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Entries in God's purposes (4)

Tuesday
Jun252019

How to Find Your Identity and Purpose

Yvonne Ortega has experienced many struggles and tough circumstances, but the Lord has taught her many things through them. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she shares how God helped her find her identity and purpose.

“You have too many Christian friends and family on Facebook. Your posts and website are too preachy," Yvonne said the representative from a speaker’s bureau told her on the phone.

I (Dawn) know how comments like these can be devastating. I once endured a similar disheartening remark from a book agent. But I, like Yvonne, eventually turned that comment into an opportunity to focus on God's perspective.

Yvonne continues . . .

After I heard those words, I faced a challenge to my identity and purpose on earth. I realized I had to choose either what the world considers identity and purpose or what God says my identity and purpose are.

The representative talked about fortune and fame. He wanted me to focus on events that would bring in money and lots of it.

He recommended a new website, new images, and a new identity online.

The catch was that those new things would wipe out my identity as a Christian.

The weekend after that conversation, I knew I had to be true to my divine identity and purpose.

How could I do that?

1. I had to find out who God says I am.

In the Bible He says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).

I prayed and meditated on the phrases.

  • God chose me, not someone else. He selected me or picked me out from the crowd.
  • God made me a royal priesthood. The word, royal, captured my attention. God didn’t make me second-rate or a commoner.
  • By his mercy and grace, He made me holy, separated from sin and reconciled to Him through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
  • All of this, and even more, a special possession. I’m not on my own in a struggle to find out who I am. The Bible tells me I’m God’s special possession.

Nothing in 1 Peter 2:9 indicates that my identity and purpose involve striving for earthly fortune and fame.   

2. I had to find out what God’s purpose is for me.

In Ephesians 2:10, the Bible says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).

Imagine my joy in that truth. I am not just anyone’s handiwork, but God’s. He created me to do good works, not to please people.

And to make that more powerful, God prepared those good works in advance for me to do.

Before my birth, God knew His purpose for my life.

3. I had to remember that the world cannot change God’s plans.

No matter how attractive or alluring people’s plans can be, I cannot change God’s plans.

When I looked at Isaiah 46:10, I read, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (NASB).

God didn’t say He might try to establish his purpose, nor did he say He hoped to accomplish all his good pleasure. God didn’t show any hesitation or doubt.

I may have to wait a long time to understand God’s purpose, but He is always at work, often behind the scenes.

In the New Testament, God confirmed the truth of Isaiah 46:10. Paul tells us, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

The world’s offer of fortune and fame won’t succeed if God has another plan for me.

Years ago, God put a desire in my heart to reach “Gazillions for Jesus in my lifetime” with the message of His comfort, peace, promise and purpose. That desire has not changed.

Four car accidents in seven years, injuries, cancer, and major losses including the unexpected death of my only child seemed to interrupt or delay God’s plans. At the time, I couldn’t understand those circumstances.

As I look back, I see how God used every one of them to carry on His good work in my life. Now I can walk in confidence that God will do whatever it takes to unfold His plan.

Dear heavenly Father, thank you for my identity and purpose. Thank you that you are in charge and nothing or no one can thwart your plan for me. You will carry it on to completion. Amen.

What will you do this week to find your identity and purpose?

Yvonne Ortega walks with a small footprint but leaves a giant imprint in people’s lives. This power-packed package is an international award-winning speaker and the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Series. She celebrates life at the beach, where she walks, builds sand castles, blows bubbles, and dances. Discover more about Yvonne at her website and blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Stux at Pixabay.

 

Monday
Mar202017

Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help

With the explosion of social media, there are countless opportunities to encourage our friends and family. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares two: Virtual Hugs and Vertical Help.

While it's better to spend some face-time with our friends and family, don't discount the value of encouraging Facebook-time!

It's my goal to encourage someone every day in some way. That's hard to do when I spend most of my time at my computer with work, blog management and personal writing.

But here are two ways anyone can be an encourager on social media.

1. Virtual Hugs

The word "virtual," as it is related to computers, means not physically existing as such, but made to appear to be true. A virtual hug is a practical social media way to encourage others.

I hear about a hurting friend or family member and I want to rush to their side and offer a huge hug and word of encouragement. But we are often miles aparteven states away or around the world!

I can certainly pick up a telephone and call them, or shoot them a quick text; but for ongoing encouragement, I can offer a "virtual hug" often and in a number of ways online:

  • I can empathize, seeking to understand and share in others' feelings.
  • I can share an encouraging quotation, maybe in a specially-created meme.
  • I can ask questions to help people process and come to wise conclusions.
  • I can offer a scriptureby text or memethat speaks hope into their situation.
  • I can post an article that might encourage or challenge for guidance or growth.
  • (And sometimes, I can set up an appointment to "do lunch" or meet somewhere for an actual hug, because there are times face-to-face is the only way to go.)

