Simple Grace

Grace: n. the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

What does it look like to live a life of grace?

 “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

What does it look like to be brave?

Bravery – the ability to confront attempts of intimidation

Brave – over come obstacles

When it is difficult to walk out of a lifestyle of grace we are going to Brave Grace.

Braving Grace – our attempt to live out a lifestyle of grace; not just give grace in certain situations, but actually make it a lifestyle. We are going to let it be an unconscious movement in our day to day living as Christ followers.

Brave – having the strength to face fear of difficulty

To be brave means to believe in something. It means you have to have faith in something or else there is no reason to be brave.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you…”

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

And just as Paul speaks of himself, we can say that whatever we are once we believe these truths, it is all because God poured out His grace – His special favor – on us. We do not have to strive to be brave or to have grace because Jesus does both in us. Our work of bravery is covered through His grace. In a world full of fear and judgement we can confidently look at the future Braving Grace.

Brave – the confident expectation of the Good News

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”

Philippians 1:6

Christ’s Attitude this Christmas

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Philippians 2:1-18

It is in Christ Jesus we are able to have His attitude.

  • agree wholeheartedly
  • love one another
  • work together with one mind and purpose
  • don’t be selfish
  • don’t try to impress others
  • be humble
  • think of others better than yourself
  • don’t only look out for your own interests
  • take an interest in others too
  • have the same attitude as Christ

Christ’s attitude:

  • He served others
  • He was humble
  • He was sacrificial
  • He emptied Himself
  • He was obedient to God (His/Our Father)

We can shine brightly this Christmas season by:

  • not complaining
  • not arguing
  • living clean and innocently
  • holding firmly to the Lord

How can we read this passage from Philippians and still be confused as to how to be more like Jesus? Take this to heart during this season. He’s asking you to take on His attitude for something specific. Be like Christ and walk in obedience to Your Father as you approach Christmas.

Braving Grace ®

The Hope of the World

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27

The birth of Jesus is certainly considered one of life’s greatest mysteries. A story told from the beginning of time. God calling Himself – the I AM; who was and who is and who is to come. Jesus, right there with His Father through it all, but not making His human debut until centuries later, not in any way that any one could imagine – in an animals’ dwelling, with no room for a bed, birthed by a young virgin girl – in the City of David, Bethlehem.

This time of year will conjure up in each of us different Christmas carols we have heard and sung through the years, possibly bringing warm memories of seasons gone by, the smell of baking cookies or crinkling wrapping paper on an early Christmas morning. In all of the memories and all of the need to make new memories, it can get easy to dismiss the focus our hearts toward the true meaning of the season. We can say with our mouths that we know it’s about Jesus, but just like any other time of the year, what are our actions speaking?

Christ in us – the hope of glory. Christ in us! Christ. In. Us. If we truly believe that Christ is the hope of glory, the hope of the world, we must look at the very beginning of the verse – “to them God willed to make known the mystery…” What is the mystery – CHRIST IN YOU!! This is the good news my friend. During this Christmas season, Jesus is not just a baby lying in a manger. He is THE Christ, Emmanuel, God WITH us, IN us. Our actions need to reflect an excitement to share THAT gift with others this season.

REFLECT:

Do I believe the mystery, that Jesus is Christ in me!? And if I do, with whom have I shared this incredible gift?

Wow! What a Month!

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:46-27

In 2009 my husband went on a weekend trip to Frostproof, FL with a group of other men from our church. While there he would give voice to something that his mother said started in him when he was just a little boy of four. I remember her telling the story of a little Mark sitting at First Baptist Church of Merritt Island under the teaching of Reverend Len Turner. She said that one Sunday Mark declared that he wanted to “do what Pastor Turner does”, he wanted to preach the gospel too! So during the early part of the 2000’s when church planting started ramping up across our nation, he started to notice there might be a space for that desire to take place in his life. A little fun fact: First, Mark loves chocolate chip cookies more than most humans which has NOTHING to do with anything but it’s a fact! But sticking to the subject at hand, Mark’s parents named him after the influential pastor, Adrian Rogers who pastored them in their early marriage at FBCMI. *The photo attached to this post is from the early years of Mark’s church history here in Brevard County, and one we found amongst his mom’s keepsakes after she went to heaven.

Fast forward many years, and LOTS of life – our 4 children becoming teens and young adults, career changes, moving from state to state and back again, a diagnosis and passing of his mom (who would have been so excited to see Mark walking out this calling she always knew was in him), and many other of life’s ups and downs – we have seen Jesus move in ways over the last few months that have made all of the years of prayers and patience worth every minute. He doesn’t waste a thing.

After many years, many conversations, many prayers, many hopes & dreams, we are taking Braving Grace to in-person teaching through Sunday morning church services and Wednesday evening Bible studies. We were presented with the opportunity to begin this journey when our friend Scott, from Matthew’s Hope Ministry, offered us gathering space for our Sunday and Wednesday gatherings at their newest location in Cocoa, Florida. Only a few miles from the church where Mark first accepted Jesus as his Savior and the call of ministry on his life is where we call church home for the foreseeable future.

Our heart is to swing wide the doors of discipleship and biblically sound teaching to believers who have a desire to go deeper into the Word of God, and take the gospel message to their Monday through Saturday lives; teaching that equips them to take the gospel into work, school, and to their friends and family. The entire body will be on a mission to take the gospel to all the nations, making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything He has commanded. We will focus heavily on expositional teaching on Sunday mornings, and on Wednesday evenings we will do the same with in a more relaxed environment open for conversation and discussion.

If you do not have a place you call home for being equipped and for being ministered to, we would love you to come visit us as we start from the foundation up – our foundation being Christ and His finished work – building His Kingdom for His glory! We want to walk in obedience to what God has for us and see you do the same! These last few months have been such a great surprise, sharing it with others is a joy!

This unique human cross was taken at the current church location on Magnolia Ave. and is composed of more than 2,000 people who met for Sunday School at the First Baptist Church of Merritt Island, FL when Adrian Rogers was Pastor. Somewhere in this picture stands Mark’s parents, Kermit and Barbara Cook.

A Summer of Braving Grace

Summer is coming in full swing this month. Here at Braving Grace, living in Florida means summer never ended for the most part, but even here we start feeling a heat that can some days feel unbearable. Summer can also be a time of relaxing a little more, slowing things down for family time, and possibly having a break from the normal “school day” routine. If that is the case (heck, even if it isn’t the case), we’d love to invite you to engage in one of our online devotionals. If you’ve never taken the time to dive into a book of the Bible, that time is now. Visit one of our devotionals today and get started! And we’d love to hear from you if you make that commitment. Let us know what you’re learning.

Summer Devotionals

Click on an image below to get started:

Braving Grace in Galatians
Braving Grace in Hebrews
Braving Grace in Ephesians

Summer Reading Plan

If you are looking to accomplish a great reading challenge, head over to our Bible Reading Plan page and get started. It is never too late to start!! You don’t have to wait to make a new year’s resolution to transform your life through reading the Word!

Click on the image below to get started:

Bible Plan

Get started today. Get started tomorrow. Just get started.

We’d love for you to follow us on social media on our Facebook page. Once on our page hit the sign-up button and invite your friends to join us too! Leave a note for us in the comments about what you’re most excited about in your walk with Christ through reading His Word! There is so much to look forward to this summer!

Don’t Add to It

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Proverbs 30:5-6

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:20-21

Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Adding to the Word means adding anything to it that makes you the center of your relationship to God.

Jesus answered them and said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father God except THROUGH me.”

Adding to the Word means leaning on your own behavior, practices, or traditions to have right standing with God.

You can’t….
Read your bible enough…
Pray enough…
Rest enough…
Serve enough…
Give enough…
Meditate enough…
Do enough…
To be right with God.

Only Jesus. Nothing else. Sure. Should you do all of those things? Absolutely! But THAT isn’t what makes you righteous. Doing all of those things isn’t what makes you a “good person”. Don’t add to what Jesus already did by thinking YOU have to be good. HE was good in your place. Equipping comes from believing that what He said is true and that He is faithful and just to forgive. You read the Bible to know what to believe – That God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Read the bible to know what to believe about Jesus and how good He is, not to feel good about yourself – God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; that is very good.

Happy New Year, 2022!!

Happy New Year! I want to encourage you to pull in closer to Jesus this year. There is no better way to get to know Him than to get into the Bible – the Word. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Understanding that we have been given a tangible piece of God through the written Word is paramount to a growing relationship with the King of Kings. We can experience Him in so many ways – through nature, relationships with others, emotions, life circumstances – but to truly know Him and understand His character and personality through these things, we must read the Bible. And there are so many ways we can do that in our technologically driven culture. If you own a smartphone, you can download The Bible App and listen to the Word while you drive, while you exercise, or when preparing a meal, even cleaning the house. We spend hours a day engaging in some form of media so plugging into the Bible instead of binging on the latest season of Longmire is absolutely a better way to start the new year right! Or you may choose to go old-school using your print Bible (this is my favorite way to connect to God).

I am going big this year after being inspired by a friend to do the “Bible in a Month” plan. I am attaching two different plans you can follow if you’d like to join me.

The first is a Book by Book plan making it a little easier to listen straight through several chapters/books at a time. The second is a plan which takes you through some of the Old Testament, New Testament, the Gospels, and Psalms & Proverbs each day. I prefer the second plan as it breaks things up, but the first plan would be more convenient for those of you listening in your vehicle or when it’s not as easy to flip between books. However, the plans are not interchangeable. Choose one plan from below and stick to it:

Get started today. Get started tomorrow. Just get started.

We’d love for you to follow us on social media on our Facebook page. Once on our page hit the sign-up button and invite your friends to join us too! Leave a note for us in the comments about what you’re most excited about in this new year! There is so much to look forward to in 2022!

Transformed Christmas

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

Prepare Your Heart
Read Romans 12 & Luke 10:25-37

There is never a bad time of year to renew our minds. Honestly, the holiday season might be the best time to focus on getting our minds off of the pattern of this world and more focused on being transformed by the renewing of our minds. How do we renew our minds? We get in God’s Word.

