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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Entries in Habits (7)

Thursday
Jul262018

Focus on the 'Beneficial'

In this Choices UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson shares a principle that helps her make a lot more wise and godly choices.

I reached out for another Dove candy. Now there’s nothing wrong with a Dove candy. I love the dark chocolate, the milk chocolate and all the other new flavors. (I'll be honest. I love just about ANY kind of chocolate. Don't even get me started on See's. But let me tell you my Dove story.)

I reached out for a chocolate, nestled in my crystal candy dish, and I heard this little voice in my brain. . . 

“Now how is that going to help you?”

“What do you mean HELP me?” I asked the voice.

“I mean,” the voice continued, “I know you want the chocolate. I know you even crave the chocolate. It’s inviting and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Right—so what’s the problem?”

“An hour from now, is it going to be something you'll be glad you ate?”

I wanted to say, “Of course.”

But I stopped short, my hand poised over the candy dish.

Why? Because another voice (and I believe it was the Spirit of God) reminded me of a scripture.

Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.

“I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.

In other words, there are lots of lawful (morally legitimate or permissible) things we are free to do because God is generous to His children and we live under grace.

"But...", Paul says.

It's that word "but" that stopped me from taking a piece of candy.

Now there is nothing sinful about a Dove candy. In fact, sometimes it might be a good and right choice.

But in that moment, when I thought about it, I knew this was not the time for a chunk of chocolate.

But how often do I even stop to THINK about it.

As I am thinking about food and a lot of other issues in light of Paul's words, I’m noticing:

  • Not everything is good for me.
  • Not everything is advantageous.
  • Not everything is helpful.
  • Not everything strengthens my body.
  • Not everything builds up my character.
  • Not everything edifies my spiritual life.
  • Not everything is a good example to others.
  • Not everything shows sensitivity and deference.

For years I’ve written about choices. We make them every day. And as I’ve said, we make so many choices without a thought.

I’ve found the toughest choices are about the things that are OK, but not necessarily the best for me.

I don’t have to get crazy and legalistic or endlessly dissect every option that comes my way. But there's something I should do.

I need to consider what is best for me, is a blessing to others and is a means to honor God.

I need to think about how I can live well and help others live well, and how I can please the Lord.

Beneficial choices are “favorable or advantageous, resulting in good.” They have positive benefits and are valuable, profitable and rewarding.

Who wouldn’t want that?

This topic of things being beneficial was a powerful concept for Paul. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, he gave more insight, writing:

“Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial.

“Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.

There's a lot more at stake than we think!

How do we focus on what is beneficial so we can make wise choices?

1. Ask God for wisdom.

The sovereign God knows what is best for us. He knows how our bodies and our lives should operate. He wants to help us know too, but we must pray and ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5).

I remember hearing a “missionary story” years ago. A missionary prayed for some special foods he was craving, and when a crate arrived from the states, he opened it with great excitement.

Imagine his dismay to find bags and bags and bags of white rice. He said he struggled with godly contentment in that moment.

But sometime later, he became gravely ill and the doctor prescribed—you guessed it—white rice! The missionary thanked his Father in heaven for sending exactly what he needed ahead of time.

Rather than asking amiss (James 4:3), let’s ask God for what is right and helpful, the most beneficial. HE KNOWS what we need!

2. Give Yourself More Beneficial Options.

When I decided I wanted to become healthier and lose weight in the process, one of the first things I did was reduce and eliminate the unhealthy options in my kitchen and replace them with lots of good, healthy “eats.”

When constantly faced with something that’s NOT beneficial, it’s only a matter of time before we’re tempted to give in to temptation.

But stocking our pantry with healthy options invites a healthy focus. We still have to choose wisely, but it’s smart to give ourselves positive, healthy alternatives.

A Helpful Note: While you consider the "options" in your life that can help you conquer your unhealthy or ungodly habits, be careful not to make room for the enemydon't give the devil any opportunities (Ephesians 4:27). Is there something that needs to go?