While my motives and efforts are good, I know virtual hugs can only go so far. I might not understand the real or deepest needs. So . . .

I invite the Lord into the encouragement process.

2. Vertical Help

I've learned to turn my thoughts and conversations into prayers for my friends and family. I especially do so to enlist the Lord's help in sticky, tough and seemingly-impossible situations.

We can do much to help others "horizontally," but we also need to seek aid "vertically" too.

In other words:

Our help and encouragement can be good, but God's help is always better.

We might have an agenda to our prayers, but the Lord most certainly has purposes beyond us. His thoughts and ways are so unlike ours (Isaiah 55:8). It's always wise to seek His will as we pray for ourselves and others.

More than an "I'm praying for you" or an even quicker "Praying" (although there is nothing wrong with those responses), I especially love to pause a little longer and actually write my prayer to the Lord on Facebook so my friend can join in.

As my prayers fly upward to the Lord for my Facebook friends, I picture God's help flowing down to encourage, assist, and even transform.

  • The Lord is our refuge and strengtha safe place for usand He is ready to help whenever we need Him (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 13:6);
  • He understands what we're going through (Hebrews 4:15);
  • and when we trust Him completely, seeking His purposes, He stands ready to guide us (Hebrews 4:16; Proverbs 3:5-6).

It's a privilege to pray for our friends and family members with these truths and promises in mind.

How are you combining virtual hugs and vertical help to encourage and support your friends and family?

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.      

Thursday
Mar022017

"Even Though"—How to Upgrade Angry Reactions

Kolleen Lucariello's desire is to help people embrace their identity in Christ in practical ways. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she deals with anger and how our relationship with the Lord can change our responses.

"Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. This thought randomly ran through my mind,” Kolleen says, “as Pat and I traveled south down the Interstate in early January.

I (Dawn) was just cut off on a San Diego highway as a man quickly moved from one lane— across mine—to rush toward an off-ramp, putting several cars in danger. I panicked, and oh yes, I got that sudden angry response. Kolleen has a insight for us about how to deal with life's tough circumstances with a more scriptural response.

Kolleen continues . . .

Our GPS was programmed to guide us straight to the driveway of our son and daughter-in-law’s home, and I had just witnessed one more incidence of road rage on the highway (and my husband was not involved!).

We’ve observed some pretty scary moments during our travel time when angry drivers decide they wouldn’t get mad—they’d get evenbehind the wheel of a vehicle.

I was surprised a few days later when this same thought crossed MY mind as I felt my mad inside begin to rise. Don’t get mad, get even.

It’s been quite a few years since that’s been my motto for getting through life. Yet, over the next few days, the slightest irritation brought this phrase to mind.

I began to notice how effortlessly it is for some to quickly move into the get even lane.

But why had I?

Where was this sudden urge to get even for every offense coming from?

  • Did I have suppressed anger?
  • Was the constant chatter on social media making me hostile?
  • Hormones, maybe?

I decided it was time to pray and ask God to fill me in.  That’s when one word was added to the statement.

Though.

Now, the sentence running through my mind was, don’t get mad, get even… though. With an emphasis on even though.

Just a few days later I read this, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he [even though a slave] became a successful and prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian” (Genesis 39:2, AMP).

There it was, even though, and along with it, came my answer.

You upgrade your reaction when you:

1. Trust God is with you, even though you’re distressed, full of anguish and your cry seems unheard.

His very own brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Can you imagine?  They saw the distress and anguish as Joseph pleaded for them to let him go but, the Amplified Bible says, they “would not listen to his cry” and he found himself a slave in another country (Genesis 42:21).

All betrayal is rough, but betrayal by a spouse, sibling, parent or the closest of friends strikes a devastating blow.

Betrayal inflicts such intense anguish and distress, you may wonder how you will ever survive. We can become slaves to the pain as we find ourselves wandering in a strange, unknown and unwanted land, where cries for mercy go unheard.

But just as God was with Joseph, even though he found himself in Egypt, He is with us in our even though land too.

2. Trust God is able to prosper you and bring you success, even though your circumstances are not what you dreamed.

Remember Joseph’s dreams? Sheaves bowed down to him. Evidently, he was able to move on from the delay of the dream. He excelled in everything that he did even though he was a slave; and because the Lord was always with him, he found success and prosperity.

I’m certain Joseph never imagined he’d find himself a slave in Egypt. He’s the perfect example for us of someone living out Colossians 3: 23-24:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (NIV).

The Lord is with those who protect their attitude even though the work might not be exactly what we dreamed.

