“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)
I want to “keep the faith!” What about you?
To keep something is to hold it. It is to hold it as dear, hold it close and hold it far from harm. It is to keep using it, practicing it, and leaning on it.
Are you “keeping” faith?
Keeping faith is very practical. It is asking God to keep you and to increase your faith. It is worshipping, praising, and reading God’s Word. It is to pray and listen.
Do you feel full of faith? Are you believing that God is the God of the impossible or just the mundane happenings in your life? Do you believe God will show up in your day or are you just trying to make it through? Do you expect God to hear and answer prayers or are you just lobbing up words because you are supposed to?
Faith believes in the exceedingly abundantly more of God; it sees God show up. It trusts even when it cannot see, even when the promise feels far. It hopes, again and again.
I think I lost hope for a while. I started to give up. If you have given up — it is a sign you have lost hope. If you are in this place, it is okay. God is faithful to restore and renew. Just give him your disappointment, your pain, your history, your trauma, your offenses and let him bring you back to new life again. Let Him restore your faith.
Prayer: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) May your faith be so great that it acts out with extreme love. And, may your King Jesus, be glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Meanie: Dropped the ball and never answered me when I emailed her. Selfish & silent: Promised me something and then didn’t follow through. High-priced: Charged me an arm and a leg, ran away and left me standing with a huge bill. Go-Getter: Hurt me. Liar: Rejected me with a bold-faced lie I can’t seem to get past. Forgetter: Didn’t invest in my heart; she dissed it. Abandoner: Walked away not following through on a promise. Hater: Ignored me and grabbed hands with the popular folk. Condemner: Tore my good intentions apart.
The story is titled: They’ll all reject you.
The cast is nefarious.
The plot goes like this: I’m a speck of dust. Everyone knows I am forgettable, invaluable and pretty much unseen within the grand story called their life, their plans and their needs. I’m disposable.
The enemies appear to be everyone. That’s a problem. That’s a big problem. I recognize it.
Because, in reality, the enemy isn’t these enemies, the enemy is the enemy. He’s thriving when he contriving. He’s jumping for joy, when he’s ruined ours. He’s grinding up love into tiny grounds that spread hate. The longer he let’s them brew the more bitter it tastes. When we drink, and we get poisoned, not with eyes to see God, but with eyes of anger and vile.
What has been brewing in your heart – is it peace and God’s presence or is a list of people who’ve hurt you?
My flesh wants to teach these people a lesson. My Spirit knows people are hurting, just like me. My Spirit knows, you can’t read the motives on one’s heart. My Spirit knows, people need love, not condemnation.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22
If I am in the Spirit, I shine Spirit. But, how do I move back to peace-calming Spirit rather than anger-brewing flesh?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
5 Ways to Be Led By the Holy Spirit, Not Your Flesh
Ask God to fill you with all joy and peace.
Ask God to help you trust him more.
Move into a place of continual worship, praise and thanksgiving.
Dwell only on what is good, true and excellent.
Be open to how God is teaching or leading you in a given moment.
As I practice my heart through the continual cycle of this list, I find my heart is no longer being wrung through the ringer. It softens. It sees others pain. It knows, God has a plan, even in my pain.
The Spirit confirms, I am His child and the love he surrounds me with, is more than enough to fill every hole of damage.
I poked at the fire, frustrated that it wouldn’t stay aflame. This girl was no scout. The temperatures outside had reached single digits, and our furnace was having a hard time keeping up.
After spending an hour trying different techniques, adding wood, scraps of paper, and using more fire starters than any person should, the flame blazed hot enough for the wood stove’s fan to cut on, circulating the heat throughout the house. My mouth spread into a victorious smile.
The problem was, I didn’t know what I’d done right.
Later, after my husband returned from a business trip, he explained the basics of fire building to this city girl. I listened intently, determined not to have the predicament repeat itself.
Even my son, the cub scout, knew the basics of fire 101. I guess I should have asked him, right?
As any seasoned camper may know, fires need three basic components: heat, fuel, and oxygen.
It turns out, I had given my fire plenty of heat and fuel, but I’d neglected oxygen almost altogether. Instead of giving my flame room to breath by spreading the wood in a triangular shape, I’d smothered it.
Fires need room to breathe. And much like the flame I’d suffocated with its own fuel, I often adapt the same pattern in my spiritual life.
