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Donna Morley on the Godly Life

Interviewer: Melissa Montana of Conversations at WLAB Radio in Fort Wayne, Indiana

MELISSA:       Donna, what motivated you to write Choices That Lead to Godliness?
DONNA: There were quite a few motivating factors, but I think the main influence came While I was involved in a discipling group. I discovered that the women seemed quite frustrated with their lives. The reason was because of the choices they have made and are currently making. I’m not talking so much about the big choices, such as career or marriage, but the everyday mundane choices that shape our lives and character. Many of these women simply felt that godliness was some sort of unattainble goal. They didn’t feel they knew how to get there, but they knew how they were to end up. Their frustrations motivated me to form a focus group of women, ages 24-65. I asked this group to write down the areas they felt they lacked discernment. Amazingly, they all wrote down pretty much the same things. From their list I derived the chapters of the book.

MELISSA: You say in your book that “discernment is the ability to distinguish between things that differ.” Can you elaborate on this?

DONNA: Discernment is the counterpart to godliness. It enables us--with one choice at a time--to bypass the better and choose the best. For instance, there are usually two ways of saying something. Are we being discerning as to the best way of saying it? There are different ways of seeing things. Are we looking at things through our past failures, fears, or simply with a pessimistic view or are we seeing things through the eyes of faith--of what God could do or promises to do? So often in life we settle for things far less than the best. And many of us end up regretting it in the long run.

MELISSA: Our choices should be made carefully. So, what can discerning choices lead to?

DONNA: Discerning choices can lead us to a closer relationship with the Lord; the ability to grasp and apply God’s truth; a more satisfying prayer life; setting the right goals for our life and achieving them; helping us make the best use of our time, money, possessions and spiritual gifts. Discerning choices can also help us to draw close to our marriage partner, give us wisdom to raise our children; and actions that seek the best for others.

If you think about it, the greatest problem each of us has is with relationships. Many people go to psychologists or counselors not because they have problems with themselves, but with others. Discernment gives us the ability to handle the conflicts with others. So, discernment makes us wise in all areas of life. King Solomon is known in Scripture not for his riches, but for his discernment, his insight into things. People traveled far just to hear the wisdom of Solomon. This same divine wisdom is within reach of anyone who desires it.

MELISSA: So, what about those little decisions we make in life? Can we really be affected in a bad way if we lack discernment? There are some decisions that are quite minuscule.

DONNA: Some of the most crucial decisions are the little ones--those decisions we may hardly realize we are making add up to where we are headed in life as well as who we are. For instance, I can make the decision today through my actions and attitudes to be a nagging wife and a grumpy mother. Or, I can make the decision to depend on God to transform me into a kind woman. How? By dwelling on the kindness of God; finding examples of kindness in others; and thinking of kind things to say. If I start doing this one little act each day--I will surely become a kind woman. Such a decision, which is actually far reaching, can also be applied to others aspects of sterling character such as compassion, gratitude, wisdom and so on.

MELISSA: Of all the crucial areas to examine in our lives, which one should we start with?

DONNA: I believe with our conscience. In the book I discuss the seared, the ignored, the defiled, the guilty, the weak and the clear conscience. Most of us don’t think much about our conscience. Yet, it is there all the time for us. It is well acquainted with us and knows our deepest thoughts and secrets. It is in a good position to judge our morals. Scripture confirms this by asking, “for who among men knows the thoughts of man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

We’ve all heard Jiminey Cricket’s advice: Let your conscience be your guide. Yet that advice could be good or bad, depending upon the condition of our conscience. A person with a distorted conscience, for example, can get into a lot of trouble. When we can use our conscience for more than just a red warning light, we will be able to discern not only moral values and principles. We all need to do a check up on our conscience. As the Psalmist said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting.” (Psalm 139-24 NKJV).

MELISSA: Speaking of the clear conscience, I believe there is one area that many women fall into and that’s gossip. What does Scripture have to say about it.