3. Trust God’s purposes even though we may not understand them at the time.

Something I find remarkable in the story of Joseph is this: not once is there any mention of Joseph plotting in his heart how to get even with anyone who betrayed himnot his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, nor the chief cupbearer who failed to follow through on his promise to remember Joseph when he was released from prison. Not even Potiphar for assuming the worst and never seeking to hear his side of the story. Not once.

Instead, he saw God in the even though when he stood face to face with his brothers and recognized that even though they intended evil towards him, God’s intended purpose was for good.

Rather than living by the don’t get mad, get even motto, add the word though as a reminder of how God can bless us in our even though moments.

Are you going through something right now that tempts you to get even? How can the truth of “even though” help you upgrade your reaction?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ, one letter at a time. Connect with Kolleen here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Megapixelstock, Stocksnap.io.

Friday
Feb052016

Fenced in by Love (Part 2)

In part 1 of "Fenced in By Love," we saw that God keeps and preserves His own "sheep"--the souls of those who love Him and are in a personal relationship with Him. 

Today, we're considering HOW and WHY God keeps His people.

This is important, because I (Dawn) think there is sometimes a misunderstanding when people think God has forgotten them in their difficulties. The truth is, God is always up to something beyond what we might be able to see or understand.

So let's continue . . .

3. HOW is the the Lord keeping His people?

This goes back to the words "keep" and "preserve." Does being kept by the Lord mean God's people will never suffer? No, it's clear from scripture that believers will suffer (Psalm 6:6-7; Psalm 71:20a).

The harmful effects of the Fall in Genesis 3 will touch all of us this side of heaven. We may suffer persecution and even death. But we can be steadfast in the midst of the most desperate trials (James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:6-9).

The Christian's perspective on suffering is far different from those without the Lord. Instead of fighting the testing process of our circumstances, we can ask for our Father's will to be accomplished, learn to see life's trials as a blessing as we seek His perspective, and ask Him for wisdom to proceed.

We are never left alone in this process. Our Father knows we are weak and this is an uncertain world, and we cannot fully protect ourselves.

He is "watching over the way of His saints" (Proverbs 2:8). I have no doubt, if we could lift the veil between heaven and earth, we would see His care and protection in countless ways: the car that missed hitting us, the poison we missed ingesting, the thief who somehow couldn't find our front door, etc.

Yes, many things do happen to us in this sinful world, but ...

We are proud people indeed if we think we are not in God's constant, loving watchcare.

Back to Psalm 121:7 for a moment. The tense of the word "keep" in that verse includes the future. It means God will keep us both now and forever. He is with us and helping us in our current troubles, and and He will ultimately rescue us from ALL our troubles.

God, in His perfect and loving will, may not rescue us from all our troubles in the here and now, but the Lord has promised protection from our ultimate enemy, sin (Romans 6:14). Sin no longer has the power to enslave us or determine where we will spend eternity, if we are in Christ. But we do have a choice about sin.

In other words, our future is secure in Christ, and no one can snatch us out of our Father's strong hand! (John 10:28-29); but will we trust Christ and live now under His provided protection, or will we go beyond the fence of His love and "sleep with the enemy," giving in to sin's control?

4. WHY is the Lord keeping His people?

Way back in Genesis, God told Jacob, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go ... I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:15).

God has always watched over His people, not only because He loves them, but also to accomplish His purposes in and through them.

God absolutely has the ability to deliver His people, but it is not always His will to do so. For example, in His love He may allow a physical trial or some other trouble in order to purify us (James 1:2-3) or to show Himself strong in our declaration of faith (as happened with the patriarch, Job).

Sometimes Christians pay the ultimate price for their identification with Christ and their witness, as did the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 6:8-7:53). God doesn't ask everyone to make the ultimate sacrifice, but He does call us to be faithful soldiers in the battle, wherever that leads us (Ephesians 6:12-20; 1 Peter 3:15).

Romans 8:28-30 explains God's ongoing and ultimate purpose for ALL of His children (the "saints" of verse 27):

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

Our Father wants us to be like His Son; and He lovingly, faithfully chisels away anything that doesn't look like Jesus.

So we read these powerful words in verse 31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

  • It's not that we will escape bodily harm (v. 36)—we may even be called to martyrdom; 
  • but rather, we are "more than conquerors though him who loved us" (v. 37)—we have spiritual and eternal victory in Jesus;
  • and nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus, our Lord (vv. 38-39). We are sealed for eternity through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

No matter our circumstances, God is watching and involved with eternal purposes for our lives.

We are forever fenced in by God's love!

Are you struggling with a deep problem? How does a fresh perspective on God's purposes for you encourage you today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, 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) and is a contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Church graphic adapted from pixabay.com.

Chisel graphic adapted, Image courtesy of bugtiger at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.