Purposeful Faith

Category - blessings

Extending The Benefit of Grace

The Benefit of Grace

I’ve noticed, I am the type that reacts:
A person says something slightly offensive. I take it personally.
My friend makes a comment on how I can improve. I feel thrown off.
My husband gives a suggestion. I get sensitive.

I have noticed this internally too:
I mess up. I get angry at myself–even after I have confessed it.
I get far from God. I burden myself with things I must do to get closer.
I get distracted from people and life. I feel that coming back around to them will be hard.

It all comes down to doubt, doesn’t it? Doubt that God is good enough to handle my baseline fears. Doubt that God will come through when I can’t. Doubt that I really can be better than I am today, right?

Doubt is the undercurrent that drags us away from God.
Doubt is the driver of most dumb moves.
Doubt is the deliverer of the desperate to dealings with the devil.

I know this sounds extreme, but it is true. Push Jesus 5 steps away from your heart and that is a 5-step opportunity for the opponent to rush in to make you question everything.

We tend to believe in this thing called,
“the benefit of the doubt,”

but I think what we really need to believe in is
“the benefit of grace.”

That person cuts you off on the road. “She must be having a hard day. God bless her as she drives home.” 
Benefit of Grace!

That supposed friend ignores you at church. “Perhaps she has her own fears. Maybe I can send her an email and check in.”
Benefit of Grace!

That kid again doesn’t listen. “Hmm…it is not that they don’t respect me, but it’s that they want to have a little say. Let me remind them of God’s love and his never ending source of power in them a little later.”
Benefit of Grace!

That man wants to be a show off and be prideful again. “Maybe he so fears loss of control, he has to overcompensate by having all control. Affirm him.”
Benefit of Grace!

I did that thing I didn’t want to do. Now, I can’t ever let it go. “Jesus already let it go on the cross. He keeps no record of wrongs. He waits for you.”
Benefit of Grace!

I am far from God. It is all my fault. I have no idea what to do. “Jesus knows this too; he is not angry with me. He waits and hopes that I can draw near and find his love.”
Benefit of Grace!

Finding the benefit of grace, means we finding a wellspring of peace. Discouragement gets covered by the sacrifice of Living Water and we wade in the encouragement that this hope brings. 

Grace makes us see perspectives differently.

With grace, we notice:
God works far better than we ever could.
The small thing he’s doing, rather than what we’re ruining.
We build into relationships, rather than destroy them.
Our hope for the hopeless situation – and a will to continue on.

We notice that mistakes, errors and offenses aren’t beacons of our future,
but undercover blessings helping us to forge trust that lasts.

Stepping back means we get to see God’s restoration step in, both in our lives and in the life of another.

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How to Really Fight Back using the Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit

What do you do when something terrible, horrible and life-impacting happens –
especially when you are sinking into fear and anxiety?

This is what I was asked as my hard work disappeared before my very eyes. This is what I was asked as my progress was erased. This is what I asked as I thought about the myriad of things flipping, flopping and dying right my very eyes.

In this reflective moment, in the pause right before the full tsunami of tension hit, I had a choice:
Would I stand in the power of God or would I fall to the power of fear?

Ever stood here?

This moment, it is a critical one. If you leave nothing filling that second, you will inevitably succumb to distrust. If you leave it untended by God, you will certainly feel alone. And if you leave it empty, you no doubt fill it with endless thoughts of preposterous scenarios. But, if fill it with truth and life and warrior words, you will wage war – and win –  against what intended to take you down.

Here is how it works: Read a portion of scripture (we will use Psalm 62), personalize it and speak it aloud. Choose to believe it. Believe it over your body, believe it over every relationship that hurts, believe it over your finances, believe it over your family, believe it over you heart, believe it over your discouragement and believe it over anything that is coming against.

When you let the good yeast of God’s truth, rise above the lies –
you find it squeezes out worry.