The holidays can bring unwanted and unwarranted stress into our lives in which we need to be prepared. From long-lasting gatherings with family to holiday work parties, we find ourselves in settings that are not the norm to our day-to-day. Thoughts and interactions may not go the way we expect them to go but the Bible provides us a wonderful outline in the twelfth chapter of Romans as to what we can put our focus on during this season. Let this be a springboard for the future in every area of your life.

What does it look like to have a transformed mind?

  • don’t think more highly of yourself than you think of others (don’t be a disrespectful know-it-all)
  • think sensibly (put down that 3rd, 4th Christmas Cookie; don’t go into debt to give gifts)
  • love without hypocrisy (don’t plaster on a fake smile to talk nice to someone’s face then turn around and gossip about them -hold on, isn’t that “Maturity 101”? Oops, I better practice what I preach LOL)
  • detest evil
  • cling to what is good
  • show family affection and brotherly love
  • outdo one another in showing HONOR (NOT outgiving with expensive gifts unless that is what honor needs to look like in your specific situation)
  • be diligent
  • be fervent in spirit
  • serve the Lord (and those around you)
  • rejoice in hope (nothing, absolutely nothing is hopeless when Jesus is involved)
  • be patient in affliction (there will be a lot of people who have buried hurts that try to surface during the holidays – read all of the above if you’re tempted to judge them in that hurt)
  • be persistant in prayer (not prayer that is consumed with you thinking everyone else needs to change)
  • share with the saints in need
  • pursue hospitality
  • bless those who persecute you (and gossip about you, and say false things about you, and turn their backs on you – yeah, those people)
  • rejoice with those who rejoice (that will help with your struggle with those who persecute you)
  • weep with those who weep (don’t tell people they need to just “get over it”, cry with them have a little empathy)
  • live in Godly agreement (you don’t know everything but God does)
  • don’t be proud; associate with the humble (in other words, let some humble people rub off on you)
  • don’t be wise based on your own opinions (Proverbs 3:5)
  • don’t repay evil for evil
  • do what is deemed honorable by as many as possible
  • be at peace with everyone as much as it depends on you
  • don’t try to get revenge (ooooo, this doesn’t always look like criminal behavior, revenge comes in small packages too – like giving the cold shoulder, gossip, slander, etc)
  • feed your enemy
  • conquer evil with good
  • bear the weaknesses of those who have no strength (you sometimes have to dig a little and let others express their hearts to know when this is needed)
  • don’t live to please yourself (don’t apologize just to ease your own conscience; don’t exploit others in order to look good)
  • build up your neighbor (who’s your neighbor? Read Luke 10:25-37)

Only do what promotes peace this season – and every season for that matter, but start today. If peace will not come by a decision you’re making, reconsider that decision through prayer and ask the Lord to give you wisdom to make the adjustments toward the outcome of peace. If chaos, frustration, and confusion will likely be the end result – change your approach. Use the above “guidelines” to lead you into heavenly peace; brave grace by choosing to practice a renewing lifestyle according to Romans 12.

Reflect

  • Continue reviewing this list throughout the season.
  • Where are your strengths and weaknesses in regard to renewing your mind in Christ Jesus?
  • How can you incorporate Romans 12 on a personal level in your day to day life?

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts or prayers in the comments below. We are excited to be part of your Christmas! To receive notifications and stay engaged with this Christmas devotional series, please follow us. And please share this with your friends and family!

Enjoy a Christmas Song

Grace for Distractions

“….you are worried and distracted by many things….” ~Luke 10:41

Prepare Your Heart

Read: Luke 4 & Luke 10:38-42

Between the months of November and December, our family celebrates a couple of birthdays on top of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I cannot say that it doesn’t add to the possibility for things to get hectic. Ironically enough I woke up today with many distractions going on in my mind. As I sat to read my bible I found myself wandering off into those thoughts and this same passage from Luke 10 – not a passage we would usually associate with Christmas – kept creeping into my distractions….”you are distracted by many things….” and then I was reminded about a wonderful quote I found from Oswald Chambers that reads like this:

Lord, in my consciousness this morning a crowd of little things presses in and I bring them straight to your presence. In your wisdom say, ‘Peace, be still,’ and may my ordered life confess the beauty of your peace.

Oswald Chambers

This is the status of my heart on many mornings. A “crowd of little things” can become the norm for us during the holidays. But in all of the distractions of life let’s press in close to Jesus today and begin to make that the norm so that our lives become a confession of the beauty of His peace.

Reflect

  • What is the “crowd of little things” that keeps your mind distracted throughout your days?
  • Do these distractions cause chaos or frustration?
  • You have been given the mind of Christ. If you’re facing many distractions today, give them to Him and thank Him for renewing your mind.

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts or prayers in the comments below. We are excited to be part of your Christmas! To receive notifications and stay engaged with this Christmas devotional series, please follow us. And please share this with your friends and family!

Protect Your Peace.

Prepare Your Heart

Read:
Isaiah 9:6
Philippians 4:9
2 Thessalonians 3:16
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Romans 16:20

I think we can all agree, the holiday season can be stressful if we are not careful about protecting our peace. It is not always something we consider doing but we should make it our chief aim to preserve peace in our lives. Guarding your peace means making a choice to not allow things (or frankly people) to take your peace from you. It is a choice. It might look like chaos all around you, but you can choose to walk in peace regardless of the circumstances. It may not seem possible because shutting out noise and distractions can seem impossible, but 1 Peter 3:11 tells us that we are to, “seek peace and pursue it”. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Peace is already part of us when we are believers. It’s one of those free gifts we are given just waiting for us to open and use. Even better than peace being part of us through the Spirit, Peace is a person. Peace is the One in whom we put our hope. His name is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE. His name is Jesus. The reason for the season. The reason for every season. Jesus promises His peace and it is always available to those of us who believe in Him.

Let’s take Christmas back. Let’s choose peace.

Reflect:

  • Are you dealing with conflict in your life during this season? Maybe family drama, a financial struggle, or a health concern?
  • What areas do you allow chaos or frustration to steal peace from your home or relationships?
  • Today, make a concerted effort to reign in any negative or peace-stealing thoughts or actions and press into the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth concerning peace.

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts or prayers in the comments below. We are excited to be part of your Christmas! To receive notifications and stay engaged with this Christmas devotional series, please follow us. And please share this with your friends and family!

Seeking Him. Jesus.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Jesus ~ Matthew 6:33

Prepare Your Heart:
Read Matthew 6:25-34

How do we seek God’s righteousness during this Christmas season? Wise men still seek Him. The “easy” answer is that we pursue right living – making good decisions, being honest, living with integrity, being kind, etc. It’s interesting how we are so trained to default to our own efforts.

If we look at what Jesus said here, we find that He didn’t tell us to go work hard to become righteous. He said to seek God’s righteousness. This means that righteousness is something to be found, not something to be done.

Righteousness is right-standing with God.  The righteous person can stand in God’s presence without guilt or condemnation, fully free from judgement. The reality of Jesus is that without Him, no one can achieve righteousness. If we could do it on our own, His sacrifice wouldn’t be necessary. If we didn’t need a Savior, we wouldn’t rejoice at His birth.

In this season of grace, we are reminding ourselves to focus on the one thing that really matters, which is Jesus. Do we focus on Him by doing good things? The more righteously we behave, does that help us to focus on Him? Or is it the reverse?

Romans 5:17 tells us that righteousness is a gift that we receive. We don’t earn it. But let’s take it a step further. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says:

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption . . .

Do you see it? Jesus became for us righteousness. The KJV says “who is made unto us.”  Became for us, is made unto us – Jesus is God’s righteousness on our behalf. When we seek the One who matters, when we pursue Him in His Word, in prayer, in faith, then we are seeking His righteousness. And from that place, righteous living will follow. We don’t seek righteousness by trying to be righteous. Rather, we become righteous when we seek Jesus. After all, He became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Spend this season seeking the One and find the gift of righteousness. And all the things will be added.

Reflect:

  • What are ways you can spend time seeking the things of God with as much intention as you seek for the perfect gift for friends and family members?
  • Do you receive God’s gift of righteousness as an actual gift or are you still trying to earn it?

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts or prayers in the comments below. We are excited to be part of your Christmas! To receive notifications and stay engaged with this Christmas devotional series, please follow us. And please share this with your friends and family!

Season of Grace

“…few things are needed—or indeed only one.”

Luke 10: 42

Prepare Your Heart:
Read Luke 10:38-42

During this Christmas season, just like every other year, it is going to be easy for you to get caught up in the busy schedule, the purchase of gifts, the events for family and friends, and the overall hype that accompanies the holidays. None of those things are in and of themselves bad. Just like it was not bad for Martha to want to host a successful gathering. It is not bad to attend a family event. It is not bad to purchase a few too many gifts to bless others. But where is your priority?

Martha wasn’t wrong, she was mistaken. She was right to want to take on the tasks that came with hospitality, but she let that be her focus and not Jesus. Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus was an example of a heart posture. Jesus was not scolding Martha by telling her she did something wrong; I would bet that He was deeply appreciative of all the work the women put into having Him visit their home and engage with them. But He knew, because He knew her heart, that Martha’s focus was not on Him.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is seeking the heart of the Father. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” I imagine Him explaining this to the room full of friends and family while Mary sat listening. And in Martha’s lonely frustration, I can hear Him responding to her from the Father’s heart – “precious girl, I just want to know you, the dishes can wait, come in here and sit down, I want you to know me. There really is nothing more needed, just One thing, Me, Jesus.”

This Christmas season, be encouraged to intentionally seek its purpose. There are really only few things needed in this life, and really only One. Jesus.

Reflect:

  • Do I have a tendency to make Christmas all about the hype – the gifts, the events, the busyness?
  • Do I truly allow Jesus to be the center of every element of Christmas?
  • Take a few minutes to pray about your heart posture as you move through this month and then quiet yourself to let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

We’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts or prayers in the comments below. We are excited to be part of your Christmas! To receive notifications and stay engaged with this Christmas devotional series, please follow us. And please share this with your friends and family! The more the merrier!