I know my heat comes from the Holy Spirit living inside me. I feed the flame with his Word and plenty of good reading material, podcasts and worship.
I gather with other believers. I lead and serve.
But often, I don’t allow space to breathe. To digest what he’s teaching me. To sit in his presence and be still with no agenda, no checklist or index of requests I need to present.
While we fixate on the lines of our life story, God often speaks in the margins.
In the spaces in-between the carpools, the play dates and the prayer meetings. In the moments where we slow down, we sit and we wait. Because the voice of God is always worth waiting for.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV
So instead of piling more stuff onto my never-ending to-do list, I’m carving out time to listen. Even if it starts with fifteen minutes before my kids roll out of bed, it will be worth it.
I’m creating a space to not simply read the Word, but hear from the Word.
Have you stacked too many scraps on your fire, suffocating it so it has no room to breathe? Have you placed a list of chores on the altar of life, forgetting what God wants most is our hearts?
I have. I am guilty. But thanks be to God, his mercies are new every morning.
It is never to late to realign our priorities, to make a change or create a new beginning. Today is the day.
Fan the flame.
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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.
I go about my day, but sometimes my day goes about wrecking me. It goes about making me overwhelmed in a moment of frustration, angry at others, beaten by circumstances, discouraged by my actions and frustrated that I am not more of a “halo” Christian.
Ever felt this way?
When I come to think about it, I think it has much to do with what I am thinking about.
Because what we think, we live.
Are you listening to the conviction of the Spirit
or the condemnation of the devil?
10 Ways to Know:
1. The Spirit infuses love, the devil accuses with shame. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Ro. 8:16
2. God draws us near, the devil pushes us lonely into fear. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” Psalm 34:4
3. The Spirit hands out an invitation, the devil speaks accusations. The Spirit invites us to life-change and liberation while the devil invites us to death. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor. 3:1
4. The Spirit makes us new, the devil makes us dwell in the old. The Spirit works in the now, the devil reinforces yesterday. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor. 3:6
5. The Spirit speaks correction, the devil speaks destruction.
The Spirit reinforces the Word of Life, while the devil rips it apart, reworks it and denies it to suit his needs to destroy us. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. Jo. 16:8
6. The Spirit reveals, the devil steals. These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Cor. 2:10
7. The devil pushes legalistic law, the Spirit pushes life-giving liberation.
If the devil can make you work hard to be loved, he will. The Spirit is always at work to confirm your position as child. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Ro. 8:15
8. The devil sends us on a parade of feelings, the Spirit sends us into a journey through God’s Word. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph. 6:17
9. The devil reminds us how bad we were, the Spirit reminds us of how secure and significant we will be as we turn back to God. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.Eph. 2:8
10. The Spirit brings self-denial, the devil encourages self-will, self-promotion and selfishness. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Gal. 2:20
The Spirit is a force of freedom, a revealer of God’s wisdom and an offerer of love, the devil comes simply to steal, kill and destroy. May we walk bad voices right out the door, so the peace of God may walk in. Then, our temples will shine Christ far and wide.
What precedes victory?
What sets up a strategy that wins?
What helps solidify an unsure direction?
You probably haven’t heard this explained this way before. Or, maybe you have and have written its power off because it seems too simple, too ordinary and too commonplace. But, activating our hearts in these small two steps, often activates our hearts in new hope.
Let’s look at King Jehoshaphat, named “Yahweh has judged.”
Sound like a scary name?
It would to me. I would probably hide from myself with a name like that.
But, you see, Yahweh had judged him in a good way.
And He not only judged, but also in many cases he also blessed – because Jehoshaphat removed idols, cleaned up the land, purified hearts in truth and focused hearts on the one true God. Sure, he made a mistake or two, but his heart was right.
Mistakes come and mistakes go, but a heart sold out for God, is one God blesses. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Mt. 5:6
Yet, despite his goodness, Jehoshaphat had enemy Moabite armies stacked up to his neck.
Notice, God doesn’t remove hardships from good people –
often, he confronts us with them to release us from them.
Jehoshaphat certainly wasn’t spared – and he wasn’t so scared he couldn’t move.
He pushed harder against the force that wanted to push him down. Did he realize he would grow stronger in faith by being faithful?
Like Jehoshaphat, our help isn’t found in our artillery, but it’s found in humility before our God.
