Christmas and the Courage to Obey

by Jennifer Slattery

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. Psalm 143:10 NLT

Most often, pride is my greatest challenge to obedience. When operating in my own strength, I will go to great lengths to not look bad. I’ll avoid saying that truth, or initiating that conversation, or taking on that new role I might perform imperfectly.

Had I been Mary, I fear I would’ve argued some when the angel Gabriel appeared with the news I would soon have God’s baby. 

 I mean, motherhood was terrifying enough, y’all. But to bear the Savior of the world? That had to be completely overwhelming, and yet, that’s not the only thing I would’ve found difficult. Processing it all, my mind would’ve immediately thought of all of my friends and neighbors, of everyone in my faith community, who would see my growing belly and wonder … 

And gossip.

And whisper.

And maybe even turn away.

I was young, about 21, when I became pregnant with our daughter, and I looked even younger. People often told me, “You look like you’re in your teens.” They may have meant this as a compliment, but their words always brought me shame. We were living in a small railroad town at the time, one with long held traditional values–like when and to whom children should come. And not only did I look “much too young” to have a child, my hand was also too swollen for my wedding ring. As a result, I always felt judged, as if people had formulated an entire story surrounding my condition. 

I’m certain my feelings of shame were exacerbated by my less than glamorous past and all the inner lies I’d formed along the way.

As a result, though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, I often felt the need to “explain”. I also took to wearing my wedding ring on a necklace. Remembering all this, I marvel at how readily Mary replied, in Luke 1:38 (NLT), “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Keep in mind, the angel had yet to approach Joseph. Mary did not yet know that Joseph would believe her and stand by her. At this point in the story, his rejection was very possible, along with her parents and everyone else in her social circle. She wasn’t given any promises, no guarantees.

And yet, she replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

I want to respond with that level of obedience. The kind of obedience that says, “No matter what happens, Lord, I choose you. I choose to obey You, to honor You, to live for You, and most importantly, to trust You.” 

That can be crazy-hard to do sometimes, until I remember the character of the One who calls me to trust. He is entirely trustworthy. The Savior of the world, my Savior, will never fail. 

I don’t know what God is calling you to this holiday season. Maybe it’s to share the gospel with that sibling or to step across the street to invite that new neighbor to coffee. Taking that first step might feel frightening, but may God grant us the courage to say, “I am Your servant, Lord.”

Jennifer Slattery

About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: What is God calling you to do?

Gospel-focused in the Face of Fear

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.                                        Romans 1:16 NASB

How do you respond when you feel threatened? When someone comes against you, perhaps even actively searches for ways to hurt or defeat you, do you lash out? Self-protect, maybe retreat? Or do you see it as an opportunity to share the gospel?

I hate to admit it, but I’m often tempted to withdraw; to dash to my nearest place of safety, and to remain hidden there indefinitely. In fact, my thoughts can be so consumed with me, eternity might not even come to mind. And yet, what if those uncomfortable, even unfair, situations we all face are divine opportunities to share Christ’s love and grace? A love and grace that has the power to transform lives for all of eternity?

This question has pricked my heart numerous times this spring as I consider my family and our increasingly chaotic world. Will I focus on myself, on today, and all the ways I might seek comfort? Will I choose what feels safest and easiest, or will I embrace God’s call to die to myself so that He might live and reign through me?

In 35 A.D* the Church was feeling considerable strain. It’d only been about five years since Jesus’ horrific crucifixion, and though Christianity was multiplying like dandelions during a windy summer, early church leaders were experiencing horrific persecution. But, determined to remain focused on their mission, they appointed able, Christ-led men to fill various roles.

They asked one man named Stephen to help distribute food to widows. Out of all the assignments, that probably felt the safest, or at least, that’s what I would’ve thought. If given the choice between handing out fig cakes or preaching to an angry mob, I worry I would’ve opted for distribution duty. But Stephen maintained a much broader, more life-giving, much more courageous perspective. Stepping out in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, he began performing amazing miracles and signs among the people (Acts. 6:8).

