Purposeful Faith

Tag - Joy

Seeds Planted

My friend Bev Sheasby of Liberated Living Ministries has been helping me limp across the finish line of a very hard season. She says wise and beautiful things that come at just the right moment. Words of affirmation, wisdom, and encouragement.  She’s been such a comfort to me.

We recently had the loving privilege of handing our long-term foster daughter back into her birthmother’s restored arms.

Simultaneously, our oldest son became a Marine.

That same week, our oldest daughter eloped.  This was a blessing, we are thrilled for the happy couple. But it has just been one thing after another.

And then another.

We welcomed an injured foster placement that same week.  I may be a glutton for punishment, but actually, she has been a delightful distraction.  It’s an honor to care for her.

Still, sending adult children off into the great beyond, I wonder… was it enough?  Did I teach them everything they needed to know?

And I am not of the mindset that the Jesus I love was wholly made theirs simply by my prose.  Scripture memory, “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Larry and the Giant Cucumber” are a start, He will have to take them to the finish.

But what about these “temporary” sons and daughters?  There’s a chance they’ll hardly remember me?  Let alone the whispered prayers or the lullabies of a Jesus who adored them, unto His death.  I panicked, not so much in a lapse of faith, but a lack of confidence – a state of weariness.  That sinking feeling, you know the one, where you feel you must be everything to everyone, every second of every day.

And something Bev said came into my mind, as I let some tears fall and whispered some small, but heartfelt prayers for healing.

“Within the seed is the potential for the entire plant.”

In my quest to provide for all, I realize what I often forget is how very small I am.  Barely a seed myself, yet I think I must do it all and be all and fix all.

Alas, if I planted an apple seed, I could water it – but would it be me that would turn it into a tree?  Would I be responsible for ensuring it produces a harvest?  Could I even accomplish this? Even if I wanted to?

Furthermore, if I planted an apple seed and then I moved to a different farm in another state and left it to the elements, would it not be watered by the sky? Fed by the sun?  And pruned by the wind?  Isn’t it completely likely, aside from placing the seed in the earth, the earth would take care of the rest?

Within the seed is the potential for the entire plant.  My comfort and rest come from this.  I will continue to plant the seed and trust the Maker of all to finish the rest.

“The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.” Deuteronomy 28:8 (NIV)

 

Jami Amerine is a wife, and mother to anywhere from 6-8 children. Jami and her husband Justin are active foster parents and advocates for foster care and adoption. Jami’s Sacred Ground Sticky Floors is fun, inspirational, and filled with utter lunacy with a dash of hope. Jami holds a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (yes Home Ec.) and can cook you just about anything, but don’t ask her to sew. She also holds a Masters Degree in Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Her blog includes topics on marriage, children, babies, toddlers, learning disabilities, tweens, teens, college kids, adoption, foster care, Jesus, homeschooling, unschooling, dieting, not dieting, dieting again, chronic illness, stupid people, food allergies, and all things real life. You can find her blog at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors, follow her onFacebook or Twitter.

 

Want a Prayer to be Answered?

Prayer to be Answered

I know many of you are like me, we want our prayers answered.  So how do we pray with confident assurance that God will hear and answer our prayers?

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him,” says 1 John 5:14-15.

What a powerful promise! God says he will give us “anything” we ask for according to His will. Isn’t that amazing? It doesn’t say that he might answer the prayer, or that sometimes He’ll say “no.” He says “we have what we have asked of him.” That’s 100 percent of the time! Granted it might not be in our timing, but it’s always in God’s perfect timing. The answer is, “Yes.”

But there is one caveat: We must ask according to God’s will.

Ah…now that’s the tricky part. How can we possibly know God’s will? The only way to truly know God’s will is to pray the Scriptures. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

When I (Sally) was a young mom and a new believer in Christ, I had never actually prayed out loud. So when I stepped into my first Moms in Prayer meeting, I listened. Just listened. For six weeks I prayed along in my heart, but didn’t say a word. I loved hearing the other women’s Holy Spirit-directed prayers for my children. Yet I was too afraid to pray out loud. After about six weeks, I was brave enough to pray the Scripture for my child out loud. The Holy Spirit gave me the courage to speak out His Word, to pray His truth for my son. What an amazing experience, praying for my son, hearing other moms pray for my son. This was my new top priority for my kids.

