living braver

one faith step at a time…


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Yearning…

tea candles     Sometimes there’s just a deep longing.

At times it feels like wanting to spread wings and fly off free of all that holds us back. Other times it feels like a hole deep inside not yet filled. Mostly it’s a stirring just below the surface, a wondering.

It comes from not knowing the answer to the question: Who are you?

Not Melissa, or Amanda, or Sara. Not mom, or wife, or boss, or employee. Not rich or poor, college grad or school of hard knocks grad. Who are you?

A new creation. Created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Apple of His eye. Holy and dearly loved.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

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Seated in the heavenly realms. Blessed. A royal priesthood. Christ’s ambassador. Righteousness of God.

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

Filled with the Holy Spirit. Child of the Father. The body of Christ. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16 NIV)

Heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ. Loved. Forgiven. Saved. God’s possession. Chosen.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17 NIV)

candles colorful

Words of affirmation, affirmed over and over again to thirsty souls with deep longing. Choose no longer to listen to worldly definitions and mind chatter. No past, no present, no tomorrow – no what if, no failure – defines who you are.

Here’s the most important question ever asked: “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29 NIV) If a resounding ‘You are Messiah, the Savior of my soul’ rings from your lips, then the answer to ‘Who are you?’ is settled.

You are daughter/son of the God of all creation, the Father of forever. Yearning finally filled in the rest that comes from knowing who you are…

colorfulcandle

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Open Arms…

angel pixa x     Ten days and counting…celebration or chaos?

Is it possible to have both but still have peace, still have courage, still have Him…

I watched a children’s Christmas production recently. The youngest came up at the beginning and sang their song, so sweet – one little guy was so proud of himself at the end of the song, he folded his arms across his chest and beamed the biggest smile. As they headed down the aisle to exit one looked a little nervous, about that time his daddy appeared with arms open wide. He flew into those arms, relief flooding his face.

That’s me and you, you know. I make lists for gifts, I spend money as wisely as possible, have hopeful expectations that the gifts will please. But what if they don’t?

I make cookies or send cards, trying to express love, but is it enough?

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That’s when I realize my focus is on the trimmings, not on the reason. Jesus came in the midst of chaos, most too busy to notice. An angel chorus announced the Good News to those who were quiet, not to the boisterous crowds. In the quiet, we can hear “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV) All the people may not listen, the quiet may only hear, but still the news is for all…

So when I’m unsure, when my heart is apprehensive, there is a way. A way made to open arms that will calm my doubts, soothe my feelings of not enough. Do you know those arms?

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Those are the same arms that not so many years later were stretched out on a cross. Arms open wide Good News laid down His life, taking on all the sins ever committed, all sins yet to be committed. Once again good news was proclaimed, through ragged breaths “…Jesus said ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)

Finished – do you believe? Will you accept? It is finished, sin no longer has to chain us. It is finished, fear no longer has to be our master. It is finished, joy ours in the midst of any pain. It is finished, assurance of forever life after our last breath here. Just wait til you fall into those arms. Can you see Him standing there, arms open wide? Can you feel them envelope you? If you can, you have Christmas every day…

tree ornament heart pixa x


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In the Cave…

flower yellow black bkgrnd pixa x     The Lost Sea Adventure is in southeast Tennessee. To tour it you descend several hundred feet on slippery paths. Part way the guide stops and says “At this point we are going to turn off all lighting, you’ll understand what complete darkness is. Hope they come back on.” (Not funny.)

You stand there waiting for your eyes to adjust so you can see the outline of the person standing next to you. But you never do, because in complete darkness you can hold your hand right up in front of your face and never be able to see it.

That’s a lot like us without Jesus. We can commit terrible acts, knowing exactly what we’re doing. But never see it for the evil it is.

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It reminds me of the recent tragedy in Charleston where the barely adult young man sat through a Bible study with a group of people and in the end, opened fire killing nine.

So lost, so needful of something to make sense, so deluded into thinking his actions would make his world right in some way…

Like marriages that abuse verbally or physically – hoping it changes something. Like drugs or alcohol – hoping for a release from the reality of what isn’t wanted. Like any crime – hoping to fix a perceived problem but creating a worse outcome.

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Pastor Larry Adams recently said “That young man may have to pay for his crimes, but he doesn’t have to die for them.” Meaning someone already did – Jesus has paid the price in full for whatever the sin. A lie about something as silly as where we were to one as devastating as killing innocent people. The point is, we will likely face earthly consequences for our sins, but those who put their faith in Jesus don’t face an eternal consequence.

The Lost Sea is at the end of the tour deep into the cave. A very large lake discovered in 1905. But God knew it was there all along.

