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Entries in Wisdom (8)

Tuesday
Sep102019

Seeking Spiritual Discernment Is Brave

Janet Thompson writes solid, biblical books on a number of tough topics—cancer, prodigal children, infertility, mentoring, etc.—and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she challenges us to look at the topic of discernment, which is more than just knowing what to do.

"Imagine a scenario where you observe a situation and your instinct tells you something isn’t right, but you look around and no one else seems alarmed," Janet said. "Everyone is carrying on as if nothing abnormal is happening.

"Do you intervene or do you walk away?"

Good question! I (Dawn) have often prayed for discernment about a tough situaiton, and then when I got that answer from the Lord, sometimes it was truly hard to follow through. I'm glad Janet is taking the topic of discernment one step further, because sometimes we need courage to obey God's direction!

Janet continues . . .

As women of faith, praying for the spirit of discernment can prove to be a brave and bold request in itself.

When we humbly ask God to reveal His will to us for specific situations, even when others may not see what we perceive, God may ask us to perform courageous acts that could be life-saving or forever life-changing.

We can become the brave spiritual warriors that our world needs so desperately.

We tend to categorize “brave women” as those who go into the mission field or into the military. Police officers, firefighters, first responders. Any woman who goes into a dangerous career, willing to lay down her life for a job, cause or belief is superhero—brave in our eyes.

Or we may only attribute bravery to men.

Typically, we don’t consider that “ordinary” women like you and me display real bravery and courage every single day, often in the routines of life.

We may not realize that a courageous heart makes us “superheroes” to those who know us and especially to God.

How Do We Know When God Wants Us to Bravely Intervene?

James 1:5–6 reminds us:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

1. Pray.

Prayerfully seek the Holy Spirit’s wise direction and guidance gleaned from reading the Bible and prayer.

Spiritual discernment and godly wisdom lets God guide.

2. Be patient.

Discernment takes time and effort to develop as we grow and mature in our faith and develop an ability to sense God’s plan and purpose in a given situation.

3. Obey.

Expectantly ask God for the willingness, strength, and desire to take whatever action our discernment dictates and let God handle the consequences.

Some Christians are more sensitive than others to the still small voice of God; but with patience, studying—not just reading—God’s Word, and a desire to know God’s will, we all have the ability to seek and obtain discernment to be braver than we ever thought possible.

Maybe you’ve sensed the pain behind a word or facial movement or body stance. You know there’s a sadness hidden behind, “No, everything is fine.”

Discernment is seeing what others may not see or say.

It’s more than just a hunch, or burying our hunch in denial, even when faced with observable evidence of a problem. When we discern a situation, we have a choiceignore or ask God what He wants us to do about it.

Sometimes, we can wait to take action, but other times we can’t dodge, deny, or dismiss the signs that our discernment is revealing—we’re the ones who must act immediately.

In Everyday Brave, I tell the biblical story of Huldah, an Old Testament prophetess who King Josiah asked to decipher the meaning of the lost “book of the law” found during restoration of the temple. Huldah felt dismay, but not panic, as she resolutely read the words in “the book.” She knew she must bravely tell the king the dreadful consequences of the Israelites’ sin and rebellion.

God wanted her to proclaim the truth, no matter how distressing, from His written Word.

Fortunately, because of King Josiah’s grief over hearing from Huldah about his people’s unfaithfulness to follow God’s laws and His covenant with them, God gave a reprieve of punishment during Josiah’s reign.

Josiah took advantage of God’s grace to initiate a spiritual revival.

Lives saved, spiritually and physically, all because Huldah bravely resolved to interpret God’s Word truthfully, even though it was painful for all to hear.

In moments that require the spirit of discernment, we need to pray for God’s protection and then respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. If we ignore the Holy Spirit, we may regret it or even feel responsible for a preventable crisis.

It takes great courage to step out in faith on a revealed truth.

If it’s God’s will, He will be there, giving us the help and reassurance we need when it’s difficult or others shy away from getting involved.