Psalm 62

My soul finds rest in you, God;
you are my salvation.
You are my only rock and my salvation;
you are my fortress, I will not be shaken..(Psalm 62:1-2)…

My soul, finds rest in you God;
my hope comes from you.
You are my rock and my salvation;
you are my fortress, I will not be shaken.
All my salvation and my honor depend on you, God;
you are my mighty rock, my refuge.
I trust in you at all times, every single time;
I pour out my heart to you,
God, you are my our refuge.

I am but a breath,
Nothing, only a breath.
I will not put vain hope in stolen goods;
I will not make riches the center of my life
nor will I set my heart on them.

For I know:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward me
according to what I have done.” (Psalm 62: 5-12)

The more Gods’ Word sits in,
the more thoughts of negativity and disaster are forced to move out.

It simply works like this: You speak it, you believe it and because you believe it, you live it.

The answer to oncoming attacks and injuries is not to wait for the blow to knock you over, it’s to step into it on offense, with the Sword of the Spirit in motion so you can slay what Christ Jesus has already beaten. This doesn’t mean that every single predicament is fixed and tidied up, but what it does mean is every predicament is seen through the power of God’s eyes.

God wants to give us spiritual clarity and he wants to help us fight our battles.

What might God want to slay if you gave his Word a chance to fight on your behalf?

God is your rock, your fortress and your refuge – in him, you cannot be shaken.

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Gyms, Playgrounds & Pushing Into Jesus

Pushing Into Jesus

Gyms

Something inside me was brewing. I could hear the voices. I could sense the excitement. It was all around me. I wanted to jump in, I wanted to participate; but, all I could do was stand and stare. Like a frozen spectator, the reflection of the gym class mirror gripped me. Giggles. Smiles. Connections.

Loneliness. Wishes. Sadness.

The were living everything I wanted, the everything I was somehow was not a part of. I was the lone wolf.

Untitled design (10)

I stood smack dab in the middle of the class, but knew I much more belonged on planet Jupiter.

Every inch of me felt vulnerable, “Will they notice that no one is talking with me?”
Every ounce felt embarrassed, “Why don’t I have a friend here too?”
Every bit of me wondered, “Do I look okay?”

Everything in me, made me feel like I was reliving yesterday…

Playgrounds

Playgrounds are places where kids play, except for when you are me. Then they are places where you sit out. They are places where you are left behind. They are places where you watch from the safety of a curb, from a position of arms crossed or from a nurses office for safe keeping, because what you know is: on these grounds everything you believe about yourself is being determined. 

Things like:

1. I must not be likable.
2. I have some weird gene that excludes me.
3. I think differently.

I reached out my hand to be friends with one of the girls. I tried; I tried so hard to extend myself beyond myself. I looked in her eyes – and she looked back too.  There was hope!

Then, her friend walked by, reached out for her arm and said, “Don’t be friends with her.”

pushing into Jesus

Said and done – from that point on everyone acted cold. Standing on that field, playing whatever sports game we where playing, a little piece of determination and a little piece of resolution was lost. I kicked softly and felt horribly. And walked home solemnly figuring there was something wrong with me.

I wonder if Jesus ever felt like me?

A moral, good and righteous odd-ball-out kind of kid?
Without sin, yet having to dwell in sin (Heb. 4:15)?
Immersed in a world of pain, when he was used to the wealth of paradise?
Hated by those he loved and shamed by those he came to save?
Might those he loved felt awkward and restrained near him in sight of his greatness, his perfection?

And what about when Jesus was about to head to the cross? No one could understand his grief. No one could fathom the far depths of his love. No one could walk in the shoes that would cleanse the whole world with righteousness. No one could understand what it feels like to be “forsaken” (Mt. 27:46).

Surely, I am not nearly like Jesus, but I think Jesus might have felt a little like me – alone. Not understood. Weary.

Pushing Into Jesus

When I step back from all this – to look at Jesus and myself, I start to see something emerge.

What strikes me is: How often am I like those who stood around Jesus – just a little scared of him?

How often do I believe Jesus looks at me and says,
“Her, no…. you don’t want to be friends with her”
and then he grabs all his love and walks out the door?

When we feel like Jesus is ready to abandon us,
we become hyper-aware that the world will too.

Deflect his love and you will deflect all love.
Intersect with Jesus’ love and you’ll be resurrected by it.

