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Entries in God's Word (5)

Thursday
Mar282019

Counsel Your Heart—with Truth Talk

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn says we need to be careful what we say to our hearts. While we're surrounded by discouraging worldviews and perspectives, the right kind of counsel can be life-giving.

I appreciate these words by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: "We should not be controlled by our circumstances or by our emotions. We need to counsel our hearts according to truth."

Nancy said those words in 2016 in the midst of a divisive, confusing and polarizing election in America. But she has said the same words many times over in various women's conferences and on the radio; and I've found the concept of "counseling our hearts" powerful and helpful in making wise choices.

"We need to go back to God's Word and remind ourselves of bedrock, solid foundational truth," Nancy says.

With a recent cancer diagnosis, I've found the need to counsel my own heart especially urgent, because I have an enemy who is doing his best to sow lies in my frightened heart.

  • Lies about the goodness of God.
  • Lies about my worth.
  • Lies about the future.

Oh, how I need the truth of God's Word to permeate my mind and soul every day.

In an effort to counter Satan's lies, I began collecting scriptures and faithful Christians' comments about helpful Bible verses. I call my collection "Truth Talk for Hurting Hearts"—but truth talk is important to face every human need and frailty, not just when we're hurting.

The world tries to help.

Some people turn to religion, but religion without the Power Source in our lives—a living relationship with Jesus Christ—doesn't bring lasting change.

Many others turn to psychology for answers, but they may get only half-truths. For example, the sciences of the mind and good mental health promote proper "self-esteem" and "self-worth," and certainly this sounds positive. Who wouldn't want a good sense of personal worth.

But the whole truth is, without God, we are and can do nothing (John 15:4-5; Jeremiah 10:23; Galatians 6:3). Our worth is tied up in who He is, who we are in Him and what He says about us.

I am struck by Peter's words in John 6:68:  

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Peter understood the life-giving words of the Lord regarding his eternal soul. But the Word of God is powerful to speak to us in many other ways—not only about our salvation. We see this throughout Psalm 119.

When I was a younger Christian, I came to believe in the power of self-talk for overcoming bad attitudes, behaviors, habits and addictions.

But with maturity, I realized self-talk per se is not as important as telling ourselves the truth.

We can use self-talk to bolster our own agenda and get our own way. We may even lie to ourselves to accomplish our purposes. Instead—

God wants us to use "truth talk" to remind ourselves what He has said.

Here's how I've been counseling my own heart. Perhaps it will help others navigate the tough, confusing circumstances of life.

1. Discover the truth.

You can't discover—and apply—the truth of God's Word if you aren't reading it. Studying it. Meditating on and memorizing it.

We are to search the scriptures, looking for treasured truth about the Lord. If we seek Him, we will find Him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 6:33). We will come to know Him as He truly is, not as the culture misquotes and misrepresents Him.

2. Proclaim the truth.

To proclaim something is to announce it officially or publicly, to declare something is important and emphasize it.

Essentially, we act on the truth of God's Word when we respond to it, first by making it known.

We might speak it, write it, or share it in a post or meme. We testify to its power.  We leave a legacy of truth-telling.

3. Counsel with the truth.

To counsel is to share wise advice. But for the Christian it is so much more, because we are handling the Word of God. It is treasured counsel, life-giving truth and hope-filled practical principles.

We're meant to counsel not only our own hearts, but to encourage others' hearts in their times of need as well (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The scriptures are powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and must dwell in us "richly" (Colossians 3:16). We can trust what God has told us.

Counseling our hearts is one way to LIVE OUT the truth of scripture—to rely on and practice it in our daily lives.

I recently fought a hard battle with Satan about God's goodness. 

"Why would a good God give you cancer?" my enemy said.

My recourse was to study the goodness of the Lord—my Father God's sovereign and awesome providence. I discovered deep truths about God's character, began to speak and write about those truths, and intentionally counseled my heart.

Before long, the ugly accusations ceased. Satan's attempts to make me bitter only turned into praise for God! (In other words, the devil wasn't happy.)

