Purposeful Faith

Category - 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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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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A Brighter Side for Today

“It could always be worse.” That’s what she said to me, as I was near-tears.

Everything felt so hard around me. Circumstances were beyond my control. I had no idea how to handle my own emotions. No matter which way I thought of things, everything was unfixable. Worst of all, I had no way to help the man I loved.

It could always be worse.

Now, I’ll admit to you all today, if she had spoken these words without credibility . . . if she didn’t know hard times . . . if I thought these words were flippant . . . if she wasn’t in the midst of her own trial . . . if she was just trying to “fix me”. . . I might have written her words off.

But, she was in the midst of a horrible trial. She did say these words authentically. And, there was heart and sincerity in the tone of her voice. . .

. . . so I took her words to heart.

It could be worse.
My kids could be in the hospital.
My bed could be on the streets.
My hope could be completely gone. 

It could be worse. And, for this —  I have something to be thankful for.

I internally mutter a “thank you, God.” And, somehow I start feeling better. More hopeful. More life-filled. More trusting that He will help me. More reflective of how God has helped me in the past.

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thess. 5:18 KJV)

What can you give thanks for today?  God’s will is that you say, “Thank you, God.” His heart is to lift you up again.

Prayer:
God, there are hurts around me. There is pain near me. There is hope that feels lost. I need you. I thank you that you are always with me. You will never forsake me. You have a good plan. Forgive me for becoming so issue-focused, I have missed giving thanks to you. I ask you to help me see the good, the hope-filled and the little things I can give thanks for. Help me to lift my head, in order to lock eyes — with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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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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A Small Thing with Huge Damage

I noticed a scratch on the kitchen floor.

“Where did that come from?” I asked as I pointed it out to my husband.

“I don’t know.” He said.

The next day, I looked down on the ground and there were probably about 5 more.  What in the world?!

I had just put felt-bottoms on those chairs. It makes no sense at all that they would be damaging the floors like this. But, they were. . .

I got down on my hands and knees, flipped the chair over, only to find a rock about the size of two specks of pepper.

This little rock could do that much damage? I said to myself while holding it in my hand.

It certainly can.

What little rock do you have in your life right now? Mine is complaining.

I keep on speaking-out what is not right, what hasn’t happened, and what isn’t coming together. I’ve been griping a bit. I’ve been being a little dour and sour. Commenting on little things. . .far too much.

“Show hospitality to one another without complaining.” (1 Pet. 4:9)

But, the reality of this is: I haven’t been creating a hospitable atmosphere for my family. The environment shifts the second I speak-out — a bad attitude.

What about you?

Are you uplifting others or killing the joy? Speaking life or making everyone participate in your every annoying moment?

People don’t remember the food we made them, the house we let them walk into, nor the gifts we sent them away with — they remember how we made them feel.  Even more, I wonder today, how am I making the Holy Spirit feel, as He lives within me.

Are we being hospitable to the Holy Spirit, who indwells within us?

Today, I commit to all of you, to do my best, to mind my mouth. To think before I speak. To bring my grievances to God. To gain perspective before blurting-out. Now, I probably won’t be perfect (because who is?), but I do plan to be mindful.

Prayer: Father God, may I speak only what is good, noble, worthy and of good report. I want to love others around them, not pull them down into my muck and mire. Give me the grace I need to focus on what is positive and powerful, in you. Then, I will be full of joy and life. Give me the wisdom, as well, to speak thanksgving more than complaint. When I think of it, I do have so much to be thankful for. I praise you today, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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How to Pray

This morning my husband happened to flip over a vase in our house. Surprisingly, little pieces of folded white paper fell, like snow, from this vase and danced to the ground. My son was enthralled. Immediately, he fell to the ground and opened the little pieces, like it was Christmas.

They were our old prayers. Prayers from, about a year ago…all splayed out on the floor.

The more we opened them, the more our mouths opened wide: God had answered so many of them. He had literally helped my daughter to stop sucking her fingers. He provided blueprints to my husband’s business. He gave me fresh wisdom for another book and the means to get there. Answer upon answer, breakthrough upon breakthrough, word upon word — HE did it.

Oh, how easy it is to miss all the things God is doing — and has done.

Dear friends, let me tell you something, I don’t think the timing of this downfall is a coincidence. With this happening this morning, I believe God wants you to know: He is moving through the power of prayer. It is no wonder that I’ve been praying for you – and you have been praying for me — and now He splays out answered prayers on my floor.

God IS answering prayer. Believe! Believe, afresh. God IS doing it.