When you act on Holy Spirit–inspired discernment, you’re braver than you know.

So what would you do now when facing a situation you know isn’t right? 

Janet Thompson is an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author. She mentors women in sharing their life experiences and God’s faithfulness. Janet's latest book, Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith, releases today, September 10, 2019! Among the 20 books she's authored: Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness; Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten; Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?; Dear God They Say It’s Cancer; Dear God, He’s Home!; Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. She founded Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Sign up for Janet's blog/free newsletter at womantowomanmentoring.com.

Graphic adapted, Photo courtesy of Bethany Laird on Unsplash.

Tuesday
Apr022019

3 Ways to Dial Down Drama in Your Life

Cindi McMennamin is deeply biblical and winsomely practical, and she speaks truth into women's hungry hearts. In this Attitudes UPGRADE she helps us dial down some drama in our lives.

Cindi says, “There are two types of drama—the drama that life brings (and God allows) and the drama we create by how we respond to life.”

I (Dawn) have experienced both types, and I've found God has truth to counter the enemy's strategies to derail me. It's always wise to "dial down" the drama. Cindi is right on target in this post!

Cindi continues . . .

Whether our drama is the petty stuff (like being gossiped about or having a bad day) or the truly painful stuff (like dealing with a diagnosis or losing someone we love), how we respond makes all the difference—or all the drama—in the world. 

How do you respond if someone addresses you insensitively or is downright rude?

What do you do when you read a Facebook past that upsets you or you find yourself being falsely accused in a text or voice message or directly to your face?

Here are three steps to take to keep your emotions in check. 

1. Take a Breather.

In the heat of the moment, take time to step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate. This will keep your emotions in check and keep you from flying off at someone.

You’ve heard the expression “sleep on it” when you’re faced with making a difficult decision. That’s great advice when it comes to responding to an accusatory email, an angry phone call, or a social media post that ruffled your feathers.

Studies show that the brain actually processes situations more thoroughly while you sleep so that means you wake up with a fresh—and often less emotional—perspective.

If you’re in a face-to-face encounter, ask to be excused for a few moments to breathe deeply (and therefore lower your heart rate), and collect your thoughts so you can think and respond more clearly.

  • Take a breather,
  • Get some perspective, and
  • Let the extra time cool the heat of your emotions. 

2. Take a Personal Inventory.

In every situation there is a lesson to be learned. And in every accusation there is a seed of truth.

  • A drama-filled woman says, “I must defend myself. I must clear my name. I must straighten this person out.”
  • But a Spirit-filled woman lets God work in her heart by exposing to her any shred of truth in the accusation or any lesson she needs to learn for the molding of her character.

It’s easy for us to want to be loud and proud and prove our point in the heat of the moment.

But when we step out of the battle and ask God to speak truth to our hearts, we are acknowledging that we make mistakes too, and we are willing to learn from the situation how to better respond next time.

This is a way of living out our instructions in James 4:10:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

3. Take It to God.

I have found that when I am plagued by a situation that could cause drama, it is diffused when I take it to God and sit there with Him in it for awhile.

As I ask Him to help me see the situation more clearly, not only does He show me my part in it, but He also gives me wisdom to know how to respond next. And sometimes, we find a matter isn’t worth pursuing further after we’ve set it at God’s feet.

Also, as we pray about it, God fills our heart with the peace of His presence (Philippians 4:6-7) and we find the drama isn’t so overwhelming after all.

When we take a breather, take a personal inventory, and take it to God we are allowing Him to draw us closer to Himself through the drama so we can emerge from the conflict more Christlike.

Which of these steps do you most need to practice so you can be drama free?  

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of fifteen books, including her newest  that releases this month, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based. For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.   

Graphic - TotontoVintage.ca                    

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
Mar122019

God in Three Persons Speaks to Us

Gail Goolsby always challenges my thinking, and in this article, she doesn't disappoint. Her Biblical Thinking UPGRADE encourages us to consider how the three persons of God are speaking, so we can find guidance in the tough questions of life.