I know the enemy has more strategies to bring me down, but I also know the greatest resource to do battle with Satan's lies is the wonderful Word of God.

I intend to keep on counseling my heart with biblical "truth talk."

How about you? Are you struggling with a tough diagnosis? A frustrating circumstance? A disheartening relationship? An inner war that you feel you're losing? What truth from scripture can you use today to counsel your heart?

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.


Tuesday
Sep042018

Upgrade Your Destiny: The Obvious Choice

Pam Farrel is a woman with much life wisdom, and in this Spiritual Live UPGRADE, she reminds us to check our level of spiritual maturity and the choices we make.

The real complications in life come when our maturity does not match our challenges," Pam says. "Simplicity will come when our maturity surpasses our challenges."

I (Dawn) think we sometimes complicate our journey with God. We want more and more knowledge and opportunities, but we may be failing to obey the "first things"—the simple things God asks us to do, and the simple, unfettered way He wants us to live.

Pam continues . . .

God’s will lead us to maturity step by step, if we will simply follow His light and His leading through His Word.

My husband, Bill, and I consistently share a simple, obvious statement to gain success:

“We make our choices and our choices make us: Healthy choices gain a healthier life.”

Healthy decisions cause growth and improvement in our lives. With each passing year, we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that seemingly are bigger and more demanding than the year before.

Healthy decisions move us forward step by step so that each year we are better prepared for what comes our way.

In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success at Keeping It All Together, I share a series of tests we can use to check our choices and upgrade decision-making skills. Here is one of those tests.

Decision Making Skill 1: The Obvious Test

Ask yourself, “Is this decision so obvious that I am wasting time thinking about it?”

The reason these decisions are obvious is that God has already clearly spoken to these areas of life or they are generally accepted as the best practices. 

Consider these obvious decisions based on the best practices in life:

  • Get out of bed. Get dressed. Brush your teeth.
  • If a police car pulls up behind you and turns its lights on, pull over.
  • Get a good night’s sleep regularly.
  • If someone does something nice, say, “Thank you.”

God wants to strengthen our life, beginning with the obvious.

We all want to gain God’s blessings, yet struggle to place ourselves under His “Umbrella of Blessing”—that is, choosing to live a life of integrity.

"He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity" (Proverbs 2:7).

Just as an umbrella shades us from harmful rays of the sun or protects us in the rain, even so, obedience to God’s stated will protect us—mostly from our own misguided choices.

God’s stated will is the foundation on which we all can build a stronger, more stable life.

We long to know God’s will, yet often many of us fail to obey the obvious verses where God clearly lays out the place to begin knowing His plan for our lives.

Here are a few verses that share God’s will for our lives.

Ask yourself, "Am I . . . "

. . . Saved?"

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

. . . Spirit-filled?"

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

. . . Sanctified?"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

. . . Sexually Pure?"

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

. . . Saying Thanks?"

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

. . . Suffering for Right?"

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:17).

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19).

. . . Seeking God?"

Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart (Psalm 119:2).

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me (Proverbs 8:17).

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). *

Start doing—or continue walking out—these OBVIOUS things that God says are His will for you and three things will happen:

  • Your heart will become more in tune to God’s heart,
  • Your ability to understand the Bible will increase, and
  • You will gain insights from God for your future.

Which is God asking you to upgrade by obeying?

For me, I keep Praise Pages in my Bullet Journal to help me keep an attitude of gratitude. This obvious habit helps me keep a positive mindset, and I make better, wiser decisions as a result.

By simply obeying God’s Word, you gain the ability to walk in God’s will.

Can you thank God today for all these “obvious” things? Take a moment to consider which one/s might need some fresh obedience in your journey with God today.

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of over 45 books including 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success In Keeping It All Together which looks at how to strengthen 7 core areas of a woman’s life to move it forward.(This article is adapted from the Simple Skills material)  To gain more from Pam ‘s insights, join the Living Love-Wise Community. Simply go to www.Love-Wise.com and click the subscribe tab and select the membership option that best fits your life.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Delanie at Lightstock.

