Why Christmas? It's All about the Gift of Grace!

As Solomon wrote, there is nothing new under the sun, so attempting to write something new about Christmas is pretty impossible.

But sometimes a fresh personal reflection breaks through.

This was my experience today.

As I looked at a small gift, I thought about God's great gift to me:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ..." (John 3:16a).

And then I immediately thought about the grace of God. It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite holiday song (by John Newton) is not typical of the season, but it speaks to my heart every Christmas.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God...."(Ephesians 2:8)

Grace is a gift, and it's truly amazing. It's free, and we don't deserve it. 
God reached down to the depths of my darkness with incredible grace to bring me into His light. 
The meditations on my heart this Christmas season: 

"For the grace of God has appeared, bring salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14).

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus came, and He is coming again. And in that parentheses between His two advents, He is making me and every other Christ-follower "a people for His own possession." 

What a beautiful truth:

"We are pulled to Christ through God's grace, we stand in it as we live in Christ, and His grace will surround us as we receive everlasting life." (~ Eddie Cloer, "Why Is God's Grace So Amazing?")

In Newton's words,

When we've been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we first begun.

We begin in grace and we'll end with grace  praise the Lord!

~ Graphic, courtesy of Lightstock.com, free photo


God Keeps Me, Even When I Blow It

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV).

I was struggling. I thought I was having some measure of victory, but my food addiction reared up to challenge me again. Frustrated, I woke up early the morning after a major food binge and decided to sit in our Jacuzzi to pray through where I'd struggled the night before.

Tears mingled with perspiration as I sat there, thinking and praying. "Lord," I said, "I really need your help."

"Yes, you do," I sensed. And then the scripture quoted above came to mind. I decided to meditate on those words while doing exercises in the water.

(1) "I lift up my eyes to the hills." How fitting. As the sun seemed to slowly creep over the hill behind our house, I found my eyes lifting toward the rising sun.

I thought of the psalmist, David, and why he might be looking toward the hills. Matthew Henry* believes David, some distance away from Jerusalem and possibly in a soldier's camp risking his life, was looking toward the hills where the Jewish Temple was built. David was saying in the midst of his circumstances, "I am lifting up my eyes and looking toward the special presence and power and provision of God."

The Lord spoke to my heart: "Dawn, you haven't been lifting your eyes to me. You haven't been seeking my presence. You've been looking down at your circumstances and at your temptations, trusting in your own strength and rehearsing your failures."

I had indeed been looking to the strength of my own flesh. (And every time I do that, I eventually fail.)
Whenever I try to "gut it out" by myself, I fail to rely on the sufficiency of God in Christ.
I forget "I am crucified with Christ." It's no longer me who lives, but rather it is Christ who is alive in me (Galatians 2:20). 

My life is hidden in Him, and He is producing death in me to my old fleshly lifestyle of selfish thoughts, selfish desires and selfish choices. I am learning I can say "no" to sin.

The God-centered choice is pivotal. And it's personal. I have to lift up my eyes. No one can do that for me.

(2) "From where does my help come?"

Some translations interpret this phrase to mean, "Does my help come from thence?" (From the hills? From anyplace and anyone here on earth?)

I have a library full of books, including a shelf on Christian dieting helps and devotionals. They are all good. But it's far too easy for me to trust in self-help books, "overcomer" manuals and just about anything other than the Lord (Hebrews 4:15-16) and His Word.

Some other scriptures the Lord brought to mind that morning:

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, 
and I am helped...." (Psalm 28:7a)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help
in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
"I have stored up your word in my heart,
 that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war 
according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are 
not of the flesh but have divine power 
to destroy strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

When David asked, "Where am I going to find this help I need?" He quickly answered ...

(3) "My help comes from the Lord...." 

David is clear about that. He had assurance based on his past experiences with the Lord, first as a shepherd boy, and then as as a leader.

I have to be clear about that too. MY help comes from the Lord.

David knew God as the Helper because he experienced God's presence. God is with us to help us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28:20). We can count on His presence! God takes hold of our right hand and leads us (Isaiah 41:13). The Spirit of God is the Helper Jesus promised; He's not only with us, but in us (John 14:16-17).

And then David adds this powerful affirmation about God: He is the One ...

(4) "...who made heaven and earth."

The One who created the universe certainly knows how to help and relieve me in my troubles. He who made all things out of nothing can take charge of my desires and weaknesses and give me consistency and transformation.