And one last thing. I have to share music because it is what makes me happy. Enjoy this beautiful arrangement by some beautiful people….

Grace to Forgive

“Indeed everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.”

2 Corinthians 4:15 (HCSB)

We have all heard it said, “Living with unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Drinking the poison will always bring more harm and death to the consumer than it ever will to the person who has offended us, and that is not God’s desire for any of our lives. There may be moments where holding a grudge feels good because that person won’t even acknowledge what they have done. But Jesus addressed that lie when He hung from the cross and said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) It is important to recognize that unforgiveness is not only a tool the enemy uses to keep us from loving relationships but also a way to keep us separated from the love of God. According to 2 Corinthians 4:15, if everything is for our benefit then that means forgiveness is for our benefit. This cause and effect of forgiveness does not stop short of our own personal benefits; it creates a chain reaction toward something much more eternal than our fickle feelings. The entire gospel message hinges on the fact that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus extended forgiveness to us even when we would not acknowledge our offenses. When we forgive the way we have been forgiven through Christ Jesus the outcome of that commitment displays grace. Our forgiveness is then extended through more and more people. The grand finale of our obedience is a spectacular showing of thanksgiving and an increase to God’s glory – His glory, reflected in our forgiveness. That is good news, and so much better than the bitter sting of holding on to something God never intended for you to keep.

Dear Jesus, it is my prayer today that you would reveal areas that need my attention in the area of forgiveness. Where there are elements connected to grudges or bitterness, please prune away what needs pruning in order that I may walk with complete wholeness and fullness of life. If there is someone I need to forgive, I pray for the grace to extend through me so that your glory may be experienced in all of my relationships. Glory and honor and thanksgiving, In Your name. Amen.

Think About it:

  • Are there any relationships in my life where I need to “come clean” and ask for forgiveness where I may have offended someone?
  • Are there any relationships where I have held on to past hurts or grudges that I need to address and offer forgiveness?
  • Have I ever received the complete forgiveness that God extended to me through His Son Jesus Christ so that I am able to extend that same grace to others?

Sabbath.

And “He said unto them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath'”.

Mark 2:27-28

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come {speaking of before Jesus}; the reality, however, is found in Christ Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:  “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?  These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining self- indulgence (self-control).

Colossians 2:16-23 (italics and notes mine)

Sabbath by definition is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jewish people from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday. Sabbath is still highly regarded in the Jewish tradition and religion. One very interesting fact many Christians have seemed to not understand since this newfound theology of “Sabbathing” (which by the way is NOT a word) is that Jesus is not accepted as the Messiah to the Jewish religion. The Jews do not accept the teaching of the disciples or that Jesus HAS already fulfilled the law and the prophets. I should really not have to go on any further with this post for any Christian who hears this version of Sabbath “theology”. That last sentence should not be confusing to the believer because the basis of the Christian faith is that Jesus IS the Messiah and He DID become a sacrifice to fulfill the law. But because prominent pastors and leaders have allowed themselves to latch on to this doctrine a conversation is necessary to correct wrong teaching.

So here we go….

If we would read everything we could find in the Bible about the Sabbath, about the sixth and seventh days, and if we would understand it strictly through the lens of Jesus Christ, there would be no misunderstanding about Sabbath rest.

Jesus fulfilled the law. And He told us, “I did not come to abolish the law, I came to fulfill it.” That does not mean we don’t honor the Sabbath because it was eliminated. NO, it means we do indeed honor the Sabbath now, not as a religious practice or rule but because the Sabbath is JESUS! Jesus is worth our honor, no doubt!

Those teaching about these “rhythms of Sabbath,” are encouraging a mentality of works-related behavior. Encouraging people to honor the Sabbath by taking an extra day off is encouraging people to a works-based, sin-conscious mentality. What can I do in order to receive God’s blessing? This is a question many people ask every day because they do not understand Jesus’ sacrifice. And if you’re seeking for something you need to do or something else that needs to be done, you do not truly understand the sacrifice Jesus made when He hung on the cross.

Sabbath was made for man.

His entire ministry was for man. His death and resurrection – and all of His conversations with the Pharisees about the wonderful miracles He performed on the Sabbath – were for man.

Sabbath was not made to burden man.

Too many pastors are putting an unnecessary burden on their people with messages that a rhythm of rest is something they have to do. They do not teach that the rhythm of rest is what Jesus did.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29

If you noticed what Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 compared to what Paul said in Colossians 2:23, Jesus’ yolk was attached to gentleness and humility. We have a flesh response to thinking we have to do something to receive the gifts and blessings that Jesus provided for us on the cross (remember how God provided the manna in the wilderness?). If you are one of those who are insistent that you must perform, well, all you have to do is simply believe – “ For with the heart one believes unto righteousness…” We have a flesh desire to either feel good about our part in our salvation, or the flesh desire to look good to others in our part of salvation. There is no condemnation in that because you are the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus; but just accept this truth – your rest (and salvation) is only available because of Him.

Sabbath was the type of Jesus.

The Sabbath was pointing Old Testament believers to a better rest that would come in Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 4:9) Just as God rested on the seventh day eternally, we are able to rest in Jesus EVERYDAY for eternity. We don’t have to pick a special day of the week to “Sabbath”; I mean, if that’s what gets you to slow down and acknowledge Jesus in the middle of a busy season, by all means, take a “Sabbath” and keep Jesus in focus. But “Sabbathing” is not a requirement to experience the supernatural and eternal rest found in Jesus. Jesus is Sabbath.

Sabbath is provision.

God is not going to withhold blessing from your life because you do not set aside a specific time and day each week to “rest”. Understanding the concept of rest and the importance of having self-control over your life is something even unbelievers understand. Burning the candles at both ends is not a phenomenon held exclusively for pastors and church leaders or Christians. Bankers, moms, bartenders, students, tarot card readers, strippers, and all sorts of people will feel the burn in their life of imbalance and lack of priority. That’s the world we live in. People don’t know how to manage time, or they manage it so well they need a space to check off their Sabbath box. Neither mindset is what God intended when He introduced the Sabbath. The first mention of Sabbath was in regard to provision. Jesus = provision; He is more than enough. Think about Philippians 4:19 in regard to the Sabbath: “My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory… (don’t be tempted to stop right there like you might normally do when chanting this in a time of need)…in Christ Jesus!!!” IN CHRIST JESUS!

Sabbath is what we work for.

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebrews 4:11 KJV

Do you truly believe that Jesus provided everything we need that pertains to life and godliness, or do you have a need to think there is something you must do in order to receive His blessing? Friend, today I want to encourage you that it is already done. Sabbath is yours for the taking, for all of eternity. If you have felt the pressing burden of not being spiritual enough to keep a day that you do things differently from every other day, I want to remind you that you are released from that burden, because JESUS already did it for you. He is already carrying your burden and He exchanged it for something light. If you are going to work for anything, work to stay reminded of His promises to you; work to having your mind renewed to the truths of God’s Word (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us) because that is Jesus, the law fulfilled in and for YOU! Don’t work to keep a day that has already been given to you – rest is yours for the taking, every day, all day, for all eternity. Provided to you by Jesus.

Go. Rest. Brave Grace.

More on Grace

I found this from an old social media post. It's no less true today than it was the day I wrote it 8 years ago. It is probably even more relevant to current life circumstances. I pray it blesses you. 

For several months, God has been dealing with me in the area of grace. I have always loved the biblical principle, “for whom much grace is given, much grace will abound.” I will say, and I truly believe it, recently I have come to a new revelation and desire to understand how I can walk in the type of grace seen in the Word; it is not easy.

2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all the grace you need, you will abound in every good work.” It is very difficult to “abound in every good work,” when we are constantly at odds with others. We can fill our lives with “every good work,” going on about doing great things for God, yet never truly understand the concept of grace. We might even walk in His grace over our own lives, accepting it for ourselves but never accomplish the one true “good” work God desires for all of us – Love others as well as you love yourself, this is the second greatest command given by Jesus as He fulfilled His early ministry. yet, many of us do not walk in that love, again, we accept that love of God on our own lives, even to the extent of doing nice things for others, but we still seem to esteem ourselves above all others. This is not walking in grace.

I found it so interesting that one word used to describe grace was the word, “clemency”. Clemency means to have the disposition to show forbearance, compassion, or forgiveness in judging or punishing; leniency; mercy. Those concepts are the basic foundational truths of the New Testament. We are called to receive God’s grace so that we are able to walk in grace and extend grace, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy toward all others. These things should be extended toward everyone, not just those we choose or think deserve it. Deciding who deserves our grace is the antithesis of the Christian doctrine.

Grace means relinquishing our right to be right not sometimes but at all times. In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul learned that God’s grace was sufficient for him, that God’s power was made perfect in weakness. I don’t think he was talking about weakness of the physical body because if you continue in the passage Paul says:

"I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it."  

He boasted in his weaknesses concerning his reaction to insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties dealing with those people who were wanting to defame the message he was bringing in the name of Christ. These were people who he was trying to reach for the sake of the Gospel yet they refused to hear him, continuing to walk in opposition to him – insulting him, persecuting him, to the point of death. Ha! Now that’s what I call grace! He turned the other cheek, so to say, to the point of looking like a fool!

Grace allows you to do that. It allows you to show a person so much compassion even when they are insulting you or hurting you. To the world you look like a fool, heck, even to most of your Christian friends you are looking pretty foolish in those moments. But God’s power is made perfect in those moments! Resting in that truth is a beautiful freedom. I would suggest anyone try it!

Although it would be much easier to remove the “thorn” (seen earlier in 2 Corinthians 12), grace abounds all the more when we allow ourselves to walk in it through those difficult experiences, loving people through His strength and not our own. An entire world was changed because one man walked this perfectly, and we are called to emulate Him – Jesus!

Motive.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Matthew 12:30 (NKJV)

We are living in a time where it seems everyone must take a side. Some people are calling this, “The Age of Us Against Them”. And if you’ve spent any time outside of the four walls of your own home, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon on a personal level. Someone is always to blame, it’s never two-sided, and motives are always being questioned.