God’s answers poured out like a flood that first year; our group witnessed dramatic miracles. God healed children of major illnesses. We saw changes in kids’ attitudes and behaviors. We prayed that every child would hear the good news—and He brought a Good News Club to our campus. And several teachers at our elementary school accepted Christ as Savior!

Eventually, I was leading my own Moms in Prayer group. We’d pray for our public school teachers adapting verse Acts 26:18: “May [teacher’s name] open his/her eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ.”

One day a mom came into the group upset about a certain teacher. I said, “That’s the teacher we’re going to pray for today!” And every week we prayed for her. As we prayed week after week for this teacher, God grew our love for her. Soon, she came to know the Lord, and my two youngest got to be in her class. I felt so privileged to be able to talk with her about the Lord and about prayer. It was amazing to watch and see her grow in Christ. But that wasn’t the only teacher that became a Christian on that public school campus. Eleven other teachers came to Christ as we prayed Acts 26:18 over them!

Want to see God at work? Pray the Scriptures over the people in your life. How do you know if God is going to answer your prayer? If you pray according to His will. And His will is the mighty Word of God, which never comes back void. It always fulfills His purpose and His plan.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish,  so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:8-11

My prayer for each one of you, is that you will “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16.  And every day has a time of need.

Related Resources:
Want to learn how to remain unshaken in our crazy world? Sally Burke, the president of Moms in Prayer International, and Cyndie Claypool de Neve explain how in their new book, Unshaken. Want to go deeper? Experience what it really means to be unshaken through the innovative companion study guide.

Enjoy the peace and power of praying with other women for your children. Visit www.MomsInPrayer.org to learn more.

 

 

 

I’m Being Honest: This Bible Verse Ticks Me Off

ticks me off

I wouldn’t admit this in church, but there’s one verse that continually ticks me off. It’s this: In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:6

I guess you could say I have multiple issues with it:

  1. In all ways acknowledge God.  When you acknowledge someone it’s as if you’re offering a late gesture. Like, they did something for you, and you can’t forget to bring them up, lest you feel guilty that you didn’t pay them back well enough. I mean, you certainly don’t want them to feel slighted or, even worse, to punish you afterward. “Acknowledge” plays out like an after-thought. I did all this stuff…oh, shoot, can’t forget – I’ve got to acknowledge so-and-so. It lacks authenticity.
  2. Make straight your path. I imagine someone walking down the sidewalk, picket-in-hand, yelling in my face, “You better acknowledge God, or else! You better let him make straight your path – or you’re a goner!” This thought entirely stresses me out. It burns my insides with the fear that no matter how good of a daughter I think I am, I’m going to burn in hell one day. It somehow makes me feel like there is no good that is good enough for God. Why try?

Sitting today, just me and this verse, I decided to decode it. If I’ve learned anything it is this: If God’s Word doesn’t give you more vision, it’s probably because you’re looking at it through the wrong glasses.

God, give me new lenses to see. What does acknowledge really mean?

Yada. That’s the Hebrew word for it. It means to “come to know someone by observing, reflecting and experiencing.”

Now this makes sense.

I can almost hear God saying, “In all your ways, come to know me by observing me, by reflecting on me and experiencing me…”

And, I want to. I need to.  Because to acknowledge God is to hang a welcome sign on your heart. It is to open your heart to his movement, rather than to demand your mouth to give him due credit. It is being a hostess rather than a hopeless speaker of things, even you aren’t even sure if you yet believe.

Here, there is no pressure, but peace.
No self-demands, just connection with the love of your life.
No hard work, but an easy yoke.
Less striving, more relaxing.

I feel content with the answer to my gripe #1. But what about #2?

What about the path?

God, do you yell in my face, “make straight your path, girl…or else!?

And, where God focuses my eyes, is here, on this very verse: “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Ps. 23:2-3

When we “acknowledge” or “experience” God, He sets us on a path of refreshment, restoration and righteousness. Where we are, the path is so straight, we get more of a glimpse of him at the end of our every road. Our vision, even more, focuses, targeted and clear. We know what we are running after. We see the end goal. We pursue eternity.

God is right before us. And, all we want is more. We’ve found our straight road.

Kelly’s new book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears has been called “A must read,” “Breathtakingly honest” and a “Great Toolbox to Overcome Fear.” Read it today.

