Purposeful Faith

How to Change Our Focus to See God

For years, I didn’t realize I viewed God through a lens distorted by lies and half-truths. I lived as though he withheld something from me, and spent my days trying to measure up to some invisible standard.

I was kicked out of a private Christian school during my senior year, and I adopted the belief that God wasn’t happy with me unless I followed a rigid set of rules. Since I knew there was no way I could possibly measure up, I broke the rules instead of trying to follow them. I didn’t see how tired and angry I was toward God and the church until years later, when God removed me from everything familiar.

To shift our perspective, God often takes us out of the place where we’re comfortable.

This is what he did with me as a newlywed, when my husband and I moved over two thousand miles away from my hometown. The reason we saw was a job opportunity, but God’s reasons were quite different. He wanted to transform my thinking, and he knew a drastic life change would push me to seek him like never before.

For months after the move, I faced culture shock. The area of Utah where we lived was beautiful, with snow-capped mountains and an endless skyline. But the predominant beliefs were different than the “Bible Belt” area where I grew up. The stark contrasts forced me to ask myself, “What do I believe? Who is God, anyway, and what does he want from me?” When I discovered we were expecting our first child, my determination to find a firm foundation and belief system became even more crucial.

In the four years we lived on the Wasatch Front, I discovered many things I didn’t expect about God. He led me to books, friends, and a home church where I became grounded in truth.

But there’s one truth that continues to transform me today as I discover its vastness: God wants my joy.

As a matter of fact, before his brutal death, he prayed for each of us to experience it. Full and without measure. Not was the world perceives it- as the result of something we do or achieve, but a direct fruit of his Spirit in us.

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13 NIV

If we think God is withholding something from us, our actions will reflect it, and its effects will cascade into every aspect of our lives. But if we view him through the lens of his grace, we will experience joy and peace. Every good thing we have is because of him. He doesn’t want our perfection, but our love and trust. This is what transforms lives, not endless to-do lists.

Instead of asking, “What is God withholding from me,” we can ask, “What has he given me?”

Rather than clench our hands with worry, we can open them with confidence that he’ll act out of his love and goodness.

When I became honest with myself after years of running from God, I realized I made a lot of poor choices in my early adult life. But God, being rich in mercy, protected me from a life of regret. My bitterness over addiction and codependency in my family turned to prayers for their release from bondage. My thinking shifted from being me-centered to others-centered.

God is still working on me, and he won’t be finished until his return. But as his Spirit continues to transform my thinking, my view of him is clearer.

Each day he shows me see that we don’t have to wait until we’re fully transformed or perfect to witness his hand. We can see it right here.

Sometimes, we just have to adjust our lens and change the way we look for God. We have to alter the ways we view him and uncover lies we believe. This is the journey I invite you to take with me. Will you join me?

_____________________________________________________________________________

Is there an area of your life where you want to see God, but can’t? Perhaps you had a clear sense of his purpose and will in your life at the begi

nning of your journey with him, but it’s become blurred and foggy.

If that person is you, I wrote my new book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, for you. What I discovered is that we don’t have to wait until we’re on the othe

r side of the struggle or mess to see God. But if we want to see him, we have to change the way we look for him. Let’s do this in 2020.

If you preorder Shift today, you will receive several freebies, including a gorgeous “Forward-Moving Faith” printable and the first three chapters for immediate download. You can order right here, and claim your freebies here!

 

About the Author:

Abby McDonald is also a writer, speaker, wife, and mom whose work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, Crosswalk, and more. Her passion is to empower women to grow in faith and hope, even when life is messy. She earned a BA in English from the University of South Carolina and teaches writing workshops both online and at conferences each year. Abby lives with her husband, three children, and mischievous lab pup in the mountains of western Maryland. You can download “The Daughter’s Manifesto” as her free gift to you and connect with her at abbymcdonald.org.


Do Not Give Up

Maybe you need encouragement. What I want to tell you today, is: don’t give up.

It doesn’t matter what things look like. The tomb looked empty, but what it meant was — Jesus rose up and out of the grave.

