Purposeful Faith

Category - Contentment

Finding true contentment

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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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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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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Are You Truly Honest?

All was fine until I had to decide whether to lie or not. . .

Let me explain. Today, I sat in a new church with new people at a bible study group. Here, as the youngest, amidst all the white-haired heads, I felt free.  I didn’t care about fitting in.

The Pastor mentioned to the group that I wrote books, namely: “Fear Fighting” and “Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt and Live Victoriously“.  And, then we continued . . .  reading and learning — that is — until, the pastor stopped, looked at us, and asked, “Is anyone here struggling with fear?”

The room sat still. No hands raised.

But, my heart thumped. Why? Because I knew I should raise mine.

But, how can I? The girl who wrote the book about fear?  How can I admit today that I am struggling with fear? What will they think of me? How will I look? I’m a shame. I should be better than I am.”

But, I knew “my truth”. How I get afraid of powerless moments when I don’t know how to react. How I feel nervous that God won’t make a way for my dreams. I feel afraid that I may misinterpret scripture and lead his people or myself, astray (my worst nightmare). . .

As the man waited, I had to decide: Would I lie before man and God — by keeping my hand down — or would I admit my struggle, and raise it up?

I slowly inched my hand up, somehow signaling to the group: I am not perfect, not altogether and I struggling. . .

I half-expected them to laugh at me, to raise their chin up just a little higher than mine, or to question why I even write books. . . but they didn’t.

Then, the most interesting thing happened. As the group wrapped up, a bunch of women came over to me. They said,  “How do you spell your last name? We want to get your book. . . ”

And, so I consider today:

Maybe people don’t hate our weakness as much as we think they do.
Maybe our truth-telling doesn’t make people want to run as much as the enemy tries to convince us it does.
Maybe people aren’t looking for perfect friends, as much as they are honest ones.

Are you honest before man? Before God? Or, are you trying to hide the worst of you, because you figure no one will want you anymore?

Our revealing before God — and man — is our healing. But, our hiding often is — our increase of shame.

“Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile,[c] circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized,[d] slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” (Col. 3:9-11 NLT)

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When You Can’t Wait Anymore

I sat on the curb after practice, wondering, “Is mom ever going to come?” It was a particularly hard high school year. For one, my nose got hit with a field hockey stick. Even today, it sits a little crooked. And on this particular day, after all those sprints, shooting pains shot up my legs. I could hardly sit. Every position was agony. So with my teammates long gone, I moaned. Then, I replayed everything: the shots I didn’t make, the girls that were faster than me, and how I must have looked downright stupid.

Five minutes turned into twenty. Would she ever come?

Times of waiting are battles – the sense of “not knowing” compounds everything. Here, we tend to think, “If she isn’t there for me, God won’t be there either. I’m unworthy. I’ll be left behind. I brought on this problem. I’m stuck. Bound to fail. Surely, I’ll make a fool of myself again.”

I find it is here that old injuries, gut-wrenching feelings of abandonment, and age-old failures come back to attack. They often rob our faith.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder: If waiting times aren’t uncommon to Biblical men and women, why do I think they’ll be uncommon to me?

I mean, Sarah waited decades to have a baby. Blind people waited what probably felt like forever to be healed by Jesus. Mary waited while Jesus grew up. The other Mary waited for her brother Lazarus to get healed. Moses waited to get out of Egypt. Jesus waited decades to start His ministry, then about three years to die on the cross to defeat death.

Even in the worldly sense, waiting times have value. A delayed inheritance makes a son wise. A pregnant mother gives nine months time for the baby to grow. A toddler girl learns to swim before jumping in the deep end.

What if our times of waiting aren’t meant to torture us, but to grow us? And to prepare us for a greater land ahead?

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden… It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” (Deuteronomy 11:10, 12, NIV)

The new land has new terrain. New obstacles. New preparation is needed for that place.

Consider, if you want to adventure through new terrain, you must prepare for it. If you’re traveling over rocky ground, you need the right wheels. Perhaps an SUV. If you are climbing a new mountain, you need to have a harness and one you trust. Waiting gives us time to prepare to go to the places God has planned for us.

We can wait well. Here are few ways to do just that:

  1. Remember the cross.

Encourage yourself by saying, “Jesus’ sacrifice fully covers me and now protects me from any assaulting words of the enemy. Even if I don’t do things perfectly, through the sacrifice of Christ, I am hidden in Christ.”

