace Jesus gives us is not like the world’s concept of peace (John 14:27). Though some of the world’s solutions may work if they are based on biblical truth—whether they give God credit or not—Jesus’ peace is a gift from Him, and an answer to my fears.
  12. When fears and anxiety arise in me, I can turn to the Lord and His consolation (comforting) will restore my joy (Psalm 94:19).
  13. God expects/commands me to “be strong and courageous” and not afraid (Joshua 1:9)—because He is with me.
  14. God redeemed me and I am His. Like the children of Israel, I never need to fear that I am forgotten (Isaiah 43:1).
  15. Anxiety and fear is like a heavy weight in the emotions, but a “kind word” of encouragement from God (or others) can cheer the heart (Proverbs 12:25). (I am so thankful for my #TeamDawn prayer warriors and encouragers!)
  16. I don’t need to worry or fear about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34); I need to live in day-tight compartments. God is already in my tomorrows.
  17. I can cast (throw) all my fears and anxieties on the Lord, knowing He cares about me and what I’m going through (1 Peter 5:7).
  18. Even if I must walk through the darkest valley—the “shadow of death”—I do not need to fear, because God is and will be with me to protect and comfort me (Psalm 23:4).
  19. The Lord is my light and salvation, my stronghold—whom (or what) shall I fear (Psalm 27:1).
  20. God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1); and verse 10 says, “Be still and know that I am God….” I am challenged to be still and know my “refuge more.”
  21. When I seek the Lord, He responds; and He wants to deliver me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).
  22. When I call out to God, He answers and He is with me in my troubles (Psalm 91:15), rescuing me and honoring me (for trusting Him).
  23. The Lord doesn’t want me to worry about the details of my life (Matthew 6:25), but He is concerned about those details. He will provide, but He wants me to know there is more to life than what’s going on with my body.
  24. I can be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)—and He gives me the tools for standing strong (the Armor of God, vv. 11-18).
  25. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart (Colossians 3:15). I will subject my fears to His control and be thankful for His loving Lordship in my life.

Obviously, I’m going beyond the recommended 21-Day Detox. I want to continue building positive reinforcement thoughts into my life. I want right thinking, godly thinking about my fears, to become my new habit of life.

This is what Paul means when He writes of “renewing the mind” (Romans 12:2) instead of following the unhealthy “pattern” of this world. Scientists are finally beginning to see the brain as having "renewable" characteristics. Biblically, a renewed mind is a Word-founded, Spirit-controlled mind—and from our mind, our thoughts, come our beliefs, choices and habits.

It's the best way I know to make the fears go away ... or at least to confront them God's way.

Is fear a biggie in your life? Or is it something else? Begin now to replace toxic thinking with biblical thinking.

(*NOTE: You might want to read the book I recommended, Switch On Your Brain—there is also a workbook if you want that—to understand how the brain works from a scientific viewpoint, and rejoice that science is finally catching up with God’s truth about our thinking!)

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 Christianity.com (wiki posts) and 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, courtesty of M. McKein at Pixabay.

Thursday
May092019

Left Unsaid: Two Perspectives

In this Relationship UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson reminds us there are words best left unsaid, but others that need to be said.

"Words, along with all the manifestations of Christlike love, are a key to good relationships," Dawn says, "but do we truly care how we use our words?"

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak,” and the wise Christian will learn when and what words are appropriate.

I. Some Words Need to Be Left Unsaid.

There’s a time to be silent.

I cannot count all the times I’ve “bit my tongue” during my marriage. Once I actually bit it as I started to say something sarcastic, then shut my mouth quickly and my tongue ended up between my teeth. My sarcasm bit me back!

Words can bless and encourage, but wisdom guards the tongue, knowing how hurtful and destructive words can be.

Words best left unsaid come from heart issues.

For example:

  • Haughty words come from a proud heart.
  • Ungrateful words come from a selfish heart.
  • Condemning words come from a jealous heart or an unforgiving heart.