3. Set Your Heart on the Master.

The early church struggled with what to do regarding food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). In that context, Paul said everything is permissible or "lawful" (v. 23), but—as I said earlier—he also didn’t want to be "mastered" or dominated by sinful habits (1 Corinthians 6:12) and he didn't want to be a stumbling block to anyone coming to Christ.

Paul didn’t want habits and choices to hinder him or destroy his testimony and ministry.

He wanted to do all to the glory of God and with a spirit of gratitude (1 Corinthians 10:30-33).

Likewise, we don't want to be enslaved by sexual immorality, lying, gluttony, arrogance or any other sinful patterns. We want to do all things to the praise of God's glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6).

Another disciple, Peter, knew that whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:19).

Rather than be overcome, we can be overcomers in Christ.

When our hearts are set on the Master, we will live in freedom and not want to BE "mastered" by enslaving choices and habits. In Christ, we can make choices that are beneficial for our own lives and the lives of others.

We might mess up a lot and make unbeneficial, enslaving choices—I certainly do—but what direction are we moving. Toward obedience and contentment? Or toward wilfulness and foolish discontent.

  • Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, focus on Jesus, your strength.
  • Instead of focusing on what you can't have, consider all you already have!

4. Don’t Forget God’s “Benefits”

When we think about something that is beneficial to us, we don't want to forget the One who gives us these benefits!

He blesses us simply because we are His children. He extends great mercy. He gives great grace. He saves us and then transforms us.

We already are so blessed. Let's never forget that.

In Psalm 103:1-5, the Psalmist praises God because He:

  1. Forgives all our sin;
  2. Heals all our diseases—in eternity, if not now;
  3. Redeems us from the “pit” of destruction in hell;
  4. Crowns (lavishly surrounds) us with His faithful love and mercy;
  5. Satisfies us with good things; and
  6. Renews our strength.

We are such discontented people. We want more and more, and forget our abundance in Christ. I am thankful for all of these things the Psalmist listed and so much more. I am so blessed.

Yes, God saved me, is changing me, and He desires to satisfy me with good, beneficial things.

Sometimes He might bless me with "white rice"—because He knows what I need.

And sometimes He might bless me with a yummy Dove candy—because He loves me and delights in giving good gifts.

What are some of the benefits you are enjoying as a child of God? How can focusing on those benefits give you a different perspective for change and spiritual growth?

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 Heartsand 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
May242018

Habits for the Rest of My Life

A prestigious writer, Dianne Barker has long asked the Lord to guide her steps, so it's no surprise she focuses on what will please Him. In this Choices UPGRADE, she shares some habits that are changing her life. Maybe they will change yours too.

"I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in January—gave that up long ago," Dianne says. "Decisions and goals work better for me."

I (Dawn) totally agree with this. "Resolutions" are too easy for most of us to break. But making daily choices that get us closer to healthy, godly goals, and cultivating life-building habits? Now that's a good thing!

Dianne continues . . .

Scrolling through journal notes, I found a ten-year-old list of decisions and goals. I’m updating the list and calling it “Habits for the Rest of My Life.”

1. Exercise daily—body and spirit.

No excuse for missing my daily quiet time.

Why settle for my feeble wisdom to navigate this life when I have divine resources for every minute?

2. See Jesus’ face only—especially when I encounter difficult people.

I’m making this decision carefully, aware that He may provide many opportunities to test me.

3. Get a grip on my self-esteem.

Still craving approval? Get over it!

My esteem depends only on God’s acceptance—not on performance or perfection.

God has poured his life into me and chosen me for a purpose.

4. Bring every thought into captivity.

Negative thoughts are defeating. Devastating. Paralyzing. A dead-end street.

Forget trivial stuff.

How many times the Lord has said to me, “You could be praying about bigger things.”

5. Learn thankfulness.

I lost a tiny screw from my glasses. How would I ever find it in my mammoth purse?

My friend said, “Let’s thank the Lord. Now empty your purse.” Found it!

