Purposeful Faith

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Dwelling on the Heart of Christmas

Heart of Christmas

Christmas is freedom…

Christmas is all about a God who sees need – and approaches it.

A God who sees us as we are. Who sees us in slumped state. Who sees our tears. Who sees our pains. Who sees our agony. Who sees our missteps.  He sees our trials, troubles and temperaments. He sees our incapability to save our own selves.
Christmas is all about breakthrough.

Christmas is about a God who would go to any lengths for us.

It is about the God of all power, becoming a man of all power. He breaks the force field of our world to break the fortress of sin – around us – that keeps us from him.

Christmas is about humility.

It is about a God who is God. A God who is the great I AM. But, it is also about a God who says I AM great enough to humble myself. I AM willing to do whatever it takes to lead you to my heart. I AM with you.

Christmas is about promises.

It is about a baby who grows up to be a boy and then a man, who unveils the heart of God, who saves. He heals. He helps. He prays. He leads. He fulfills dreams. He sends us into love that casts out fear. He will not stop being faithful to us.

Christmas is about no fear.
It means that the promise born in a stable is a promise that is stable. It means that when Jesus was broken, so was condemnation. It means that when you think you can’t, the power of Jesus…yes, it can. It means that it doesn’t matter so much how you feel, but simply that Christ is faithful.

It means that you are free in Jesus and alive to the Holy Spirit. This is what Christmas is about. It means that what purpose and power  -God has sown in you, is released by him who set you free. It means go! It means get out! It means let loosed and lost in Christ Jesus for 2017!

Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world. For even though the one in the world tries to tell you Jesus is long gone and Christmas is just another holiday, the life of Jesus is just what is needed for victorious living.

I know I don’t always live this way – victoriously. But, I am fighting to. This is why I wrote Fear Fighting. I wrote it as a prayer, as a dream and as a discovery. I wrote it to see if Jesus Christ could pull me close and teach me new courage. Guess what? He did. So powerfully, he did.

I’d love for you to join the Fear Fight with me. It will bless you beyond compare. Buy it for a small group (10+ books) and I’ll even join your group Facebook page to encourage, teach or to just bless you.

Order Fear Fighting today!

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More Reading:
Do you Need a New Perspective?

Actually Keep your New Year Resolutions

Living From A New Identity

 

How You Can Easily Miss Christmas

Parked in my car, I stared at my neighbor’s perfectly ornamented outdoor tree. I’d missed it; I missed the moment. It was there for the taking, but I drove right past it. I couldn’t see past my path – to God’s path.

Reflecting on the morning, I considered how it went. My son called out, “Mom…our neighbor liked it. She…” I screamed from the other side of the car, “Buckle up, we’ve got to get  to school, son.” At the sound of his click, I was off…

And, like I said, I missed it. The moment. He wanted to celebrate my sweet neighbor’s tree. But, the fact is, in my haste, I didn’t even notice the tree. I hurried past the display of reds and greens, of joy and peace, of excitement. But, most of all, I rushed past the little wind-chimes my son had made her a few months before.

She could have removed them off her grand display. But, she didn’t.

He wanted to let me know that she cared enough to keep them there. He wanted me to know that he was worthy to be part of her Christmas. He wanted to let me know that his heart to love and to show kindness was being celebrated where Jesus is. He was a special part of her Christmas; he loved and felt love.

He wanted to show me the meaning of Christmas.

But, I rushed on.

I saw destination and nailed it, with precision.
I saw my time sans kids, and grabbed it with strength.
I buckled up, grabbed my sunglasses, and peeled out of that driveway like a mother descending on a 3-hour vacation.

I wish I would have stopped. I am sure my son wishes I stopped too.

How often does God wish we stop?

That we stop to see His ornaments of goodness and kindness? That we stop to soak in His still small voice? That we stop to receive His oh-so-gentle prompting to call a neighbor in need, to hug a child or to observe a tree that points to the tree that made up the cross?