He is my helper, my protector, my strength - and anything else I need.

I keep forgetting that. I'm human. I'm going to battle sin until God calls me home. I may have binges, but Lord willing, they will be fewer. I realize I can choose to eat foolishly, but I can also choose to eat with wisdom. I may have meltdowns, but God will continue to be my shield of protection and the "lifter" of my head (Psalm 3:3).

God, who has His eye on me even when I take my eyes off of Him, will continue to patiently and intentionally work with me. He will perfect that which pertains to me (Psalm 138:8) and accomplish His purposes in me (Philippians 1:6).

Bit by bit, choice by choice, the Father is making me more like His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:1-2).

I am so thankful I can lift up my eyes and heart to Him, the One who keeps me, even when I blow it.

* Matthew Henry, Psalm 121 - http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/psalms/121.html 


Post Election "Note to Self"

NOTE TO SELF ... and anyone else who agrees:

1) Don't gloat. Be grateful and honor God.

This is the time for humility and thankfulness to the Lord for great mercy.

2) Don't believe that wolves in sheep's clothing have suddenly lost their fangs. 

We can be so gullible. Why do we expect the Enemy (Satan) to suddenly accommodate us? Why do we think those who stand against all we value biblically and Constitutionally have suddenly changed?

3) Don't feel guilty because Trump won, no matter how many progressives try to dump that false burden on you!

This happens every time conservatives win. Let's get smart and learn how to appreciate victories.

4) Pray for Republican leaders who are too quick to capitulate to calls for "unity" at the cost of standing for what we fought so hard to win. 

We can compromise where it's helpful tactically, but compromise isn't always a virtue. 
Pray for discernment.

5) Stop being a wimpy Christian. 

There's no need to be an in-your-face Christian, but absolutely we can get some spiritual guts and move forward with wisdom and courage. 

My one cry is for revival - corporate and personal. And I'm asking the Lord what that might that look like.

For me ... it's time to pray more, love my neighbors more, stand for biblical standards more, seek the Lord and revival more, and ask Him how I can make a difference in the years ahead.

Those are all ACTION words.

This is NOT a time to follow the pack. 


  • "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O LORD, I shall seek" (Psalm 27:8).
  • "Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually" (1 Chronicles 16:11).
  • "Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
  • "I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me" (Proverbs 8:17).
  • "Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you" (Hosea 10:12).
  • "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).


Post Election - Our Hope is In the Lord

I don't know about you, but I fell asleep last night thanking the Lord for mercy. I was overcome that He answered so many prayers.

And yet there is sadness. There is a huge divide in our country. I know many on both sides of the political spectrum (and in-between) were praying, "God help us!" Some were sarcastic, and some were sincere. And the truth is, He HAS helped us.

Only God CAN help America find her way in these tumultuous days.

Christians must now pray the Lord surrounds our President-elect and Vice-President-elect (Yeah, Pence!) with men and women of wisdom.  

In days of victory as well as uncertainty, God is sovereign and our surest hope is in Him—not any person or political party!

"For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, 
You are my confidence...." (Psalm 71:5)

It's time to build bridges in our broken nation, but Christians must not get complacent and forget to rebuild their broken bridge to the Lord. We desperately need revival among God's people.

And that will take brokenness ... genuine humility ... to recognize He is God and we are not

We best stand when we arise from our knees.

Going forth, we need to stand courageously for truth in our culture. To stand for God's Word and will and ways.

My marching orders for today:

"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated... 
God, your God, is striding ahead of you.
 He's right there with you. 
He won't let you down; he won't leave you." 
(Deuteronomy 31:6, MSG)


America Has a Hope Problem

"But those who hope in the Lord 
will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint." ~Isaiah 40:31

Forgive us, Lord, when we place our hope in people, governments, or our own strategies. Our Hope must be in You!

"Rest in God alone, my soul for 
my hope comes from Him" (Psalm 62:5)

"I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, 
and in His word do I hope" (Psalm 130:5).

"Blessed is the nation 
whose God is the Lord...." (Psalm 33:12a).

Oh, that we might seek Him, and place our hope in Him alone.


The Evolution of an Affair

I appreciate Tim Challies' commitment to biblical truth. He often posts "flashback" posts from his blog - articles with lasting impact.

As I read his flashback post today, "How an Affair Really Begins" (from September 28, 2015), I thought of a number of Christian friends who progressed down the path he describes, the evolution of an affair.

