Purposeful Faith

Category - awe

The Right Perspective

I didn’t expect this to happen… I stood at the window and watched multiple birds land on the bird feeder. It was an almost empty feeder. With this, time after time, bird after bird, none of them were eating anything. They just figured there was nothing left for them. So, they landed on the rod and…flew off…

But, one was different. He stuck his head in — and then — he got all the remaining food. He just sat there eating up what everyone else couldn’t see. Simply because he reached in…

I think a lot of us have lost hope. We have sort of given up on believing like we did before. So, we don’t reach up to heaven to pray anymore… We just sit there, and — worry, stress or fear…

But, for those who reach-deep and reach-up to God, who keep believing in “God’s more” and who keep seeking– they are the ones who find the bread of life.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13)

Remember when I prayed for so many of you weeks ago? God did breakthrough. For one, someone got miraculous transportation provided for her ministry.

Do not give up on prayer. God hears.

I was just reading this morning in 1 Kings 19 that Elijah prayed seven times — seven times!! — for rain. Even Jesus prayed more than once for the “man who saw trees.”

Just because you haven’t seen it — doesn’t mean you won’t. All is not hopeless. Keep persevering in prayer. God hears. It may not be on prayer #1, but on prayer #8 that breakthrough finally comes.

Persist. God is faithful.

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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.

God (Really) Loves You

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

We often look at these verses and think, “This is how I need to act. This is how I should treat others. This is what I have to do to be loving. . .”

But, how often do we consider — this is how God loves us. . .

“God is love.” (1 Jo. 4:8)

With this, God is patient to you today. If you’re having a hard time changing, His grace is there to help on your way.

God is kind. His kindness can overpower your meanness to yourself if you allow His Words to become your words.

God is not envious, boastful or proud. He wants the best for you — without anything else. There’s no additional, “But. . .”, or exclusion, or disclaimer.

God is not dishonoring, self-seeking, or angry. While people may act one way, God’s way is the good-way, the right way, the heart-honoring way. Above people’s ways, you can always find His. This is a freedom-place for you.

God does not keep a record of your wrongs. The second Jesus died, He created-way for wrongs to be replaced with the righteousness of Christ. To receive Christ is to find relief.

God does not rejoice in evil, but delights in truth. Whereas the world may celebrate dysfunction and laud evil, God delights in truth as truth. What is hidden — He brings to light.

God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. He is always protecting you — and worthy of trust. He has all vision and plans in His hands. And, His love for you, will persevere all trials and hardships.

God’s love for you will: never fail.

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Do You Feel Hurt?

She put me down, right there in front of “all them.” Sure, it was subtle, but it was real and … worst of all, it wasn’t the first time. In fact, every time I encourage others around that one particular subject, she circles right back and shoots it down. You can’t get one thing past her.

Hmph! Well, if she’s going to put me down like that? Well…I’ll show her. I don’t have to put up with this.

I thought about leaving the gathering. But I didn’t. I just sat there, internally fuming, while externally smiling.

Later, when I got home, I wondered why I even bother speaking up, encouraging others or taking the risk to be open and honest. Women always hurt me. Like that one time I shared the vulnerable details of my heart, only to get word it was being passed through the meat grinder of women’s chattering mouths. Or the other time when I shared my hurt and it was misinterpreted and stomped upon by those around me. Or worst yet, when I shared about God and felt all the crawling judgment of others walking up and down my body.

The more I think about all this, the more the problem bothers me. And worst yet, I fear: what if the real problem is – me? Perhaps it’s not their issue, but my fatal-flaw issue. One I was born with. What then?

I must not be good. I must be unlikable. I’ll always have this problem.

When I look deep within myself, I see faults:

I sometimes seek to impress others.
I hate feeling like people aren’t approving of me.
I never want to be seen as one doing wrong.
I have a hard time when people disagree.
I feel like less of a person when I’m not adding value.
I feel worthier when God is using me for important things.

Yet, when I look a level deeper I see something else. Yes, I am flawed, but not fatally – thanks to Jesus. I say things wrong, but I am always wanted. I make mistakes, but I am always loved. I do need to say, “I’m sorry,” but I am always forgiven.

I am not the sum of what I do, but the product of how I’m loved by Jesus.

The same goes for you. Love pours out of you, because Love came for you and conquered all. He taught. He led. He bled. He died. He was buried. He rose to heaven. For you.

With this, we no longer have to create perfect love that demands perfect responses from others. Instead, we can rest in Him who is perfect love. We can trust His love to compel us. We can breathe deep and gain perseverance and endurance from the endlessly beautiful gift he extends to us. The gift called, “sweet relief.”