This created quite a stir, and not in a good way. One day, a group of “religious” men initiated a debate with Stephen. Not a wise move on their part. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Stephen spoke with such wisdom, these men were left looking foolish.

Their response: to get even. Or at the very least, shut Stephen up.

“So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, ‘We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God” (Acts 6:11 NLT).

In the first century A.D., blasphemy was a capital offense for the Jews. These men were gathering support for the death penalty. Scripture says, “This roused the people, the elders, and teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council” (Acts. 6:12 NLT).

Then high priest asked him directly if the accusations against him were true (Acts 7:1), thus providing the perfect opportunity for Stephen’s self-defense. But Stephen recognized an even greater opportunity—a chance to share the gospel, and that was precisely what he did.

Because whether feeding poor and lonely widows or standing before a crowd of powerful men, Stephen focused on Christ and His eternal mission.

Though I’ll likely never find myself surrounded by a murderous mob, each day I face countless opportunities to share truth. If only I’d consistently shift my focus off of myself and place it firmly on Christ and the world He so dearly loves.

*Using the dates provided in Tyndale Study Bible, page 2362

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Gospel-focused in the Face of Fear – encouragement from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author:  Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Hometown Healing and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? If so, this seven week Bible study, Becoming His Princess, is for you. Based on the remarkable life of Sarah, you will find a grace that will prove sufficient for all your failures and insufficiencies.

Join the conversation: What about you? Can you share a time when the Holy Spirit empowered you to share the gospel during a frightening or unsettling encounter?

Learning to Face Change

by Kristine Brown @KristineBrown43

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

I dislike change. Plain and simple.

Some people are better at handling change than others. My husband, for example, thrives during change. He approaches new situations with a positive attitude and looks at every opportunity as a welcome challenge. I curl into a ball and hide under the covers.

Change can also cause me to panic. I obsess over my options in trying to make the right decision. Do I move forward? Or do I resist the change and stay put? I agonize, praying over the potential challenges, but fail to really trust God to handle the situation.

Fortunately, God’s Word offers the guidance we need when we face change in our lives. So whether I’m a person who runs head-on into change or tucks my tail and runs the other way, I can learn from Scripture how to better handle the changes that come my way.

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

When entering a new situation, it’s so easy to look back at how good things were before. I’ve been guilty of this in the past when job transfers took our family to new places. Dwelling on the things we left behind clouded my view of what wonderful things waited for us in our new home. Learning to keep my eyes forward will shift my attitude about change and help me look with excitement toward what lies ahead. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Change gives us the opportunity to experience all God has planned for us.

One of the hardest things about change is following through and allowing God to bring me to a new place of blessing. Once I make the decision to forge ahead, I need to trust God with whatever happens. So often we second-guess our decision when things don’t work out as we thought they would. We wonder if this change was ever God’s will. But staying firm through the change will bring us to a new level of trust in the One who is over all things. Change gives us the chance to exercise our trust muscles!

Even though changes in life are inevitable, God never changes. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) He remains a constant through this unpredictable life. So as we learn to embrace the changes that will come, let’s focus on our God who is unchanging.

We may not like change, and that’s okay. We can face it with steadfast courage today because of our constant companion, Jesus Christ. And who knows? I just might choose to crawl out from under those covers once and for all and embrace it. Let’s make a choice right now to trust our Heavenly Father when we face change. I can’t wait to see what wonderful things He has in store for us!

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Learning to Face Change – encouragement from @KristineBrown43 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kristine brown

About the author: Kristine Brown is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan. Discover more encouragement from Kristine to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website,  kristinebrown.net.

In her new book, Over It. Devotional for Teen Girls, Kristine uncovers the truth about comparison. Teens will discover that they are not alone in the struggle and will find contentment in their God-given identity. Through personal stories and easy-to -understand biblical thinking, Over It offers help and hope. Come along for the journey, beautiful girl. This book is for you.

Join the conversation: Have you recently struggled with a change? Please share your journey with us!

