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Entries in Relationship with God (6)

Tuesday
Jul302019

You Can Be as Close to God as You Want to Be

Life coach Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God's grace. In this Relationship with God UPGRADE, she offers three tips to help us grow closer to our Heavenly Father.

Debbie shares a friend's words: “I believe, but I don’t feel close to God like some of you. Not sure why. I’d like to.”

I (Dawn) believe every Christian, at some point in their spiritual journey, is nudged by the Holy Spirit to draw closer to God. But perhaps we don't know how.

Debbie continues . . .

My friend’s words caused me to remember my own faith journey.

In Sunday School, my young heart warmed toward God when I heard the stories of David and Goliath and Zacchaeus, the wee little man. My grandmother made sure I treated God with respect. No food in my mouth when we blessed our meal.

But I didn’t understand the part about being a sinner who needed saving. I wasn’t sure what people were saved from. That changed when a youth leader explained John 3:16 at a weekend youth camp and the Holy Spirit cut through my blameless veneer.

I’d wronged God. Jesus had gone to the cross for my sin.

The realization broke—and healed—my heart. The gospel became personal. Jesus didn’t just love this conglomerate called “world.” He loved me!

I returned from camp on top of the world—a citizen of heaven—a child of God. Could anything be better?

But the glow faded. Instead of sprouting wings, I bristled when Mama said, “Clean your room.” I fussed when my little sister got into my stuff.

Knowing Jesus assured me of heaven when I died, but it didn’t seem to make much difference now.

Even reading the Bible raised more questions than it answered.

My Journey

In college, I spent a weekend with some vibrant Christians. Their lives created a thirst to know God better. At a friend’s Bible study, we listened to Bible teaching audio tapes. This group treated the Bible as if it meant what it said.

I’d filtered the Bible through my own understanding. What agreed with my world view I kept, and I dismissed the parts that didn’t. No wonder it didn’t make sense.

A Turning Point

I wanted the peace my college friends who simply trusted the Scriptures shared. But could I let go of relying on my own understanding and fully trust the Scriptures?

God tenderly wooed me to trust Him.

I exchanged my know-it-all approach for childlike faith. The Scriptures came to life. Questions I thought would never be answered in this life became clear. Scales fell off of my eyes.

“I feel I’ve been living blindfolded all my life, and now I see,” I told my friend. “Even how I view the evening news has changed.”

Life brimmed with the presence of God, and I couldn’t get enough of Him.

Perhaps like me and my friend, you want to feel closer to God. You can! Here are some tips to help you get started.

3 Tips to Help You Grow Closer to God

1. Ask Your Heavenly Father for a Closer Relationship.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt. 7: 7-8 NIV).

2. Read the Bible with Childlike Wonder.

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do’” (Luke 10:21 NIV).

3. Invite Jesus to Be Your Life, Not Just a Part of Life.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 NIV).

The apostle John called himself the one Jesus loved.

That was true of all of the disciples, but John believed it and pursued closeness with Jesus.

Which of these tips might help you draw closer to Jesus?

Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God’s grace so they can enjoy fruitful and full lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She is a life coach and an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jantanee at Lightstock.

Tuesday
Jan162018

Live the Abundant Life in 2018!

Many write about “abundance” these days, but abundant living doesn’t mean we won’t experience struggles, as Yvonne Ortega explains in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

“I went through aggressive chemotherapy and thirty-three rounds of radiation seventeen years ago this month,” Yvonne says.

“That experience and the loss of my only child in 2009 convinced me that I want more out of life than a mere existence of going through the motions day after day.

When I (Dawn) think about “going through the motions,” I picture monotony and boredom. Though we may face tough “wilderness” experiences, monotony and boredom are not what the Lord has in store for His children in our times of difficulty.

Yvonne Ortega continues . . .

I celebrate the gift of life not only on my yearly anniversary of being cancer-free but every day.

Jesus said,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, NASB).

I want to live the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

My life changed in my journey to live the abundant life. I questioned every area of my life and searched the Bible for answers.

I came up with FOUR AREAS that required change.

First, I had to make FOOD CHOICES to live the abundant life.

For the most part, I look at food from the perspective of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The Holy Spirit convicted me that I couldn’t eat junk food and take care of my body, His temple.

Second, I had to get SUFFICIENT SLEEP each night to live the abundant life.

For me that means eight hours of sleep each night.

Jesus saw the need for rest in Mark 6:31–32:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them (the apostles), ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Third, I had to EXERCISE MORE than my fingers at the computer to live the abundant life.

I tried various types of exercise before I settled on the ones that work for me. I enjoy walking outside. As I walk, I review Bible verses and pray for the needs of my neighbors.

Since I live close to the beach, a walk at the beach delights me. The sound of the waves and the feel of the sand between my toes revive me. As I look around at the beach, I thank God for the beautiful world He created.

I also enjoy swimming laps and aqua classes. Through my time at the pool, I’ve met many wonderful people.

Fourth, I needed to DEEPEN MY RELATIONSHIP with the Lord to live the abundant life.

I committed to reading the Bible from Genesis through Revelation each year.