James warns we need to bridle our tongues (James 1:26) or tame them if we want to live as a true Christ-follower. We must discipline the tongue, because it is unruly and rebellious.

My friend Kimberly Wagner shared 10 excellent ways to guard and tame the tongue. My favorite is to learn the H-A-L-T Principle. Learn to restrain your words—shut your mouth—and delay conversations when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. (Smart lady!)

Basically, in the flesh, we tend to spout off with "corrupting talk," but the Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom and grace to speak life-giving words (Ephesians 4:29).

II. Some Words Must Never Be Left Unsaid.

Yes, there's a time to be silent. But then, there’s a time to speak up!

Many Christians who have learned when to be silent have forgotten what it means to not be silent when speaking up is important, helpful, or sometimes even crucial.

1. We need to speak up about our greatest love—Jesus!

We need to fearlessly speak up about Jesus, because we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will help us (Mark 13:11) and His Word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11).

David Robertson, a minister in Dundee, Scotland, wrote that he was once a “secret Christian” because he wasn’t sure he could bear the social stigma of living in post-Christian Scotland. He says a group of Christians at his school asked if he would speak on their behalf in a debate and he reluctantly agreed.

After the debate, the head of the English department congratulated his "performance," but added, “You almost had me persuaded that you really were a Christian.” Robertson replied, “Sir, I am. And that is the last time anyone will say that to me.”

Robertson learned to speak up—what he calls “ordinary, courageous speaking”—out of love for the Lord.

“We speak up because we love Jesus and we want to see Him glorified,” he said. “We speak up, not to defend ourselves, but because we love those we are speaking to and want them to share in the greatest gift of all: Christ.”

2. We need to speak up when evil seems to prevail.

In a culture gone wild, with social norms crumbling and evil prevailing, Christians can’t sit back and “observe.” We have to speak up.

Rather than running away and hiding, we need to turn and face the enemy and speak the truth.

How the enemy responds is not our responsibility. Peter and John responded to the rulers who told them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore (Acts 4:13-20) because they knew their culture’s only hope was the Savior.

“… we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” they said.

We don’t have to “win” arguments. We only have to stand up and speak up, and tell people God’s perspective as found in the Word.

It’s not about our opinions; it’s His truth.

When we speak the truth—always with the motive of love (Ephesians 4:14-15)—the Holy Spirit can use our words to make an impression for righteousness in the world and help our spiritual brothers and sisters mature into Christ.

3. We need to speak up when our brothers or sisters struggle or hurt.

Christians are meant to speak encouraging words to one another to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), especially in times of struggle or pain.

We may think about sharing words of comfort, encouragement, challenge or hope ... but unless we act and actually speak up, how will our friends and family be helped?

Words of encouragement are sometimes like soothing oil, helping others to bear up under their burdens (Galatians 6:2). Other times they are like motivating cheerleaders, lifting people up (Proverbs 12:25) and stirring them up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).

What should be left unsaid, and what should not be left unsaid?

It might be wise to examine our hearts regularly, because we must never forget: the tongue has power to hurt and also power to heal.

"Death and Life are in the power of the tongue...." (Proverbs 18:21).

What about you? Do you need to seek forgiveness for hurtful, destructive words? Are there words someone in your circle of influence desperately needs to hear?

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 Prawny at Morguefile.

Wednesday
Apr172019

Hope for the Hurting at Easter

In this pre-Easter UPGRADE, Dawn acknowledges the pain of those who hurt during this celebratory season, but points back to the purpose, promise and power of the resurrection.

"My daddy died near Easter, years ago," Dawn says. "It was a deeply painful time for me, but also a time of great hope."

During those days I chose to breathe out the pain and breath in the presence of God. It's the only way I felt I could survive the great loss.

I remember sitting in church that Easter, weeping over Daddy's passing, but then weeping with joy as we celebrated the risen Savior. It was bittersweet on so many levels.

I've since thought about those I know who hurt during many holidays.