 

 

How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger

by Karen DeArmond Gardner

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.                                                                                                                          2 Timothy 1:7 NASB

God rarely answers why questions, especially when we are in pain. But every once in a while, when we’re not even asking, He answers one of our why questions when we least expect it.

This was one of those moments. I was sitting with hundreds of women at my church listening to Pastor Debbie teach on 2 Timothy 1:7. On the outside, I may have appeared cool, calm, and collected, but on the inside, I was stunned. God had just shown me why I’d stayed in an abusive marriage for 30 years.

I’d spent years beating myself up for staying as long as I did. The NLT version of Jeremiah 31:19 expressed how I often felt: “I kicked myself for my stupidity!”

Now, I suddenly realized being stupid wasn’t my problem. Instead, I’d been conditioned to live in fear… of my husband, of his retribution, of not pleasing him. The brainwashing was so gradual, I didn’t realize that fear had changed me into a timid mouse.

It turns out fear and love are opposites; you can have one or the other, but not both at the same time. In my situation, fear had permeated every part of my spirit. There was no room for love.

Fear had such a hold on me, I couldn’t leave. I believed my marriage was my lot in life, since I had chosen to marry him. My understanding of Scripture had gotten all twisted around: I thought God wanted me to suffer for Jesus and would one day reward me with a crown for enduring it. I was responding to another kind of fear: I was afraid that leaving my marriage would displease God.

So I looked into the meaning of the words in 2 Timothy 1:7.

  • Power is the capability to act or do something dangerous.
  • Love describes the commitment God has for us, always wanting our good.
  • Discipline is the ability to think in a sound or sane manner.

The enemy had tricked me into giving up my power, love, and ability to think soundly. I wrote out what I had learned from 2 Timothy 1:7: God has breathed courage into my spirit and has given me the ability to act in the face of fear and danger, to experience His extravagant love, and to walk in His wisdom, so I can be the woman He called me to be.

I’m so grateful that God answered why that night and set me free from the lies of fear.

Are you trapped in your circumstances? Is fear preventing you from making healthy decisions? Are you ready for the secret to being able to kick fear to the curb?

Look up all the ways God’s love is described in Scripture. Immerse yourself in His pure, powerful, and glorious love; soak in it, embrace it, then share His love with everyone you encounter. Living in God’s love will give you the courage to confront whatever difficulty you’re stuck in, as well as provide wisdom and understanding to know what action He would have you take.

Are you ready to exchange fear for love? “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear…the one who fears is not complete in love” (1 John 4:12 CSB).

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How to Find Courage in the Face of Danger – encouragement from Daren DeArmond Gardner on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

karen dearmond gardnerAbout the author: Karen DeArmond Gardner is a 30-year survivor of domestic violence. She has spent 15 years on her own healing journey and nearly that long helping others find freedom, restoration, and redemption.

Karen is a facilitator in Freedom Ministry/Sozo and directs the Women’s Ministry at Catch the Fire DFW Church. She also facilitates Mending the Soul, a group that leads women through the trauma of their past into healing and wholeness. She serves on the Board of Directors for Arukah House, a transitional home for women coming out of sex trafficking and abuse.

Karen blogs at Crack the Silence and can be found at her Crack the Silence Facebook page. She continues to be a helpful contact and resource for abused women in her church and community.

Join the conversation: In what ways has fear trapped you?

 

Exploring New Territory

by Doris Hoover

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is the fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Numbers 13:27-28 NIV)

When my husband and I were making a decision about where to retire, we discussed exploring options in a new state. Having both grown up in New Jersey, we had deep roots there. Our three children were married and settled there. Many of our friends and relatives lived locally. Our house of thirty-four years held a lifetime of memories. There was a strong pull to stay put, but we felt a stronger pull to venture into a new place. We struggled with conflicting emotions as we tried to make our decision.

The nation of Israel also had conflicting emotions about entering their promised homeland. Even though they had traveled many months through the wilderness to arrive at their destination, they were unsure about stepping into a new place. So Moses sent men out to scout the land.