Discover how to flee from fear and fly in faith through 4 Days to Fearless Challenge.

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

On Secret Sins and the Secret Place

Secret Sins

Post by Karina

Sin. It’s a tricky thin, isn’t it? Those of us in Christ don’t want to participate in it, but somehow we easily fall prey to it. We all know there is no hierarchy when it comes to sin. Lust is just as wrong as adultery. Anger is just as wrong as murder. It all quenches the Holy Spirit and it all breaks the Father’s heart.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

Recently, I had 3 consecutive weekends of attending 3 ridiculously dynamic women’s conferences. I was literally on the highest of highs. It was amazing! I am very much still processing all that God spoke to me and all that He did during those 3 weeks. He marked me beyond words.

After all of that spiritual activity, the enemy hit me hard. I don’t normally attribute much to him, but this was nothing but him. He was waging war for my soul in the worst way. He attacked my mind with no holds barred.

I don’t tend to deal with outward sins as much as I do with inward ones. You know the ones I’m talking about…envy, comparison, anger, bitterness, apathy, etc… The list really could go on and on. If you’re anything like me, those inward sins can bring more shame and guilt than the outward ones. It’s quite easy to hide these sins from the world. Honestly, the shame and guilt came very close to knocking me out for the count. I felt as though I was spiraling out of control. The past few weeks of battle came out of nowhere. I had been beautifully walking out my calling. God had been opening many doors of connection and I had experienced some of the sweetest times of prayer and worship.

One of the events I attended was Beth Moore’s conference called LIT. It was geared to women in their 20s and 30s. Christy Nockels led Heaven touching worship. And Beth, along with Jennie Allen, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine and Melissa Moore all shared about this call to communicate. Everyone spoke to the fact that it is a weighty call and there is a cost to it. In order to fulfill this call, we need to first be filled. This filling ONLY comes from time spent in the secret place of God and us. This time with God is not reserved for those who may minister from a public platform. It is for EVERY believer because we all minister and share Christ in some way. We all have a measure of influence.

I’ve been contemplating how such a door was opened in my life for the enemy to slip in could have occurred. I know I’m a flawed human, but I never want that to be an excuse for me to be comfortable living in sin.

Realize the enemy will attack who God has created you to be.

A week ago, I heard a sermon about how the enemy will specifically come for us in direct opposition to who we are. I hadn’t ever thought of that before. If we are a person of faith, He will bring doubt. If we are pure in heart, he will bring corrupt thoughts. If we have the gift of healing, he will bring illness. He sees our potential. He wants to destroy that potential by whatever means necessary. He wants to destroy the impact that God wants to accomplish through us.

The key to fighting this is to pray against him breaking any strongholds he is using to keep us bound. And then, we replace those thoughts with Scriptures that call out our identity and God’s desire for us.

Don’t let the enemy bring dissension.

I am all about community, but over the past few months, the enemy has been working overtime to create division among several friends and me. He has authored confusion and offense and all manner of hurt feelings. In those times, we are to pursue unity despite our emotions. Our emotions say isolate. The enemy wants us to isolate. But the Lord’s heart is for us to be in fellowship.

We must have brave, hard communication. We speak truth in love and always share our hearts in grace.

Camp out in the secret place.

Everything flows out of the secret place. Everything we do. Everything we say. All that we are flows from this place. Anything done in our own strength will falter and fail. The Holy Spirit must be our strength. He is the only source of power in our lives. Much of that power is harnessed when we allow Him to renew our minds in His promises. This power can only be accessed when we have spent time alone with Him in prayer, worship and studying His Word.

This time is non-negotiable. If we forgo it, we forgo everything. We forfeit the word He wants to speak to our hearts. We forfeit all of the good works He prepared for us. We forfeit the ministry that would touch the lives of others so that they may come to know Him. This time in the secret place is how we overcome and walk in victory.

I want to live in such a way where I am aware of the enemy’s schemes and where He doesn’t have such easy access to me. I don’t ever want him to think he can easily deter me from my calling and purpose.

Let us live in the overflow of the secret place…

Overwhelmed by His presence
Over our heads in His Word
Overcome by His wonder

Karina is a devoted follower of Jesus from New Orleans, Louisiana, but has made her home in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. She spends much of her time leading worship at church, writing, reading, dancing and mentoring the next generation. She has a huge heart for serving and missions. She is an advocate for the local church especially the one that she attends, Healing Place Church. She also enjoys working out, traveling, photography and going to concerts/conferences.

