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Entries in Holiness (7)


Christmas: He Lives!

As I (Dawn) think about this Christmas, I can't help but think of people all over America, all over the world, who are without joy and hope. Yet I am also overwhelmed by the gracious gift God gave to humankind.

The offering of salvation. The opportunity for total transformation. The power of the Gospel to change everything!

The good news is, Jesus lives.

Jesus is as alive today as He was in that manger.

That does have the potential to change everything in our lives—better than the best "upgrade" you can imagine! Our hope is in Christ, "because He lives." (Don't miss the song at the end of this post!)

Though my blog is all about upgrading our lives, I hope you understand it's not about becoming "better" to win brownie points with God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We will never be made right with God through good intentions or works.

God's plan to save us does not encourage our comparing ourselves with others or becoming a person God never intended us to become. He has a unique plan and gifts for each of us, and it begins by receiving His free gift of salvation in Christ.

We are saved only by God's good grace; and an authentic Christian is "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

I don't know how that makes you feel, but I know what it stirs in my heart.

I am profoundly grateful for God's mercy!

I rejoice today—

  1. Because Jesus was willing to lay aside His glory and come as a tiny babe in Mary's womb (Philippians 2:7; Luke 2:1-20).
  2. Because Jesus obeyed the Father in Heaven perfectly, even to the point of going to the cross (John 12:49; 14:31; Hebrews 5:8; 10:7; Philippians 2:8).
  3. Because Jesus died on the cross as our substitute (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
  4. Because Jesus rose again to certify our victory over Satan and death—HE LIVES! (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:5-10; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Hebrews 2:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Revelation 20:14)
  5. Because Jesus lives forever as our great High Priest, Lord and King (Hebrews 7:24-28; Isaiah 9:7; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 19:16).
  6. Because Jesus is coming again to receive us unto Himself (John 14:3).

The truth of the Gospel message is this: Only God can change our hearts.

When God UPGRADES us, we become more like Jesus.

Though we think it all began with the baby in the manger, our "upgrade" really began in the heart of the Father long before the arrival of Bethlehem's Babe: 

"... he [the Father] chose us in him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world..." (Ephesians 1:4a).

He has blessed us in Christ and adopted us according to the good pleasure of His will "to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved [Jesus]" (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Take a moment or two today and talk to the Father.

  1. Say thank you for His mercy.
  2. Say thank you for Jesus, our Savior.
  3. Commit to renewed holiness.
  4. And take some time to praise the Lord for "his glorious grace."

We often sing “He Lives” at Easter, but I am taken by how it fits the Christmas season too!

"God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus...."

And He's coming again!

Because He lives, we can face anything.

Here is a beautiful song sung by Joni Eareckson Tada and Gracie Rosenberger—women with great disabilities, but also great purpose and joy. In “He Lives,” Joni and Gracie rejoice in the victory and hope we have in Christ. I pray this music will touch your heart and encourage you today.

Christmas Blessings to you!

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 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 Kevin Carden at Lightstock.


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.



How to Help Your Husband Be Holy

Julie Sanders has a knack for getting to the heart of matters. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she suggests a powerful way to strengthen marriages.

"My wants don’t always match up to God’s wants for me, but when it comes to having a holy husband, we’re on the same page," Julie says.

"We look for a mate to live 'happily ever after,' but 'happy' pales in comparison to 'holy.'"

I (Dawn) agree with Julie; and I also believe a holy husband is an integral element in a God-honoring  marriage.

Julie continues . . .

When a couple is pronounced married, some of us hear, “I now pronounce you husband and Holy Spirit.” 

With good intentions, we may enter matrimony with a plan for our mate’s makeover.

Before we say “I do,” God’s plan is underway for us both to grow more godly, producing a life more loving than we achieve on our own.

God doesn’t call a wife to change her husband.

God’s Spirit is the one who renews a life (Titus 3:5) and causes a person to become joyful, peaceful and hopeful (Romans 15:13).