This mentality has also infiltrated people in the church over the years. Paul warns against it in Galatians 5:15 when he said, “…if you keep biting and devouring one another, watch out or else you’ll be consumed by one another.” And that fully embraces what Jesus meant when he addressed the Pharisees in Matthew 12. Jesus brought a new command – “to love your neighbor as yourself…” Paul mimics this in Galatians 5:14 – yes, the verse right before Galatians 5:15 – “The entire law is fulfilled in this single decree: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” THE ENTIRE LAW IS FULFILLED – So, no more need for legalism, Pharisees. Get your motivation in check.

Jesus wasn’t condoning a “for us or against us” mentality when he was addressing the Pharisees. He was addressing a the desire to keep rules, laws, traditions, regulations, “me first” thinking, and legalism instead of embracing His message of Grace. Jesus wasn’t worried about being the one to win an argument with the Pharisees. Jesus wasn’t trying to defend Himself. Jesus was gathering the masses toward the Way, the Truth, and the Light. The Pharisees would have rather seen people continue living in a way that kept them bound to a law that would not save them from the clutches of the enemy. They were not concerned about people being set free and being given the opportunity to embrace the powerful and active Holy Spirit. They were more concerned about being right. They wanted to continue perpetuating the narrative of legalism. Their motives were threatened by Jesus and the message He was bringing to the masses; you have to be born again and there is no way to do that but through Jesus Christ Himself – “No man comes to the Father except through me.” This revelation message to humanity drove the Pharisees bonkers. When Jesus proclaimed there was no more need for the law what the Pharisees heard was, “there is no more need for you, Pharisee.”

When people feel their motives are being threatened in any way, it is prime opportunity for much assumption and offense to take place. We see in the relationship Jesus had with Nicodemus the Pharisee that He was willing that none would perish – even the Pharisees – if they would only be receptive to the message He was bringing. It was in the beautiful interchange between Nicodemus and Jesus that we were given the most famous verse of the bible – John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever should believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus would go on to say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This message was one that would in some ways, put the Pharisees out of a job. This message threatened the existence of Pharisaical mentality. Jesus came not to condemn but to save the lost; the Pharisees believed their existence was to condemn the sins of others. Because of Jesus and His message of a life by the Spirit, the Pharisees could not co-exist within the confines of Jesus’ message and continue to believe the way they believed. This meant their own message was replaced with a new message. This meant they were, well, wrong.

As believers, our only agenda should always be Christ first. If there is any other agenda in our hearts, it is time to cut that up into tiny pieces and offer it up as a sacrifice of praise. The agenda and motive of the Pharisee did not have the heart of Jesus and His love for other attached to it in any way. These were men who studied God’s Words and His Law, yet their actions did not line up with those truths. Jesus made every effort to call out this behavior and stir the waters in order to bring attention to their hypocrisy because it hurt the people He loved, and it had the potential to distract people from embracing their true love.

An, “us against them,” attitude in Christian circles is nothing shy of what Jesus dealt with from the Pharisee. Always looking to point out the faults in others, always investigating motives & agendas (Matthew 7:1-2), or painting narratives to make ourselves look better is not Christ-centric (it isn’t putting Jesus at the center). It is a lifestyle based in fear and control and has no place among us.

It’s easy to know if your motive is Christ-centric, or if it is YOU-centric:

If you are consistently more concerned about being right than for the hearts of others: YOU-centric.
If you are not loving and addressing people the way you would like to be addressed and loved: YOU-centric.
If every conflict leads to you hurrying to write the narrative of the situation to others: YOU-centric.
If you are more concerned about your motive than celebrating what God is doing in others: YOU-centric

A Christ-centric life looks something like this:

If you are consistently concerned about giving others the benefit of the doubt: Christ-centric.
If you are loving and speaking to others the way you would liked to be loved and spoken to: Christ-centric.
If your conflicts lead to you allowing others space to share their hearts with each other: Christ-centric.
If you are celebrating what God is doing in others knowing He is the motive: Christ-centric.

You see, Jesus had His own motive, He said it loud and clear in Luke 19:10, “…the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” If our motive and agendas are not simply to seek and to save those who need the message of Jesus, we are living from our own reserve and that will ultimately lead to a place where you live with the “us against them” motive.

I encourage you today to get with Jesus and ask Him to reveal the motives of your heart to you. He is faithful to complete that work in you. Plus, the Bible says that no one knows the motives of a man’s heart other than the Lord, so it’s safe to say that Jesus is willing to get you on the right track with your motives if you’d just let Him.

Be Blessed, and share in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Angela

Grace and Courage to Enter

You can now hear this blogpost on Spotify to listen on the go! LISTEN HERE!

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4 
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Ephesians 2:18

David’s desire in Psalm 27:4 is something I pray on a regular basis. There is a sense of wonderment when I consider that David did not have the culminating end point of a relationship with Jesus, he only had the promise of the coming Messiah. The level of passion and obedience it required to stay in right-standing with God without ever seeing Jesus is worthy of human envy. (Maybe that is why Saul hated him so.) Yet, the Lord dubbed David, “a man after God’s own heart.”

So many people are waiting on a man to give them permission to be set free, to let them know they are redeemed, counted worthy, and seen as righteous.

I was watching an episode of King of Queens called “Patrons Ain’t”. In the episode Doug and Carrie, the lead husband and wife duo, donate money to a school library in order to feel better about themselves. When Carrie notices they aren’t listed on a plaque as giving as much as they had, she wants to tell the director of the library. She and her husband bicker about how uncouth that would be – Doug not wanting to embarrass himself with something so petty. Somehow the situation becomes a “spiritual” matter and they find themselves sitting in front of a priest asking him his opinion with Carrie hoping for permission to be recognized. The priest finally encourages them to drop it and Doug feels justified.

This silly sitcom example reminded me that we have a great high priest named Jesus and we don’t have to go to a priest for advice or to know what God would have for us. When Jesus died and rose again the veil that hung in the temple was torn from top to bottom. That meant that everyone could have access to God through the Holy Spirit and no longer through a priest or an infallible man. It meant we could come straight to God with our requests and our needs. It meant we could receive Him as our ultimate sacrifice and we would not need to put on a performance or prove ourselves to receive His grace and blessing.

When I watched the King of Queens episode it reminded me of how often we feel the need to seek out validation or agreement from people who may or may not always have our best interest at heart; even really nice, Christian people; even our family members who are believers. We have to have confidence in who we are in Christ more than we have confidence in someone else. We already know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us, we know what is right, but I believe that we trust the opinion of the people around us more than we trust the still small voice of the Spirit. And I certainly believe that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, but when the counselors are not in agreement with THE Counselor, we must have the courage to enter into obedience with the plan of God over what others might think they know is best. God gave us permission to fully trust Him when He gave His Son to die on that cross.

Today have the boldness to enter in to a conversation with your Heavenly Father. If you are facing a holy discontentment, or maybe an unsettling in your soul that you just can’t quite put your finger on, stop asking everyone else what they think, and just ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He’d like to show you. He is always faithful. Even when we can’t see the end from the beginning, we know He will complete what He started. We are His temple and He wants to show us where to take it!

Grace and Peace,

Angela

New Month. New You.

Today is the first day of a new month. This new month has a new season on the calendar – summer. For some of us, this new month doesn’t just represent the physical change in weather patterns, but also a new season of life patterns. For over a year, my husband and I have been praying and seeking the Lord to give us clarity regarding some of our life circumstances. We’ve been forging through an incredibly difficult season of life with the death of a parent, career changes, uprooting family to care for those things, and the experience of transition on a level that can really take a toll on a person. But in the middle of all of that, God just kept telling us to keep moving forward, keep encouraging people to know Him more, and that He’d make things clear in His timing (Proverbs 19:12). When you’re in the middle of an experience that just hurts, you want nothing more than to rush down that path as quickly as possible. But that isn’t always what will bring the most growth.

Maybe you find yourself in the middle of a tough season. Today, be encouraged to take advantage of some of the bible studies that you can find here at Braving Grace. There is no better way to move through a season than to spend time soaking in the Son. It will give you the nourishment your spirit, soul, and body need in a way that no summer vacation, spring break, or winter holiday every could.

Click on one of these links for devotional studies:

Much Love,

Angela

Control Your Time, Please!

As I sat in my chair after the question was asked of the panel of leaders, sweat beads started to form on my brow. “How do you balance motherhood, work, family life, and everything else you do to help lead others?”  Sure, a question that many women sitting in the room were probably wondering. Just like the women who were chosen to inform and inspire us, we had a desire to lead well in our homes and in our vocations.  As the question was asked, the entire panel laughed out loud, shaking their heads up and down, making quick little remarks to one another as if to assure us, “yes, we get it, our schedules are a crazy mess too!”  But the heat was crawling up my back until the moment I heard these amazing words come from one of the speaker’s mouths:

“Time management is one of the most important things to finding success, but it can also be a huge SACRIFICE for some of you sitting in the audience. It does not come natural to everyone, even to people who are successful. But it must become important to you if you want to be successful as a high-capacity leader.”   

I wanted to jump up and down and yell, “YES!” For years, I have been told that I am a high-capacity leader. Frankly, I haven’t always known how to say, “NO,” well and ended up with more on my plate than I should.  Yep, I could get the tasks done, make the trip, lead the group, but only at the expense of everyone around me – sacrifice. The sacrifice of family time, the sacrifice of sleep, even the sacrifice of happiness – this panel speaker confirmed that Time Management is in fact a sacrifice. That day I realized, I must decide what I’m willing to sacrifice in the time I have been given in order to accomplish what God has given me to accomplish.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” The chapter goes on to list out the different things that take up time in our lives. Birth, death, taking time to sow into dreams, tearing down things that do not belong, building up things that do, crying, laughing, grieving and dancing, even a time to decide what things to keep and those things to throw away.  That’s a lot to accomplish day to day.  And according to Solomon, God already knew that we would be faced with having to make priorities and having to decide how to manage our time in this life well. And one of the New Testament writers reminded us: “God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3)

God gave us the ability to control ourselves – it is one of the Fruit of the Spirit, self-control.  Time Management is largely about managing and organizing the hours of each day – controlling our time. It is not some magical day planner, an alarm buzzing from your smart device, or an app you can download to your phone. Sure, all of those are great tools to help us manage our days but, when it all boils down to it, managing our lives and our time to reflect our priorities is something in which we must be intentional.