* The 7 "obvious" verses are from 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make (Harvest House, 1999), pp. 142-143.

Friday
Jun082018

Tell Me Another

To read Kaley Rhea's writing is to hear her talk. She's real, relevant, righteous and right-on! In this Uplift UPGRADE, Kaley gives us a fresh perspective on the Lord's relationship with us. And it's all good.

"I don’t tend to get attached to things," Kaley says. "My nostalgia-o-meter may be broken."

I (Dawn) thought that was an overall Millennial thing. As an older woman, I'm finding my family of millennials don't want my "stuff." But there's a greater, deeper truth here.

Kaley continues…

Seriously, I’m over here like:

  • First Grade macaroni art? That was years ago; let’s let this go.
  • Backyard clubhouse my dad built? This thing is a rotting deathtrap; burn it.
  • A great, great aunt’s collection of fabric scraps? Why do we even have this?

Somebody—I hope—is reading this and nodding with me, thinking, Yes, girl. Same.

But I know some of you are reading this and going, You cold-hearted monster. Okay, I’ll own that.

But lemme tell you a story.

My sister Allie has a one-year-old little girl named Emerson. Emerson and I, not to brag, are buddies. So because we’re buddies, not long ago I sat on the floor with her while we watched a kiddie program.

As we sat, I found myself getting pulled into this show. I don’t know how it happened.

There was a princess, and she was still learning how to be a princess, and in her moment of victory, I found myself getting choked up. Like I had to pause and take a moment.

The emotions in a preschool animated musical got to be too much, and I had to pull up and do some focused breathing. Me. The unsentimentalist.

You know who made fun of me in that moment? My grown adult mom and sister.

And do you know who else? Nobody else, because Emerson is an emotional person and showed a mature amount of empathy.

All right, it was super funny.

It occurred to me (and Emerson, probably) that I did not become affected when I saw a picture of that animated princess. My eyes didn’t well up when I read the show’s description. Or when I learned her name.

Nothing about that silly show came anywhere close to touching me on a deep level until I learned her story.

Until I saw her struggle. Until I knew her kind, little princess heart.

I do not connect very well or very often to THINGS. But I can connect to a STORY.

Do you wonder sometimes about the different ways God could’ve chosen to relate to us?

He could have said, “I am God, and you are human. Worship me.” And that would’ve been right and just. But we wouldn’t have known Him.

He could have said, “If you possess this amulet or such and such trinket, or say these words to this statue, you may know My favor.”

He could’ve looked at us and been altogether like, “Nah.” But He didn’t.

He gave us His story.

From the beginning of time, through the Old Testament to the cross, the resurrection and the revelation, He loves us so much—has such a desire to connect with us—He wrote it down.

The places. The people. The evidence. The truth.

Does that blow your mind? That blows my mind!

Sometimes I get so caught up in mining the Bible for “What is right in this situation?” and “How does this apply to my life?” that I miss the joy of being swept up by God’s own history.

I forget to marvel over and revel in the God who is present in every page, in every story, in every moment He chose specially to preserve for millennia so my human tinymind could process even a fraction of an understanding of who Jesus Christ is.

Deep breath.

Am I getting emotional now? Emerson, get the tissues!

Wonder at these things with me:

  • What we have is not a religion of relics we have to search out.
  • What we have is not a boss wearing a nametag or a lord bearing a title instead of providing an introduction.
  • We have a God who gave us His stories.
  • We have a Friend who invites us to know Him.
  • We have a Father who proves He has known us since before we knew anything.

All that gets to this cold-hearted monster’s heart every time.

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18-22).

How do you approach the Word of God? What story from the Lord speaks to your heart today? Take time to pray and say, "Tell me another, Lord!"

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing soon, with two more novels in the works. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

This post is adapted from Messy to Meaningful: Lessons from the Junk Drawer by Monica Schmelter, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea.