"Affairs do not begin with sex," he says. "Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is never a sudden, unplanned event. Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions." (Emphasis mine.)

My heart grieves for these friends... cries out to the Lord for their marriages.

And I recognize within my own heart the sinful seeds of destruction as well.
We must all guard our lives, renew our mind in the Word of God and commit our hearts afresh each day to our spouses.
Challies ends his post with this reflection by John Owen on Hebrews 3:12-13:

"Take heed ... use all means, 
consider your temptations, watch diligently..."

That is my prayer for marriages today. Let us, especially, who name the name of Christ, take heed ... consider... and watch!"

Read Challies' post, and consider:
Are you on the path that leads to an affair? 
What will you do about it?

Some Related Scriptures: 

Hebrews 13:4 - "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."

Proverbs 5:15 - "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well."

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 - "For it is God's will that you should be holy: You must abstain from sexual immorality; each of you must know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God."


Keep Liberty Alive

Constitution Day. Unlike Independence Day, this day tends to fade into the background. Yet the Framers of the Constitution promoted a vision of liberty that is well worth remembering.

As the 55 Framers established America's national government and most basic laws, they envisioned liberty through limited government. They sought to guarantee certain fundamental laws to all its citizens. They declared these truths and spelled them out in our nation's founding document, The Constitution of the United States - signing their names to this document on September 17, 1787.
The Preamble to the Constitution begins with three key words: We the People
This reference refers to all citizens of the United States, those born in America and those receiving citizenship through a process. The government receives all of its powers from all of America's citizens. [When the Constitution was ratified, some people did not have the same rights as others (women, slaves), a problem addressed through amendments to the Constitution.]

The Articles of the Constitution followed the Framers many arguments and debates as they, with the Preamble, framed a workable government system that enabled liberty, governance and justice to American citizens.

In short, these seven Articles dealt with:
  1. The powers and limits of the Congressional branches of government: the Senate and House of Representatives.
  2. The responsibility and authority of the Executive branch - the President and executive officers.
  3. The Judicial branch - the court system made up of the Supreme Court and lower courts.
  4. The responsibilities and duties of the states in the Union, and the responsibilities of the federal government toward the states.
  5. The fact that the Constitution can only changed by adding amendments.
  6. The establishment of the Constitution as the highest law of the land, to be upheld by all officers and judges (as well as statements about debts and engagements the US had before the adoption of the Constitution).
  7. The explanation of how many states needed to ratify the Constitution.

This concept of Constitutionally-limited government will continue to frame our lives only as long as it is kept alive in our hearts and minds. 

While the Constitution does not specifically mention the name of God, there are biblical principles woven throughout its text. 

John Adams wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson (June 28, 1813) saying, 
"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence 
were the general principles of Christianity. 
I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, 
that those general principles of Christianity 
are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God." 

This was echoed by a statement from the United States Supreme Court in 1892: 
"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be 
based upon and embody the teachings 
of the Redeemer of mankind
It is impossible that it should be otherwise; 
and in this sense and to this extent 
our civilization and our institutions 
are emphatically Christian."

Our government is inspired by the moral principles of the Ten Commandments. The blessings of liberty we all enjoy were inspired by principles in the Bible such as those pertaining to moral behavior, free will and individualism, and personal responsibility - to name a few. 

If we want to KEEP LIBERTY ALIVE, I recommend we need to do two things:

1. Read the Constitution (and work to appoint court judges that will uphold it).
2. Read the Word of God and discover the source of lasting liberty.

The Bible has so much to say about freedom.

If you are a Christian, you know: "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36) and "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32) and "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17) and many other verses about freedom in Christ.

What do you think about the Constitution today? Do you cherish its concept of limited government? What do you think about the biblical concept of "freedom in Christ"?


Meditation: God's 'Schoolroom'

Back to school gives many moms more "free time" (or at least, different strategies for using their time). I love this quote from Dr. David Jeremiah's Turning Point devotional, "Back to Your Future - Back to School" (9-3-16).

In the devotional, this scripture is quoted:

How can a young man cleanse his way? 
By taking heed according to Your word.
Psalm 119:9

That's not just for a young man - maybe a child going off to school - but also for the parents. We change as we "take heed" (pay attention to and obey) God's Word.

The devotional began with a description of Billy Graham's childhood experience of loving to go into a barn as a young man and listen to raindrops hitting the tin roof. It was in that quiet place, he says, that God shaped his character, and he is still in the habit of finding a quiet spot to talk to God.