First and foremost, we must determine those things that are priority.  If we do not recognize our priorities it is going to be difficult to manage our time. Secondly, we need to prioritize our priorities.  Because sacrifice is involved in managing our time, we need to determine those things we are willing to put on the altar each day. Each day may change. I may determine that today I am going to sacrifice a little time with my kids because yesterday I took them to the beach and had a picnic. Sacrifice does not have to hold negative connotation. In regard to time management it can look like prioritizing each day, one day at a time, even if you do that monthly. You can look at your calendar to see if you have or haven’t spent time with a friend or a child. Maybe you do not physically keep a calendar but you still know if it has been days since you have taken a much-needed exercise break.  Either way, prioritizing your priorities is a must!

If you struggle managing your time and knowing when to say NO to one thing in order to say YES to something else, I would like to challenge you to take 15 minutes to do two things:

1) Write down anything in your life that is a priority. It can be people, events, activities, personal care, etc.

2) Then, using your priorities list, make a second list and organize those priorities in order from most important to not as important.  (I didn’t say least important because ALL priorities are important, right!?!) 

Once you have done these things pray over the list. Ask the Lord if there are any areas in your life that you are making higher priority than necessary. Pray that He will show you what your “most important” priorities need to be and those you can push a little further down the list. Ask Him to help you recognize when things need to shift. And then thank Him for giving you the ability to control yourself and your time. 

For those who love technology:

LIFEHACK is a great tool to use for time management. And the great thing about Lifehack is that they just updated the latest and greatest tools for 2021!

I’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts about today’s blog devo in the comments below!

Blessings,
Angela

Scripture References:
Ecclesiastes 3:1-9
2 Peter 1:3
Matthew 6:25-34

Grace in the Mediocre

Hebrews 13:5 “…be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

The word mediocre has several synonyms. Words like, ordinary, average, and second-rate. These are all words that you rarely want people to use when describing their thoughts of you. “Oh, she is a nice girl, ordinary in her appearance.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people to say I’m ordinary! I want people to think I’m extraordinary! But in the grand scheme of things most of us will lead a life that is fairly average, ordinary, middle of the road. Heck, let’s just admit it…down right mediocre. The problem is we are not satisfied being average and ordinary. There is something deep inside of us that desires to be something more! The culture we live in testifies to everyone’s desire to be a rockstar by airing shows like, The Voice or America’s Got Talent. These shows give us the hope that those average, ordinary people just like us can really go somewhere, do something memorable with their lives. We talk up our children to help them feel that they are the best at what they do, allowing them to compete in sports by the age of 3, awarding them trophies and words of affirmation that go far beyond their ability. This mentality sets us up for serious disillusionment when real life begins because not everyone can be a rockstar. Not everyone can be the star athlete. Not everyone can be a Billy Graham or a Joyce Meyer. And that’s OK! Someone had to be their mother, or their father, or their hairdresser or their plumber.

Paul said that he had become content in every station of life, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12-13). There is a reason every Christian needs to embrace the ability to be content in every situation. If we do not embrace contentedness we open the door to become frustrated with the call God has on our life at that moment. It is in the ordinary that God creates in us the extraordinary. If we take hold of the ordinary moments in life and find the pleasure in being an “average Joe” God has time to prepare us for the greater things to come. Just because we may never stand on a stage to speak in front of millions, become the NFL’s first draft pick, or have a number one song on the charts does not mean that God can’t use our daily sacrifice to do memorable things.

Today while you are folding laundry, cooking dinner (a mediocre dinner at that), scrubbing toilets or whatever it is you find so monotonous and dull, remember that you serve the God of the Universe and He made you and He’s your biggest fan! In God’s eyes, when we are going about His business, we are all superstars! Nothing about that is ordinary or mediocre!

Woefully Pitiful or Wonderfully Irreplaceable

I was likened to a football player.  Being barely over five feet tall, a football player is not exactly something in which I desire to be compared. And frankly, none of my counterparts sitting in that room that day fit the description either. Upon this strange likening, I found myself slightly caught off guard.  It was my understanding that I had been chosen to help lead a children’s ministry, not be a linebacker on a football team. But for some reason, on this particular Monday the day after a long Sunday, the pastor felt the need to use football as an analogy of being displeased with those whom he called employees. Apparently, someone didn’t drive the proverbial ball far enough down the field. It seemed that maybe the quarterback was throwing interceptions. I guess if we were a football team that might have been acceptable in this meeting, but we weren’t a football team. We were a group of people who had worked tirelessly loving and serving people the day before. We were prayed up, we were believing for breakthrough in people’s lives, we were full of faith that people were being saved.  But clearly there was pass interference and it trumped anything good that God could have done that previous Sunday. The coach went on to say none of us were really needed; there were many people who could do our jobs; any minute someone else could step in and do what we do. I pondered the absurdity of his words amidst the shock at being spoken to this way and realized he was right.  I was not the only person in the world who could lead a children’s ministry. I was not the only person who cared if little kids learned about Jesus. But there was one thing that “coach” was wrong about: I am not replaceable because I am the only me. I was the only one God created uniquely and wonderfully to fulfill a purpose in this world, in that specific place, at that specific time. The hard truth was that he was wrong in saying that I could be replaced. Sure, someone else could do my tasks but no one could replace me. No one would love those kids the way I would love those kids. No one would take the time to minister to and lead those children’s volunteers the way I would. And many years ago, while God knit me together in my mother’s womb, He knew all those things. Over the course of 40+ years He was working something out in me so that I could be confident in His truths and would recognize when someone was speaking outside of those truths.

Fast forward a year or so, a new team, a new coach (due to ending my career contract with the previous team, and being given another opportunity to serve this new coach). This coach was different. He didn’t speak coach speak at all. He spoke God speak. He made comments that inspired partnership. He even validated and encouraged those people who no one else would have considered encouraging. Sure, they deserved being encouraged, but didn’t he see that the person was a drug addict? This girl he was saying would be a pastor, didn’t he notice she had pock marks indicative of a meth issue? That guy who came to church with the smell of alcohol on his breath, why was this pastor telling this guy that joy was his birthright? This guy probably didn’t even know his biological father. This “coach” was nuts! But wait, was he nuts? Or was he actually pastoring, was he ministering healing and hope to people? I hadn’t experienced this type of leadership in my life. I’d caught a glimpse of it over the years, but this guy went to another level.  And it dawned on me, God was trying to use this guy to soften the blow from being treated as a player in a game. Because this leader determined to speak life, people grew and were able to walk out purpose in their lives. Not live feeling pitiful.

The truth is, most of us are painfully aware of our pitifulness. Most of us don’t need a reminder that we can be replaced. We know deep down there will always be someone who could do our job.  Even as a wife and a mother, someone technically could step in and do that job for me. My own natural capacity isn’t fooled into thinking I am the end all, be all.  But the bottom line is this:  God made each one of us creatively and uniquely. We are all wonderfully irreplaceable. That is why He sent Jesus. That is why Jesus did what He did. People do not need to hear that they are replaceable. They need to hear how much they are loved – it is the goodness of God that leads people to change. They need to hear that even in their scrawniest of attempts they are valuable. Everyone already fixates on their weaknesses so they don’t need reminders of those things. They need to be reminded that where they are weak, HE is strong. Where they fall short, He bridges the gap. Make people feel important, and the return on that simple investment will be priceless! Jesus already paid the price and it wasn’t so we could discount that with a half-off code or a gross comparison to being a football player when we’re just trying to do life as a people trying to love other people.   We are fully precious in His sight!

Are there personal relationships or situations where a leader has undermined your value? It’s not easy to admit this because we live in a culture where we are told to respect authority and leadership so we fear that maybe we really are broken and don’t deserve to be valued. We live in a culture where we fear having truthful conversations. Well, Brave Grace and recognize that you are valuable. Determine to get into the Bible if you’re not fully certain if what you are being told about yourself from a leader or close friend is pumped with Godly truth. There has to be an element of personal respect and a Godly foundation of understanding who HE says you are before you might recognize when something does not line up with those truths. Respect and value starts with you first respecting and valuing yourself through the knowledge of who you are in Christ Jesus!

Grace in the Waiting

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 27:13-14

Waiting. If we’re honest, most of us do not like waiting, yet it seems that most of our lives are spent waiting for something. From the moment a mother waits for the baby to be born until the moment loved ones wait for a person to breath their last breath, life goes by one waiting moment at a time.

Waiting is not easy. Waiting is hard. In a 2-day delivery world, waiting is made almost impossible – even if you wanted to wait. But waiting is necessary. God wouldn’t have breathed the words, “…be strong and take heart…” in regards to waiting if it didn’t require a little brawn. Waiting isn’t for the faint of heart. Thankfully, we don’t have to conjure up the strength and brawn it can take to wait.

If you’ve ever carried and delivered a child, you probably understand the necessity of waiting on a level that others may not. For ten full months the child remains unseen, and in a single moment, all of the waiting comes to an end and a baby is born. As a woman who has carried several children past full-term, I can attest that most waiting evokes the same emotion and need for grace as does waiting for a baby to be born. None of it is easy. There is a level of grace that is needed in any waiting. Even enduring the arrival of a baby, I still need an immense dose of grace just sitting at a stop light at times!

Imagine, for hundreds of years the world awaited a Messiah who was seemingly unseen. He was the Promise longed for; the answer to all of the world’s sin. And even still, centuries after Jesus was revealed, Romans 8:19 declares that, “…creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God.” All of us are in a waiting process. The waiting process makes the gift of grace so much more valuable.

I consider the prophet Isaiah who was declaring the promises of God without knowing he’d ever personally experience all he spoke of. He did not see the promise of the child being born unto us. He did not get to meet the wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. He only got to tell of the promise. He didn’t get to see the physical human representation of grace through Christ Jesus, but that didn’t stop Isaiah from speaking of Him as if he’d already met Him. Isaiah remained confident, and he walked braving grace, declaring the Word of the Lord, all while waiting.