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14, NIV).

 

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How Saved We Are, In Christ

It is easy to forget how far we’ve come.

This is normal. It’s like after you get a few cavities filled and a root canal done — 3 years later you forget it even happened. Life is back to normal and you hardly think about how glad you are that all of that was accomplished and finished. And, how easy it is to chew now.

Likewise, it is easy to forget about Jesus the same way. It is easy to forget HOW MUCH He has done for us. HOW MUCH He has saved us from. HOW MUCH He has accomplished. It is not that we don’t love Him or have faith in Him, but, at times, we take for granted HOW MUCH He rescued us and how far we’ve come.

Do you realize, it’s as if we made it “in” to His family by the skin of our teeth?

We didn’t bring anything. . .

We didn’t prove anything. . .

It was simply because God chose to become flesh. . . to accomplish the greatest mission ever. . .

If it weren’t for Jesus what would happen to us and our sin???

If we never faced-God, what we would we have faced?

But, Jesus. He came, like a rescuing-Savior and jerked us out of our position of distress, unrest and stress. He came, and lifted us out of our pit. He came, and walked us across His bridge of life — so that we could be with Him, forever.

Like a damsel in distress — He saved us.

But, Jesus. But, only, Jesus.  Jesus came and changed everything. He made me alive with Him (Col.  2:10), free from the power of death (Romans 8:2), a joint-heir, a chosen daughter, a beloved treasure, a kept kid, a wanted person, and best of all he wiped the face-of-my-everlasting transgressions, clean.

Oh, may I never forget! 

Jesus has not only saved me, but He has improved me. Grown me. Changed me. Made me. Helped me. Answered me. Lifted me. Removed an eating disorder from me. Rescued me dozens of times. Given me wisdom beyond understanding. Healed me emotionally and physically. . . (the list doesn’t end).

I am nicer now. I am kinder. I am gentler. I am more-so filled with joy. I am filled with new perspective.

What about you? What has He saved you from and brought you to? What life circumstance is radically different now that He is in your life?

What sort of epic-save did Jesus conduct on your behalf? The King of resurrection-life does not enter a life without resurrecting life. The Glory of God does not transform a heart and leave it the same.

Look deep and you’ll find His fingerprints on your heart, on your life and on your soul — even if you once missed seeing them. Even if today they look small…

The Two Responses:

Do you know Jesus? If not. . .

Outloud, through your words, invite the King of Kings into your heart. Tell Him that you want your life to be resurrected through Him, by Him and for Him. Tell Him you are sorry for your mistakes, botch-ups and issues. Ask Him for forgiveness and His help. Thank Him today for becoming the Savior of your Life. Explain to Him that you want to hand your life over so that His life can become yours.

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Ro. 10:9)

Then, rejoice! You are saved (helped, equipped, taught, forever-with-Jesus, eternally His…). You get to be forever, with Him. Forever, in His love. My encouragement to you? Grab His Word (the bible), get in a strong Christ-focused church and walk into all the fullness God has for you.

Do you know Jesus?

Rejoice. Undoubtedly, there are things that Jesus has done for you that you “know”, no one else could have ever done for you. There are strides, there are lessons, there are answers, there are miracles, there are areas of growth — only He could have done for you. There is relief only He could have brought. Give thanks. Give praise. Give honor, where honor is due.

 

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God’s Soil is Life

You all should know by now that I love taking walks. I go outside and just enjoy the air. Usually, I look at trees and all around. But the other day, a singular flower caught my eye. All by itself, it poked out of a massive pile of leaves within a wooded area. But, there it was. It stood bright.

Then, my kids and I approached our house after a day-out, and right in the middle of the mulch was another one. A flower. It popped up out of nowhere right in our mulch. Amazingly, there are not other flowers of its kind. But, there it was. Bright as day.

This morning, I walked through a grassy area and — guess what caught my eye? A purple flower shooting up. There weren’t any around it. Just an isolated flower.

Something woke up in me: God’s full-ability to turn any wilderness-wasteland into beauty. He specializes in this.

You see, what we see as ‘a nothing area’ or a ‘blah area’ is actually fertile ground for God’s growth. It doesn’t matter how we perceive it; it matters how God sees it.

God can do anything, anywhere. He makes beauty for ashes in the middle of the most war-torn marriage. He springs up the oil of gladness rather than mourning, even in the greatest loss. He rebuilds ancient ruins,  from nothing, even if the foundations are cracked. He proclaims freedom to the captives in the most torturous of locations.

God is God; He is mighty to save?

What area of desolation are you facing?