Here is the part of the devotional God used to speak to me today:

As our children return to school this fall, let’s remember that God’s schoolroom is called meditation. It’s not enough just to read the Bible, or even simply to study it. We need to find quiet times to mull over its words, meditate on its verses, and ponder its truths. That’s what shapes our character. 
If you can’t find a barn with a tin roof, any quiet spot will do. Settle down, quiet yourself, be still, contemplate the Lord and His Word, and know that He is God.
By holy meditation the soul doth, as it were, breakfast with God every morning.
~ Thomas Watson, Puritan

I'm a busy, type A+ person, always on the move. Stopping to meditate is hard for me. And the distractions in our culture multiply as technology feeds us new forms of diversion (and in some cases, perversion.)

For me, personally, I've found a quiet time in our backyard jacuzzi early in the morning, meditating on a single scripture for 15 minutes, is a life-changer.

The important thing is: develop a strategy to get alone with the Lord.

What is your place and time for meditating on God's Word?

Graphic of school bus adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.


Hungry for Revival? Cry Out!

Byron Paulus, the director of the revival ministry, Life Action, is seeking the Lord for revival in our nation, but he makes sure we understand revival begins in individual hearts before it moves into groups and organizations. He has seen the Lord move in hearts, families and churches as God's people confront lies and embrace the truth of scripture. (The quote, above, is simply one reflection of how we can be deceived.)

He and others are calling us to cry out to the Lord for grace and mercy. The One Cry! movement is part of this. Find out more at OneCry: A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening.

Women will gather, September 22-24, 2016, for the Cry Out! National Women's Conference, sponsored by True Woman 2016.

As part of that, a Cry Out! simulcast is planned for September 23, 2016 (6-9pm CT/PT and 7-10pm ET/MT).

Believing "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears" (Psalm 34:17), these and other ministries are urging women (and men) to bow together before the Lord and cry out for mercy and supernatural intervention in our world, nation, churches, cities and homes.

But first, let that cry come from your own heart, for your own life.

Ask the Lord to revive your heart (Psalm 85:6) and then pray about how you can join with others this fall to seek Him and Cry Out! in this critical time.

Graphic: courtesy of Morguefile


Before You Pray for America's Leaders

"Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise" (Jeremiah 17:14).

"O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirst for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).

"If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored...." (Job 22:23).

"For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite" (Isaiah 57:15).

"O send out Your light and Your truth ...." (Psalm 43:3-4).

"The unfolding of Your words give light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions. prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

"And Jesus said to him ... All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23).

Graphic: Prayer, courtesy of Morguefile


Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 2

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In the last UPGRADE post, Dawn asked this question and said we can all invest more in our prime relationships. First we invest in our relationship with the Lord, and then we invest in ourselves (so we will be strong and ready to serve God).

There are three other priority relationships, and investments in each of them can make a huge difference in OUR lives - and in THEIRS!

          Investment #3: INVEST in YOUR SPOUSE

If you are married, this is your prime relationship after your relationship with God. 
There are so many ways to invest in a spouse. Here are only a few:

1. Communicate Love and Appreciation.
  • Learn and apply the "love list." There are many aspects to biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Try to apply as many as you can each day!
  • Make regular verbal "deposits." Loving verbal "deposits" will strengthen your spouse and marriage. Tough times will come to every marriage, but a couple who take time to communicate lots of "love investments" will find they have together-strength to weather problems.
2. Develop a Partnership.
  • Don't try to go it alone. You are "heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). Understand how two can be better together: "Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow ... Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11).
  • Become friendly warriors together in the battle against temptation. Prayer can united you, so pray about various struggles in your marriage and look for that "way of escape" together. (Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • Seek the Lord together for His purposes in your home.
  • Ask, "How can I help?" What can you do to help your partner become the person God intends them to be? To help them achieve their goals? To help them dream, and step out and take risks?
3. Value Gifts and Skills.
  • Discover your Partner's spiritual gifts. Your partner has special God-given gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-9; Romans 12:6-8). Seek ways to help your partner use those gifts at home, church and in your community.
  • Notice your partner's skills. They can not only be used to bless your marriage, but also to serve the Lord in many ways.
  • Help cultivate these gifts. Use your time and resources to help them develop. 
  • Appreciate and value your partner. Praise their accomplishments in public.
4. Fulfill Your Role.
  • Study the Blueprint. The biblical pattern is found in Ephesians 6:21-33. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but there are practical ways "roles" might be exhibited in the home.
  • Husbands can:
  1. Protect, provide for, lead with love and wisdom.
  2. Watch for problems they might help their wives solve and assist her in ways she desires to bless the home.
  3. Respond in gentle, loving, kind and respectful ways to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7)
  4. Share appropriate public praise or recognition of their accomplishments.
  5. Study their wives and help them become the women God purposed them to be.
Wives can:
  1. Support and encourage the husband's leadership in the home.
  2. Appreciate their need for work outside the home.
  3. Use wisdom and skills inside and outside the home. Manage their home well.
  4. Show her husband respect (Ephesians 5:33b)—and when this is difficult because of bad behavior choices, she can still focus on good qualities, and give kind, supportive input. (She can pray for and allow the Lord to change her husband, patient and trusting Him with her highest hopes for her man.)
  5. Understand and appreciate her husband's God-given sexual needs.
          Investment #4: INVEST in YOUR CHILDREN