But, upwards and onwards we go! We make money. We get coffee. We buy presents. We speed through that yellow light. We answer that cell phone call. All the while, we miss God.

If we want to be led by the Spirit, we have to make room for Spirit. If we are so filled with the angst of progress, we will miss Him in the process.

This has happened to me. My heart is aching, because I’ve left no room. I’ve only left room to keep my heart in comfortable control. Yet, if God decides I should be 5-minutes late to something – can’t I sacrifice? Jesus gave far more than 5 minutes, he gave up his very body; He let it break and tear for me.

There is no shame. There is no condemnation, today, friends. Not for you or for me. There is just a ticket, extended to us, that invites us to go somewhere new. Every time, no matter what kind of pain in the side it feels like, it drives us to the point of joy and to the horizon of new peace.

God’s tickets to slow down and see Him always bring you to the peace that – is Him.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Ps. 16:11

Prayer:

Please God, don’t let me brush past your workings anymore. Please God, stop me in my tracks. Awaken my heart to what you are doing in the moment. Give me eyes to see brilliance and the brilliance within others as I welcome them into my heart in a present moment. Help me rest, with you. Help me go, with you. Help me be, with you. Amen

Order my book, Fear Fighting Today!

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More Reading:
1 Clear Way to Victory When in a Losing Battle

The Silent Faith-Killer (You Likely Allow)

When You Let God Down

Know What Can Ruin Christmas?

Ruin Christmas

I keep going back to what happened – what was said, how it was said and why the person is wrong.

A label was tossed my way; I was called a name. But, it’s more than just that. The bullets run deep – and are hard to pull out.

Sometimes what’s said or done, is not easily removed.

People yakked and hacked an image.
They understood things wrong.
They dissed, offended or disregarded you.
They were insensitive.

Like, I said, with people, what’s said or done, sometimes, is not easily removed. It sinks deep.

So, anyway, here I come, prancing on up to Christmas – a time of joy, a time of Jesus, with a hundred and one holes through my heart – and increasing pain lodged between me and a manger.

I am not sure what to do.

Because, this I know, if I want to meet holy, I can’t walk around hostile. In order to be super-close with Jesus, I can’t be loaded-up with sin. This idea is Christianity 101, but it takes a masters degree to apply.

Waving goodbye to your right to be angry, is like letting go of a bad habit – you love. Everything in you knows you’ll be better off without it, but not walking up to that wine bottle and taking a glass, or three, after a hard day, is hard. Like unforgiveness, it beckons you to hold on.

In some ways, your noble actions have warranted it, you figure. You’ve earned it. Other people have entitled you to carry around that glass, even if it makes you cranky, tired or on edge. Even if it hurts.

Yet, here’s the quandary: God says I should be able to approach him with “freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12). I can’t when I carry around this cup of self-righteousness. It spills over onto my eyesight and then I can’t see God. I get all clouded with shame, guilt and discontent.

So there they stand – ones who’ve offended me, tremendously.
There Jesus stands – the One who befriended me, groundlessly.

I wonder if Jesus thought about me before he entered the world?

Maybe he thought: “Hmmm…there she stands; I see all Kelly’s offenses. In fact, I can line them up and they’d reach around the world. Join them together, they’d actually wrap it 3 times. How can I go down there, to that place of vile, and forgive her? How can I leave the heights of glory, a throne of brilliance, and all the angelic hosts of heaven – for her likes?

I would have thought that way, if I was him. I would have thought, “Keep me up here at the banquet, but don’t send me down there into the stink and dirt of a manger – coupled with difficult people. Don’t put me there for that bad girl, Kelly. Not worth it.”

But, He didn’t. And this is the part I can’t contend with: Jesus didn’t abandon me because I abandoned him.

How can I abandon others, when Jesus didn’t abandon me? What right do I have to pick up a right that he laid down? To stand when he laid down?

He teaches me to lay it all down for others so that I can pick up that baby, Jesus Christ, and hold him close this Christmas.