Thankfulness makes sense—since my only options are to thank the Lord or grumble.

Thankfulness pleases the Lord and makes my life better.

6. Rejoice by faith.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Rejoicing is a decision, not a feeling.

Discouragement has robbed me. I choose to rejoice by faith.

7. Stop wallowing in despair and wailing about my inability, and make the most of every day.

I’m encouraged by Rahab’s comments to the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho:

"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath" (Joshua 2:9-11).

The Lord my God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. He is my courage!

I ended the journal entry,

“Lord, I only desire to glorify you. Don’t let me waste my life. I’ve set my heart to praise, trust and obey. Fulfill your purpose in me!”

We’re almost midway through another year—a good time to adjust our goals.

What do you hope God will accomplish in your life in the coming months for His glory?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. For more information about Dianne or her ministry, visit her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr192018

What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Jun292017

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Victories

Victories don't just happen. In this Victory UPGRADE, Dawn shares five ways to set yourself up for some fresh victories!

When I met Joni Eareckson Tada, I was overwhelmed with the sense that this woman is not a victim, in spite of her quadriplegia. She is a victor! Likewise, Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs, has the mindset and makes the choices that set him apart as a victor in Christ.

I can't tell you the times I've nearly wept, realizing how petty my struggles are compared to theirs. But the same truths that have enabled these victors to rise above their trials are available to me.

As Nick says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

I've always loved that exciting moment when runners "set up" in their lanes at the starting block to run a race. To be a victor, we need to intentionally set ourselves up for the victories we so desire.

Here are the five ways I'm learning to set myself up for fresh victories.

1. Set Your SPIRIT

The first thing to acknowledge is our utter incapability to fix ourselves.

Without Christ, we are lost and struggling sinners. But in Christ, the possibilities for change are endless! The Father is making believers like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit!

To pursue victory, we must first set our spirit on the Spirit.

Knowing we are "crucified with Christ" and that now Christ lives in us, we determine to "live by faith in the Son of God." And how do we do that? We learn to "walk in the Spirit"—to keep in step with Him—so we will not gratify our fleshly desires. We "sow" to the Spirit if we want to cultivate a life of victory over sin.

We lose many battles because we forget our struggle is not a simple flesh-and-blood skirmish. It's a tough, spiritual war. We struggle against powerful forces of evil, and we must go to battle with spiritual, God-supplied weapons.

2. Set Your MIND

Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on "things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

A focus on eternity can help us make better decisions and live a more victorious life.

Sitting in a revival conference many years ago, the evangelist's words stirred my heart: "There are only two things you can take with you to heaven," he said. "Only two things pass from this world into eternity: the Word of God and human souls."

Those words greatly impacted my perspective and priorities. When life is boiled down to those two things, it's remarkable how some choices are simplified and others eliminated.

Christian victors have an eternal perspective.

David Ring, who has cerebral palsy, explains it this way: "I'm still in the oven. God's still in the kitchen, and God's still cooking on me. And when God is finished cooking on me, God is going to pull me out of the oven, and God's going to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

David is an example of a believer whose perspective is being transformed by the "renewing" of his mind. Just as we are to walk in the Spirit, we're also to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A person's mindset colors responses to life's circumstances.

While we may legitimately be victims of others and need to learn new ways to respond to our pain, in many cases, our victimization comes from within. We may be labeling ourselves as victims as an excuse not to change, or to receive pity from others.

Our focus makes a huge difference. For instance,

  • Victims focus on losses, while victors realize the "gain" possible in tough circumstances.
  • Victims see people conspiring against them; but victors realize we are all sinners and we're likely to wound each other as we rub shoulders--so they learn to forgive and give grace.
  • Victims wear themselves out trying to achieve elusive approval and contentment. Victors have learned to live for an audience of One.

So set your mind on heaven and the things of the Spirit, and you'll escape a lot of "victimhood."