After your spouse, your children are the next priority investment—not the other way around.

1. Love Them Unconditionally.
  • Don't expect perfection. Your kids are going to mess up. They're kids! (Some days, be glad if they do one awesome thing!) Regardless, love them without any conditions; let them know you will love them no matter what.
  • Express your love privately and publicly. Speak well of your children to others; that's what people will remember. So will your kids!
  • Help them see the value of "family." Do all you can to strengthen bonds of love between family members to give them a loving heritage.
2. Teach Them to Seek the Lord.
  • Help them see their need for the Lord. Do not be harsh, but use teachable moments to show them how they are sinners in need of a Savior.
  • Don't give answers too quickly. Challenge your child (and teach them how) to search the scriptures for the tough questions ( You want to prepare them for life!)
  • Teach them how to pray. Teach them to talk to the Lord as a loving Heavenly Father and friend, but also as the Sovereign God of the universe! Encourage prayer times that worship more than whine, and praise more than petition.
  • Promote a godly legacy. Make sure your children understand how the Lord has worked and blessed in your family (Psalm 78:4; Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Isaiah 38:19).
3. Discipline Wisely.
  • Distinguish between immaturity and defiance. Defiance is one thing, childishness is another. As one pastor wrote, life shouldn't feel like a "perpetual spanking" to a child. Major on the majors; don't get hung up with petty things.
  • Discipline quickly and wisely. Don't stay angry; deal with willful sin and usher the child into a place of repentance. Don't provoke your children (Ephesians 6:4), but pursue a biblical balance of dealing with sinful, rebellious behavior in a spirit of love and mercy. Follow your Father's example (Psalm 103:13) There is no room for verbal or physical abuse to vent anger, but there is a place for discipline too (Proverbs 3:12; 13:24; Hebrews 12:10).
  • Encourage proper respect. Teach your child to fear (reverence/respect) the Lord (Proverbs 1:7) but also your authority (Ephesians 6:1-3; Hebrews 12:9).
  • Encourage growth and change. Train them in "the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Help them learn how do deal with temptation. Always remind them of the grace of God.
4. Model Good Character.
  • Model behavior you want repeated. Children are always watching. They are looking for the fruit of the "sermons" you speak to them.
  • Reward good behavior. Catch the doing good and praise it. Don't always dwell on what they're doing wrong. Help them grow in godliness (Hebrews 12:10).
  • Train them to be responsible. Focus on skills they'll need as functioning adults.
  • Help them cultivate godly friendships. Peer influence will grow in their pre-teen and teen years; encourage wisdom in choosing friendship (show them examples of godliness) and help them be good, godly and loyal friends themselves (Proverbs 12:26; 13:20; 17:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33. Model positive friendship in your own relationships.
5. Encourage Creative Growth.
  • Don't overschedule their lives. Children respond to routines and schedules—but don't forget to schedule in plenty of blocks of free time.
  • Encourage their creativity. When they're young, play with them. Play "pretend" to give them opportunities to "try on" different ideas, skills, etc.
  • Help them stretch. As they grow, help them take reasonable risks to stretch outside their comfort zones. Let them make messes (and teach them how to clean up afterward).
  • Give them space to pursue their dreams.
          Investment #5: INVEST in YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

Good friends don't just happen. Friendship requires intentional investment.