I don’t do it for them, I do it because I love him. I want him. I can’t do life without him. I do it because he’s forgiven them too. He’s set the standard. He shows me the way. And, if I want the way to lead up to his throne, I can’t have mean people blocking my path to him.

So, there they stand. I look at them and, in them, I see me. I see me, because we are all in Christ. I see me, because just as they are covered, so am I. And, what I also accept, beyond the peace that comes with forgiving them, is God’s peace that comes with him forgiving me. For what I’ve held inside, me – the contempt – is covered. And, like a magic trick, but better,  with God’s grace it goes – Poof!  It’s gone.

And, all that’s left is Jesus. A man, whose small act of entering a large world, changes it all. Whose humility, radically rewires our vision. Whose love, makes our mouth go agape. Whose forgiveness, goes against all odds, yet changes them all the same.

The one “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Rev. 1:8), remains. He always does. And, what we’ve done is cleared a way for us to bow low, so we can cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” So we can get eye-level with a baby, who redeems it all.

Will you let in the baby this Christmas? Who do you need to forgive?

Continue Fighting Fear!
Join me on the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge.

Prayer:

God, we come to you as we are. We come to you with our frustration, anger and irritation. We come to you with our pain and our opinions. We bring to you our perceptions, right or wrong. We hand over to you, what you don’t invite us to carry any longer. God, will you take care of all this? Will do you do justice on our behalf? Will you mend our hearts on our behalf? Will you soften our rough edges and take from us what you know is not healthy for us to carry? We turn it over, God. Today, through the name of Jesus Christ, we release it. We know what you have, in return, is peace and joy that is far better than self-righteousness and pride. Lord, now that we are clean, we ask you to bring us close to your heart. We ask you to walk us up and into your love. We ask you to teach us and grow us as you see fit. We trust you God. Above all, we trust you. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Get all Purposeful Faith blog posts by email – click here.

More Reading:

1 Clear Way to Victory When in a Losing Battle
Embarrassing Bravery and Insane Courage
When Sharing Makes You Embarrassed

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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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Surviving Holiday Drama

Holiday Drama

We are all gathered around the table. I can’t keep my eyes off the pumpkin pie, the mashed potatoes, and the creamed corn. I want to devour it all. My mouth is watering.

But, as I smile, as I look, as I sit, deafening sounds quickly pull me out of my delightful daydream, and throw me back into reality. A storm is brewing. Someone is annoyed – again. Agitated -yet again. Frustrated – just like last year.

Who knows what irritated them! It could be one of many things – drinks weren’t served fast enough, a rude piercing reply was launched or a digging question was fired over the table. The “why” is not of as much concern as “how” this sinks my holiday south.

Joy stolen.
Agitation mounting.
Disappointment abounding.

Why can’t we give thanks in peace?

Why can’t we all get along?

Why does it feel that we have to endure holiday rather than enjoy it?

This is should be a time of thankfulness – of gladness – not a time of madness.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are days we expect to be perfect gems of sparkle, joy and peace. Somehow, we think, because we control the preparations, the decorations and conversations, everyone should meet our expectations. But, when they don’t, we tend to get bloated with disappointment.

Yet, God calls us to enjoy this day, rather than endure it. He calls us to leave perfect in the kitchen to embrace imperfect at the table, so we don’t end up hiding in the bathroom with tears.

5 Tips to Survive Holiday Chaos:

1. Seek to embrace verses erase the person in need.

Jesus ran to the people in need. His heart was inclined to those in pain. He didn’t demand, but gave his best.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Sit under the shade of the cross. Then you will find compassion for the meaningless jabs, frustrating arguments and aggravating words. Heck, you might even see you are just as sinful as they.

2. Be truly thankful – for both the yummy and the yucky of life.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil. 4:12)

True thankfulness takes abundance and scarcity, trials and triumphs, jerks and joy – and gives thanks no matter. Why? Because all are from the Lord. All have a purpose. All are meant to refine.