At the end of forty days, the twelve scouts returned to report their findings. Two men recommended taking the land. The other scouts agreed the land was abundant with produce, but they were afraid of the powerful inhabitants. God’s promise of a blessed homeland was within reach! They need only step forward to receive it. Instead, the people clung to the word but. Instead of entering a rich land, that generation was sentenced to wander its borders and never partake of the goodness God had planned for them (Numbers 13-14).

How often do we miss out on wonderful opportunities because we cling to our fears and doubts? We see the potential for something new or better, then we say but. By refusing to take hold of the new land, Israel missed out on God’s wonderful plan for their lives.

Even though my husband and I saw the potential for an exciting retirement, it meant leaving the comfort of a familiar place and entering unknown territory. When we finally made the decision to move, some people questioned our choice. We had to be bold to follow through with our plans.

In our new community we’ve developed some wonderful friendships. We’re pursuing dreams and activities that weren’t possible in our previous home. And we’ve discovered creative ways to keep our ties to New Jersey.

An important blessing for me is the opportunity to grow my writing skills. The Lord has provided time, people, and experiences to help me advance in this arena; yet each time a door opens, I face a decision. I can stay where I feel safe and comfortable, or I can take a risk to venture into new territory. Sometimes I only hear the word but, and my fears win; however, when I trust God’s leading, exciting opportunities arise.

Maybe the Lord has stirred your heart to stretch beyond your comfort zone. It may be a decision about where to live. Maybe you sense a nudge to undertake a new venture. You have the choice to explore a new land, or remain where you feel comfortable.

If we ignore the Lord’s leading, we’ll have regrets. We’ll always wonder what could have been. Blessings come when we grab hold of the opportunities the Lord places before us, opportunities to taste the milk and honey of God’s plans for our lives.

 O Lord, give us courage to step into the new territory you place before us.

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Exploring New Territory – insight from Doris Hoover on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

doris Hoover

About the author: Doris Hoover lives in Florida, but she also spends time along the coast of Maine. Her passion is discovering God’s messages in nature and sharing them with others. You can visit Doris at captivatedbythecreator.com. 

Doris’ book, Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional invites you to step outside to discover the treasures God places around you. She leads you to beautiful places in her home town. Her poetic descriptions and beautiful photography draw you into moments that will stir your heart.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been rewarded by stepping outside your comfort zone?

Grouse, Anyone?

by Sheri Schofield

We have ruffled grouse near our home. No, not the neighbors! They are quite friendly – not a grouse among them. The ruffled grouse near us are birds. For some cockeyed reason, one of the hens has decided to nest right beside the road. Not on the side nearest to the meadow where her family will search for food, but on the side away from it. This means she and her family must cross the road several times daily.

But this very-small brained bird thinks it is perfectly safe to cross the dirt road because God, in his great wisdom, gave it camouflage. If the grouse stands still, most predators will not see it . . . except when it stops in the middle of the road.

That’s what happened yesterday. One of the young grouse hatched this spring was crossing the road when I came barreling down the hill in my 4-wheel drive. I saw it in time, fortunately, and came to a halt about five feet away. The grouse froze. I sat still, waiting for it to finish crossing the road. It v-e-r-y . . .  s-l-o-w-l-y . . . l-i-f-t-e-d . . . i-t-s . . . f-o-o-t . . . a-n-d . . .p-l-a-c-e-d . . . i-t . . . o-n . . . t-h-e . . . g-r-o-u-n-d while I sat there drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.

I was not going to wait any longer. I opened the door, got out, walked up to the grouse, waved my hands at it and said, “Shoo!” It took off with a flurry of feathers and was across the road in less than two seconds.