It doesn’t matter what things feel like. Mary and Martha felt afraid because their brother was dead, until he was alive again.

It doesn’t matter what you think will happen. It seemed impossible for David to beat a giant, or for Sarah to have a baby at her age, but they did.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Ps. 37:5)

It is as simple as: trust God and He will act.
It is as easy as: be faithful to Him who is faithful.
It speaks-out like: “I don’t have to believe, to see.”

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jo. 20:29)

You don’t even have to believe, necessarily in yourself or your thoughts; believe in God. God is who He is and who He is — He will always be.

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (Nu. 23:19)

God is:

Faithful
Savior
Rescuer
Redeemer
Restorer
Deliverer
Fortress
Strong Tower
Lover of your Soul
Unfailing Love
Solid Rock
Care for the helpless
Refuge in a time of trouble
Hope for the weary
Instructor
Strength
Holy
Shepherd

God is who He is. The more you know who He is the more you’ll rest in how He’s bound to come through for you.

Do not lose hope; do not give up.

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Something Out of Nothing

God was leading me to attend an event. I didn’t want to attend, but, at the same time, I believed God wanted me there. It was freezing cold outside; I was warm inside my house. It took everything in me to pull myself off my chair and to head outside. But, desiring to be obedient, I did.

The only issue was — upon arrival, no one was there. The room was empty. Silent. Did I get the date wrong? Why Did God bring me here?

Absolutely nothing was going on.

I sat down on the one the chairs and said, “But God, I thought you had a plan for me to be here? I was trying to be obedient… But, nothing is here.”

At that moment, I was internally reminded of God’s biblical knack to bring something out of nothing

The blind man can see nothing, but because of Jesus — He can now see something.

The lame can do nothing, but by just a few words, the man finds he can get up and do something.

Death brings Jesus to what appears to be nothing — yet resurrection life provides us something, everlasting life.

There, all alone in that room — I was reminded that our God takes what looks like nothing and can make it into something — brilliant, powerful and wonderful. Extremely life-changing.

What ‘nothing’ are you facing? Nothing much of a future? Nothing to look forward to? Nothing in your bank account? Nothing left to believe? Nothing left to give?

I don’t think Jesus is fazed by nothing like we are. He knows — He can always make it, something. Just like He did for me in this room.

What might begin to happen if you started to look, expectantly — at your nothing — with the firm belief that God could make it — something?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Ro. 8:28)

 

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Acting Like a Christian

Showy Christianity

I read a Facebook post by a Christian encouraging other Christians. . . it essentially said, “If you are left out of a get-together, don’t be offended. Some people want to hang out with other people. When they do, don’t be insecure about it. . .”

Something about the message didn’t sit right. Maybe it was because I was the ‘new person’. . . Maybe it was because I desire new friends. . . Maybe it was because I supposed the writer of it had a million people she was hanging out with. . . meanwhile, sad-people were left at home. The idea of it hurt me a little.

Not wanting to think too much about it, I navigated off that Christian webpage. I landed on my Facebook feed. There. I saw all sorts of secular posts.

One caught my eye. A woman wrote something like, “No matter where you are, remember there may always be someone who feels left out. . . be sure to include them. Think of them. Remember, that could be you. . . ”

Something like sadness filled me. Why is it the non-Christian post is more grace-filled than the Christian-post? And, how often is this the case?

I just sat there staring at the screen.

How often do I proclaim Jesus, but when push-comes-to-shove, or when the-rubber-meets-the-road — I don’t show Him? Instead, I seek my own convenience. I push my own agenda. I want what is good for me. . . I cause division rather than unity.

I am just as guilty as the Christian-writer I judged.

But, I don’t want to remain this way. I want to be the real-deal. I want to be pure and true. I want to be honest and inclusive. I want to think of the least of these.

God, help me. 

I’m not sure I’m there yet. But, I want to be. For to be this way, is to be like Jesus. It is to be a magnet for those: seeking love, desiring more, wanting to be included, hoping to be seen as they are and wishing they were wanted. It is to be like Jesus, who died with arms wide-open.