DONNA: Scripture has much to say about gossip. Just as gossip creates problems for us, it did so in Christ’s day as well. Hospitality was important in Middle Eastern culture, and it was common for hosts to provide entertainment during and after a meal. People read poetry and prose, and danced. Afterwards, guests would talk and tell stories, and often indulged in local gossip. Because gossip was such a problem, the Bible had to give special warnings against it. Interestingly, there isn’t just one type of gossiper. There are actually three types of gossipers identified in Scripture. The first is the loose talker, the “whisperer” or “talebearer.” Telling secrets or repeating the lastest scandal this person has mastered the art of saying nothing but leaves nothing unsaid. Because she fails to respect the confideces of others, she is not trustworthy. Her talk is so powerful she can even separate intimate friends.

The second type of gossiper is the slanderer. This person’s talk damages another person’s reputation, whether intentionally, or unintentionally. He or she even says things known to be false. Jezebel secretly hid her coveting heart as she wrote letters to nobles, lying about Naboth, and signing the king’s name. Scripture says of people like this, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who slanders is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).

The third gossiper insults, abuses or reviles. Possibly because the reviler herself has been hurt, she strikes back to wound the feelings of those who hurt her. Paul the apostle told believers not to associate with supposed Christians who are “revilers” (1 Corinthians 5:11). He also commands to put abusive speech from your mouth (Colossians 3:8). As we can see, all types of gossip cause pain and grief and often results in unexpected consequences.

MELISSA: How can we avoid words that wound, and instead grow godly in speech?

DONNA: Unfortunately, this radio program doesn’t give me enough time to answer this question fully. In the book I talk about how we can play the devils advocate, how to double check the facts, how we can think before we speak, how to keep ourselves from loosing our temper, and most of all, how we can win over verbal temptation with love. We can also grow in godly speech through reflection. Our tongue reveals who we are inside. The tongue that pleases God is the fruit of a godly life. Godly speech is the result of godly living, and that godliness is nurtured not by strain, but by reflection. As the scripture says, “we all, with an unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Godly character is the result of a Spirit=empowered life. It is the Spirit who transforms--not our speech--but our entire character, to become more like God’s as we continually focus on Him.

MELISSA: In the chapter, “Friends That Sharpen” you speak about a friend name Evie. What important lesson can she teach us?

DONNA: I talk at length about Evie in the book, and one of the things I learned from Evie, just by watching her is that she knew that people are responders. When they are loved, they love back. Therefore, Evie was free from concerning herself about what she would get out of relationships. Knowing this for ourselves allows us to shift our focus. We need to remind ourselves that true friendships cannot be bought. Certainly there needs to be mutual esteem, respect and honor, but that isn’t something we should expect, for love is earned, as Evie’s life revealed. Therefore, our focus should be based more on giving love rather than getting it.

MELISSA: Give us your definition of wisdom and compare it with knowledge. Aren’t we already wise if we are knowledgeable?

DONNA: These days we are awash in knowledge but starved for wisdom. We can now plug into the Internet and instantly have access to more facts than previous generations could gain in a lifetime. It’s an amazing fact that in some fields, knowledge doubles every three or four years. But knowledge, while valuable in its own way, cannot tell us what to do with our time, money, what to work for, whom to spend time with, how to tame our tongue and temper--those daily choices that develop godly character. Wisdom does. Wisdom is light from above. It keeps us from stumbling and falling. Wisdom also brings an awareness that so much of the world is out of harmony with God and it assists us with staying on the straight and narrow.

MELISSA: You mention that in ancient times, Names had much more meaning than they do now. What can you tell us about God’s names?

DONNA: God said, “Let him who boasts, boasts of this, that he understands and knows me” (Jeremiah 9:24). God helps us understand Him better through His names. For those who don’t realize, Scripture gives us many names for God--and each name gives us something to worship Him For. For instance, Elohim is translated “God,” and emphasizes supreme power, sovereignty, and glory. Elohim is in control of all things. As we worship, we can be in awe that Elohim is “My refuge and my fortress, My God (Elohim), in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). Another name is El-Shadai, which is translated “Almighty God” and is used in connection with judging, chastening, and purging. We can rejoice in worship, knowing it is He who says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19). In the book I go over these names along with Adonai, Yahweh, as well as, descriptive names such as The Lord our Righteous; our Peace; Holy One, Ruler and Father.