Karina believes that every woman has a God-sized dream on the inside of them and it is up to an encouraging community to help nurture that dream. Her goal in writing is to see women get a revelation of God’s Word and discover how to apply it to their lives in order to walk in freedom and live the life that God intended. But the most important thing to her is to live out the call of Isaiah 26:8…For His Name and His Renown are the desire of our souls! You can connect with her at “For His Name and His Renown.”

Do You Fear What is Ahead?

fear what is

I walked in the door, dropped my bag and called upstairs to my husband, “Want to take a walk?”

Shockingly, he did. He wanted to enjoy the spontaneous burst of warm weather that was gracing our air. We put on our shoes and headed out. I had no idea I was about to be graced with his wisdom too.

We headed down a forest laden trail. It was beautiful.

“Kelly, I wonder what is up there, beyond that bend?”

I already knew, I’d walked the trail time and time again.

He went on, “I think God says, we don’t have to know what is beyond our bends. We don’t have to see what is up ahead. We just have to walk with him in the moment, knowing he is up there already. He is already where we are headed. And, that’s all we need to know. We are free to enjoy the purple flowers, the flying birds and the moving clouds. We can simply trust he has what we are walking into.”

I knew I married this guy for a reason.

I nodded my head in agreement. “Yep,” I said, ” because if we are so caught up with what we can’t see, we’ll miss what we can. Plus, once we get to that bend, we will want to know, yet again, what is beyond the next one. It’s a losing battle.”

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Heb. 11:1

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you…  (Deut. 31:8)

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mt. 6:34)

Often, I am so caught up in what’s coming, I miss the table of beauty God has laid in front of me today. I don’t partake in what is good.  I fear what is bad. I adjust my shirt just right so my stomach bulges don’t stand out too much. I grip onto tight schedules so I have a handy excuse for social situations I am terrified of. I cling on to my kids hand with a death grip, hoping the doesn’t stray to far away from mom if I let go. I rush through breakfast and traffic lights and pajamas trying to my couch and TV.

But, my husband reminds me – I don’t have to hold on to what is up ahead – or fear it – for God is already there. It’s like he rushed ahead and set the table in advance, so when I arrive, the goodness awaits. Sure, sometimes it might look like the table is empty or it’s not as I thought, but as I am present with him, in the moment, he always surfaces some sort of surprise party.  His spiritual blessings all jump out at me and I leap for joy. I realize, “Wow God, what I really wanted is right here.”

And, friend, what you want is right before you. For what is before you, in this moment, is your God. He is with you and will not let you go. Keep walking with him, no matter how good, how bad or how ugly your trail looks. For, you never know, when you might stumble you upon your – surprise party!

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. Is. 41:10

Order Kelly’s powerful book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, today! Discover how to flee from fear and fly in faith through 4 Days to Fearless Challenge. 

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

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5 Ways to Be Led By Holy Spirit, Not Flesh

holy spirit

Meanie: Dropped the ball and never answered me when I emailed her.
Selfish & silent: Promised me something and then didn’t follow through.
High-priced: Charged me an arm and a leg, ran away and left me standing with a huge bill.
Go-Getter: Hurt me.
Liar: Rejected me with a bold-faced lie I can’t seem to get past.
Forgetter: Didn’t invest in my heart; she dissed it.
Abandoner: Walked away not following through on a promise.
Hater: Ignored me and grabbed hands with the popular folk.
Condemner: Tore my good intentions apart.

The story is titled: They’ll all reject you.

The cast is nefarious.

The plot goes like this: I’m a speck of dust. Everyone knows I am forgettable, invaluable and pretty much unseen within the grand story called their life, their plans and their needs. I’m disposable.

Bah-humbug! 

The enemies appear to be everyone. That’s a problem. That’s a big problem. I recognize it.

Because, in reality, the enemy isn’t these enemies, the enemy is the enemy. He’s thriving when he contriving. He’s jumping for joy, when he’s ruined ours. He’s grinding up love into tiny grounds that spread hate. The longer he let’s them brew the more bitter it tastes. When we drink, and we get poisoned, not with eyes to see God, but with eyes of anger and vile.