Jesus came to. . .
“..bind up the brokenhearted,
proclaim freedom for the captives
release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion…
..to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
…the oil of joy instead of mourning. . .” and the list goes on (See Is. 61).

This scripture has been fulfilled through Christ.  Whatever desolate area you face, know that Christ has all-ability to spring life. Ask Him to do it; He is faithful.

Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lu. 4:20)

It’s for Your Protection

Three times.

I am not even kidding with you all. Three times, my car got hit by people.

The first-time was a hit-and-run. My husband parked the car in a mall parking lot and when he returned to the parking garage there was a huge dent in the back.

The second time we were at the outlets. I got my daughter a little dress there and, when we got back, a huge football-sized dent was now a part of it.

The third time, my husband and kids were out. A guy reversed and put a hole right into the front bumper.

I drive around now with a triple-dented vehicle.

I’m not really sure how or why this is happening.  I’m kind of wondering about it. .  .

Are you in a situation where you are saying, “Why, God, why?”

Why am I here?
Why am I not out of this hole?
How come this is happening; it is not my fault?

For our family, we have to pay a lot of money to get the majority of these costs fixed.

Why, God?

1 Thess. 5: 18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

All? All things? How you give thanks when life is acting on you? When you feel like you’re the victim? When everything is deteriorating before your very eyes?

I couldn’t stop getting frustrated at the dents (and now the sunroof and trunk weren’t working too -grr…). That is. . . until my husband stopped me, as he said, “Kelly, you just don’t see it. What you see as demolition, is really God’s protection.”

Huh? It is?

He went on, “All of those hits could have been huge accidents. Our kids could have been hospitalized. The car could have been demolished. People could be in the hospital. But none of this happened. Sure, there were hit-and-runs and fender-benders — but, we are fine.”

He is right: We are fine. And, I realized: I’ve been acting wrong.

God has been protecting me all along. I just didn’t have eyes to see it. Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in our misfortunes, we miss the picture of His greater protection.

How has God been protecting you? Where might you need to stop, and say, “Thank you, God”?

Prayer:

Father, it is easy to see what is coming against. Often, it is hurtful, painful or costly. We know when it hits. But, at the same time, will you help us see you in all things? So we can give thanks in all things? So many times you are keeping and protecting; helping and guiding; leading and loving us — even in the worst of times. Give us eyes to see you and a heart to understand what you are doing. Forgive us for all the thanks we have failed to rightfully give to you — the things we could not perceive. I thank you, although it is so hard, for my trials. In many ways, it is teaching me to rightly come to you, rely on you and find all my hope in you. This is good. You are good. I trust in you. I trust your plan. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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2 Prayers That Changed Everything

I’ll never really know all that God saved my son from, but what I do know is that protection came through one thing: prayer.

I visited my son at school during his lunch hour. Something about him seemed off lately. His eyes looked a little sad. His shoulders seemed a little slumped over. His spirit of wanting to play around seemed to be missing. I just wanted to sit with him. We had a great lunch hour. I didn’t pay attention to anyone or anything else, but him.

Yet, the next day when I was praying for my 5-year old, something incredible happened.  My words to God were normal. They sounded something like: “Father, please help my son. Whatever it is that is missing at school, please provide it for him. Wherever he feels sad, comfort him. Whatever it is, I need to do, let me see it. Help me to know what to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

I wrapped up my time of prayer, but immediately something came over me. It was a feeling — or a prompting — that hit me right after I prayed. It seemed God was nudging my heart back to my kid’s school for his lunch hour again.

“But, God, I just went there, yesterday,” I said.

No matter, obedience is obedience. I somewhat hesitantly lifted myself off my bed and hustled out the door.

Once there, at a table full of rambunctious kids, I opened my eyes a bit more, rather than honing in just on my son. Here, I saw things I did not see the previous day. I saw how some kids were making fun of him at the table. How they laughed at him because His face got a little messy. How there was a gang of boys at work. How they were fearless in their pursuit of him even with me by my son’s side. How they whispered with their hand cupped over their mouth. I saw the defeat on my son’s face.

How did I miss this before?

No matter, I thanked God on the drive home from that lunch. I now knew what I needed to do. There were other concerns with the school. We immediately decided to pull him out of the school. But, where would he go now?

Once again, I returned to prayer. My husband and I needed to know what school to send him to as we were new to the area. We prayed. We prayed. We prayed and prayed.

Then, one day, while eating dinner, we saw a young family pass by on a walk outside. We’d wanted to meet them for weeks, so we ditched our meal and ran outside. Once there, shaking hands, we learned that the man before us was the pastor of a school that many people had been telling us about. God brought him right to our door. He explained about the “no bullying” policy at his school.

