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Entries in Discernment (3)

Thursday
Oct042018

What Are You Welcoming?

Morgan Farr is a physically, mentally and emotionally strong young woman, but what I admire most about her is her spiritual strength. She is a woman of great discernment, and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she invites us to consider what we welcome into our homes.

“Every single year at the start of fall I make people uncomfortable,” Morgan says.

“Don’t misunderstand me—I don’t do it on purpose, but it happens nevertheless.”

When I (Dawn) first read Morgan’s post, I thought, “She’s setting herself up for some serious criticism from readers.” But Morgan’s emphasis on discernment is a message the family of God needs to hear in these days where there is so much spiritual darkness.

It’s a matter of aligning the heart with the will, ways and Word of God.

Morgan continues . . .

We are an Army family. By our sixth year of marriage we will have moved four times with three small children. This means every time that we move we have to develop new friendships and explain our traditions and convictions.

One of the first things people learn about me—after my love of Jesus, Texas A&M and Dr. Pepper—is that I love fall. I love the colors, smells, and family traditions. I pull out the fall decor on August 31 to be fully decorated on September 1.

People can tell I love this season.

Every year people ask us what are plans are for the holidays.

I tell them we purposely choose to have Christmas where we are stationed so our home and family is available to the soldiers who can’t travel home. I share about hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the people who train in our gym.

And then the inevitable question…

“What are you doing for Halloween? Would you like to trick-or-treat with us?”   

And I give the same answer every time: “No thank you. We don’t trick-or-treat, because we don’t celebrate Halloween.”

This almost always leads to a discussion of WHY we don’t celebrate Halloween.

There are plenty of articles out there on why Christians should not celebrate Halloween. So today isn’t going to be another of those articles.

Instead, I am going to share how three questions increased my discernment leading to our family convictions about what holidays we celebrate, what shows we watch, and what we allow to fill our minds.

1. What are you inviting in?

With Halloween comes the scary movies and TV shows. When you watch scary television shows, horror movies, or television shows about crime (Bones/CSI), what are you inviting into your mind?

I Corinthians 10:21 says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s Table and of the table of demons.”

Yet how many of us pray to our perfect and holy Father at our evening meal and then pop open Netflix to watch some sex crimes on Law and Order SVU?

Does watching any of that actually benefit us, or more importantly, God?

2. What does this show in your Christian witness?

As believers, we are called to be Christ’s representatives here on Earth.

According to Titus 2:7, we are supposed to “...set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.”

Now, does this mean we unfairly judge others for watching these shows? NO.

Oswald Chambers wrote,

God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”

It should break our hearts to see people (especially fellow believers) trapped in bondage to the evil material that allows Satan to get his foot in the door of their minds and their lives (Ephesians 4:27).

We should not be conforming to the expectations of society.

I often hear people say things like, “But won’t your kids miss out?”

YES! They sure will.

If it will prevent my children from battling the demons that “spooky” and “scary” movies open the door to, then I will gladly stand between my children and the darkness.

I often wish someone had made sure that I missed out on the evil and demonic influences of Deen Koontz, Lisa Jackson, and Anne Rice. Some of the scenes from their books and movies plague my mind to this very day, if I am not wrapping myself in scripture.  

3. How does this honor God?

In Corinthians 10:31 we read, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

I heard it said once:

We should not see how much we can get away with, but rather, how holy can we become.

This means that we need to be asking some hard questions.

Things like:

  • Is watching American Horror Story honoring God? No? Then don’t watch it.
  • Does reading Harry Potter honor God? No? Then don’t read it.
  • Will dressing up as Katniss on Halloween bring glory to God? No? Then don’t do it.

It is that simple.  

Many people have followed up this conversation with, “But really, does watching these movies or celebrating this holiday do anything bad? After all, it is just pretend, and it isn’t like I am going out and doing the things in the movies!”

This is where I would like to quote the English preacher, Charles Spurgeon:

“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; but rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

How much ground do we give Satan every single day simply because we would rather be “almost right” and popular rather than truly right and different?

My answer? Way too much.

What areas of your life could use some more discernment?

Morgan Farr is a Texas loving Army wife currently stationed in San Diego, California, with her wonderful husband Brian and their three small children. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one mentoring, and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog, The Forgiven Former Feminist. You can find her training programs, nutritional information and meal plans on her blog, Farr Functional Fitness.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Frances Yeung at Unsplash.