It is to resurrect faith in each other. It is to see people for who they are and to love them anyway, unconditionally.

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” (Eph. 5:1 NLT)

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A Quiet Simple Resolution

This week, it is the time of year when almost EVERYONE comes out with their New Year resolution. On purple images, one person shares their dream to conquer their business, another person posts a long sentimental post about how they are going to be present more.

I don’t know why friends, but sometimes, I feel jaded about all these resolution posts. Maybe its because I’ve failed a time or two…and sometimes it is just easier to give up and to judge others than it is to keep trying…

…Anyway, I am trying again. Because, if God doesn’t give up on me, why should I give up on working with Him, in order to be like Him.

This year, I am pressing into one simple word: Patience.

Patience, that still listens and cares — when others talk too much.
Patience so that I don’t quickly cut-off others off with my views when they are sharing important heart-stories.
Patience that allows others to go before me.
Patience that trusts God to show up, more than it feels it has to cut its own Amazon rainforest path.
Patience that believes in people’s change — and my own — even if it is slow-coming.
Patience that keeps faith that God’s work is happening even if a breakthrough feels far.
Patience that endures through hard-conversations to see better outcomes come to life.
Patience that doesn’t respond quickly with anger or annoyance.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)

I don’t want to give up. What about you? Is there something God is calling you to work with Him on? You don’t face it alone. You don’t go at it without help.

As you consider this “resolution”, I hope to encourage you with three ideas, I’ve learned over the years…

Sometimes there is value in:

One: Keeping it Quiet.

Even though I shared with you all today, not everyone needs to know your goal. Sometimes, if we think others notice our botch-up, we are more likely to quiet. Pick one or two encouragers and then keep the rest to you.

Two: Defining it.

Just as I defined what I meant by my goal, the more you can add clarity around it — the more easily you’ll be able to see it through.

Three: Giving yourself a ton of grace.

Allow this change to be so full of grace, you will keep trying to the end of the year. Giving-up is usually an indicator that we have stopped giving our self grace.

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Are you in a Funk?

I don’t know about you, but there is a lot going on in my life right now. With Christmas and The New Year here, there are family trips. With things to get done, there are demands. With a project due, there are deadlines. With kids off of school, there are needs.

Sometimes life seems to demand more from us than we have. Are you there today?

Does it feel like people have expectations of you that you just can’t meet? Or, that there is simply too much to do? Or, that you can’t handle all that you face? Maybe there is a person in your life that keeps breaking your heart. Another who can’t seem to right their ways.

The pain there is real and valid. For this reason, sometimes we can get stuck in an emotional-low. Or, in a confusing fog.

I notice that David, in the Psalms, seemed to get stuck here, occasionally. But, he didn’t stay there.

To move out he:

He honestly called out to God…from his pit…

“Come with great power, O God, and rescue me! Defend me with your might. Listen to my prayer, O God. Pay attention to my plea. For strangers are attacking me, violent people are trying to kill me. They care nothing for God.” (Ps. 54:1-3 NLT)

David chose to raise his thoughts above what he faced.

He went on to say…

“But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive!” (Ps. 54:4 NLT)

David proclaimed who God is in the face of risk.

We can do the same. We can announce — who God is when everything else is threatening — what it will do to us.

Finally, David, believed God.

“You have delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.” (Ps. 54:7)

Yes, David was confronted with enemies and attacks, but he also announced God’s triumph.

It is interesting to me that in the time of singing one song, David was already saying he was delivered. There is a certain mental deliverance that can come before a physical one. Either way, David trusted God’s ultimate triumph and proclaimed it! We can too.

 

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Dealing with Difficult People

Christmas is here. We all know it. You can’t help but look around and see all the blaring advertisements, the waiting-emails, the timely-coupons, the house-lights. At times, it all feels bombarding.

Also, with Christmas, comes get-togethers with people of all types — family members we haven’t seen for ions, cousins that are long lost, and get-togethers with people of varying opinions. Christmas can thrust us into conversations we don’t feel prepared for. . .