  • Those who lost their income at Christmas.
  • Those who lost their home to fire at Thanksgiving.
  • Those who recalled their family losses on Mother's Day and Father's Day.
  • Those who lost their health with a sudden "diagnosis" at any time of year when others are celebrating.

So much pain.

But the key words there are "lost" and "losses." Yes, losing people and things we love is painful, but the bigger picture for the Christian is the purpose, promise and power of the Lord's resurrection and how that can and should impact our lives.

1. The Purpose of the Resurrection

I have to admit, my first reaction to a friend who shared truth with me when my Daddy died was to want to choke her! "Just remember what Jesus did; we have victory over all those ugly emotions now," she said.

How insensitive, I thought.

But after I calmed down, I knew she was—at the root of truth—correct.

It was normal to grieve. I'd lost my dear daddy! But it was also right to take my raw emotions to Jesus—my risen Savior—who understood everything about me and my circumstances.

  • He came to reach out to us in our pain and separation from God.
  • He came to die for our sin and reconcile us to God.
  • He came to live a perfect life as an example of righteousness.
  • And in His resurrection, He came to conquer the effects of every evil, every false thing, every painful thing that would touch our lives.

The simple truth of Easter is—Jesus died, was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But there was so much more in God's purpose for the resurrection.

  • The purpose of the resurrection was to show the immense power of God. He is absolutely sovereign over life and death. Only the awesome Creator of life can resurrect life after death.
  • The purpose of the resurrection was also to show us who Jesus claimed to be. Because He is truly the Son of God—the long-awaited Messiah—His resurrection authenticated His ministry and the "sign of Jonah" (Matthew 16:1-4). It proved He was God's "Holy One" who would never experience "corruption" (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:32-37).
  • The purpose of the resurrection was to forgive us and set us free from every sin (Acts 13:38-39). He can only set us free because He actually did what He said He would do—rise from the dead (Acts 17:2-3; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34).

We can rest—even in times of frustration, confusion or pain—in God's great picture purpose for the resurrection of Christ.

2. The Promise of the Resurrection

The promise of the resurrection is that God would indeed reverse the ugliness of sin and death and give us victory over the grave—there remains no "sting" in death (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). He is indeed the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

The promise is that because He lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). He is "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Though we hurt when loved ones pass away, we can have confidence that we will once again see and recognize all our loved ones who have died in Christ.

Why? We will see Jesus, be raised from the dead and instantly be present with the Lord (Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:12-57). This togetherness is suggested by the events in the "rapture" of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

And we can believe that the God who loves us and is faithful is working for our good and His glory.

Any loss on earth is meant to be overshadowed by our Father's great lovingkindness now and in heaven.

3. The Power of the Resurrection

Because Jesus rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12), we get to experience the power of His resurrection.

We are to experience that power now, not just in eternity in heaven.

  • We will find power as we respond to God's grace. As we repent of our sins and confess them, embracing God's forgiveness and grace. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • We will find power as we exchange the emptiness of "religion" for a dynamic relationship with the Lord through faith. (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6)
  • We will find power as we serve the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." This is true because it is God who gives us the "victory" through His Son (v. 57).
  • We will find power as we begin to embrace eternal priorities. (Matthew 6:33)
  • We will find power as we learn to die to our selfish desires and agendas. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • We will find power as we anticipate God working on our behalf in ways we cannot imagine, as we surrender to and trust Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • And we will find power as we remember God will give us new bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and make all things new (Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17; Revelation 21:5; Ephesians 2:15; 4:24; Hebrews 8:13).

When I think only about the hurts in my life—the losses and pain—life is harder to endure. But when I think about the power of the resurrection, something within me stirs: HOPE!

The power of the resurrection is our hope in God who raised His Son to new life—the same God who desires to raise us and our loved ones in Christ to new life as well.

He is the same great God who will restore all that is broken and bless us with blessings beyond our imagination. (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

That is the hope for the hurting at Easter.

Are you hurting today? How can a more intentional focus on the purpose, promise and power of Jesus' resurrection help you with your struggles?

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 vector adapted, courtesy of MKencad at Lightstock.