During this season, ask the Lord to reveal to you the grace He is providing for you as you wait for that thing you know you are waiting for.

Grace for Decisions

John 8:1-12

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn He went to the temple complex  again, and all the people were coming to Him.  He sat down  and began to teach them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees  brought a woman caught in adultery,  making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery.  In the law Moses  commanded us to stone such women.  So what do You say? ” They asked this to trap Him,  in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin  among you  should be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,”  she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,”  said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”  Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am  the light  of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” 

This story in John is one that has rocked me several times in my lifetime. If you are old enough, you will remember the hit by Rebecca St. James (oldest sister of for KING & COUNTRY) by the title, “Go And Sin No More.” It was a great 90s hit that you should check out. I will never forget the first time I heard the song inspired by John 8. I was standing at my desk in the offices of Honeymoon Hill Contractors. The simple idea that I was not condemned was so foreign to my heart at that time because some of the decisions I made were so worth condemnation. Although it was a very important concept to grasp at the time, and remains the central and most significant portion of this biblical story, it has deeper lessons in it than forgiveness.

Understanding forgiveness and the unmerited favor that we are given through Christ Jesus, as John 8 so beautifully depicts, is the foundational layer of God’s story with mankind. But what’s the lesson here in the day to day, when we have heeded the command, “GO! Sin no more,” and we are living in a place where overwhelming sin decisions are replaced with new decisions: “Should we buy a mini-van because the old one blew up? Should we send our kids back to school or find an alternative method during these crazy Covid times?” At this point, the only sin we think we are struggling with is cussing at the computer screen because the answer is not clearly given anywhere – there’s no website with all the answers. In reality, and an entirely different lesson altogether, our sin issue in those moments is worry (which is another thing we are told we can do away with if we just focus on Jesus).

But, I see something else in John 8. Jesus gave the woman the command first to “GO” and then, “Sin no more.” That’s not where He stopped though, and many times that’s where we stop that story. And if you’re not in a place where sin is chief in your life, you might skim past the story that years earlier changed what you knew as a shame-filled life thinking that you’ve learned all you need to know from this passage.

In the moments preceding the command to Go and stop sinning, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are those who condemn you, those who bring condemnation to you?” The woman looked around and could not find even one of them. Her accusers had fled the scene because the one who crushed the Accuser showed up. The accusations and condemnation could not mingle in Jesus’ presence because there is NO CONDEMNATION in Him. No shame. No accusation. No guilt. It left the scene of the crime. All of it came under the authority of Christ Jesus in a single moment for that woman!

But the lessons keep pouring out.

Accusation comes in the most subtle ways. From the beginning of John 8, the entire set-up started by a group of people trying to bring accusation to the Giver of Grace. They just could not accept the truth that Jesus was the Son of God. So they decided to ask baiting questions. But Jesus turned that around on them in just as subtle of ways and said, “Well by all means, the person among you who has not ever sinned, feel free to let her have it!” Jesus didn’t bring accusation; He simply spoke truth. What happened immediately after He turned that woman around toward grace is the part that was ironically illuminated to me when I read John 8:12. Read what it says:

“Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am  the light  of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” 

I AM the light of the world. I illuminate your world. I light up those things that are dark so you can have life. If you follow me, believe me, trust what I say is true, you won’t ever walk in the dark again.

You see, when we receive His grace we don’t have to live a life full of questioning God’s plan; we don’t have to strive to make the right decisions. We don’t have to walk around moaning that we don’t know what to do. We can GO, we can stop worrying, we can believe that He is leading us into good things and that He will bless the decisions we will have to make as we walk through this life. He told us in John 16:13-14, “When the Spirit of truth  comes, He will guide you into all the truth.  For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears His Father say. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.”

Many of my friends are being faced with big decisions about their children’s education over the next several weeks. Parents who never even let it cross their minds that a day could, let alone would, come where they might have to decide to send their child to school or homeschool are being faced with that decision. The information provided to help them make that decision is overwhelmingly complicated, and it doesn’t seem that anyone has great advice. And just like this decision, so many decisions we are faced with in life can feel like the right answer will never come, that we are just taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best!

But as I considered how to encourage so many of my friends asking for advice about their children’s future I learned a new lesson from this passage: God gave me the ability to make good decisions because I choose to follow Him. He gave me permission to decide with help from the Holy Spirit, and to do so with confidence because He has brought light to what might feel like a shot in the dark; He gave me the Holy Spirit to guide me in all truth. He isn’t trying to conceal the truth from me. Just like He brought light to the darkness of sin in my life by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to persuade me that I can live free from condemnation, He continues to illuminate the dark areas where I feel overwhelmed and incapable of making a good decision. He says, “I am giving you EVERYTHING you need that pertains to this life; you will NEVER walk in darkness again, I promise.”

Friends, whatever you are faced with today I want to first encourage you to GO! Go, and stop worrying that you aren’t capable of making a good decision for the life of your family. Go; stop condemning yourself for past decisions that may not have turned out the way you expected. There is redemption. He was there when you made that decision, because neither height nor depth nor the accusation of the enemy or the condemnation of others, can separate you from His love. And He is here for this decision to lead and guide you into all truth.

The real decision that needs to be made is simple: Do you believe Him?

Braving Grace means believing Him when He tells you that you are capable, you are smart, you know what’s best for your family. Braving Grace means you believe that He entrusted you with the decisions that affect your life, and then acting on that.

So be encouraged to make good decisions this week. Be encouraged to walk hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. He is there to lead you in all grace and truth. And please share with us where you could start Braving Grace. We’d love to walk part of your journey with you.

Go! Brave Grace!
Love,

Angela

Daily Grace

“Chasing White Mice”. I think that sounds like a good title for my first book. Or maybe, “Icebox Mayhem”. Or wait!! Maybe, “Bats, Bats, Everywhere.”

Are you wondering to yourself, “what in the world is this lady talking about?!?” Well, let me explain myself….

On July 3 – yes, the day before a major holiday – our 2.5 year old refrigerator decided to go on the fritz and let us know that at some point in the last few weeks it had been dying a slow death from a lightning bolt surge that apparently targeted it’s life over all other major appliances in our house (silver lining moment – take pause; saying Selah would probably be a little sacrilegious, but I do need a moment to process)! (And no, before you ask, we did NOT buy the extended warranty, and yes, we know we should have.) Anyway, we went to find a new fridge because everyone knows that it’s almost as much to repair an appliance then it is to just go get a new one! Sadly, it was going to be an entire month before any store from here to kingdom come would have something available to deliver. Yep, the effects of factories shutting down during covid are starting to ripple. So, we did what we thought was the next best thing – we found a little used appliance store and bought a “hold over” garage fridge until we could either get a new one for the kitchen or have the fried one repaired. That same day, I saw an appliance repair guy at my neighbor’s house and asked him to come over. He ordered a new circuit board, came in a week later, didn’t work! That’s another story in and of itself. While all of that is going on, I notice that the used fridge in the garage doesn’t feel too cold in the refrigerator section, but the freezer was really cold. It DOES have a 120 day warranty so another guy came out, both defroster control units are bad! Yeah. I could go into more detail, but you get the picture, right!?! Oh, did I mention we have four kids – 3 teenage boys and a daughter!?! You don’t go without a fridge with 6 adult humans in the house!!!! It doesn’t end there, people!

Rewind about a month – we could rewind a few months and start with Covid but that’s a null issue at this house right now. About a month ago, after telling my husband that I kept hearing little scratchy sounds, like the ones I heard when squirrels decided to take up residence in our gutters, my kids came running into the house, “Mom, Mom!! There are bats flying out of our roof, there’s a ton of them!!” So I run outside, mumbling to myself, “I knew it, I told him there was something living in our gutters, but he didn’t listen and now corona is living and breeding in my gutters!!!” Sure enough, BATS! OH. MY. WORD. What!?! Again, I could go on about this story, but you get the picture, right!?! It doesn’t end there either!!

Now let’s get back to the refrigerators where the saga continues….

Used garage fridge was fixed yesterday – Holla! As Mark went out to the garage to make sure all was well after the repair guy left, he is startled when he notices a white mouse with beady little red eyes sitting at the door as calm as could be just hanging out. Said mouse doesn’t scurry away quickly, he just waddles off behind the bins and waits for us to look for him, I guess? We set up a pet-friendly trap. Nothing happened over a 24 hour period. Nice! But weird! Was this mouse just a figment of Mark’s imagination (I did not see the mouse)? Did it have some weird spiritual significance? We asked ourselves those questions, because who finds a white mouse hanging out in their garage – FYI, we don’t live in a rural area, we live in a normal neighborhood, we don’t see a lot of mice. During the day. In our garage. Today we gave up being concerned about the mouse and were going about our business when low and behold, I catch a glimpse of that furry white pest having a good time running around my neighbor’s backyard! I quickly yelled for Mark, he grabbed the trap, and we went on a mouse hunting adventure! Let me just tell you now, IT WAS NOT A MOUSE! IT WAS A FREAKING RAT!!!!! Yes, it was a rat!! Definitely a rat! We almost had him, but he escaped into the neighbor’s banana tree. Eventually we had several neighbors running around the yards like a bunch of crazy idiots trying to catch this rat! Oh what a sight to behold! But, we got that rat! It took four grown adults, but we got that rat! Apparently, according to my friends on the city Facebook page, these white rats have been seen in the adjoining neighborhood also. Not cool. To set your mind at ease if you are an animal lover, the white rat was gently re-homed to the woods far away from our house.

As you can tell, there has been a LOT of BRAVING GRACE in the day to day around our house! Along with all of that, our teenagers had the disappointment of having their annual youth camp cancelled this week. It was a wise decision for leadership to make that move, but still a major blow. (I didn’t even mention the giant gecko who decided to have babies in my bathroom – yes, it’s like stinkin’ animal kingdom over here! We have sent three of them outside and today I can gladly announce, mom gecko joined them after she jumped on my shoulder as I ran out the house to help catch the mouse/rat! Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up!) I hope you are keeping up with the madness!