How do we keep things peace-full? Loving? And, uplifting?

You may encounter a complainer. You may talk with someone who 100,000% disagrees with your political outlook. Another may criticize you for something you did 10 years ago, lighting a flame under your seat.

How will you react?

Basically, no matter how you are triggered, annoyed or unsettled — every time, it comes down to: how will you react?

Our reactions are what we are responsible for. Even Jesus was tempted in the garden by a devil. Just because He may have had a momentary inclination to respond a certain way — He didn’t take the bait.

We can simply resolve, this season, to — not take the bait.
When a mean word comes, don’t take the bait.
When the assault hits, don’t take the bait.

When someone tells you what to do for the umpteenth time, don’t take the bait. Half the time, offenders don’t even realize how offensive they come off. It is not about you, but usually about some sort of inner anxiety or turmoil they haven’t yet figured out how to deal with.

Inhale. Ask God for help. Receive His peace. Wait for His words of life. Release them. Or, simply walk away until you can gather yourself.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing (you lack wisdom), pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.” (Ja. 1:5 MSG)

This is what wisdom looks like. Wisdom doesn’t walk into situations without a plan, nor does it do what its always done, banging its head against the same tinseled window.

Wisdom stops, asks God and then moves a new way, with His life-giving answer.

I am praying for you: Father God, sometimes we don’t know what we’ll encounter, until we are right in the middle of the moment, encountering it. I am asking for grace this Christmas season — as we encounter difficult spaces and places. Help us so that we can respond with wisdom and love. Protect us with your loving hand. Lead us in all your ways. Teach us what to say in hard moments. Guide our path. Give us all your words. Thank you that you always love us. May we, habitually, remember that. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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How To Keep Jesus Front-and-Center This Christmas

While I’m undoubtedly hesitant to admit this to you today, I’m going to: I missed the point of Thanksgiving this year. With all the travel, the family happenings, the busy rush of getting everything ready — I didn’t even think of what I was thankful for until. . . after Thanksgiving.

Then, I hastily jotted down the “10 Things I Am Thankful For” in my bible like I do every year. After, what took a few minutes, I shut the book on it.

Looking back, I feel a little guilty and convicted about my lack of thought or care around this important holiday. Things just got the better of me, I guess. . .

With all this said, I don’t want this to happen again, this Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in things — the menus, the meals, the silverware, the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the details, the people coming over. With such little time to accomplish everything, it feels like there is no time for God and thinking about what Jesus has done.

But, I vehemently refuse, to be detoured from what matters most this time around. God, help me. . . 

This is Christmas — is Christ’s party. All this is for Him, not them.

You, like me, may have a heart to put Christ first this season. How can we do it? Here are three ideas that I am focusing on:

One: Look upon the tree.

When I look upon the Christmas tree in my house, I can be reminded to look upon Jesus. Trees lined the ground outside his barn. Shepherds most certainly passed through them. Jesus was put up on one. I can look at the tree and ponder it. Think upon how Jesus was a simple man who walked among trees, to save me.

What can you think about as you look upon your tree and ponder Jesus?

Two: Sit.

While everything demands I move a mile-a-minute, I can revolt! I can just sit, when my body says, “Do!”  I don’t have to listen to all the demands and desires, I can sit with Jesus, if only for a bit to say, “Thank you for coming into this earth to save me.”

Three: Marvel.

Driving in the car, or doing mindless tasks, I can marvel. What kind of God is this who would leave the high and luxurious places of heaven to come to this death-filled and deplorable earth? What kind of God is this who chooses to enter into my life, in humble form and kindness? What kind of gift, have I not yet tapped, in Jesus?

I am adamantly intent on receiving Jesus this season. While everyone else wouldn’t receive the King in their hotel, I do not want to have a “No Vacancy” sign on my heart. What about you?