What has been brewing in your heart – is it peace and God’s presence or is a list of people who’ve hurt you?

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14

My flesh wants to teach these people a lesson. My Spirit knows people are hurting, just like me. My Spirit knows, you can’t read the motives on one’s heart. My Spirit knows, people need love, not condemnation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Gal. 5:22

If I am in the Spirit, I shine Spirit. But, how do I move back to peace-calming Spirit rather than anger-brewing flesh?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

5 Ways to Be Led By the Holy Spirit, Not Your Flesh

  1. Ask God to fill you with all joy and peace.
  2. Ask God to help you trust him more.
  3. Move into a place of continual worship, praise and thanksgiving.
  4. Dwell only on what is good, true and excellent.
  5. Be open to how God is teaching or leading you in a given moment.

As I practice my heart through the continual cycle of this list, I find my heart is no longer being wrung through the ringer. It softens. It sees others pain. It knows, God has a plan, even in my pain.

The Spirit confirms, I am His child and the love he surrounds me with, is more than enough to fill every hole of damage.

Don’t miss taking part in the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge. Or, order my book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, today!

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

Which Hope Are You Holding Onto?

anchor hope

Post By: Angela Parlin

“We just have to hold onto hope!”

She said it quickly, at the end of our short conversation at the shopping mall. Then she walked out the front door, and I didn’t have a chance to respond.

I immediately wondered, Hope in what though? Isn’t that the real question? What are you putting your hope in?

Which hope are you holding onto?

I’ve been facing that question since summer ended, as a number of changes happened at once in my life. I’m not a big fan of change, and the whole situation rocked me. I often felt discontent and discouraged. I struggled to choose joy.

I know the source of my (capital H) Hope—my true and lasting hope for eternity. But when life throws me for a loop and certain comforts, joys, and securities are removed, I learn I’ve been holding onto those little ideals and hoping in them.

I realize now how much I needed this season of change in my life. It’s never comfortable, and I may always resist change initially. But I’m thankful for it, because it’s teaching me to trust in Jesus as my Hope in every area of life.

Jesus is our Hope for eternity, but He’s also our Hope for today.

Recently I returned to my study through the book of Hebrews, and right where I picked up, the author speaks of hope. He encourages believers that their Hope is certain and unchanging.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. Hebrews 6:19-20a

Our souls need an anchor, in part because of this rapidly changing, dark, and destructive world we live in. But what about our own double-mindedness, our sin, and our shifting thoughts and feelings?

I don’t know about you, but my soul needs an anchor in the sea of my own humanity.

And we have this Hope.

This Hope is an anchor for our souls.

The anchor holds, firm and secure.

We can’t tell the same story about lesser hopes. When we’re holding onto lesser hopes, it’s like tossing our ship’s anchor into shifting sands. It’s basically ridiculous. But we all do it!

We hold out hope for things that will not endure. We hold onto things that will not fulfill.

When these fail us, we best fall back on our real Hope. Because Jesus went before us, we are able to enter into the inner sanctuary. This means we enter the Presence of God, because Jesus made a way for us to have direct access to the Father.

Today, let your Hope {in Jesus} be the firm and secure anchor for your soul.

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

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. Check out the free Writer’s Guide there, and subscribe to the Ladder2Rooftop newsletter.

More Reading:
10 Ways to Shine Christ On Christmas

Being a Perfect Christian

Finding Renewal in Christ

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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How Many Christians Live Grace All Wrong

Grace All Wrong

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

Easy, right? Hardly.  This is just about one of the hardest callings.

Imagine:

You toss potato salad at my face? I smile and speak in an angelic tone to soothe you.

You throw me under the bus with my boss and steal my promotion? I make allowance for your mistake and let go.

You con me out of all my money? I humbly confront you with words of kindness.

How is this possible?

Not by my own strength, I’ll tell you. My own strength would have you pressed up against the wall with a lesson stuffed down your throat. It is not easy to respond with humility, gentleness, patience and allowance for mistakes.

In fact, it’s pretty much impossible.

All our righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Is. 64:6)

It’s impossible by our own strength because we are weak. We either muster up humble-arrogance, which looks a whole lot like pious Christianity, or brute force, which ruins relationships.  Either way, the result is not from God and it’s quite ugly.

…For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil. 2:3

God works in us and God wills us to act out his good purpose. God moves then we move forward in love.