Before there’s a ring on our finger or a name on a certificate, God has a plan to use our human relationships to work out His divine plan in us personally. 

1. Your MARRIAGE: a structure for holiness

Marriage results from, “what God has joined together,” (Matthew 19:6). With divine action, “they are no longer two, but one flesh,” (Mark 10:8).  

Fusing two into one isn’t easy! It creates tension and pressure as individuals learn to know each other.

To yield, share and help requires us to function in a regular structure with daily choices.

Will we respond God’s way or our natural way?

Marriage is hard, but it helps when we’re growing more holy.

2. Your HOME: a setting for holiness

A holy home helps holiness to take hold in a husband’s heart.

A house may look charming and up to date with shabby chic, whitewashed furniture or retro pieces with colors that pop. Photos with hand-lettered words like “Faith” and “Family” might adorn clean walls, and string lights may warm up the porch. 

But without hearts growing in holy ways, it’s just a well-decorated building with disappointed people inside.

Don’t get me wrong. I have string lights. A few of my colors pop, and I’m saving up to trade our sagging couch for a linen one with good lines.

But my husband’s heart is more likely to grow in holy health if I carefully curate the content of our life instead of just the collections we love. 

Even a clean house is no substitute for a clean heart.

Ask: Am I reading what is lovely and watching what is hope-filled? Am I saying what is kind forgiving?

Our hearts become what we practice. Philippians 4:8 describes the “look” we want to go for in creating a home that says, “Holy.”

3. Your LIFE: a support for holiness

A wife may not be responsible for her husband’s holiness journey, but she can cooperate with God’s plan to get him there.

Some say as a couple spends years together, they begin to look alike.  In a similar way, godly character in one spouse supports godly growth in the other.  

By removing obstacles like bad attitudes, habitual temptations, or negative influences, a wife can clear the way for God’s program of holiness in her own heart and in her husband’s.

Knowing this, let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24) by the way we do life beside our mate.

Career decisions, family relationships, time management, recreational choices, health needs, and raising children together all have a way of creating opportunities to encourage each other to have a holy approach by having one ourselves.

A life lived with holy habits is a life with a holy influence.

Marriage is a structure God uses to grow us, in homes where we can practice holiness in our lives, as we support His plans for each of us.

Instead of taking on a spouse improvement plan, clear the way in your own heart and engage the power of prayer for God to do the heart work in your husband only He can do.

What habits in my life ensure my heart is clean, not just my house? When my husband takes steps towards holiness, what response from me would encourage his growth?

Julie Sanders can’t believe she’s been married to Jeff nearly thirty years. Now they call the Northwest home, where on summer nights you can find them sitting under a few string lights, talking over God’s plans for them. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic adapted, courtesy of HarveyMade at Lightstock.


What Does 'Walking in the Light' Look Like?

In this longer Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson asks us to consider our "walk" with the Lord. Are we truly walking in the light? What does that even look like?

It's a well-know metaphor in Christian circles: We're to "walk in the light."

But it's often misunderstood.

It doesn't just mean to live openly and honestly before people. It doesn't even mean to behave well.

To walk in the light biblically has a far deeper and more significant meaning.

One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 5:8:

"for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light."

Maybe it's because my name is "Dawn," but I've always been fascinated with light. This scripture awakened me to the whole concept of "light in the Lord."

Paul was admonishing Christians to live in light of the light God has provided us in the example of Jesus and in the truth of the Word of God.

This concept began in the Old Testament when saints were encouraged to walk in "the light of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:5).

Isaiah predicted that people who "walked in darkness" would see a "great light" (9:2); and in due time, Jesus came down from the "Father of Lights" (James 1:17). Those who trusted in Christ would find light for life (Isaiah 50:10).

The Father's nature is light. There is no darkness or evil in Him at all. And Jesus, His Son, is the pure Light of the World (John 8:12). He is the provider of the Father's light to us.

Jesus is the "true light, which gives light to everyone," John said (John 1:9). In Him, we don't need to walk in darkness.

So what does it mean to "walk in the light"?