THIS. This is what it looks like sometimes to BRAVE GRACE! It is in the summation of the day to day hassles, heartbreaks, and heaviness, that life can start to feel overwhelming. Sure, it’s funny to tell these stories – seriously, I have been biding my time before sharing publicly because it’s straight ridiculous, and everyone can laugh at straight ridiculous! But the reality is, the day to day can get really old, really quick. Frankly, these moments have created financial burden, cost us time, they have caused damage to our home; all of these things have been extremely frustrating to deal with, even in the midst of the shear hilarity! Really, who does this happen to? Wait, wait, I can’t go there!

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever wonder, “Who does this happen to?” There are days and weeks and months, and even years, heck decades, that people go through where the ridiculous doesn’t seem to end. One more pop up out of the waves for a quick breath, and maybe the next one will take me close enough to shore to rest. You. Are. Not. Alone. These things do happen to the rest of us. It might not be rats, or bats, or lightning strikes, or leaping lizards, or the death of a loved one, or a diagnosis, or a teenage heartbreak. But all of those things are happening to people all around us.

To live through the day-to-day without becoming completely overcome by bitterness & anger, we have to live BRAVING GRACE. We have to be willing to believe God is for us, that He does not leave us nor forsake us. We have to believe that God’s word will not return to Him void, and He will accomplish what He started in us – even amid the ridiculous. In all reality, that is where grace is braved the most. The apostle Paul walked into the most ridiculous of ridiculous situations and sang the shackles off of prisoners, smacked a ship into the shore, and from everything we know, surrendered his life in order to BRAVE GRACE! When we focus on the eternal, and strive less to protect ourselves from the temporary, we are BRAVING GRACE. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel the moments deeply. It doesn’t mean we ignore what’s happening. There is a song called, “Man of Your Word,” by Maverick City Music. One of the lines says, “you are present in every step; you are patient in every heartbreak.” That’s the sweetest picture of the grace God has for us. He isn’t glibly telling us to get over our daily frustrations; He tells us to remember He is right there in them with us. The grace He extended on the cross doesn’t end at a prayer of salvation. It takes up permanent residence in our hearts – but unlike those bats in my gutters, He never leaves. Unlike that stupid white rat, He doesn’t need to be re-homed because my heart is His home. And absolutely unlike the cheap excuse for major appliances, He doesn’t break and fall apart needing to be replaced. He takes my brokenness, and my moments of falling apart to gently remind me of His grace – His unfailing grace.

Go Brave Grace my friends! Today is ending and tomorrow we are promised new mercies!

Love,
Angela

The Grace of Self-Control

Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

The more I study grace, the more I am amazed at how it pops up everywhere I look! You will find a running theme throughout our website here at Braving Grace – Grace is not something you can earn! It is not something you can work for! It is the free, unmerited favor of God.

I was all prepared to write a little something about grace providing for us when it pertains to having self-control, but I was so blown away by the last six words of Galatians 5:23. I had to take a hard right turn and not sure where to start now!

Ok, so here goes…….

Self-control always seemed like such an odd part of this list we find in Galatians 5. To me it gives the impression that it is something we need to do for ourSELF. This immediately leads to us believing we are able to prove something or work for something in order to have the beloved control over something – restraint from a bad habit or lifestyle, not indulging in sugary snacks, the sheer will power to avoid that thing! But that’s not what it’s about at all! Self-control is a gift, and we already have it!

As you’ve probably read or heard many times (simply because it’s true), is that it is easier to understand what something IS if you first understand what it isn’t. I say this concerning self-control because many of us have ourselves fooled that if we keep ourselves focused and able to stick to the schedule or follow the calendar or stay on that diet, or avoidance of a toxic relationship, that we are masters of self-control. That is NOT necessarily what self-control looks like. It might appear like self-control, but really it is legalism at it’s finest because its masked in things that look good. It’s masked as something we’ve accomplished.

Anyone who is horrible at time management can tell you that the person who keeps a calendar (and actually follows it) is enviable because of their own “out of control” day! But what if that person who keeps the perfect calendar is secretly harboring agitation and inner turmoil making every effort to make it to the day that says, “Self-Care Day”! That’s not self-control at all – that’s being completely controlled by a piece of paper with numbers on it, suffering through a tedious week all for a couple hours of so-called rest!

Or another example: That one relationship. It causes hurt and you aren’t quite sure how to confront it with peace? So you avoid the person. Sure, you’re not talking to them giving the appearance of self-control to those who know you should put boundaries in place, but you are still poking around on social media to see if they’re being nicer to other people and still enjoying life without you. First off, there is no grace in that situation at all. And secondly, there is no peace. Heck, there is no peace or grace because if avoidance is what you think is helping you control yourself and the feelings you have with this person, you are working to change something that is not yours to change. It is the goodness of God that changes people, not our co-dependent relational habits disguised as caring about people. Avoiding the relationship to control your self is really more about self-righteousness than it is about control. Whew, I am worn out just thinking about it!

You see, grace gives the space for circumstances and people (including ourselves) in our lives to change. Grace gives us the space to allow self-control to be part of the gift, not an action in which we have to fight! Of all of the fruit of the spirit, none of them are ours to be worked for – against such there is no law – they are ours for the taking. Consider our study in the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:13-14 it says this:

“…when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession…”

Do you see it!? When we believe in Him we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, He guarantees our inheritance so we can possess ALL that God has for us by His grace. The verse goes on to say, “for the praise of HIS glory!”

You guys! That is exciting stuff right there! You don’t have to ask God for more patience, or more joy, or more self-control!! YOU ALREADY HAVE IT sealed on the inside of you – it’s a promise! And God doesn’t break His promises.

Those six little words – “Against such things there is NO law,” change the game! You can NOT work to gain self-control. You can try for as long as you live, but until you accept the fact that you don’t need will power anymore, that you already have Holy Spirit power, you will fight til the end without freedom from whatever it is. If you have to work toward a self-care day, finding no rest or peace in the days surrounding it on your much too busy schedule, you are not walking in step with the self-control provided by the Spirit. You are walking in law. You are trying to attain something that you already have! “Against such things there is no law.”

Be encouraged. Read this list of what you already possess inside of you through the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Read it again, and again, and again, until you are fully convinced!!

Braving grace means thinking outside of your old ways and toward a life that sets you free from thinking it is about you in any way. It is not about you. It is all for the praise of His glory!

Be blessed and have an amazing day of brave grace! “Against such things there is no law.”

Love, Angela

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Grace and Gifts Abound

Read: Genesis 26:17-22 

We see here in Genesis that Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley where he set up their tents and settled down. He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them. Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water. But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”). Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”). Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

An unlikey passage that made for an amazing devotion one morning as I sipped my coffee and waited for a revelation.  I love those moments when God drops a word into your heart from a portion of scripture that you would never imagine He would speak directly to your life.  To get to the story and application…

Isaac had settled in Gerar and goes about his business sowing seed, raising cattle, growing richer and richer as the days went by.  Well, this made the Philistines jealous so they went and filled in the wells which were dug by Abraham’s servants (Isaac’s daddy).  The King tells Isaac he is too powerful to stay among the people and sends him on his way.  Isaac then moves into the Gerar Valley where he is faced with disgruntled shepherds.  No one twittered so these shepherds could know that Isaac was coming to pitch a tent and make the valley his home for awhile. So it’s to reason they were frustrated but it was how they handled their frustration that spoke to me. 

In this story, Isaac prospers so much that the King sends him away.  I was moved by the fact that Isaac faced a group of people who determined to argue with him over the blessing of the fresh water when he was in a land that was able to provide more than enough for everyone who inhabited the region.  They were arguing over the blessing! 

I believe that is like many people today.  We don’t recognize that there is blessing, according to God’s riches in glory, for everyone.  Each one of us is given gifts and abilities in order to serve and encourage others.  Instead of recognizing that God has given to us all an equal measure we decide to argue and walk in accusation towards others.

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

1 John 3:17

When we shut up our hearts for love toward others, we’re acting as the Philistines who shut up the wells of Isaac’s father, which was provision for the people.  God wants us to use our resources to love others, not to argue and dispute over who has the rights to the resources – the Word says:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…”

James 1:17

None of anything in this life is for us anyway, it’s all meant to be spent for the good of others.

Don’t spend life involved in arguments and discord. Rather, get along with what God is calling you to and pray that you are able to spend the resources to bless and not to accuse others of taking what is yours.  There is enough to go around! 

Braving Grace in Ephesians

Week 1 Devotional of BRAVING GRACE in EPHESIANS is now available!!

The message of grace is found on every single page of the bible if you look for it. Some passages come easier than others. But, in the book of Ephesians, you cannot miss the role grace plays in the promise of our salvation and living a full life.

Foundationally speaking, we can see the many results that come from the courage to see our lives through a lens of grace. God’s rich blessings are not merely an insurance of a Utopian eternity, but the many results that are provided for our current eternal relationship to our Heavenly Father – including this side of glory. Many people miss out on the hope of glory with a morbid idea that eternity doesn’t begin until death. That is not what Ephesians teaches us. That is not what the Bible teaches. Grace results in peace, mercy, power & love, and healthy relationships – right here, right now. Living life through the message of grace means leading a life of influence as we minister to others. Our relationships will be full of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. These grace-filled attributes are not confined to help us feel better about ourselves or to win God’s approval, but to help us live a consistent Christian life, already made righteous and new. Grace will in turn affect our marriages, our family relationships, it will even extend into our jobs. When we decide to brave grace, we are giving the Holy Spirit full access to our lives. Understanding the free gift of grace ultimately results in living a life directed by and infused with the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Next week we will begin diving into the book of Ephesians with all new devotional pages for you to study. We look forward to encouraging you in your walk of BRAVING GRACE!

Until then enjoy our BLOG and check out our DEVOTIONAL IN GALATIANS.

Audacious Grace

The audacity! How dare he push such a ridiculous ideology on us! How dare he try to come in here and tell us that he has a better way! Who does he think he is telling us we have to change?!

Jesus.