Lastly, it’s important that along with His names, we understand His attributes. An attribute of God is a quality of His, something true of Him. They have direct application to our lives. For example, because God is Sovereign we can rest in His control of all events. Because He is Omnipotent, we can trust His power in the face of adversity. Because He’s Wise, we can have Divine guidance in our lives. In the book I give a list for a months worth of attributes (although God has many more) as well als steps in meditating upon His attributes each day. I find that meditating on God’s attributes in a practical way helps me to know Him and worship Him for who He really is. Most of all, it is God that is kept at the center of all my daily mundane choices as I focus upon Him.

MELISSA: In Choices That Lead to Godliness, you write, “Time is like an unstoppable chariot, races at a steady pace ever and only forward.” How can we best use the time of our lives?

DONNA: By following the formula of Jesus Christ. He had but a few years to literally change the world and therefore time was his most important possession. His first ingredient was that he was mindful of time. He knew of it’s value. He said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? (John 11:19). Scripture show us that He knew when He had a bit of time left (John 7:6); and and when He did not (Matthew 26:18). Most importantly, He lived by the hour (Mark 14:35,41). Christ felt the preciousness of time. He knew of the glory that soon awaited Him in Heaven, which made His time on earth that much more crucial. The second attitude that enabled Christ to use time wisely was an awareness that it had been entrusted to Him. It wasn’t His to spend carelessly. He was to used it according to the will of the Father (Matthew 6:10). Christ’s example helps me to be discerning with time. In the book I talk about time management which helps us in many areas of our life.

MELISSA: In your chapter, “Renewing the Mind,” you quote British author G.K. Chesterton as saying, “If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.” Can you tell us a little about this?

DONNA: Our mind is able to collect a lot of dirt and smudges in this world. For instance, the media pollutes our mind by telling us that anger, jealously, revenge, and even adultery, are ok. And on our own we make choices that can pollute our mind by listening to gossip, or even watching some sitcom that treats serious sin casually. With all these sorts of things bombarding our mind it can become smudged with the world’s dirt and its unwholesome thoughts and attitudes. That kind of mind pollution can’t help but harm our entire well being and even distort our thinking. So--we need to keep our minds clean--like a post that is kept freshly painted. In the book, I discuss in depth on how it is we can renew our mind. And as we renew our mind we gain a kind of wholeness and spiritual health, and we become more discerning in the process.

MELISSA: Donna, I have only hit on a few topics in this book. Regrettably, we are just about out of time. But, before we close, I want you to say something to the many in our radio audience who are going through life bearing tremendous guilt. How can they unburden their hearts?

DONNA: I would like to answer this question first with regard to the non-Christian and then to the Christian. To those of you who are NOT genuine Christians, the only way you can truly eliminate your guilt is to surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and recognize Him for who He is: Lord and Master. He will cleanse you completely and eliminate all your guilt, just as He did for the promiscuous Mary Magdalene, for the persecutor of Christians who became the apostle Paul, and for the thief on the cross. Believe me, the guilt will go if you trust God for His complete forgiveness and restoration. And, not only will you eliminate guilt, but you will spend the rest of eternity in Heaven.

Now, to the Christian who is carrying guilt, may I ask you this one question: why revisit your grave of dead sins? Maybe you believe you have sinned too deeply as a Christian for God to forgive. If so, this is just the adversary speaking--for God forgives all sin. To eliminate our guilt we can first of all ask God’s forgiveness if we haven’t already. Secondly, we can dwell on how much God loves us and how eager He is to forgive. If any of us are still in sin, we must turn from it and rely upon the Lord to keep us from falling into it again. If we must make things right with anyone, such as asking their forgiveness, we should do that. Also, it’s helpful to keep in our hearts the tender words of God who gently says, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:8). Lastly, we can eliminate guilt by clinging to the Lord’s promises. He says that all who call out to Him will receive from Him a steadfast mind and be kept in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). Peace is the answer for a burdened heart and God promises to provide it.

Copyright 1999 by Donna Morley. All rights reserved. For personal use only. For any other use, please contact the helpdesk@faithandreasonforum.com.