He knows all about us too, when we’re lost… When we finally ‘discover’ Him, we can see our actions for what they are. In Him we find our way to wholeness. Then no matter the troubles we face in this world, we know He will see us through, right there with us. Someday we will see Him face to face. In the light of His glory that shines on our forever, free from anymore bondage to sin… With Him the light is always on.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Corinthians 4:6 NIV)

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If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 


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Resting…

stones autumn leaves pixa x     Turning from wrestling to resting started off with struggle but is now resulting in assurance…

Conflict is not something many of us enjoy – and though we may not seek it out, it is brought to us just the same. The enemy of our souls is at war and he knows his time is short. He delights in robbing us of all that is good – peace, joy, contentment. We have been told “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

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Finding myself in that wrestling place, believing the condemning self-thoughts, bogged down with worry, and wondering how I could fix something, anything – I lost sight of who the enemy is and who my Defender is. You and I cannot fight alone against this dark world, but praise be to God we are never alone and “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2Corinthians 10:4 NIV)

Divine power? The Spirit of Jesus living in us. The Word of God teaching, correcting, and encouraging us. The Father who makes all things work for the good of those who love Him. These are our weapons.

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The enemy absolutely delights in us losing sight of the One who never leaves our side. Even in the agony of what seems the worst possible outcome, the hurt burning so deep we feel we may melt away, the fear causing us to tremble – never lose sight, He is there. Yes, this world is full of the result of sin, but this is not all there is…

This temporary earth suit we’re in, this temporary loss of all that seems right – it’s part of the battle. There is great news indeed! At just the right time Jesus will return, we will be with Him, all that refuse Him will be no more, and all our stuff that bogs us down daily won’t even be a memory. This then is resting – in the everlasting arms that carry me now and someday will welcome me to eternity. He has promised, read it over and over again in His Word “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” (1Thessalonians 5:24 NIV)

trees multi color pixa x


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Wrestling…

autumn leaves pixa x     There are times in this life where the best description of what we are going through is called: wrestling.

That place where you’ve had the air sucked out of you…

That place where you walk slower and find yourself staring a lot…

Much as I don’t like this place, experience has taught me that growth comes during these times.

Experience has also taught me that the growth comes only if I rely on the Father to see me through to the other side, not when I take control and try to fix all the mess. This is hard for me, I’m a fixer. So this time, I’m hoping I can let Him fix, in His time, in His perfect way.

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I think I will try this advice: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18 NIV) Help me, Father, to remember that all this mess of stuff is temporary, fix my eyes on You and the hope of eternity.

We are also reminded that “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.(Hebrews 12:4 NIV) Whether it is our own sin or that of others – but Jesus shed His blood for all man’s sins. So no matter the pain of our own foolishness or the fall-out of other’s selfishness, we do have eternity awaiting us — a no more tears, no more sorrow – no more wrestling eternity.

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For today, and tomorrow, and however long it takes I will wrestle through this uncertainty — wrestle in prayer, wrestle in His Word, wrestle to try and keep my thoughts on those things I’m called to fix my mind on. All that’s evil wants me to dwell on the pain and drown in the fear, but I need to remember ‘whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy’ (from Philippians 4:8).

I am reminded where our strength for the battle comes from – “Finally be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

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Soul Language…

pale rose pixa x     I think the first thing we’re going to recognize in heaven is God’s voice…

For all of us that’s how it began: in Genesis 1, eleven times it says “God said” and whenever He did, something came into being. I have to wonder, is that how you and I came into being? Did He call forth our name at the instant He began to knit us together and form us? “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV)

Strange then that a voice that should be oh so familiar seems so illusive. Perhaps it’s our selective hearing.

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Think about it, there was a time He got through and we heard – that would be the day we accepted His free gift of salvation. That’s the voice we need to continue to seek – the One who was once our sin-bearer, and is now our grace-giver.

Maybe we don’t hear Him because we fear He doesn’t hear us – we feel too unimportant, too estranged, too needy. Throughout the Psalms the writers speak of God’s very good hearing: “When I called, You answered me; You made me bold and stouthearted.” (Psalm 138:3 NIV) That’s my Living Braver desire — to be bold, stouthearted.

Hearing Him then isn’t audible words, notes of exact instruction, answers we want. It’s living a life in constant pursuit of the One who spoke us into being, hears our every sigh and cry, and answers in soul language that is only heard through trust. Loud enough for us to put one tentative step in front of another…

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His promise is so great that it leaves no reason for fear and every confidence to be bold and stouthearted… “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28 NIV) Again He emboldens us “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24 NIV)

I think I hear Him now, reminding me ‘nothing can harm you’, ‘forever is yours’, ‘trust me, seek me’…

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If you stopped by because you read my devotion over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 


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Hearing is…

pitcher of flowers pixa x     The old saying ‘seeing is believing’ is no longer true in our day – with computer generated everything, models transformed from their already lovely selves into unreal works someone believes beauty to be, and with deceit the ‘go to’ marketing ploy – seeing is not believing.

But hearing is blessing “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3 NIV)

In our noisy world we hear a lot these days. So many voices convincing us that we ‘deserve’ this, or that tolerance of evil is compassion, or that outright lies are truth. It’s like the wizard in Oz: ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ – pay no attention to truth that sets you free.

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Only in hearing Him can we find what we need. We think we have many needs, but we have only One – His blessing. With that, whether good things happen or grief things happen, we can be sure He holds us through it all. He tells us He blesses us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)

Catch that? Not that He will bless us, that He has and does. I can Live Brave if I can grasp: day in and day out my Father withholds no good thing from me – because someday, forever will be where I am and eternity has no bad things. This is a truth I need to hear and I need to share.