1. Practice Committed Encouragement.
  • Be intentional. Hit-and-miss doesn't work in friendship building (although I do believe friends can pick up where they left off).
  • Practice loyalty. Aim for comitment and consistency. Be persistent to find ways to encourage your friend with love, especially in times they struggle (Proverbs 17:17).
  • Be generous. Share your time and resources.
  • Build into their lives. Make it your goal to "bless" your friend in as many ways as you can.
2. Listen More and Better.
  • Listen to their heart. To invest in a friend's life, first stop talking about yourself! Listen carefully to what they say, but also to how they share what's on their heart.
  • Listen with compassion. Squash judgemental thoughts.
  • Ask questions. Seek to understand so you can encourage. It will a breath fresh life into the relationship and "sharpen" your friend (Proverbs 27:17).
3. Challenge Greater Growth.
  • Go deeper, with purpose. If youi've developed the kind of friendship that can bear the weight of accountability, ask deeper questions that challenge your friend to greater growth (Proverbs 12:26; 27:5-6). Share scriptures that will build strength and faith.
  • Come alongside. Help your friends move outside their comfort zones ... and be willing to go there with them, if you can. A friend that comes alongside is valuable indeed!
  • Pray for your friend regularly. Ask for specific requests, pray, and check up later!
Can you apply any of these strategies to your own prime relationships? Which one would make the biggest difference today?

Note: There was a lot of territory covered in these two posts, and by all means, it does not cover everything that will encourage wise investments in your relationships. I encourage you to discover more as you "read the manual" for all relationships: the Word of God.


Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 1

What are your "Prime Relationships"? We can make intentional  "investments" in these relationships that reap powerful results—so it's important to know what they are.

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 "investments."

          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).

Steven Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship, wrote, "To invest your life successfully, deposit it with Christ and guard His deposit with you." (See 2 Timothy 1:12-14.) So how do you invest in your relationship with the Lord?

1. Know the Lord.
2. Deposit Your Life with the Lord.
  • Trust His character. God is good, faithful and trustworthy (Psalm 100:5; 2 Timothy 1:12b).
  • Appreciate His love. You could not want a more caring friend than His Son who died for you (John 3:16; 1 John 4:19)
  • Celebrate your security. You are totally secure in Christ (John 10:27-28). You can safely surrender to His love and control.
3. Seek to Please the Father.
4. Cherish His Word.
5. Rely on the Holy Spirit.
          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?
I learned this the hard way. Because I failed to care for my health, I lost many opportunities to serve the Lord and help people.
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; treat it as a well-oiled machine. Use high quality fuel, healthy food choices. Try eating only foods God created. Eat good protein for energy. Choose carbs wisely. Cut back on (or eliminate) sugar and salt. (Christians, the Bible says our bodies are the "temple" for His indwelling (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That should mean something to us!)
  • Move your body. Choose exercise you love and can stick with consistently. Aim to "train" your body for strength and service (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
  • Relax. Stress can slow down your "machine," so learn to identify when you're on overload. Rest is biblical (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • Get some sleep ... as much as you need to think clearly and manage your emotions well. God gives His beloved ones sleep (Psalm 127:2).
2. "Paint the Barn."
  • Maintain the Temple. You don't have to overdo with makeup and hair care, but normal, God-honoring maintenance does not equal self-indulgence. Some describe this as "painting the barn." Aim to reflect the beauty of the Lord who created you! Bring glory to the Lord (Colossians 3:17).
  • Style yourself for a simple, attractive appearance. The goal should be to look pleasantly and modestly attractive, not distracting from your Christian testimony but enhancing it so you can draw others to the Lord. Dress modestly and reflect the beautiful person God created you to be.
3. Expand Your Horizons.
  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Do you know your spiritual gifts
  • Develop some new skills and explore creativity options. Try something new (gourmet cooking, gardening, photography, etc.) or learn something new (a language, a musical instrument, etc.)
  • Expand your knowledge. Enroll in a workshop, webinar or conference. Read for knowledge and growth. Nurture your mind. Be a life-long learner. Seek out a mentor. Explore!
  • Further your education—take a class and get a degree.
4. Plan for Strategic Dreaming!
  • Plan to decompress. And especially if you have small children, this isn't a luxury; it's a necessity!
  • Plan in daily "breaks" to rest and recharge. You need breaks, even if vacations or days off are out of the question.  
  • Give yourself permission and time to dream. Be intentional.
  • Be a FINANCIAL investor. This is the normal way we think of investing, and it is important. If you're not saving now, start. If you're not budgeting, start. If you're not giving to the Lord and investing in missions and worthy outreaches, start!
  • Set aside some "dream" money. What's on your bucket list? What can you do financially to pursue your biggest dreams?
5. Practice Gratitude.
  • Look for things to appreciate. At all times ... in all things (1 Thessalonians  5:18). 
  • Train yourself to notice God's goodness.  See it in nature, in circumstances, in people.  There are so many opportunities to see God's hand in your life. Stop and notice!  (James 1:17; Psalm 34:8; 84:11)
  • Be thankful for grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20).
  • Worship in thanksgiving. Be grateful for the cross. We all worship things and people every day ... be sure you're worshiping the Lord, not "idols" that can never satisfy. (Psalm 100)
We'll continue with three more "investments" in the next post.