“The concept of the Trinity is confusing and denied by many religions,” Gail said. While living among Muslims in Afghanistan, I avoided this theological topic altogether.”

At first, I (Dawn) was taken back by Gail's words. Why would anyone avoid the topic of the Trinity, one of the basic foundation truths in scripture? But then Gail clarified—we can teach the concept without saying the word, "Trinity."

Gail continues . . .

While the Bible doesn’t use the word Trinity specifically, we find many references to God as Father, Jesus as His son, and the Holy Spirit—separate persons.

The occasion of Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) identified all three as the Father spoke from the heavens and a dove symbolizing the Spirit descended on Jesus.

Needing to Hear from God

My husband and I sat at a picnic table on the lovely grounds of CBN University (now Regent University) in Virginia Beach in the early 1980’s. We were with a group of prospective graduate students.

The outdoor BBQ supper allowed guests to meet casually with faculty to ask questions and see if this was God’s plan for their further education.

The dean of the newly acquired law school at CBNU was Herbert Titus, a former ACLU lawyer now radically transformed as a Christian.

He sat before us in his tailored suit, French-cuffed white shirt, and yellow silk tie. With an inviting smile, he patiently listened to our life stories and present wonderings about a major life change.

“I first considered seminary about three years ago,” my husband related, “but it wasn’t the right time for us in many ways.”

With two young children and another on the way, I was still wondering if the time was right.

“How do you know when God is directing, and not our own wills?” my husband eventually asked Dean Titus.

I have never forgotten his reply.

"The Trinity Speaks in Unison."

Dean Titus shared with us how he and his wife of three decades made their decisions since embracing Christ as Savior:

“We look for answers from each person in the Trinity, and wait until the three parts line up in harmony.”

1. God, the Father of All Circumstances

He started by pointing to creation, God’s divine plans for the children of Israel and the sending of His Son, Jesus. 

“I don’t subscribe totally to the open door-closed door method of decision-making, because situations change. It can be dangerous to depend on circumstances alone,” he explained.

“But we absolutely look wisely and thoroughly at what is happening around us, the needs of our family and finances.

"God speaks through our environment which He determined for us.”

2. God, the Son—the Living Word

Dean Titus went on to remind us that Jesus is Truth and represents God’s will and word for us in the flesh.

“Having the written Word for us to study, memorize, and refer to at any time is a gift to knowing God and His will for our lives," he said. "My wife and I read it together and separately, sharing what God shows us. These pages offer powerful and trustworthy help in black and white.

“Be specific in asking for such guidance and let the Word speak to your heart and mind.”

He encouraged us: “Write down the verses that come to the surface and investigate them in prayer.”

3. God, the Holy Spirit

Here our mentor told us a bit more of his faith journey and newfound understanding of the role of the supernatural.

“God is clearly a spirit beyond our human understanding and our ties to the physical world," he said. "The power and importance of the Holy Spirit is embraced around the globe more so than the science-based, senses-determined culture of the West.

"My wife and I are late-comers to this knowledge but appreciate the confidence that comes when the Holy Spirit speaks to us.”

Our mentor invited us to not only look for affirmation from the other two leadings—from circumstances and scripture—but also to look for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

And sometimes that comes in unusual ways.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Following our visit, my husband and I did as Dean Titus prescribed and came to believe we were indeed directed by God to pursue seminary training. Those years were extremely difficult and caused us to depend on God in new, sometimes painful ways.

Having the strong, unified message from all three persons of God helped us stay the course until the end.

After working and going to classes full time for four-and-a-half years, my husband earned his MDiv. We left our time in Virginia Beach without debt, with a storehouse of life lessons and more trust in God than ever before.

God is always speaking and offering us guidance. What questions would you like to ask the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit today?

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, ACC is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan, and credentialed life coach with the International Coach Federation. Gail and her pastor husband of 40 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well. Find out more about Gail on her website, gailgoolsby.com.

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.