Essentially, our "walk" is our lifestyle—our mindset, patterns of behavior and the choices we make. But that mindset and behavior must be holy and aligned with scripture, and our choices must be biblically wise in order for us to say we are truly "walking in the light."

In our identification with our Savior, we are holy—set apart for the Lord's use. As we walk with the Lord and learn to trust and obey Him, we grow and mature spiritually (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24). We become more like Jesus (1 Peter 1:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1Thessalonians 4:3).

It's a one-time transformation when God changes our hearts at salvation, but there is also a "being made holy" (sanctification) process. When we walk, we're going somewhere. We're making progress on the lighted path.

At one point in my life, I thought walking in the light was too difficult.

I rationalized that I live in a morally dark world, and choices for "light" were just too hard. So I coasted spiritually.

But with growth in Christ and through His grace and power, I've learned more about what "shining" for the Lord looks like. Just as Jesus is the Light of the World, we are called out of darkness and each one of us is commanded to be a light in our "crooked and twisted" world (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:14-16). God does not want us to "abide" (or dwell) in darkness any longer (John 12:46).

So HOW are we to walk as children of light?

1. We're to REMEMBER we were rescued from darkness.

We can't forget what it's like to live in darkness.

  • Living in darkness is lying to ourselves and lying about the reality of eternity—it's not acknowledging and practicing the truth (1 John 1:6).
  • People who live in darkness don't want to come to the light because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20).
  • They reinterpret good and evil (Isaiah 5:20) because they are spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4).
  • People who choose to walk on the dark path take pleasure in doing wrong, enjoying their twisted ways of evil (Proverbs 2:13-14).

Walking in darkness is a lifestyle that promises (and sometimes gives) us so much, but it's all empty in the end.

In contrast, the Christian's walk should reflect a glorious truth: the Father has qualified us, in Christ, "to share the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness..." (Colossians 1:9-14).

To walk in the light begins with a heart transformation as we trust in what Christ did for us when we were lost in darkness, separated from God.

2. We're to BE HOLY: "blameless and innocent."

Being "righteous" has gone out of style in much of our culture, but to walk in the light is to grow in holiness. We relinquish our sin and let God's holy light shine through us (Matthew 5:16). A holy testimony is important!

We must "lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light" behaving properly (Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:7-14). We are wrestling against the spiritual wickedness, the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). We're to dress ourselves for battle in the light of Christ, and get moving for Him.

God's Word is the light we need for daily choices (Psalm 119:105; John 1:4-5). We're to embrace and hold tight to scriptural truth so the world can see Jesus' light in us (Phiippians 2:14-16).

We can't straddle the fence between holiness and wickedness (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

We "walk by the Spirit." The Spirit of God enables us to walk in the light (2 Corinthians 4:6). As we walk by the Spirit, we do not "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16, 25; Ezekiel 36:26-27).

3. We're to keep our MISSION FOCUS.

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6b in Acts 13:47, reminding believers that God wants to use us to "bring salvation to the ends of the earth." Jesus gave us a mission, and we don't want sin to diminish our testimony and effectiveness (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 24:16; 1 Peter 3:16).

We also need to pray the Lord will lift the blindness of people, because without Christ, they cannot "see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). They may even be rebelling against the light (Job 24:13).

It is our Father alone who can shine life-transforming light into hearts.

Knowing that, we can pray He will open the eyes of our friends and loved ones.

3. We're to live for GOD'S GLORY.

We were chosen for a reason: to "proclaim the excellencies" of the Lord who called us "into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

We're to do all things for His glory alone—to live "for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

4. We're to be CAREFUL about our RELATIONSHIPS.

Be careful about your "walking" companions. They may lead you astray.

It's hard to be light-bearers when our closest pals are those who walk in darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 John 1:6-7).

This doesn't mean we can't ever associate with those in darkness; but we must be alert and careful in those interactions. Light and darkness are opposites.