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?


Remember, Return and Trust

I keep thinking about what and who America needs "for such a time as this."

  • We need a strong military and leaders who are courageous.
  • We need powerful strategies and strong weapons of warfare.
  • We need appropriate responses toward those who desire to destroy people and nations.
  • But we must first seek and place our confidence in the Lord.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses ...
but we will remember and trust in the name
of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7, Amp)

We need moral fiber and strong character, and these things only come from the God who created us.

"Righteousness [moral and spiritual integrity
and virtuous character,
exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace
to any people" (Proverbs 14:34, Amp).

We are far from being a righteous people. We desperately need changed hearts. People need to know the Lord God of heaven who changes people from the inside out. (People need Jesus!)

And those who know Him - those who name the name of Christ - are not guiltless. We, in many, many cases, look and act just like "the world."

God has always called His people to "come out" from the world even as we live in it ... to be holy as He is holy.

"I do not ask You to take them out of the world,
but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one,.
They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes,
make them holy]; Your word is truth" (John 17:15-17, Amp)

"... You shall be holy (set apart), for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, Amp)

We need wisdom, we need strength, we need courageous leaders ... but most of all, we need revival.

"... we will remember and trust in the name of the LORD our God."

We must remember ... and we must return and trust.

NOTE: OneCry is a nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening. I recommend this as a means to draw us back to the Lord.

Graphic: courtesy of Morguefile


My 4 Commitments in America's Unrest

I hesitate to write about the recent violence in America. I am no expert. I am only a member of God's family who loves His Word, and I'm trying to make sense of what I see.

I loved sharing with four "women of color" in two different circumstances this week - at a luncheon with evangelical women, and at my home church. We laughed, hugged and talked about things that matter.

I talked with one of them about all the upheaval we're seeing on television, and it was good to join in unity around the truth of scripture.

The Lord calls us to love others, but He also calls us to speak truth to one another. Oh, how desperately Americans need to hear the truth of the Word of God. It speaks to all the pain, but people turn away, unwilling to hear.

The sin problem touches all of us.
"As God's image bearers we are all equal," wrote Trillia Newbell. "We are equal in dignity and worth ... We are also fallen equally...."
I am responsible for my own attitudes. So are you. We can work and pray for reconciliation as the Lord brings these opportunities to us. I cannot fully understand the pain others have suffered, but that doesn't mean I can stop listening or stop trying to understand.

Yes, I recognize the sins of the past. But I do not dwell there. The Lord enables people to grow and move forward in forgiveness and grace past all grievances ... if we are willing.

In these scary days, I am committed to four things:

1. I will denounce evil wherever I find it. Even within myself. Especially within myself.

Again, the "speaking the truth in love" principle applies (Ephesians 4:15). We can't compromise with sin; but we can always lean in with greater love. We can hold out for hope.

2. I will strive to love with God's holy love.

God's "holy love" is not squishy. It's strong ... a love that is set apart and beyond compare.

3. I will stop speaking in stereotypes. They don't help, and most of the time they lack in compassion or understanding.

4.I will learn to see the people of the world as Jesus does - as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

I sorrow when I see the palpable anger in our culture. I am terribly sad over the moral decline in America. And I know it must pain God's heart that we have forgotten Him ... that we ignore - or worse - reject Him in all our struggles.

As a Christ-follower, I believe the answers to all our problems are not found in any earthly "savior" - only in THE Savior, the Lamb who is still calling people from every nation, tribe, people and language (Revelation 7:9).

Are you struggling with the violence and unrest we see in America? How is the Lord or His Word helping you respond in ways that are helpful - and in ways that will honor Him?

graphic from Morguefile