Thursday
Sep072017

Upgrade Your 'Roots' for a Harvest of Hope

Pam Farrel is a first-class encourager. I've seen her in action and enjoyed her encouragement myself! In this UPLIFT post, Pam encourages us to consider how we might reap a greater harvest of hope in our lives.

Pam says, "We all want to be blessed by God, right? But, do we desire to place ourselves in line to receive the blessing?"

I (Dawn) know that's true. So often I WANT the blessing, but I'm not intentional about preparing for it!

Pam continues . . .

I have decided I want to be like mint. Yes, that lovely tasting green leafy plant.

Its smell is unique and recognizable. Its taste is smooth, fresh, sweet, tasty and comforting.

Yes, if you love mint, your mouth is already watering with the thought of soothing, fresh mint in your tall glass of ice cold tea on a hot summer’s day; that sweet yumminess of mint chip ice cream at the end of a hard day’s labors, or that romantic kiss that happens right after a minty spray.

Yes, we love the impact and affect mint has. But how does mint get to be, well, mint?

Last spring, after the sale of our home, we went to live on our family’s vineyard. On that property is a beautiful garden. My sister-in-law loves mint, like I do, so she planted some in cement buckets buried in the ground.

But she did not know the power of mint!

That mint broke through those containers, spread throughout the entire garden and when it was beginning to break up the asphalt driveway, she knew we all had to take action! I volunteered to take on the challenge of mint removal.

Wow! I had no idea of the strength and power of the mint!

  • First, I tried to chop at the roots. Nope—iron clad!
  • Then I tried to yank at the roots. Forget that, not even weight-lifter could budge this hard cord mint!
  • Finally, I decided to try to out-smart the mint. I investigated the power of the mint. Here is the secret to its strength—the root system.

That cute little green plant you pick in bunches have roots that sink yards deep into the ground and are interwoven and braided into one another in every direction!  

I began to truly admire the tenacity of mint!

Upgrade Your Roots

Standing in the field of mint, in awe of the deep, intertwined root system holding the fragrant mint secure, my mind jumped to Psalm 1.

See, for the past two years, I have been submerged in the Psalms, writing  Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience.

Psalm 1 begins with that word we all hope for: “Blessed.” We long for the fruit of being blessed; and we desire to be a tree that “yields fruit” and “prospers.”

Verse two reveals the key that unlocks such blessing: “his [her] delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Sometimes the fruit people see in my life and family is like that sweet fragrant scent of mint. People often ask me how I have overcome traumatic family of origin issues or how my husband, Bill, and I have formed a lasting marriage and successfully raised children who love and serve God.

My response is always the same: “The power is in the Word.” It is not me, it is the roots God has grown in my life through HIS power!

As I studied Psalm 1, I pondered what it would mean to be a tree planted by streams of water with leaves that NEVER wither.

Following the research trail, I discovered that the “rivers/streams” mentioned are irrigation canals common in the Middle East. Fruit trees, especially the nutritious and delicious date palms, were planted near these waterways to ensure prosperity.

To grow my roots a little deeper, I continued doing word studies on “tree,” “planted,” “yields fruit,” and “prosper.”

  • I responded to God with prayer and praise.
  • I penned a poem in my own psalmist-like way.
  • I prayerfully savored the fruit of these studies on walks down my tree-lined driveway.
  • I sketched a tree with deep roots.
  • Into my Journaling Bible. In short, I sat in the shade of this Psalm 1 tree and reflected on my life.

Then, in God’s perfect timing, a tree on our property fell. It was not a strong wind or a raging storm that toppled it—no, it was a beetle that can do its damage only in drought conditions.

In California, we’ve been on strict water rationing because of a nearly decade-long drought.

The tree appeared healthy, but because of lack of water, it was dead inside.

It was a vivid reminder of what kind of tree I did NOT want to become! And the “living water” of the Word would be the difference!

So, friend, let’s do make it our goal to grasp that blessed life by growing roots that can stand strong no matter the storms life may send.

Or BE MINT, with roots interwoven with others who are also deeply rooted in the Word. Your deep roots will produce a sweet and fragrant life!