Pushing into God pushes us into his plan.
Suddenly we see – God’s deliverance is always had – it is just a matter of when.
When we push into God, we get all we need to proceed.
So, what did “Yahweh has judged” do to push in when the forces of the Moabites stood against?
1. He prayed: Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 2 Chron. 20:3-4
Notice that although he felt “alarmed,” he still “resolved.”
Do you “resolve to inquire of the Lord” when alarm bells sound? Offering the resolve of your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength, will resolve them to God’s will.
2. He worshipped & trusted:You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you…‘If calamity comes upon us…we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
2 Chron. 20:6, 9
Seeing God in his true place sets his true ways into place – in us.
Looking up helps the things around, not bring us down.
Remembering Jesus’ victory locks our heart into His victory too.
What might true and faithful worship, in the face of battle, do for you? In the face of finances? In the face of arguments? In the face of poor health? In the face of fear? In the face of wayward children?
Let’s see what it did for Jehoshaphat…
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel…as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chron. 20:14-15
The Spirit showed up. God gave instructions on how to win and he also gave his presence that said, “I will be with you.”
When we seek God, we find him. When we find his face, he faces us with real truth. When we know where our help comes from, our help often comes.
What I love even more is how Jehoshaphat literally headed foot-by-foot into war.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”
As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 2 Chron. 20:21-22
What if our battlegrounds became praying and praising grounds?
What would go do in us, through us and for us?
This sounds like unstoppable, not easily defeated, winning faith.
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I have been on a wild and crazy hunt to figure out how to get more of God – into me.
It’s wild because I often live in the wilderness – in the rocky ups and downs of faith. It’s just wild that a great God like him would want to dive into the disobedient heart of a girl like me. My head says yes, but sometimes, my heart says, it’s too off his beaten path.
It’s crazy because, I can’t even conceive how someone so “everywhere” and “always”, so above-it-all and so robe-laden, someone who made everything and with so much to do, could want to reside in measly me? Aren’t there a lot more exciting and missional places that he wants to focus?
But, it’s true.
God practically offers us all of him on a golden platter saying, I give you my heart. Will you take it? He doesn’t offer a part, a sliver, a shard, a splinter; he takes his whole body and throws it on the table for us, for vulture-like beings who did nothing to earn his gift of death.
“Take and eat; this is my body.” Mt. 26:26
He offers, but do I even value his gift?
The truth is the presence of his body, his life and his power is the greatest gift I could ever receive.
But, I must make a choice to eat his spiritual nourishment.
When my stomach turns in knots,
when holes trip me up,
when I shake in the darkness,
I must look up, verses looking around and see the one who is always ready to be found.
He is always ready to lead me in right ways.
His hand leads to truth.
Truth leads to love.
Love leads to fearlessness.
Fearlessness leads to passion and joy.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 Jo. 4:8
I wonder how often I hold back me – from God?
I wonder how much I fear his presence in me
because he seems too great above me?
How often I fear condemnation?
Even though I know his condemnation doesn’t even exist for me (Ro 8:1).
I forget “he who began a good work will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)
How often do you hold back because you feel unworthy?
Or try to gain worthiness?
Even though it’s impossible to be the weight lifter of his power.
Only one can carry (and carried) that weight.
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Eph. 3:16-17
The reality is, we need to the strength of the Spirit so that we can welcome in the strength of the Savior.
Then, the strength of the Savior more and more pushes out
the strength of the sinner.
It’s like the Spirit does the internal cleaning,
so the temple is clean, prepared and ready to be inhabited.
Jesus silences sins through surrendered faith. The sinner is siphoned away and more and more the new creation takes over. The sinner’s fears are left in the dust; the Spirit and Jesus become the only ones to trust.
I want this to happen more and more for me, don’t you? This happens when we call on the power of the Spirit to expand the territory of the Savior.
It doesn’t matter where you live – in the wilderness, in trials, in temptation, in sin – confess and call. That’s it.
Then we will find the power of God will move in – to move out – all that keeps us from him.
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Some days, the sun shines, and I jump out of bed early. I slept enough hours without any interruptions, and I feel good. I start the day with the Lord and a run and then the kids come trickling out of their rooms, ready for the eggs I’ve made. Then I head upstairs for a quick shower with some great music to help me get happily ready to start the homeschool day.