  1. Reconsider who you are.

Think, “I am a daughter of the most-High King. He knows how to take care of me.”

  1. Reestablish who God is.

Say, “God is on my side. He will pull through for me, help me and rescue me. I can trust Him.”

  1. Remind yourself: Waiting ground is faith-proving ground.

Choose to delight in and dwell on the little blessings God gives day-to-day.

  1. Reflect on the learnings.

Encourage yourself by saying, “God, teach me what I need to know through this time of wait, so I can grow in faith.”

 

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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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A Spiritual Tune-Up

As I sat there, I noted, before he began to play he turned. One-by-one, he strummed each string. Why? He was tuning his instrument. He wanted to make sure every chord sounded right. So, he tested them again and again. . .

“Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12)

Just as this man took the time to ensure his overall melody was not off, so too should we evaluate the strings of our faith.

Are you living in-tune to God or out-of-tune? In line with His fullness or a little off-track?

Let’s test your strings. . .

Do you hear the voice of love or condemnation?

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro. 8:1)

Are you feeling full of the Spirit or full of fear?

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

Are you trusting God by faith or are you striving, by works?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

If you are out of tune today, don’t start berating yourself or hating yourself. It is as simple as tuning the string; simply adjust course. Repent of what was and move into what’s new.

These small-adjustments will help you to play a whole new song over your life.

 

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What You Should Do Right Now

From the second I went on the airplane, I was sure that God was up to something. What? Only time would tell. . .

Squeezing in between a woman and her aisle seat, I sat down in the middle row, next to a man with glasses, who was eager to talk.

“What do you do?” He inquired of me.

“I write books. Christian books.” I said. Then, I inquired, “How is your relationship with God?”

He explained that it had hit some hiccups since his wife “did what she did.” I could see the anger in his eyes. It was almost as if, I knew, he had ‘a right’ to be angry with her.  He went on to tell me that ‘what she did in a moment had a lifetime of consequences’. They’d now been divorced for years.

We continued to talk . . . He longed for a woman. He felt alone. This season was — hard.

Yet, the more we sat there, the more something in me said — he still loves ‘her’. He deeply loves her.

I asked him, “Could you ever forgive her?”

He said, “For that?  I still believe in God, but I can NOT forgive her.”

He seemed furious. Even so, I encouraged him to forgive. I covered points, like:

– “Unforgiveness will never hurt her more, but only you.”
– “What anger and bitterness you leave in you — grows.”
– “Unforgiveness is like a bad seed — you can’t expect it to grow good stuff.”
– “Forgiveness will be your freedom — if you let it be. . .”

Oh friends, you all don’t know how badly I wanted him to forgive her. . . .Somehow, I imagined that they might even be able to get back together. Somehow, I knew what he wanted was on the other side of saying, “I forgive her. God help me to let this go.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, (forgive) not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Mt. 18:22)

But, he looked at me flatly and said, “I just can’t. I just am not ready.”

While I respected His desire, I felt like sinking down into my seat. . . If only he knew. . . 

He could be free of his anger. He could move on. He could begin to have deeper relationships. He could. . . At the same time, God is a respecter of free-will, be it towards freedom or bondage, life or death. Sadly, this man wanted to keep his anger. Not left with many other options, I encouraged him to “think about what I had said and to accept God’s grace for the timing of forgiveness. . .”

Even so, I went home thinking about you. Are you choosing to walk in freedom or bondage? I know people have offended you, taken advantage of you, spoken about you, retaliated, been obnoxious around you, stolen from you. . . and done so many other things towards you. With this, I wonder, which are you choosing — freedom or bondage?

You know, this man excused away forgiveness saying, “I don’t think about her. I pretend it is not there.”

That doesn’t work. There are many things that don’t work.  Only forgiveness frees us. The rest of it puts us in greater bondage.

“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-27)

Friend — big or small, years ago or ‘it just happened’, forgotten about or not — please — let it go to Jesus, now. You will be better for it.

Prayer: God, I have feelings about what this person has done to me. They have (insert their injury here). . . I do feel upset, hurt or (insert your feelings here). However, God, I don’t want to live my life being enslaved to judging, critiquing, retaliating or injuring them. I want You to fight this battle. You are the ultimate Justice-Bringer and Healer. With this, I release them from my heart. I let them go to you. I forgive (insert name) and I ask you to bless them. Please pour out the grace they and so desperately need right now. Thank you that as forgiveness goes forth, new vision comes in. Help me to see more of you, God?

 

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