Jesus was audacious. Jesus was bold. Jesus was confrontational. Jesus was brave. Jesus was bold, daring, and fearless! This is the character of Jesus. I am not making up the life this man led. I am not interpreting scripture to make Jesus into something I want him to be. I am looking at stories in the Bible and I am seeing a man who was so brave, so confident, and so capable of obedience to the Truth that set people free, that people actually got set free. People genuinely changed, some physically through healing, some spiritually through repentance. No matter, people cannot come into contact with this bold and fearless man and not be changed!

Account after account, Jesus did not seek to answer every criticism that came his way. He stayed the course of the call on his earthly life. He knew that long before he was, I Am would send him. He knew the past tense was working within the present tense of who God, his Father was and is, and is to come. He did not veer from that promise, or that calling, because he knew the end from the beginning, the Alpha and Omega. He was there when it was all created and he is still here to complete it!

The audacity of Jesus, the audacity of the gospel message of grace, is what has kept the gospel alive for centuries. Consider the story of each and every person who decided to pick up this mantle of grace, a mantle of complete courage, in order to see to it that others might come to know of this gift of liberty and love. If grace was passive, I would not be writing this post. If grace was passive, you would not be reading it. If grace was passive, tables wouldn’t be turned over, lives would not be changed, and we would be living in bondage with no hope or future. Grace confronts what needs to be confronted in order to bring the love of the Father to light. Otherwise people stay prisoner to fear and death. This side of grace might feel uncomfortable to many, but we are told to emulate Jesus, just like the Apostle Paul did throughout his evangelistic journey.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are found evangelizing Europe with the message of Jesus Christ and the unmerited favor of God. This was not appreciated by many leaders or by the religious. While the two men were headed to prayer on the day of Sabbath, they were arrested because Paul became aggravated by demonic activity and in boldness (not passivity) commanded a spirit out of a young woman. Her owners became so angry that they dragged Paul and Silas to the officials saying, “These men are seriously disturbing our city! They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” (Acts 16:20-21) Does what Paul and Silas were doing sound passive to you? Not only were they doing the work of God on the Sabbath day, they were also preventing a fortune-telling business from succeeding. The audacity of these two men to cast demons out of this girl! Their willingness to confront the darkness landed them in the stocks. But that is not where the story ended. Their boldness to believe God showed itself in probably history’s most memorable worship service. One that caused “such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken and everyone was loosed.” (Acts 16:25-27)

The story of Paul and Silas’ courage created a domino affect that would end in the salvation of a jailer and his entire household. Their courage met their calling that day. They did not back down to old thinking, or to religious mindset. They did not keep grace in a box. They opened that gift up wide and bold and loud. They didn’t let the fear of man or the tradition of religious thinking keep them from boldly walking out grace through faith! They believed what God said was true and that what He started He would finish because of Christ Jesus!

Our faith cannot be passive. We must walk in grace, and at times it will be confrontational. It will address grievances produced by legalism and works-based teachings. The message of grace has the power to transform any life. It transformed mine! Someone daring enough to proclaim the Lord Jesus to my mother led to her entire household being saved. Just like that jailer and his family in Acts 16. Your audacious obedience to tell someone else, that it is by grace they are saved through faith, will lead to their hope and future. Our boldness does not need to be directed toward telling everyone the are wrong; our boldness needs to be used to point people to the truth of Jesus and that grace that saves! “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household!” (Acts 16:31)

So today, be audacious. Brave Grace!

Acts 16:11-34
Jeremiah 29:11

Grace in the Gap

A few years ago, I heard Andy Stanley speak at a leadership conference about trust in relationships. He said there are two gifts we have the option to give each other every day – to trust and to be trustworthy. He said often, there are unexplained gaps between what we expect people to do and what they actually do. And when there is a gap between what we expect and what happens, we have to choose to put something in that gap. Our choice of what we put in that gap will determine the health of our relationships – some people call this, giving the benefit of the doubt.

Trust looks very much like grace, yet not entirely the same. Though they are different we must have grace and trust, and allow them to weave successfully through our lives and how we treat people. Biblically speaking, grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. And trust is having confidence in the honesty or integrity of a person. Both can be given and both can be received. Both are also able to be withheld, and that is where relationships can become damaged. As Andy Stanley goes on in his message to leaders, suspicion is usually what goes in the unexplained relationship gaps and no one wins when we do that.

It is likewise with grace. In order to genuinely trust someone, it takes putting on Christ and offering them grace at times. So much is lost for everyone involved when we refuse to operate this way. What makes this difficult to do is that trusting someone usually means having to filter through past experiences with them. That may be a conversation, actions, their involvement with others, our biases or stereotypes of people, or other relationships which look similar in our minds.

I could almost guarantee that if we’d walk putting trust and grace in the gaps of our relationships, 9 times out of 10, we’d be speaking more truth (trust and truth have the same root) than when we start throwing out our own biased accusation of people.

When someone is late to a meeting, trust and grace say, “I bet they were having a tough time getting ready this morning.” And then grace shoots a text to let them know, “if there is anything I can do to serve you this morning, let me know, otherwise, see you soon.”

When we interact with people in that fashion, we also set the standard for people and they will want to be trustworthy. When we sow trust and grace, we will reap trustworthiness and honor.

The Bible says that where sin abounded, grace THAT MUCH MORE!!! That tells me that if we know someone who isn’t trustworthy or has unsightly or dishonorable bends, we should extend grace all the more and put that much more trust in the gap! Real change doesn’t come from our dogmatic biases that reflect distrust and a lack of grace. The bible says that it is the GOODNESS of God that leads men to real change! So we should walk in that same by believing His Goodness about people.

Consider the areas where you need to put grace in the gap. Who is that person in your home or at work that you need to extend grace and put trust in the gap? Where do you need to examine your own heart and determine how you can change your thinking overall to quit being suspicious of everyone’s actions?

Faith Makes Sense

Too often, I’ve heard Christians describe faith as something that goes against reason and logic. They happily declare that they “just believe.”  There is a degree of validity to explaining faith this way.  After all, we generally can’t explain how things in God’s kingdom work out; His thoughts are higher and His ways past finding out, the Bible says.

Yet something bothers me about explaining faith this way.  There are people who look for things to make sense and when we respond by telling them to suspend reason and logic, we lose them.  We make reason and logic seem unnecessary or irrelevant.  In fact, they are neither.  And if we will think differently about what faith is and how we operate in it, we can then present it as something that makes sense.

In Genesis chapter 15, God speaks to Abram and promises this childless man that he will have descendants beyond measure.  Then in verse six, we see a short verse that lays the foundation for all biblical faith.  It says, “and he [Abram] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  Simply believing God was all it took for the promise to take root and for Abram to be judged a righteous man.  If you read about Abram’s (later Abraham) life in the book of Genesis, you’ll see that he made many mistakes and errors in judgement.  God didn’t count him righteous because he did everything right.  It was based solely on the fact that Abram believed God.

This same scripture is quoted multiple times in the New Testament as the example of how we receive salvation.  We don’t receive it by living a good life.  We receive it by believing in Jesus.  What does this have to do with faith making sense?  

Well, Abram could and did question the validity of having descendants beyond measure.  He and his wife were well past the years of making babies.  In the natural, God’s promise was unreasonable and illogical.  And if we assert that faith operates in the unreasonable and illogical, people disconnect.  But the point of Abram’s faith isn’t what he believed.  The Bible doesn’t say that he believed in the seemingly crazy promise and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  The point of his faith is in who he believed.  He believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

The fact of faith is that we can’t know everything.  We can’t know every detail behind every circumstance or understand the inner workings of every scenario.  That doesn’t mean that they don’t make sense at some level.  Faith doesn’t disregard logic and reason.  If someone that you know and trust tells you something that sounds hard to believe, your trust in that person helps you to stretch to accept what they are saying.  At least once in our lives, someone we trust told us something that we couldn’t quite grasp at the time, but we later told someone else, “I didn’t believe it at first but I agreed to go with him and he was right!  It was amazing!”

Faith in God works the same way.  Faith doesn’t have to believe in how something is going to happen.  Faith believes in the character and nature of the source of the information.  Faith believes God because you know His character and heart even when circumstances are hard to grasp.  When we believe God, faith makes sense.

Grace for All

Grace means “unmerited favor.”  It is the concept that the God who created all things loves us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus.  Through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are provided the opportunity to receive into our lives the same favor that God has for His Son.  It is a gift, pure and simple.  We can do nothing to earn or deserve it.  

The divisions that we have among people, whether based on race, religion, sex, age, economic status, or any other difference, can only be overcome by the knowledge that grace is available to all.  It’s not more available to one person or group than another.  No person or group is more or less deserving of God’s grace.  

Intellectually, people who believe the Bible can possess this knowledge.  But deep inside, any hint of a thought that we are either more or less deserving of God’s grace than any other person creates a divide.  We can hide that divide behind any of the differentiators listed above, but those are facades.  The bottom line is that if we harbor discriminatory thoughts about any other person for any reason, there is a root inside of us that doesn’t fully believe the message of grace.

I’m guilty of discrimination in all of these areas.  I’ve discriminated against people of a different skin tone, different religion, different age, the opposite sex, and people of a different financial position.  The bottom-line truth is that at the point of discrimination, whether in thought, word or deed, I didn’t believe that God’s gift of grace was available in equal measure to someone else.  I minimized that person or group, which means that I thought I deserved God’s grace more than they did.  Accepting this reality within me is the starting point.

Most people dislike the ugliness of injustice perpetrated on people because of bias, whether seen in an appalling violent act or unseen in affecting an unfair decision.  We wonder what we can do.  We can’t make another person behave or think differently.  We can’t single-handedly force cultural or institutional transformation. 

What we can do is choose to engage in a life-long pursuit of being a conduit of God’s grace.  We can allow the Holy Spirit to teach us from the Word.  We are responsible for actively seeking to understand the grace message and allowing ourselves to be transformed as our minds are renewed to that truth.  When the truth of God’s unmerited favor, available only through the finished work of His Son, takes root in us, it will uproot those broken perspectives that cause bias and discrimination.  When we live with the clear knowledge that grace is a gift that we could never earn, with eyes fixed on Jesus, we can begin to live Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Brave grace.