Other days, it’s much harder to see beauty–because other days look a lot more like chaos. Can you relate?
Maybe someone needed me in the night, or I stayed up late with Jimmy Fallon.
Maybe the kids leave their rooms an hour before the time we’ve set. They forget to complete their morning chores, and so the laundry piles up and the bedrooms are a mess.
Maybe I’m tired and it’s a cloudy day and I don’t have time for quiet time and I didn’t get a run and I haven’t made breakfast and I don’t feel well.
Do you ever think about the back-and-forth of our lives? The up-and-down? Does it frustrate you the way it frustrates me?
I can get on such a roll of seeing-the-beauty days–of good, productive mornings, of day-before preparation, of starting the day out right. But then–something changes. Often, I don’t even see it coming. A cold. A sick kid. A misunderstanding. A big disappointment. Hard work that doesn’t yield results. Whatever it might be.
Then I get on a roll of seeing more chaos than beauty.
The kids are still waiting on me, so I have to quickly figure out how to deal.
How do you deal with days that look more like chaos,
with the cloudy days and your own clouded mind?
Last week, on one of the not-so-shiny days of my life, I learned that I have developed an unfortunate habit. That instead of dealing with the chaos, I try to escape.
After trudging through a rotten morning, I sent the kids off to read in their bedrooms in the afternoon. I was discouraged, and I spent a few minutes praying to the Lord about my problems, asking Him for help.
And then I moved on.
I COULD NOT WAIT to sit down on my comfy sofa to turn on Gilmore Girls, and so I fixed a glass of iced tea and resumed my position.
But as I sat there, I felt a holy conviction.
I knew it wasn’t my own voice, because my voice said–There’s nothing wrong with this!
And that’s true. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Netflix, or many other forms of escape.
But there’s a problem sometimes with the way we use them.
I felt the Spirit saying, Run to Me. Seek Me. Look to Me. And I saw my error.
I realized how often I seek the Lord—and then run off to my own fix.
My fix, which feels comforting at first, always leaves me wanting.
I saw that I was trying to escape my life rather than working through the hard parts, while looking to the Lord for His strength.
So by God’s grace, I started a new habit. I hope it will continue to be the way I deal with the not-so-shiny days.
I’ll seek the Lord, and then I’ll wait on Him alone—especially on the difficult days.
Because as Lamentations 3:25 says, The Lord is good to those who WAIT for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (ESV)
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. Isaiah 40:31, AMP
Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.
Every Monday (because don’t we all just love Mondays?), I am going to be doing an encouraging word (2-short minutes!) via video. Hope you like them!
POST: Relying on the Spirit
The alarm clock goes off.
The bible happens.
The kids wake up.
Grace and lunch is served.
Grace, dinner and bed.
Sometimes, I can live my life in routine. I can go through the motions. I can live on auto-pilot.
But, did you know? In a way, the kingdom has already come – in your own heart? Can you grasp how transformational this is?
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Jo. 14:23
We. Will. Come.
Who is we? Christ. The Spirit. One – living in us.
They don’t live in some corner of the attic, but they have moved straight into our living rooms. All the areas of our lives where we live – every corner and every crevice.
They have made their home in us. They have settled in, taken over and we work their power out. They’ve come to clean us up and to root love deep down. They throw out the lies written on the walls of our heart, with the truth that is them.
Like blood, they are the sustenance that works through us. They keep pumping strength, courage and meaning.
This is why we are instructed to operate by the Spirit and not the flesh.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Gal. 5:16
– verifies light, love and the Word of God. Our flesh verifies feelings, shame and regret. – prepares our way, in today, so that Christ is always at play. – gets all things in order for the big day of Christ’s return. – decorates our interior with the presence of God. – confirms that one day we will walk into our eternal home complete in Christ Jesus. – welcomes God in as our prized guest, he gets the best seat at our table called life.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Cor. 16:9
It is the works that pour out from the temple that will survive the fire.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 1 Cor. 3:13
I want the fire of God to be lit in me, so that the fire of God will reveal quality in my life.
Lord, let me understand the power of the Spirit that you have placed within me. Rightfully place my eyes on the power of Christ. Let me go knowing the extreme presence that you have imparted in my innermost being. Let me not live in routine, but solely by the power of your Spirit at work in me. Give me eyes to see and to walk with you.