Prayer: God, apart from you, I’ll miss you. There is so much to do, to handle, to accomplish, to wrap, to give. . . the list goes on and on. . .  I am asking you to invade my heart this season. Give me a crushing and burning desire to meet you, to connect with you and to see your heart for me, afresh. I want the best of you this Christmas. I want to honor you in all your ways. I want to thank and glorify you for coming into this world to save me. You are worthy of all my heart this season. Give me all I need to honor you rightly.  You are my best gift. I am so honored to be your daughter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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3-Step Decision Making

My husband said to me, “Kelly, you need to be more straightforward with people. Answer with an outright ‘no’ when you know you need to say ‘no.’

I mulled over his words, considering them.

He had a good point. I have a hard time saying no. I want to make everyone happy. I don’t want to let people down. My central goal is to leave them encouraged.

And to avoid feeling unlikable. To avoid dealing with those awful residual icky feelings of knowing a person may not want me anymore, think highly of me, or desire to be my friend. Or worst yet, they talk behind my back and form some kind of club that hates me. The idea of all this hurts enough to live a life that rapidly throws out a yes.

Even the idea of it horribly stresses me out.

Are you like me? Do you say “yes” when you have an inkling the right answer is “no?” Why? Underneath your altruistic, save-the-world, love-on-every man, give-your-whole-life-over goal, what are you seeking?

Do you want to appear the do-it-all woman?
Do you want people to know you are capable?
Do you not want to look weak?
Do you hope to never let anyone down?
Do you believe God has called you to do everything?
Do you cringe at the idea of not being liked?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

This verse teaches us: Our goal is not to be loved by man, but to love God first and foremost. We can’t easily pursue God’s mission when we’re caught in the web of everyone else’s approval. The only approval we need is the approval of Christ Jesus. Just as many men disliked Jesus, there will be many times when we are disliked too. The value of Christian life is not how liked we are; it is how loved by Jesus we are.

With these foundational truths in our pocket, we can ask God 3 things when making a decision:

Are you calling me to do this?

Consider: Our immediate and half-hearted action plan may prohibit God’s perfect and powerful plan. It may be another’s gifts that are meant to be used for this unique situation, not ours. Sometimes our best strategy is to move out of the way, so God can move in.

Am I doing this out of love?

If it’s absent of love, it is worthless.

“If I…do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

Am I wise to wait on this?

If we don’t have clarity, there’s validity in waiting. Pray. Seek. Ask. Repeat. By faith, believe God has our way.

Jesus is “The Way.” And no matter how you answer… “yes” or “no,” he always loves you. Always. And He’s prepared to help, guide and lead you in all of your ways.

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How to Walk in the Light

I walked to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Without a problem, I knew where things were in the dark. Even though I could hardly see, I knew the small space between my bed and the wall. I inched around the corner of my bed.

I knew, comfortably, how to maneuver. Why? Because I’d walked that path 100 times.  So much so, it became — known.

Some of us know how to navigate our own darkness. Because we’ve walked the same path 100 times, it is now normal to us.

We’ve dealt with fear for decades, so we inch around our feelings, pretending they aren’t there. We feel anxiety, yet we push through and snap at others. We get triggered and flare up with anger.

Just because it’s grown normal, doesn’t make it — right.

Are you used to, accustomed to or comfortable with — pockets of darkness?

As it pertains to darkness — this verse makes me sit-up straight in my chair: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness [of sin], we lie and do not practice the truth. . . (1 Jo. 1:6 AMP)”

Yet, it’s the second part that gives my soul clarity, “. . . but if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].” (1 Jo. 1:7 AMP)

This verse teaches me, we can move from the darkness, into the light, as we:

1. Walk in the light of the Spirit, by the Spirit of God, while holding the Sword of the Spirit, God’s truth.

2. Remember, we are in unbroken fellowship with God. This means: He forgives us. He is near us. He loves us. He is watching us. He is with us.

3. Receive the blood-cover of Jesus, that frees us from all past-shame or inner-anxiety.

Rather than walking, dangerously, in the darkness, we now walk, with freedom, in the light of God. If you find yourself stuck, make a definitive move today, to walk out of that dim place and into the light and care of God.

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