Do you ever feel unable to receive the fullness of God’s love?

5 Ways to Tell if You are a Love-Deflecter:

1. You feel guilty beyond guilty when you make a mistake. You can’t get over it.
2. You sometimes fall trapped to believing: God is too big and too mighty to hear your small prayers – or answer them.
3. When you close your eyes and imagine meeting Jesus in heaven, you see him squinty eyed as he greets you.
4. You figure a way out of trials, verses letting God’s love hold you through them.
5. The past makes you think he runs from your past too.

There is no ounce of shame, that disqualifies you from the power of his name.
There is no ounce of shame, that disqualifies me from the power of his name.
Say it aloud if you need to.

Jesus knows our pain and loves us the same.
pushing into Jesus

He felt pain and won the game.
He knows our cries – and cries with us.
He bring us to the sinking point of love,
found at the foot of the cross.
Where the past has bounds,
but the future is boundless,
where pain exists,
but where love swallows its power.
Where life is made new again,
and past handicaps become moot.
Where the compassion goes on and on and on,
and where small kids are made whole again.

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Are you Missing The Point of God’s Word?

Missing The Point

God loves you. Christ loves you.

You may read about it, but do you really know it?

You may remember the stories about it, but do you feel it?

Do you live in a way where love compels you?

Paul says it is one thing “to know”, it is another to experience. 

And I pray that you…(may) grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17-19)

Love surpasses knowledge.  Imagine that.

Often I run after knowledge, as if it will bring me to where I need to go, but only love compels real progress.

Everything that is monumental in God’s Word boils down to love:

Jesus heals. Love.
Jesus dies. Love.
Jesus washes feet. Love.
Jesus teaches. Love.
Jesus guides. Love.
Eternity awaits. Love.

Jesus created experiences, so that people could experience.  Do we?

Some days, I wake up with a task list, a group of verses I must get through, pages I must turn, knowledge to acquire, but, what I have noticed in doing this is, often, an internal pressure builds.  It wars against peace, saying, “Kelly, increase”. Increase in being knowledgable. Increase in know-how. Increase in doing.

Yet, God is peace. He is the only thing that should increase- and his love found in the power of sitting, being and absorbing truth into the very molecules of my existence.

…That I “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19)

Word of caution: If you are trying, more than abiding, every time this is a red flag. You likely aren’t getting full of God – you’re probably getting full of yourself.

I see this in myself; when I end up trying to know, I end up failing to grow, but when I let God’s love flow, when I find a new glow.

It is in the seeing, feeling and being that God takes our hands, gently holds it and walks us up to internal healing.

Paul explains to the Ephesians the wealth they will receive from understanding rather than acquiring things of God.

Paul says to know God, rather than just knowing about him is to:

1. Be strengthened with his power (Eph. 3:16)
2. Dwell (or Exist) with Christ in faith (Eph. 3:17)
3. Move with the power to understand (Eph. 3:16)
4. Experience love (Eph. 3:18)
5. Bask in the depths of this love (Eph. 3:17)
6. Be full of life (Eph. 3:19)

Living like this means living no longer running on low, just trying to find new gas to feel good. It means walking into the immersive waters of grace and laying down, knowing that with God, he will protect, guard and keep your life stable in everything that is him.

God’s love is with you.
He is patient;
his leadings are kind.
Not so you can boast,
walk proud,
find honor,
or find fame (1 Cor. 13:4-6).

He knows, this kind of love does not endure.

God is patient,
seeing past wrongs,
not envisioning anger
or keeping bad records (1 Cor. 13:4-6).

His love endures forever (1 Chron. 16:34).

God delights when you let truth takes root in your heart.
He rejoices over his love within.
For you rising up from it.
Protecting.
Trusting.
Hoping.
Persevering (1 Cor. 13:4-6).

So sink down to where love is risky and then just wade in the trust of #God. 

Then you’ll start looking like him.

You know what matters most: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)

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Can you Change God’s Mind with Prayer?