5. We're to BE FUTURE-FOCUSED: to live in the light of Jesus' return.

We're not in darkness, but we still must be "alert and sober," remembering the Lord will return and what we're going to do for Him, we need to do now (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

We must remember this world is not our home. We're heading into eternity, and we will all appear before the Lord to give an account of ourselves (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Walking in the Light involves total commitment to the Lord and the Word, not just for righteous living today, but to prepare us to live with the Father of Lights for eternity.

Are you walking in the light today? Which of these five points might need some work so you can keep in step with the Spirit of God?

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 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 Pexels at Pixabay.


How to Walk as a 'Child of Light'

Dawn Wilson reminds us of the greatest transforming UPGRADE we'll ever know. 

Back in July, I read this scripture and was struck by the black-and-white nature of Paul's words to the Ephesian believers:

"... at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. ... and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ...

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:8, 10-11, 15, 17).

Paul was sounding out a warning and a challenge.  

It breaks my heart to hear of so many Christians reading "soft porn" (sometimes called "mommy porn") or watching television programs and movies they would never read or watch if Jesus sat right beside them. (Have they forgotten God is always present with us?)

It's so easy to get sucked into the evils of our culture. We become accustomed to the darkness.

I read a powerful article by Tim Challies about "Television's Rape Epidemic." He mentioned a number of popular television programs that feature rape and other sexual vulgarities. Tim closed his article with these convicting words:

"If Christians won't allow explicit scenes of sexual violence to keep them from watching television shows, what will? If scenes of rape are not over the edge, what is? If we won't draw the line there, will we draw it anywhere?"

I thought back to the controversial novel Fifty Shades of Grey. When it came out, I was amazed to hear about Christians reading the book. Then Hollywood dished up the sexually-explicit Shades of Grey (February, 2015). Christian women bought tickets. 

I'm glad the authors of another book, Pulling Back the Shades, wrote to help women understand they can be both sexual and spiritual. They also called for revival.

"Revival is not about holding our ground," Dannah wrote, "it's about reclaiming territory that has already been lost."

We need revival because we've give our enemy "territory" in our lives. The Bible says, "Give no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27). Satan, the enemy of our souls, laughs when we play with sin, and then he becomes our greatest accuser (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10b).

Before we turned to the Lord and received the gift of Life and Light (John 1:4-5; 8:12), we were part of the darkness. But God always calls His children to come out from the bondage and wickedness that once held them and to live "separate" from sin—separated unto Him (2 Corinthians 6:17). As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to emulate the world (John 17:15-18). We were created to do the good works God has ordained for us (Ephesians 2:10), not to continue living and justifying a wicked lifestyle.

And we can only do that because of God's transforming grace.

I am thankful for the grace of God. He saved me and make me a part of His Kingdom of Light. And as a Child of Light, I am instructed to shine brightly for the Lord (Matthew 5:16) so the world will see my good works and glorify God!

Paul emphasized it this way: live "to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12). 

God works in us both in salvation and sanctification. I call it The Greatest Upgrade; but it's really a total transformation! Our Father will help us grow and mature in holiness and faith; and as we become more like Jesus, we will walk as "Children of Light."

We all have daily choices that encourage this process:

1. We can ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts (Psalm 139:23-24a).

2. We can confess and relinquish any sin He reveals to us (I John 1:9; Acts 3:19).

3. We can determine to practice the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7; 16:11a).

4. We can pray for a discerning heart (Philippians 1:9-10), asking God to make us more sensitive about sin.

5. We can cultivate a lifestyle of faith and obedience (Psalm 119:11) as we memorize and apply God's Word!

6. We can follow Jesus' example (John 1:9; 8:12), becoming more like "the Light of the World."

7. We especially can use discernment to avoid sin, and when necessary, expose the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

As Ephesians 5:15 (The Message) says, "... watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times."

God's grace is strong, and He will enable us to walk as a child of Light!

When do you struggle most with the pull of sin? Which of these steps for walking as a holy "child of light" could help you in that battle?

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 President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn, co-author of the devotional, LOL with God, also wrote the chapter, "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.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of chrisroll /