3. A storm may brew, but without a doubt, God will bring you through.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Is. 41:13)

It’s ok to feel weak, but unnecessary to feel ruined because God stands ready to help. Call out to God. He waits to run to your rescue.

4. Know you stand secure, no matter what others do.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers. neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro. 8:38-39).

People can do what they are going to do. But, none of this impacts our standing with Christ. We are in Him. We are secure. We are loved. We are a new creation. If we stand in Christ, we can’t stand outside of him.

5. Find a heart of thanks for the burnt food.

True gratefulness is not just being thankful for all the delicious pickings, but also for the burnt food. If we have food – or family to complain about – we are already blessed. We are blessed with the perfect, but also with the imperfect. Why? Because through the imperfect, we see our need for a Savior. Through our failings, our trials and our frustrations, we find hope in One who is greater than these things.

God makes imperfect burnt food taste delicious when we see it for what it is – an undeserved gift.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

Bonus Tip (consider it your second helping): Realize it is impossible to control others.

We can’t control things. We can only control ourself. And, no one can take our spirit of thanks away, without us allowing them to do it. No one can steal our heart – unless we allow them to.

When we stop looking for everyone to be perfect, we can start enjoying them for who they truly are.

When our standards aren’t higher than the twinkle-lighted roof, we can see people’s hearts, history and pains.

And, we sometimes, can even empathize and minister to them.

So, this holiday season, let’s celebrate and see all that we have – burnt food and pickings. People will always disappoint – and we will disappoint people. No one is perfect – except One. But, the ultimate truth is that God’s grace never ends. It nourishes us when the spread leaves us hungry for more love.

Let’s lay this truth on the table so we can pass, dish and eat up all the goodness of grace – in our own hearts and towards the hearts of others.

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Exalt Christ Amidst Christmas Busy

Use Christmas Busyness to Exalt Christ

Note: Bloggers – today is Part I of the Cheerleading Link up (We tweet encouragement using #RaRaLinkup).  Tomorrow is the actual linkup day.

Christmas is that time of year when I mark off the calendar as “busy”.  It’s that time of year where I continuously pull out my checkbook to “gift” and to “card”.  Christmas is that time of year, where parties can just leave me tired. Where people can leave me drained. Where giving can feel not so gracious.

Why?  Because I feel worn.  I feel tired.  It’s year-end and I have given and given and given myself.

It sometimes gets me feeling guilty too – like I am missing the point.  And, it makes me wonder – where’s Jesus amidst Christmas busy?  Where’s Jesus in this hustle and bustle?  Does he look down on this kind of behavior?

See the True Gift

Yet, while pondering these questions, the Lord placed the most wonderful gift in my lap – a gift of truth. And, as I held this adorned box, staring at it’s meaning, I started to understand the beauty of Christmas busy. It’s not all about the wrapping paper, about the bows, about the act of wrapping, but it is about the heart – a receptive heart.

And, as I open God’s gift to me. The heart of the matter comes to light; I see the love of Christ. Authentic. Deep. Heartfelt love.

I admire the gift of Jesus – a gift I am called to share with others.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

I realize, if I can’t find joy in the gift giving, I have entirely missed the gift-giver and the heart of the gift.

Because we have joy when our joy is derived from Christ.  Suddenly, through the amazing gift of Christ, all we can do is give, sacrifice and love. Suddenly, all the Christmas busy isn’t seen as acts of drudgery, but as acts of service, of adoration, of worship.

What True Giving Is

Christ endlessly gave – not out of obligation, but out of love.  There is no greater gift than to give.  We are blessed when we give. We find meaning to life when we give from a cheerful heart.

Let’s let our busyness come from pure motivations not busy obligation.  Because in many ways, busyness is the essence of Christmas. Busyness that relies on Christ. Busyness that feels overwhelmed but trusts God. Busyness that is fueled by the Spirit. Busyness that shines Christ. Busyness that extends grace. This is where the joy of Christmas is found.