Change God's Mind

God, I want this. Silence.
God, I need this. Silence.
God, do you hear me? Frustration.
God, answer! Dejection.

Ever noticed? When tiredness sets in, so does discouragement. We, then, set aside prayer because we feel God has set aside our most valuable request.

I guess it is human nature – when we feel shunned, we tend to shun. When someone treats us rudely, we stop talking. When God doesn’t seem to care, we say, what is the use? We give up. 

Yet, I don’t want to give up; I want to go into prayer with deep focus, reliance and fervor. I want to keep pressing in, knowing God hears. I want to believe, even when it feels like there is no use. After all, isn’t that what faith really is?

I can either be faithful in prayer or
prideful in rapid-fire demands.

The ability to wait well seems to make all the difference.

I will be the first to admit to you, I am so much more the latter than the former. Yet, I want to learn; I want to discover prayer that God loves. I want to go deeper, not to just get what I want, but to uncover what he wants, so that I can discover all the spiritual riches he has planned for my life.

5 Ways to Pray Prayers That God Loves

1. Trust your good God has all the power and ability to give you good things.
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Mt. 21:22

2. Let your motives align with God’s. Then, Let your motivation move with his.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. Ja. 4:3

3. Stand in righteousness and trust all things will be added onto you.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Mt. 6:33

4. Keep on keeping on in prayer. Then, pray more.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Mt. 7:8

5. Have confidence in approaching God, knowing he hears.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Can you change God’s mind?

Have you considered that maybe it is more about God
changing your mind than you always changing his?

When we get our heart set right up against his, often we find our heart changes pace. Rather than running a course that we determined was bound to get us to where we want to go, we see a charted path and glorious path. We see miles and miles of opportunity that may look different than we ever expected, but far greater. We find, we get all we really ever wanted, it just wasn’t on our terms.

Prayer changes us – as much as it changes our circumstances.
It steadies believers lives in the hands of their great God.
It offers sweet intimacy between a loving daddy and his beloved child.
It is heard by a God who knows all our deep needs.
It brings back the dead into the very will of God.
It comforts the weak and humbles the proud.
It squeezes in truth to compel service.
It speaks love and signs hope.
It matures our hearts.
It works.

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Does Facebook Make You Angry?

Facebook Make You Angry

I looked at this girl, who I thought was my friend. In person, she was fun, inquisitive and giving. Yet, on Facebook, she was straight up opinionated, degrading and arrogant.

Facebook made me want to hate her. It made my sweet-as-pie, good-as-gold, mother friend morph into an under-the-radar malevolent dictator. Suddenly, she was a ruse sent by evil forces, a propagandizer working for unseen purposes and a tyrant sent to take over online rule.

What do you do when the person you like
becomes the person you hate – on Facebook?

When everything wants to make you defriend a good friend?

I wasn’t sure what to do.

She was telling people the best food that they should be eating. 
She was writing political disclaimers and guidelines.
She was shaming people left and right.
She was boasting about her wise decisions.
She was highlighting stupid things others do.
She was acting holier than thou.
She was pushing agendas, annoyance and aggression onto others.

Who does she think she is?!

And, really, who do I think I am? Look at how I am judging her. Look at how I am hating her. Look at how I am being just as bad as she is. Look at how I am ready to write her off in a split-second.

My anger turns towards Facebook.

4 Ways Facebook Makes you The Person You Don’t Want to Be

1. It makes you judge.

“You show off! Political Idiot! Get off your soapbox! You call yourself moral?!”

When we find the wrong in another, far more often than not, it has much to say about the wrong in us.
Seeing all the wrongs in the world, helps us avoid ours.
Finding yourself above another, has never been the way of Jesus.

2. It makes you compare.

I can never be as good looking as her.
He got that job, while I have this one. I stink.
Their kid dresses almost as good as mine. I win.
They have a vacation home. What do I need to do to make that happen.

When all you see is another’s beautiful selfie, it makes your self feel like crud. Never once has stacking yourself against another added an inch of height to anyone. They only thing added is discouragement.