3. Set Your AFFECTIONS

It's not only the mind that needs setting. While charging his son Solomon to build the temple, King David told the leaders of Israel, "Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God" (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

David, who had a heart for God, took time in the fields as a shepherd boy to develop his heart relationship with God; and God used these experiences to develop David's character and leadership skills. Though he made foolish choices in his later life, he always deeply honored and loved the Lord.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to set their affections when He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." It's a choice.

4. Set Your BODY

Along with setting our mind, Paul, in Rom. 12:1, appeals to believers to "present" their bodies to the Lord as "a living sacrifice." He also speaks of yielding our bodies as tools of righteousness. That's an intentional decision—to set our bodies before the Lord and allow Him to use us.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies, and bring Him glory with our actions in the body.

5. Set Your GOALS

When we have given God our spirit, mind, affections and body, we are ready to set some goals.

The Bible gives us a balanced view of goal-setting. We're to make plans, but to plan with humility and seeking God's wisdom and will.

When making any goals, be sure your priorities are biblical. Don't worry; seek and trust the Lord

We certainly don't honor God with laziness. He expects us to use His wisdom and be diligent so we be can be successful. That doesn't mean we can be presumptuous either! James says it's better to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Set your goals, but know the Lord is sovereign and He may change your plans.

We live in a fallen world. We will not be perfect until heaven. But we can't make excuses and coast spiritually.

Intentional, biblical choices will encourage more and more victories!

So, are you all "set" for victories? Which of these "sets" needs a little tweaking today?

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Thursday
Nov122015

3 Habits to Help Us STAY Organized

Marcia Ramsland, the Organizing Pro, helps people organize their home, office, files, holidays—just about everything! In this Organization UPGRADE, she shares about three habits that can make anything more organized.

“As I speak on organizing,” Marcia says, “the comment often arises, ‘I get organized but then it all falls apart. How can I stay organized?’ Good question.”

I (Dawn) am a pretty organized person. The Lord is a God of peace, order and harmony—not "disorder" and confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); and I think He wants us to reflect that in our lives. That said, I have one area in my home that always disintegrates into disorder, so I was eager to read Marcia’s wisdom for organizing.

Marcia continues . . .

Here are three habits that can take you from frustrated to fantastic. Anyone can practice them. It takes one new action at a time and persistence.

1. Practice the “Two Minute Pickup” All Day. 

This means before leaving in the morning clean up the kitchen for two minutes, before lunch spend 2 minutes clearing out emails, before dinner spend 2 minutes organizing desk papers into a To Do list.

You’ll always come back to “order.”

2. Set up a Weekly Schedule. 

A simple 3 x 5 card posted near your computer will remind you: 

  • Monday - send staff email
  • Tuesday - clean out one file
  • Wednesday - send your blog post ... etc. 

Or at home, post it in the kitchen:

  • Monday - wash clothes
  • Tuesday - get groceries
  • Wednesday - vacuum ... etc.    

If you want to improve any aspect of your life, set up a weekly schedule. Test and adjust it until it works.

3. Use an Email or Phone Reminder to Create a New Habit. 

If you want to be on time for work and your drive is 20 minutes, set a reminder to ring 30 minutes before arrival. That gives you a 10 minute cushion to leave.

If you want to remember to exercise more, set a reminder 45 minutes before you need to be at the gym.

Why does a Two-Minute Pickup, Weekly Schedule and email/phone Reminder
work?
 

Because they create regular habits to accomplish things you need to do daily.

These aren’t “To Do” list items. They are routine habits that will build a successful day!

A Personal Application: 

The retirement home in Florida wondered how I could remember to call my mother Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 pm every week. Simple – My phone rang 15 minutes before the time in California and I called my 88-year-old Mom.

When she passed away I had no regrets and lots of good memories. It was a good time habit.

What would be the best thing to set a Time Reminder for yourself?

Marcia Ramsland is The Virtual Organizing Coach for Business and Life Success. Her books on simplifying the holiday season have encouraged many. "Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success," she says. 

For helpful holiday resources, or to download your FREE Holiday Calendar and get your Holiday Book Planner, go to www.organizingpro.com.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.