One year, I read the Bible in 90 Days in addition to reading the Bible in a year.

I also chose to listen to praise and worship music daily. When I listen to praise and worship music, I am transported into the very presence of God. He speaks to me, and I listen.

What will you do this year to live the abundant life Jesus came to give you?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), both available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexel at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr132017

Gasp: A Relationship's Last Breath

Cythia Ruchti is a hope-lover, hope giver and hope promoter. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she offers hope for all human relationships (and our ultimate relationship with the Lord).

"Who sits sipping coffee when a dying man or woman lies on the hardwood floor of the coffee shop or the breakroom at the office?" Cynthia says. "Even people with minimal skills know that someone needs to start CPR, call 911, and ask, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'"

At first, I (Dawn) thought this sounded a little like the beginning of a mystery, but knowing Cynthia, I figured it was more likely a powerful life lesson. I was not disappointed!

Cynthia continues . . . 

With relationships—marriage, parent/child, friendships—isn’t that what we too often do?

We sit idly by, caring but not responding.

“That’s for the professionals.” As if that absolves us of the responsibility to act, to do something, even if our skills are amateur at best, even if all we know about CPR is what we’ve seen on TV dramas.

But sometimes the last gasp occurs before the professionals arrive on the scene.

And sometimes the relationship in trouble is our own.

It’s been said that the number one killer of relationships is neglect.

  • How many friendships would still be alive if years, distance, and neglect hadn’t gotten in the way?
  • How many parent/child relationships could be strong and vital, life-giving, if given more attention when they started to fade?
  • How many marriages list “neglect” as one of the reasons for their “failure to thrive”?

Although the following scripture specifically speaks to a community’s forsaking or neglecting their relationship with God, doesn’t it also give a gripping word picture of the way we handle distance in marriage relationships or friendships?

“For our fathers…have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps…” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9 NASB).

What a poignant visual! Leaving a porch light on is an expression of hope. He will come home. She will return. We will be okay. We’ll get through this. It may be long into the night, but we’re going to make it.

In this incident in the Bible, the people had boldly extinguished all evidence of hope. Lights off. We’re done.

After decades of marriage, my husband and I still disagree. Shocking, isn’t it? But even when our disagreements reach what seem to be impossible impasses, neither one of us reaches to shut off the porch light, because hope lingers in our commitment to one another.

Most MARRIED couples can recite the list of relationship CPR (Caring enough to Proactively Resuscitate) instructions:

  1. Maintain frequent date nights, even if you’re empty nesters. Get away from the house and its responsibilities for a while to focus on each other.
  2. Set aside an extended period of time for a getaway at least once a year.
  3. Be intentional about what the other person needs, honoring him (or her) above yourself (See Philippians 2:3. Check out the Phillips version—“Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”)
  4. Learn and respect your mate’s love language.

What would that list look like if our connection WITH GOD is the relationship that’s been neglected, left gasping?

  1. Re-establish a regular time to leave all other concerns behind and focus on listening to Him.
  2. Make it a priority to create an extended time for aloneness with the One you love. A silent retreat. A day-long or week-long sabbatical from other responsibilities. Unplugging. Fasting.
  3. Set your own needs aside to concentrate on what God wants from you—worship, adoration, devotion…
  4. Learn and respect God’s love language—OBEDIENCE (John 14:15).

If your human relationships or your connection with God are gasping for air, what CPR measures do you intend to implement?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope, an ever-lit porch light hope, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Her latest novel is A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). In June, Worthy Publishing releases her book of encouragement and reflections called As My Parents Agehttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com/books/a-fragile-hope/.

Graphic: adapted, Click at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jul262016

Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 1

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In this Relationship UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages the kind of "investments" in these relationships that reap powerful results—so it's important to know what they are.

[Note: For a more detailed version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Investments are not only about money. Investments are akin to watering what you want to grow! We can invest in relationships!

When we invest in someone's life, it likely to cost us something. But investing is wise!

  • Someone invested invested in my life this year with her time, helping me with a project.
  • Another someone invested in my life using her financial resources.
  • And another invested encouragement, motivating me to see the big picture when I was so focused on one failing day.

I want to invest in others' lives too, with time, talents, finances, prayers, words, truth ... and so much more. I'm asking the Lord to help me see needs so I can "invest" wisely. How about you?

In this two-part post, I want to share some practical ways we can wisely and faithfully "invest."

These are the first two "investents."

          Investment #1. INVEST in YOUR LORD

Don't forget: this is your prime relationship! 

Jesus said, "...what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). 

We can store up treasures and yet not be "rich toward God" (Luke 12:21).

1. Know the Lord.

  • Examine your heart. Do you really know Him, or just know about Him? 
  • Seek Him. Pursue Him. Be intentional. 
  • Grow in your intimacy with Him. 

2. Deposit Your Life with the Lord.

  • Trust His character. 
  • Appreciate His love. 
  • Celebrate your security (in Christ). 

3. Seek to Please the Father.

  • Yield Your body to Him. 
  • Be obedient to Him.
  • Follow Jesus' example. 
  • Discover how to be like Jesus! 
  • Bear good fruit! 
  • Love others well. 