3. It makes you talk like that person.

That person (Choose an answer):

a. Cussed
b. Posted a selfie
c. Liked that TV show
d. Raved and ranted like an ignorant fool
e. Got opinionated
f. Wants to vote for ______.
g. Is self-absorbed.

When you look for the bad in another, you find it. When you see bad, you start thinking bad. When you start thinking bad, you start speaking bad, and before you know it, your just like them.

4. It makes you jealous beyond compare.

That person is downright successful. I must be too.
That person is sick. Finally something not-so-god happens in their seemingly perfect life.
That person is thin. In a few years they will gain weight like me. Either way, wrinkles are bound to get ’em.

Jealousy steals happy, ties him up and holds him for ransom.

“Get yourself to where that person is or you will never get happy back!”

We won’t get tied up by jealousy if
we choose to wrap ourselves
in thanks for what we already have.

Am I telling you that Facebook is evil, horrible and not Christian?
Of course not. It is not outside forces that pre-set holy, it is our internal force of the heart.

Nobody is forcing me on Facebook.  No one is forcing you either. This is not the point.

The point is that if you can’t make your way onto this platform without continually landing on an altar of frustration, you should find yourself another place to be.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phil. 4:8

What does Facebook viewing make your mind view?

What you look at is what you think of, what you think of – is what you become. 

For me, I am making a decision to “bounce” on Facebook. Meaning: I’ll allow myself to see updates, but I won’t land on their personal page to dissect every nook and cranny of wrong. I’ll try to give others the benefit of the doubt, rather than doubting they were good. I’ll remember what I love about them, rather than letting an online update become their DNA. I’ll try to see them through God’s eyes, rather than seeing them through a machine where all show best-self.

It’s a process. It’s a journey.

Will I always do it well? Doubtful.

Will they? Doubtful.

And maybe that is the point.

We are all learning, but the only one I can change is me. The only way to change is to do something different. The only way to find God, is to seek him. So, I will try my best and see how it goes.

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7 Biblical Benefits: Why You Must Get Quiet

Get Quiet

The majority of the time I can seem to keep quiet.

It is not so much that I am always talking, but it is much more that I am always retorting, rebutting or formulating in my mind.

They should do this…
I wonder if he has considered…
I have to say this next…
I can’t forget to mention…

When talking, it is very hard to be listening.
When planning, it is very hard to be receiving a plan.
When speaking over God, you simply can’t hear him.

Yet, when you allow your selfish ways to create space for his sacred will – God has a stage to show off. When you allow dialogue to give way to deep seeking – direction makes an appearance. When you strangle fear – fear of God lets you breathe again.

7 Biblical Benefits of Getting Quiet Before God

1. When your mouth shuts, you appear wise and discerning to others.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. Prov. 27:28

2. You dwell in the the comfy and cared-for knowledge that God cannot and will not leave or forsake you. Not only this, but you find Godly prosperity and good success.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  Josh 1:8

3. The filing cabinet of your mind has room to store fear of the Lord – and all the resulting wisdom that accompanies it.

Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Sam. 12:24

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Prov. 9:10

4. By listening, considering and blocking the VIP door to your mind, you make space for things that bring peace, life and renewal.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and  received and heard and seen  in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8-9

5. The impossible becomes possible by the strength of prayer. You can walk down the painful, but glory-filled, roads you’d normally run from.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mk. 1:35-36

6. You land at transformed, rather than conformed. With more confidence you head towards what is good, pleasing and perfect in this world.

Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God–what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. Ro. 12:2

7.  You ponder, praise and get passionate about your fist love – and then God delivers you.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Ps. 34:7

Solitude gives way for the magnitude of the gospel to resound.

Rather than God fighting the rush hour of the world, trying to move above fray of a believer’s heart and or squeezing into the small space left for Godly awareness – quiet makes space . In the quiet, God bakes activated love.

We find more than we could ever ask for.
Not by posturing for it, but by seeking him in it.
When we seek him, we find him.
When we find him, we can’t help but share him.
We open our mouths, we speak life. 
We speak life, because we found life.
​Loudly. Confidently. Boldly.