Needless to say, I feel inspired to share all-splayed-out-on-the-floor prayer-process with you today. . .

It started with my friend, and wise Pastoral Counselor, Karen Mortensen, who — way back when — taught me about a “Casting Bowl”.  She, with wisdom, explained that we can take our worries, our fears, and areas we want to control and “cast (our) cares onto the Lord, for He cares (for us).”

In this, we can hand to God what is no longer ours to carry. We begin to “cast”– by writing it down on a little paper, and then we give it to him — by casting it into a little bowl or vase.  Here, we literally – let. it. go.

I like to think of this symbolic action as, “transferring, or putting, our trust in Him.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer. 17:7-8)

This is how it looked like in my household: First, I had my whole family write down their worries, fears, and areas of control like a prayer request  — on a piece of paper. Second, we casted each one onto God as we let it fall into our vase. Third, we chose to let Him carry what we usually carry. This includes fear, anxiety and stress. We gave it up. Then, we decided, as these things “come back” or try to pester us again, we pray for them. And, chose not to “take them back” from God’s hands.

I did this imperfectly, I might add.

But, still, God answered me!!!!!  He was faithful!

I believe He will do this for you. I believe He has actually answered many of your prayers of old (if you truly think about them). There are probably so many things you’ve prayed and forgotten, but God has moved. He has moved and IS moving.

Take faith. Take hope. Take courage. Christ has overcome the world. And, He is more than enough to overcome all your problems.

I love you all.

 

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A Face Like Flint

My face has looked like defeat, of late. I really thought big moves of God were going to happen: breakthrough would come, my kids would act nicer to each other, I’d see God open up doors that had never been open before — yet, it’s been much of the same.

In fact, things seem to be moving — s. l. o. w.

Are you in similar shoes? Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed. . . sought God and sought God. . . asked and asked. . . .waited and waited. . .

. . . well, keep doing it and don’t give up. The Lord is not done with you yet. He’s not done with me either. And, if I’ve learned anything through scripture, it is this: He finishes what He starts. He also is no minder of our timelines.

Be it David becoming a King, Jesus getting resurrected or Lazarus getting raised, God is okay waiting days.

What do we do in the meantime?

We set our face like stone.

“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
determined to do his will.
And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (Is. 50:7)

Stone-faced, we set our eyes on Jesus. We determine to only look at Him. We know that we will not be disgraced. We resolve to do His will. We determine to see forth His cause.

We will not give up. We do not back down. We know that we will NOT be put to shame. We keep going.

In some translations, setting our face “like stone” is written as we set our face “like flint.”  I want us to realize that our face, set on God, has the ability to start a fire. It has the ability to light things up in our lives and in the lives of others. Do not discount a face — intent on God.

Be like a warrior. Keep working, listening, loving, helping and looking to God — for your God never fails. Ever. You can trust in that.

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Clean-Up Day!

I can’t handle a dirty, crumb-laden counter when I sit down to write. Before I place my computer on my black-granite counter, I need to have a clean counter. I need to have fresh space I can work on. I need to have the ability to work without a million little pieces surrounding me.

This lets me focus on what most matters.

I wipe it all down before I start. I get it ready. I prepare my surroundings so I see the bigger thing, God, without little things getting in the way.

I believe God loves it when we come to Him with clean hearts too. Here, as I’ve discovered it, rather than Him needing to address a million little stray things, He can bring us deeper into Him.  Here, He has fertile soil to do His best work. Here, brings us deeper levels of wisdom through His Word and through prayer.

There isn’t so much ancillary work to be tackled.

Just like we come to communion with God by clearing out things that are not of Him — so that we can meet Him. Today, I strongly feel God desires us to clear our table of what blocks us, distracts us or keeps us from Him.

What is that for you?

Is it an over-spill of self-wrath? Have you been talking to yourself like the accuser of the brethren?
Is it grimy fear of the future? Has it been building up in you?
Is it 1000 crumbs of daily distraction? Are they filling your mind more than God?
Is it the overwhelming clutter of worries? Do they make you feel like you have to handle things rather than God?
Is it the boiling anger you have at a child? Is it all you see?

Clean tables meet God in more intimate and free ways. There isn’t as much stuff to get ready before the real food is set on the table. This way, you seek Jesus — and you find Him, in a fresh way. You move past the clutter and behold His heart.

Today, be still and let God search your heart. His best roads are ahead of you — but, to find them, let the blockages be cleared. So you can find your roads to eternal abundant life. . .

Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Ps. 139:23-24 MSG)

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