 

Thursday
Sep082016

6 'Holds' to Strengthen Your Life

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson looks at the word "hold" and four ways to look at this word that can change and strengthen your life.

"To hold is to grasp or restrain," Dawn says, "and we see both of these meanings in our walk with the Lord."

Here are six truths about the word "hold."

1. Hold On

We're encouraged in scripture to hold on to the Lord by faith, but the reality is, He holds on to us!

Psalm 27:14 encourages us to let our hearts take courage as we "wait for the Lord." Derek Kidner calls this "holding on with naked faith"* Sometimes it is nothing but our simple faith in God that gets us through the struggles of life. The real strength is not in our faith, however, but in the object of our faith—the Lord!

At a low point of my life, when I struggled with fear, overwhelmed by circumstances, a friend shared Isaiah 41:13: "For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'" I immediately felt God's comfort. Like a child walking confidently with her Daddy, I've learned to hold my Father God's hand.

God holds on to us with his righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10) and keeps us in His presence continually (Isaiah 42:6; Psalm 73:23). But we need to hold on tightly to Him—to "cling" to Him—too! (Psalm 63:8)

2. Hold Fast

The author of Hebrews tells us to "hold fast our confession" (4:14). What does that mean? We confess with our mouth concerning our salvation (Romans 10:10); we openly acknowlege Jesus and live for him with our whole being.

Because we have a Great High Priest, and we can trust Him to be our Advocate, we come boldly to God's throne of mercy in Christ (Hebrews 4:16). We "hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering" because God is faithful! (Hebrews 10:23) And because the Lord is faithful to continue to work in us, we can hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 24). We are forever anchored in Him.

"Troubles almost 'whelm the soul; Griefs like billows o'er me roll; Tempters seek to lure astray; Storms obscure the light of day: But in Christ I can be bold, I've an anchor that shall hold" (My Anchor Holds" by William C. Martin).

3. Hold In

God wants us to use discernment (Psalm 119:66) and hold some things in—at least until we’ve paused to think before we speak. In our culture, we're encouraged to be transparent, but we don't need to say everything we're thinking.

Some of the worst things I’ve heard have come from well-meaning Christians who just weren’t thinking. It’s things like: “God needed another angel” when a loved one has died. First, people aren’t angels; and second, that’s incredibly insensitive when someone is hurting. Even when we must confront in truth, the rule is "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).

Another example: Some have said, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Sometimes God does give us more than we can handle, to teach us to rely on Him.

When in doubt, think it out; and until God gives you beneficial words to say, hold it in!

4. Hold Out

I'm learning to hold out against temptation, looking for that "way out" that He provides (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Sometimes it's a pause—holding out—that prevents me from rushing headlong into sin.

While I'm in that "holding" pattern, I pray, I recall scriptures or I call an accountability partner. And while I'm pausing, I'm also learning to actively resist the devil and his schemes (James 4:7). For so many years I was afraid to do this, afraid of some of the excesses I saw in the spiritual warfare movement, I went to the other extreme and didn't obey God's command to submit myself to God's control and then resist the devil.

Thomas Brooks offers a list of 10 ways the Christian can resist Satan's temptations in Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices. Reviewer Tim Challies lists them here.

God promises the enemy will flee if we fight sins biblically, so determine to hold out against sin!

5. Hold Lightly

We must take time to determine what is valuable and eternal—what really matters. Even good things God gives us can consume and control us, or distract us from what is best.

When anything becomes dearer to us than the Lord (i.e., idols), we need to let God pry our hands loose so we can put that "thing" down (treasures, possessions, relationships, etc.). We need to hold lightly those things that have any potential to come between us and God.

We see this principle in Luke 12:16-21. Basically, stop laying up treasures for yourself and become rich toward God instead.

Don't misunderstand. There are some things to hold tightly: your marriage and children, for example. But even then, be sure the Lord is number one! A good rule of thumb: try to hold lightly anything you can't take with you to heaven—especially your "stuff."

6.  Hold Up

Just as Aaron and Hur held up Moses's hands in the middle of a great battle (Exodus 17:11-12), sometimes we need people to hold us up—to encourage us and hold us accountable.

We need to bear each others burdens (Galatians 6:1-2); hold each other up in prayer (James 5:16); tell each other the truth (Ephesians 4:25), and confront, exhort and "sharpen" each other (James 5:19-20; Hebrews 3:12-13; Proverbs 27:17).

But it's not just people we "hold up." In another sense, we hold up the Lord before a watching world when we lift him up. We magnify His name and mighty works. 

"Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!" (Psalm 34:3)

When we lift up Jesus, when we show Him to be the beautiful Savior He is, He will draw people to Himself (John 12:32). This is perhaps the most important "hold" of all.

Which of these "holds" is the Lord speaking to you about today? What can you do to help these truths become a strong part of your life?

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.

 * Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Psalms 1-72, p. 139

Graphic of Father and Daughter at sunset, adapted, from wesharepics.

Tuesday
Mar312015

Three Times to Say 'Yes"

"I’ve noticed many women, in recent years, mentioning the idea of saying 'yes' to God," says Dawn Wilson. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she encourages us with three kinds of “yes” responses to the Lord, using words from three special ladies.

It all begins with the heart. First, there is:

1. The Yes of Surrender

James entreats Christians, "Submit yourselves therefore to God" (James 4:7a). In Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s Revive Our Hearts outreaches (True Woman and Revive conferences), one of the interesting facets is a focus on immediate obedience when God speaks to women through His Word or through the Holy Spirit during the messages and prayer times.

In these conferences, women receive gift bags, and in the bag is a white hankie with the words, “Yes, Lord!” embroidered in the corner. Women are encouraged to wave their “white flag” of surrender to the Lord when He speaks, showing their willingness to obey. This idea is spelled out in Nancy’s book, Surrender: The Heart God Controls.

“To call Him Lord means to say Yes—to His will, His Word and His ways,” Nancy wrote. “We cannot call Him Lord and then proceed to run our own lives. . . .

“To some, that type of surrender might seem to be bondage; but those who have bowed the knee—those who have laid down their arms and waved the white flag of surrender—know that it is the only pathway to true freedom. And with that surrender comes a host of blessings . . . I have seen this so many times in my own life that I often look back and wonder, Why did I ever resist the will of God?” (1)

In her book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Lysa TerKeurst wrote, “You don’t need perfect circumstances to be a woman who says yes to God. . . . You simply have to surrender all that’s clamoring for attention in your heart with the answer God is longing to hear spill from your lips—‘Yes, God.” (2)

A surrendered heart is the launching pad for a surrendered life.

Then, we have to respond with:

2. The Yes of Action

James reminds us of the importance of being "doers" of the word" (James 1:22). In her book, Following God One Yes at a Time, Connie Cavanaugh wrote about “moving forward” with our yes.

“When God points you in a certain direction, say ‘yes’ with your feet. One simple, immediate, possible yes leads to another, and another, as you obey His directives and attain your dreams.

“Move forward even if it looks like the water won’t hold you (like Peter stepping out of the boat), even if you’re not sure where you’ll end up (like Abraham when he left Ur), and even if it looks like it doesn’t make sense (like Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac).

“When you move, you’ll begin to hear Him more clearly. Why? One simple reason: You have put yourself in a place you can’t make it without Him. You need Him now to pursue and realize His and your dream. This “active need” sharpens your spiritual hearing. The absolutely best place to hear from God is while you’re moving forward to achieve the dream because you are in the center of His will.” (3)

We must not take our “yes” lightly. There are times we need real wisdom to consider the best response. Paul told believers to church show discernment "so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:9-10).

Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes, highlights the importance of saying yes to God in order to make wise decisions in the midst of our endless daily demands. I call it:

3. The Yes of Discernment

“I miss Best Yes opportunities sometimes because I simply don’t know they’re part of the equation," Lysa wrote. "I get all twisted up in making the decision to check either the Yes or No box, not realizing there is a third box that reads Best Yes.

“. . . What is a Best Yes, you ask. . . . In God’s plan, you’ve got a part to play. If you know it and believe it, you’ll live it. You’ll live your life making decisions with the Best Yes as your best filter. You’ll be a grand display of God’s Word lived out. Your undistracted love will make your faith ring true. Your wisdom will help you make decisions that will still be good tomorrow.” (4)

There are likely many other times and reasons to say “yes” to God. But do any of these three speak to you today? What will you do to respond to the Lord?

 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. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Sources:

(1) Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Surrender: the Heart God Controls, (Moody Publishers, 2008), pp. 161, 163.

(2) Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, (Harvest House, 2007), pp. 13-14)

(3) Connie Cavanaugh, Following God One Yes at a Time, (Harvest House, 2011), pp. 80-81.

(4) Lysa TerKeurst, The Best Yes, (Thomas Nelson, 2014), pp. 5-6.