“Quiet” works out loud proclamations of glory.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mk. 16:15

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When We Smother God’s Fire With Well-Meaning Activity

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

I poked at the fire, frustrated that it wouldn’t stay aflame. This girl was no scout. The temperatures outside had reached single digits, and our furnace was having a hard time keeping up.

After spending an hour trying different techniques, adding wood, scraps of paper, and using more fire starters than any person should, the flame blazed hot enough for the wood stove’s fan to cut on, circulating the heat throughout the house. My mouth spread into a victorious smile.

The problem was, I didn’t know what I’d done right.

Later, after my husband returned from a business trip, he explained the basics of fire building to this city girl. I listened intently, determined not to have the predicament repeat itself.

Even my son, the cub scout, knew the basics of fire 101. I guess I should have asked him, right?

As any seasoned camper may know, fires need three basic components: heat, fuel, and oxygen.

It turns out, I had given my fire plenty of heat and fuel, but I’d neglected oxygen almost altogether. Instead of giving my flame room to breath by spreading the wood in a triangular shape, I’d smothered it.

Fires need room to breathe. And much like the flame I’d suffocated with its own fuel, I often adapt the same pattern in my spiritual life.

I know my heat comes from the Holy Spirit living inside me. I feed the flame with his Word and plenty of good reading material, podcasts and worship.

I gather with other believers. I lead and serve.

But often, I don’t allow space to breathe. To digest what he’s teaching me. To sit in his presence and be still with no agenda, no checklist or index of requests I need to present.

While we fixate on the lines of our life story, God often speaks in the margins.

In the spaces in-between the carpools, the play dates and the prayer meetings. In the moments where we slow down, we sit and we wait. Because the voice of God is always worth waiting for.

“Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10 NIV

So instead of piling more stuff onto my never-ending to-do list, I’m carving out time to listen. Even if it starts with fifteen minutes before my kids roll out of bed, it will be worth it.

I’m creating a space to not simply read the Word, but hear from the Word.

Have you stacked too many scraps on your fire, suffocating it so it has no room to breathe? Have you placed a list of chores on the altar of life, forgetting what God wants most is our hearts?

I have. I am guilty. But thanks be to God, his mercies are new every morning.

It is never to late to realign our priorities, to make a change or create a new beginning. Today is the day.

Fan the flame.

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

6 Verses About Second Chances

Second Chance

Lately, I have been speaking one word over my family “Presence.”

I have been telling myself:
“Don’t let your mind wander.”
“Stay active and involved.”
“Pour out love.”
“Give space for calm.”
“Cease worry.”
“Give your best.”

My intentions are good, but the outcomes have been lousy. Days go haywire, accidents happen, kids scream, family irritates, pressures arise, crises happen, distractions lure, people call, I divert my attention, I get frustrated, I speak in a mean kind of way, I demand action, I get terribly afraid, I push people away and then I feel horrible.

I walk out of the day head down.
Face dejected.
Self-doubt metastasizing.
Abilities deteriorating.
1,205,200 fails plus 1.
Jail cell number: 201 please.
I won’t come out until I act better.
I won’t return until I figure things out.

Each fail is another stripe added to my uniform of transgression. It is another weight that both declares who I am and what I cannot seem to do. It is another lash I add onto my back.

Have you ever done the same?

Have you ever confined yourself to a cell God never put you in?

Those who lean in to growth, often fall down into defeat.
Those who try, and try and try again are clay ducks for the devil. “Bang! Gotta stop her!”
Those who do bad, usually feel that they deserve punishment.
Those who walk into new, usually hit the barrier of old habits so they can climb over to freedom.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Ro. 7:15

I am not alone.
If Paul didn’t get his lousy behavior, I guess it gives me some permission not to get mine.
I guess it gives me some permission to say, “Agh! I hate that I do this. God help.”

And God does, he helps with 6 truths like these:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jo. 1:9

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Ro. 5:8

If I confess, God suppresses my offense.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. Jo. 16:33

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… Eph. 2:4-6

While it appears worldly transgressions stand over us,
we sit on – and over them – with Christ in the heavenlies.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Ps. 86:15

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” Mi. 7:18

There is not a thing that can make God change a thing about his character.