What we asked for, God answered. Not once, but twice.

“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. (1 Jo. 5:14-15 NLT)

These are not hollow words that we half-way believe, but The Living Word of God. They are true and at work in your life and in mine.

We pray. God hears.

We ask according to His will. We have confidence in it.

We ask like this. We “have” what we asked for.

God, through prayer, takes unseemly scenarios and flips them over. Time and time again. I could tell you countless stories.

What are you facing? What seems impossible? Where do you need wisdom? Ask God, believe He hears you, walk confidently in the prayer you prayed and trust Him to answer. Be open to how He may lead you.

He may speak through a person, a predicament, His Word or some unusual way like He did for me. But, God speaks. He answers. He hears. Your every prayer matters.

Today? My son is thriving at a school full of love and grace. God led Him to just the place He needed to be.

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Loving Hard-to-Love People

It is easier to give up than to endure with people. It is easier to walk away than to listen and understand. It is easier to “be right” and to decide them “all wrong” than to hear another perspective.

For years, I decided: 1. People would not understand me. 2. They’d hardly Listen. 3. They’d never change. So, when difficult conversations arose, irritants surfaced, or things got tough to handle — I’d pull-the-carpet out from under all of us. I’d quit the job. I’d run from the relationship. I’d decide the other party wasn’t – godly. I’d figure they didn’t have good intentions. I’d decide they were carrying too much “baggage”.

Areas where God wanted to grow me, I ran from. I started over with other people, rather than going deeper with people I’d already spent years getting to know. My loss.

What relationships have you run from?

In more recent years, my whole paradigm has shifted. Now, I realize:

  1. People are growing just as I am.
  2. When I give leeway, love, and a listening ear, others find radical growth with God.
  3. More than changing them, God is usually up to changing me.
  4. Fighting for “relationship” — and accepting hard truths about yourself — often means gaining a life-long friend or spouse.
  5. There is usually more than meets the eye when it comes to a person’s offensive action.

Seeking to understand before seeking to run away is to uncover a deeper level of intimacy. This doesn’t mean there aren’t cases where it makes sense to put up a boundary, to set some distance or to end a relationship (that is a whole other post, for another day).

(Love). . . always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:7)

Love hopes: It hopes in the good coming for others. It hopes, believing they have good intentions. It hopes for great outcomes during hard-to-have conversations. It hopes in the Lord when the going gets tough. It hopes in miracles that proceed ardent prayer. It hopes to grow personally, more than it wants to fix others relationally.

Love perseveres: It tries again. It goes back to the drawing board to listen. It sees the potential and believes God to show up. It tells the truth, despite how hard it is. It shares the core-issue rather than covering over it and hiding it away. It gives the abundant grace needed, as much as it wants it for itself. It dies to fleshly responses.

“Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8)

Anything done in love, in God’s eyes, cannot fail. With “love,” you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Love lasts straight through earth into eternity. . . No man can halt, hinder or stop the lasting power of love you unleash.  It is not dependent on them, but always reliant on God. To the complete extolment of God.

Love is never wasted.

 

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Nothing Can Stop the Lord Almighty

I was telling my 5-year old daughter about a Jesus story. He’d been teaching people all day and now the people were hungry. The disciples recognized a problem; there were only 5 loaves and 2 fish.

My daughter looked at me, oddly. . .

“If I was them I’d say, ‘Bring what you have to Jesus!'” She said.

Childlike faith nearly screamed out of her, “Just bring it to Jesus already”, “He’ll do it!”, “He can do anything!”

So, today, let my daughter’s words speak to you afresh: Bring what you have to Jesus!

Even if it looks like not enough. . . Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough know-how. Not enough answers. Not enough knowledge. Not enough wisdom. Not enough ability to ___. Not enough ability yourself to fix it. Not the right past actions. Whatever.

Just bring it to Jesus; run up to Him and say, “Jesus, this thing I’ve been handling — or mishandling for that matter – feels impossible, ugly, and unfixable. Frankly, it’s an issue I don’t know what to do with. I need you to handle it for me. Give me wisdom and instruction. I ask you for a miracle answer. You can do it!”

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves…They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”  (Mt. 14:19-20)

All of Jesus can take your “hardly anything”, and multiply it into more-than-enough, with leftovers. Don’t doubt.

Asking is humility. Trust is your answer.

“For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory.” (1 Jo. 5:4 NLT)

Do you trust? If not, today’s your day to start afresh. To defeat the evil rising against you. To stand up against what has pushed you down for far too long.

Nothing can stop the Lord Almighty. May we agree and trust in Him today.

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