Turn on the soaker hose, pull out the sprinklers, and get out your watering can by reading, memorizing, worshipping, meditating on, and creatively responding to the verses God is placing along your path.

Daily study will deepen the roots of your life and help you find and hang on to hope.

And as for that field of mint on our family farm? We decided to let it stay since it is so deeply rooted there so I am thinking of writing a cookbook on 1001 Recipes for the Mighty Mint!

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, Discovering Hope In the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience. (Co-authored with Bible teacher  Jean E Jones and artist, Karla Dornacher ) For more Bible study tips and tools to help your roots grow down deep in the Word and your hope to grow sky high, see www.DiscoveringHopeinthePsalms.com

Psalm 1 Graphic adapted, artwork courtesy of artist, Karla Dornacher; Mint photo from Pam Farrel.

Tuesday
Jun102014

Are You a Fence Builder or a Fence Destroyer?

Kathy Howard’s Bible studies invite women to go deeper into God’s Word. I appreciate her wisdom. I asked her to write an UPGRADE to help us encourage our hunger for holiness. What does “fence building” have to do with that? Hang on …

“Our neighbors are building a fence,” Kathy said. “They moved in several months ago, but until recently the property line between our driveway and their backyard was wide-open.”

You’ll likely agree—fences can be positive or negative “barriers.” While I love my neighbors, I [Dawn] am glad for the fences in my neighborhood. But there are some other fences I’d like to tear down.

Kathy continues …

I knew when the dad played catch with his three sons and I could enjoy the beautiful landscaping around their patio.

But all that began to change when I left town last week. The first thing I noticed when I got home was the sturdy wooden posts firmly planted in the ground every few feet between our yards. Within days, cedar fencing replaced my unobstructed view of my neighbors and their yard.

I’m not against suburban fences. This one will benefit them and us.

But watching that physical fence go up reminded me of other kinds of fences we tend to build, particularly between ourselves and God.

Our heavenly Father longs for intimate fellowship with us. He invites us to know Him fully and deeply. Yet a lack of holiness in our lives erects a barrier.

Since God is the epitome of holiness, He remains separate from everything sinful. Therefore, to experience deep intimacy with God, we must respond to His call to live holy lives. Amazingly, this call to holiness is also an invitation to draw close to the Holy One.

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous” (Psalm 15:1-2a).

Do you long for deeper intimacy with your heavenly Father? Remember, according to Scripture, a close connection exists between living a holy life and experiencing God’s presence.

In other words, sin builds barriers and creates distance between each of us and God. Holiness breaks down barriers and moves us ever closer.

So how can we tear down those barriers?

Only the Holy Spirit can transform us, but we must cooperate with Him to foster holiness in our lives. Here are a few practical things we can do:

1. Practice an Awareness of the Presence of God.

We know from the Bible that God is always with us. He sees everything we do and knows our thoughts, attitudes and motivations. Purposefully remembering this truth and disciplining ourselves to regularly think about Him will nourish holiness in our lives.

2. Stay in the Word.

The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself, His will and His ways to us in the Bible. It describes the holy life to which God calls us. But we cannot live by God’s Word unless we know God’s Word. Reading and studying the Bible will plant God’s truth in our hearts.

3. Be Proactive in Your Battle against Sin.

Sin takes root in our lives, growing and multiplying. To be holy, we must dig it out by the roots and get rid of it. Ask God to also help you recognize areas of weakness in your life so you can guard against potential sin.

Sweet believer, do you long to be embraced by the Holy One? A pursuit of holiness is a pursuit of God Himself.

Will you take some time to pray and ask God to show you any barriers separating you from intimacy with Him? Let’s get ready to tear down that fence!

Kathy Howard, the author of six books, helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances. Her newest six-week interactive study, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, encourages the pursuit of holiness and draws women into the circle of God’s holy, loving embrace. For information about Kathy’s studies and discipleship or leader helps, visit her website: www.kathyhoward.org.