He is who he is and who he is – slow to anger, abounding in love, faithful, steadfast, delighting in giving.

Even when we say: For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Ro. 7:15

Then, the neurons connect, the forces of truth collide and we realize something very powerful:
Paul didn’t hate himself – he hated what he did.

Paul might have hated the act –
but didn’t let that become a chance to react in complete defeat.

He didn’t allow his injury to become his identity. Christ’s blood was his permanent marking.
He didn’t erase who God said he was. He acknowledged who he is prone to be – and do – without him.
He didn’t throw down his uniform and give up his life – he made his jail cell an open door for the gospel to flow.
He didn’t cast himself into punishment for his past transgressions, he claimed his grace and freedom in Christ.

Isn’t God calling us to the same?

When we know who and whose we are, we live in a way where we nod at failure and move on to progress.  We say, “I am not perfect, but I am growing. I am thinking about things that count, that are good, that are noble and trustworthy and valuable and right – and you know what, that is worth something.”

Then we pray: God, I can’t do anything without you. I can’t find the first door to progress without your wind of help behind me. Come to my rescue. Lead me on. As if I am a blind baby, come, pick me up and take me to where you want me to go. Keep my self far and keep selflessness close, for then I know I will find my way. Thank you that you can’t give up on me. Thank you that you will never abandon me to my self-confined chamber of torture – the one where I am mark myself convicted by my own mind. You are rescuer, redeemer and restorer. You are the remaker of old things and you do not despise new beginnings. I thank you. I serve you. May I forgive others as you forgive me. Amen.

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The Hidden Good in the Bad

Good in the Bad

I tried my best. I put my whole heart into it.
I sought God and followed him.
I didn’t give up despite the big barriers.
I kept my focus and kept going…
Only to hit hard times.

Ever noticed, how when you give your all,
all of a sudden, you somehow start to believe – 
God should give his all too?

Silently, longingly and righteously you start to say things like:
“I did my part. Now, you better do yours.”
“You helped me through. Now bring me all the way.”
“You are giving me this? I have done good by you.”

Somehow, I believe my following, trusting and abiding with him DESERVES some sort of sundae with a cherry on top (don’t miss the hot fudge, God) – from him. That is the sticking point. 

God’s blessings are not dictated by our demands.
God’s blessings are always good, but not always easy.
God’s blessings are given and not demanded.
God’s blessings are unearned and, often, unexpected.

Perhaps, God doesn’t always payback hard work,
because he wants to payout the better gift.

Think of Mary.

Just a young girl, did she ever expect an angel to visit her from high? Likely not. Blessing.
Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  Jesus. Lu. 1:30

Might she have thought having a baby, unwedded, was more of a curse than a blessing? Perhaps, but again it was a blessing.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. Lu. 1:31

Might she have been let down by the fact that ultimately Jesus was less great and more humble? He was a King nailed up against a cross. Still – a blessing.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…his kingdom will never end. Lu. 1:32

What we see as unusual, unwanted and often unwarranted –
are often unknown blessings in the process of being baked to done.

Done to the point where:

  1. Things spiritual are cemented forever. Jesus reigns over earthly forever.
  2. Wars are won as people are pressed against difficult. Jesus proclaims it is finished – man will be saved from themselves.
  3. Things of darkness are trampled on. Jesus put everything underneath his feet; he stands above it all.
  4. Lives are saved. The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mt. 20:28
  5. God is glorified. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, Father, into my hands I commend my spirit. Mt. 23:46
  6. You are changed. Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 Jo. 2:6

Blessings can look like nails. They can also feel like crosses being carried. Yet, at the end of the day, what springs forth from the winter of cold agony is the warmth of new Spring – overflowing with Christ’s majesty and strength.

The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Ps. 93:1

The cross was an unusual, often unwanted and unwarranted (for a perfect lamb), but it was a blessing that would change the tides of the earth forever. 

As Mary’s love was being nailed to the cross, as he cried out as and as she likely wondered why it all had to lead to this – she was being blessed.

What seems to be nailing you? Might it actually be blessing you?

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