Just as Christ served, preached and loved endlessly, we can give, host, serve and love endlessly too – through his power and strength at work within us.

Helpless we come in this world, and through the amazing gift of Christ – he helps us.  He empowers us, he equips us and he calls us to his work.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– (Eph. 2:8)

Truly, the greatest gift we ever received is the one that lies in a humble manger. The one who calls us to purify our hearts. The one who can never stop handing out grace. The one who reached others tirelessly with truth.

Behold Christ

Behold the gift of Christ, his grace and his enduring love. Let go of striving and grab hold of the ultimate gift – who lays in a manger in a town called Bethlehem.

He lays ready to be embraced and adored.

In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who was never afraid to sacrifice.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who extends grace beyond compare.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby whose power is perfected in weakness.

In that little town of Bethlehem, lays the heart of Christmas giving.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

As believers, we have a perfect gift.  This perfect gift frees us through the covering of grace. And, through this gift, we can joyfully give it all and exalt Christ.

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The Gift of God-With-Us

Post by: Angela Parlin

For a couple months, we’ve looked forward to hosting two sisters, who are orphans, in our home this Christmas. We selected clothes for them to wear, rearranged bedrooms, stocked up on groceries, and scheduled outings. We shopped for Christmas gifts, wrapped them all in red and black glittery paper, and hid them in a closet.

It’s been great fun, preparing for Christmas and getting ready to welcome these little ones into our family for a month.

But then, this week happened, the last week before they arrive. You wouldn’t believe how many things went wrong. (As in, not according to plan.) My stomach feels knotted up. I’ve had to remind myself to breathe. I’m having a really hard time slowing down, especially enough to pray.

We’ve known all along that this could be an amazing month–or it could be a very difficult month. But it’s like this news just now caught up to my insides, for the first time. All the concerns, what ifs, and fears floated to the surface.

I want to look forward with faith, to anticipate great things from God. I don’t want to feel so incapable, or worry about details. I don’t want to give fear some big, shouty platform in my life.

But I don’t feel I have much control over my anxiety right now. So last night, I put myself to bed early. But first, I read a chapter of Luke, where an angel tells Mary she’ll give birth to Immanuel (God With Us). And then I fell asleep thinking about something he told her:

The Lord is with you.

We need that reminder, don’t we? Because sometimes, we know it in our heads, but we live as if we’ve completely forgotten.

Today, I’m still fighting anxiety, so I looked up some places where the Bible repeats this truth, The Lord is with you.

I read about Jacob, who dreamed of a stairway between heaven and earth, where the Lord stood and clearly said to him, I am with you. He woke up and realized, The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. (Genesis 28)

I can relate. Can you? I have not felt the Lord with me this week. I’ve fixed my eyes on my concerns and to-do lists, more than I’ve fixed my eyes on Jesus. But the Lord is in this place, in this week, even when I don’t feel that way.

I read about Moses, when he considered himself unqualified to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3), and then showed Himself to Moses in so many visible and miraculous ways.

I found numerous reminders of God’s nearness in the Psalms. The Lord is near to His children; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. (34) God is an ever-present help in trouble. (46) The Lord is near to all who call on Him. (145)

I read parts of Isaiah, where the prophet shares these words from the Lord—So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41)

I read about when Jesus arrived in this world, as God-With-Us in the flesh. And then before He left again, He told His followers–Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28)

I could keep going, keep on finding this truth repeated.

The Word of God offers us this beautiful gift—The Lord is with you. It’s a truth we need to remember, and a truth we need to act on.

Whatever your struggle this Christmas, whatever your anxiety, whatever your pain, whatever difficulties you face, please remember this, friend–the Lord is with you. So take your concerns to Him!

God’s Word promises:

  • He will give you rest.
  • He will fill you with peace.
  • He will help you.
  • He will strengthen you.
  • He will give you what you need.
  • He will uphold you.

May we remember, the Lord is with us. Let’s unwrap the gift of God-With-Us this Christmas.

~Angela Parlin

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Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.