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“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11 NIV) I’m not blameless, I blow it everyday, but when my Father sees me, He sees the blameless One who shed His blood for me so that my walk can be blameless…

Without His blessing we have nothing but what the world has to offer, what we can grab. Looking around I don’t think that’s working out too well. Hearing is blessing, take it to heart…

orange tulips in vase pixa x

If you stopped by because you read my devotion over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

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I In the Middle…

heart cementx     Ever feel stuck – in the middle. Between scary and bold, between fear and brave, between self and God?

Reminds me of something the author Max Lucado once pointed out: sIn. In the middle of the tiny, big word is I.

Such a small word, big enough to destroy an Eden man and woman. ‘I’ always makes a mess of perfection…

Between scary and bold is I saying: I can’t, I won’t. Between fear and brave is I saying: I’m not good enough, I don’t trust enough. Between self and God is I saying: I know best, I’ve got this.

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Stuck in the middle – the middle of the pain, the fear, the doubt. Sometimes in the middle of the good, the plenty, the blessing. I demands it’s way in the bad and the good because, as always, I looms large when it’s on it’s own…

sIn is always self and self feeds on our weakness. We need HIM. The I in the middle of HIM is the great I AM. With HIM the difference between scary, fear, self – and bold, brave, God – is the I AM…

This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17-18 NIV)

Mmmm, peace like a river – abounding, running on and on, not ending. As Alicia Bruxvoort said in a post I once read: “Even if you know the ending, the middle can still hurt.” But remember, nothing is waste with God. The messy middle is for us to use for Him.

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This side of eternity our sinful self will never be completely gone. But maybe crossing from the middle to Him will be quicker, less stressful, more comforting when we remember we are no longer slaves to sIn – we have been set free…

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father”. (Romans 8:15 NIV)

Father, we want Your peace like a river…

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(If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!)

 


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Perfect…

perfect rosex     I’m a failure… because I don’t look perfect, my house isn’t perfect, my kids aren’t perfect, my marriage isn’t perfect, my health isn’t perfect, my bank account isn’t perfect – the liar says because of these and all my other ‘imperfections’ I am a failure…

Are you perfect – what is perfect – who is perfect?

Perfect life – no worries, no fears? Perfect marriage – no doubts, no regrets? Perfect parenting – healthy children, successful in all they do? Perfect job – recognized, paid well? No?

My lack of perfection leaves me worrying what will others say, think… Ah, there it is – perfect is all about performance, impressing… It’s ‘me thinking’ but we’re called to ‘Jesus thinking’…

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) While we were still imperfect, without us having to perform or impress, for eternity…

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Perfect is in the eye of the beholder and if you have Jesus as your Lord & Savior then God sees you through the righteousness of His Son – and he beholds you perfect

 We are blind in our looking, in our idea of perfect. Did you know that if a person loses their sight and then regains it, they have to learn to ‘see’ again? Or if a traumatic injury happens that affects the optic nerve or brain, the eyes may see just fine but the brain interprets what they observe and the brain may be unable to ‘see’.

In our flawed human view of perfection we must learn to see the perfect that God acknowledges – that of a life surrendered to Him – leave behind our misconceptions, shut out the voices telling us we are not enough, have messed up too much…

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“But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:22 NIV) Wow, without blemish, free from accusation – perfect…

Watch the story of Ian & Larissa Murphy and you will think of perfect in a whole new way… They have learned a secret that we all need to know when haunted by perfect: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” ( https://youtu.be/AEBzPi2GbkI )

Let’s live in His perfection so we can extend grace-filled love to those who may just be worrying about what we’re thinking of them…

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Coming In Last…

race track1     I’ve never been in an actual race – I know some of you probably have: marathon, 5K, bike race, car race – my daughter swam competitively. Whether we’ve actually been in a physical contest or not, we often feel like we’re coming in last…

There was a news story recently about a young woman running a race, in fact, leading most of the way. Suddenly her body could take no more, down she went on her knees. She was so focused and the finish line so near, that wobbly as she was, she began to crawl. Giving all she had left in her, other runners passing her by, she crawled over that finish line and collapsed. The point: she didn’t give up, she finished.

Walking with God here in this life is often referred to as a race in the Bible. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, when he was nearing the end of his life said:  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2Timothy 4:7 NIV) He knew that when he finished was not important, that he finished was the goal.

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Our lives today can seem like a chaotic race that never ends, or if it does we feel beaten up, like we came in last. But Paul went on to tell Timothy “And now the prize awaits me,” Paul knew his ‘race’ was not for human reward or to show what a great athlete for God he had been. The reward he looked forward to was eternal “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on the day of His return.” And now for the really good news: “And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:8 NLT underline mine)

I cannot ignore the day to day race of life but I can choose to run in a way that testifies to the One who makes the race worth it. The writer of Hebrews gave us some great advice: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV underline mine)

Like the woman whose body just about gave out, but looked to the goal and finished, we must fix our eyes on Jesus – our goal – and with His strength, not ours, finish the race – for eternity is much longer than our brief race here on earth…

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