4. Cherish His Word.

  • Use your Bible. 
  • Stand for truth. 

5. Rely on the Holy Spirit.

  • Don't Ignore God's Gift. 

          Investment #2. INVEST in  YOURSELF.

Viewed correctly and biblically this isn't selfishness.

If you don't invest in your own health and well-being, how will you find the strength to invest in others?

Loving others as yourself assumes you've learned how to love yourself biblically (Mark 12:30-31). 

1. Take Care of Yourself!

  • Nurture your body.
  • Move your body.
  • Relax.
  • Get some sleep .

2. "Paint the Barn."

  • Maintain the Temple... reflect the beauty of the Lord who created you. 
  • Style yourself for a simple, attractive appearance.

3. Expand Your Horizons.

  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses ... your spiritual gifts.
  • Develop some new skills and explore creativity options. 
  • Expand your knowledge.
  • Further your education.

4. Plan for Strategic Dreaming!

  • Plan to decompress.
  • Plan in daily "breaks" to rest and recharge.
  • Give yourself permission and time to dream. 
  • Be a FINANCIAL investor.
  • Set aside some "dream" money.

5. Practice Gratitude.

  • Look for things to appreciate. 
  • Train yourself to notice God's goodness. 
  • Be thankful for grace.
  • Worship in thanksgiving.

We'll continue with three more "investments" in the next post. [Note: for a longer version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

Meanwhile, do you need to invest more in your relationship with the Lord, in your own well-being, or in your husband? Which of these tips might help 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 contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Tuesday
Mar102015

How to Keep Steady in Your Walk with God

I met Teri Thompson in a ministry that cares deeply about equipping and encouraging women, and this is Teri's heartbeat, for sure. I asked her to write a Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

"Would you ever be tempted to purchase a dining table with only three legs?" Teri said. "What if it was a beautiful, one-of-a-kind table . . . with one exception? That silly leg is missing! I doubt you would buy it."

While I (Dawn) have bought many garage sale items I later regretted, I don't think I'd ever buy a three-legged dining table. But there's something just as absurd, as Teri points out.

Teri continues . . .

There isn’t a three legged table I know of that is sturdy enough to handle the pressure of anything weighty being placed upon it! The missing leg makes the crippled table—no matter how beautiful it was in mint condition—unstable.

Our spiritual life can be compared to a four-legged table.

If we have four major spiritual disciplines operating on an ongoing basis our faith is strong, our joy is evident and the peace that passes all understanding anchors us to the Rock of our faith. But when just one or more of those disciplines is lacking, our spiritual life fluctuates, faith diminishes, discontentment sets in and peace is replaced with nagging worry and joy flees as a frown sits upon our brow.

We all know believers like that. You have seen them haven’t you? You would never be able to tell by their demeanor and their stern facial expressions that they were heaven bound!

I have seen those serious, worn, worried Christians. They are not fun. And I hate to admit it, but at times I have been that Christian.

God’s Word has an answer for every dilemma. We can find the solution to joyful steady plodding in our walk with God right there in scripture!

Peel your bible pages back to Acts 2:42. In this meaty section of scripture, God gives instruction to the New Testament Church as to how they were to operate. If we believe we are the church, then we can assume this instruction also pertains to the individual believer.

Right there in Acts, we see God calling His people to practice four spiritual disciplines. We could visualize these as “the four legs of a table.”

Scripture says,

“They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine (which is God’s Word) and fellowship, in breaking of bread (worship) and in prayer” (Acts 2:42 NKJ).

Do you see it?

  • God's Word
  • Fellowship
  • Worship
  • Prayer

If we take just one of these disciplines out of our daily life, it doesn’t take long before life’s pressures bear down upon us, causing instability. We become weak and the peace we were meant to live in is gone.

What is it that has made you uneasy lately? Has a “people problem” drained you of your last bit of heavenly joy? Did that recent news rob you of all peace?

When was the last time you positioned your heart low enough before the God of heaven in prayer, not coming unto Him with a need’s list but just to commune with Him because He is worthy to be worshipped? Is time alone in God’s Word a common practice? Hungry souls sit at a distance from the mercy seat of God!

If we will avail ourselves to these four spiritual disciplines God has given us in His Word, we will not be promised a perfect life, or a trial-free life. Frankly, that would be unscriptural. But we will invite the joy-filled, abundant life that God had intended for us to live!

Which of these four disciplines is weak in your life today? Isn't it time to prop up and strengthen your "spiritual table"?

Teri Thompson lives in Bakersfield, California, with her wonderful husband, Brad—happily married 32 years—and has three grown children and seven adorable grandchildren. Teri loves to teach the Word of God to women and watch it wonderfully transform their lives. She is the Women’s Ministry Director at Crossroads Christian Fellowship, Director for the Kern County Women’s Conference and the President of NEWIM Kern County. Teri has taught and written weekly Bible Studies for many years and speaks at various women’s retreats and events. Her “Ephesians” Bible study is available here.