Yet, I often live backwards-grace. This is where I muster up good within myself and force it on the world. It usually ends up looking a whole lot like manipulation rather than ministry. Yuck.

Backwards-grace is fruitless. It leaves Christians dejected, demoralized and discouraged. It flat-out doesn’t work. What does work is getting with Savior. Seeking his heart. Letting him mend yours. Allowing him to grow you. Returning again to the wealth of his truth. Letting his grace cover your failings. And then, from the place of heart-change, allowing that very shift, within you, to work kindness, patience and humility into the world.

If you let God into your heart, you’ll find he changes it.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Ps. 51:10

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Have You Lost Peace?

Lost Peace

I am delighted to have Susan Pettrey from Brooklyn Tabernacle join us. Susan is a tremendous force for the Lord. She is used in ways, I know, she can’t even begin to imagine. She has impacted my life through prayer. It is a pure delight to welcome Susan today for Women’s Ministry Monday.

It was another night of going through the normal bedtime routine I have with my 6-year old son, Levi. Something was wrong.  It had been for days.  He was unusually hyper, unfocused and distant from me. I knew why.

We had recently moved to a new neighborhood, and within the past month, Levi had to adjust to a new home, school, peer group and, even, a new nanny.  It was a lot.  It would be for any child, but Levi is adopted and, as I’ve learned, adopted children intensely crave security.

I can only imagine what goes on in his little mind as he tries to process the implications of his adoption and life, but it was no mystery that all of the recent changes were creating extreme anxiety in his heart.

As Levi jumped up and down on his bed, I decided that a reprimand was not what was needed at that moment.  Levi needed to be ministered to.  I asked him what was bothering him only to be given his typical response of “nothing”.

The more I probed the more Levi tried to change the subject until, finally, I said, “Honey, it’s very clear right now that you don’t have peace in your heart.”

With that, Levi got quiet and waited for me to continue telling him what he couldn’t find the words to express himself.  I did my best to validate his feelings. Then, I encouraged him with words of hope.

I told him that I knew God had led us to this new home and, so, we could trust He had a plan. It would be for all of our good.

He laid his little head on my chest. I could feel his body slowly begin to relax.  It was as though my confidence…or peace about Levi’s life and future was transferring into his own heart.

We prayed together. I kissed him goodnight with an assurance that his anxiety had subsided.  I was grateful for that moment and thanked God for it without realizing the deeper truth He was going to teach me.

When I opened my Bible the next day, this is what I read- “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

As I pondered the verse, God showed me my exchange with Levi was just a dim reflection of what He desires to have with me.

So often, when life has been difficult and seemingly out of control, I’ve prayed for more peace.  As if the process involved God giving me the power to muster up my own peace in the midst of my troubles.  But, now, what Jesus was saying became so alive to me as I remembered my experience the night before.

Just as Levi received my peace as his own,
so Jesus wants to give us HIS peace.

When we were saved, God’s Spirit took residence in us.  Our old man was put to death and, now, it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives through us.  How often I forget the benefits that come with this great truth.  I don’t have to be a better “Susan” anymore.  All I need to do is look to my Savior who longs to give me everything He is.  Not only does Jesus want to fill me with things like His love, His strength, and His wisdom, but He desires to fill me with HIS very own peace too!

Not a peace that is manufactured by me or dependent on imperfect people or an unstable world. It’s a divine peace rooted in the one, true God who has all authority over heaven and earth.

It’s a supernatural peace that can never be moved or shaken by the circumstances of life. It’s a peace that comes from the One who knows how the story really ends.

Whatever the challenges we might be facing at this moment, Jesus invites us to lay our head on His chest and receive His peace today.

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Susan Pettrey’s Bio

img_8712_2Susan Pettrey is the second daughter of Jim and Carol Cymbala, who pastor the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, NY.  Susan grew up witnessing great moves of God and His power to change the most hopeless of lives.  As an adult, Susan has been all over the spectrum of ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  She has served as a worship leader and soloist in the choir.  She is the director of the women’s ministry, as well as, the BT Drama Company, where she writes and produces full-length plays that are used to minister to the church and evangelize her city.  Her greatest priority, however, is her wonderful husband, Brian, and four amazing children, Luke (19), Claire (16) and Levi (6) and Charlotte (1)