I shook my head and got back into the car. That’s when the Lord whispered to me, “A lot of Christians are wearing camouflage. They think that if they remain perfectly still when difficulties approach, and don’t speak up, they can fit right in with everyone else and not get picked on for their faith. But they do not see the spiritual danger they have placed themselves in by keeping silent. In their compliance, they are aligning themselves with the world.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness…For we are the temple of the living God…” (2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 NASB) To cringe and hide in order to fit in with the world is to forget who we are in Christ and our responsibility to stand out from the crowd. But Christ, who is in us, is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

God has placed power over this world in your hands! When you pray, you bring God’s power to earth to combat evil! When you share your faith with others, you bring life through your words! When you speak up for righteousness, you are acting as a soldier of Christ, standing in the gap in the wall, keeping the enemy at bay! So don’t be afraid to put aside the camouflage and put on the armor of God. Be strong and courageous, for God is with you!

Christ has called us to be warriors, not grouse!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13, NIV)

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Grouse, Anyone? – insight on #FollowingGod from Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years. Sheri was named Writer of the Year in 2018 at the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: Has God given you an opportunity to stand for Him recently? Please share!

Fearless When Ill-equipped

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

“God wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit.” ~ Tertullian

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, all made me feel ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. At a time I most needed it to shine.

I was afraid that I’d fail, and in failing I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose that writer’s block came from the mounting stress, coupled with sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. All my insecurities kept chipping away at my strength.

So what did I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes.  I made the choice to trust God to give me the ability to fill this role–as He desired. And I reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. Nor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God: “How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made throughout Scripture, due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

In John 15:5, Jesus told us how we can live empowered in any situation:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (NIV).

With Him, in Him, we have everything we need to do whatever He calls us to. Apart from, operating in our own strength, we’ll likely make a mess of things.

Is there something God has called you to, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

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How to remain fearless when you’re ill-equipped – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a Healing Love by [Slattery, Jennifer]devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates

Join the conversation: What has God called you to that will require courage to obey?

 

My Brave

by Kaley Rhea @KaleyFaithRhea

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.                                                                                                                                                          2 Timothy 1:5-7 ESV

The other day I witnessed bare, undiluted bravery. And it was wearing the face of a ballerina-obsessed two-year-old.

I was with my sister and her little girl, Emerson, visiting my brother at his house. He has a 90-pound, exuberant, sweet, clumsy, in-your-face black lab called Ellie Jo, and Emerson found herself overwhelmed. Insistently overwhelmed. “Ellie scare me,” she explained. Her protests were well-pronounced and accompanied by fat tears.

It went on for thirty minutes. Emerson did not want Ellie anywhere near her.

So, because I’m the kind of aunt who likes to experiment on her niece, I asked her, “Emerson. How can you be brave?” Curious about her answer, curious about whether she’d give one, curious about whether she even knew the word “brave.” I didn’t expect much, but she’s a very talky kid, and I love to hear the wild things she comes up with.

But Emerson didn’t say anything at all. She looked at me. And immediately she walked away from her mother. She walked up to Ellie Jo, who stood taller than she did, and stopped beside her. She reached out, and with her tiny, chubby hand, she pet Ellie’s side. She loved on her.

And I just…couldn’t even…

You ever been taught a thing by a baby? I was blown away.

Somehow in Emerson’s child mind there was an understanding that right then, bravery was not to fight the source of her fear. Bravery was not to avoid it or scold it or make it submit to her. Perfect bravery in that moment was to abandon her security and show love. And she understood it well enough to do it. All in. Not gingerly. But gently.

Later, in the car on the way home, my sister Allie told Emerson, “When we get home, tell Grandpa and Day-Day the story of how you were brave.”

I carried her in. And the moment we were through the door to her grandparents’ house, Emerson shouted in triumph, “My brave!” I love the way she tells a story. Succinct.

The more I think about that afternoon, the more the Lord, as is His way, turns my heart-eyes toward Jesus. And I’m reminded how, while every physical and supernatural fiber of His being cried out in revulsion at the terrifying physical and supernatural torment He would endure at the cross, He, even having the full power and authority of God, went quietly, obediently, and with amazing, undeserved compassion. That is bravery. And that is our Source of bravery.

The name Emerson literally means “strong and brave,” and I know her parents’ prayer for her from the beginning has been that she would be exactly that in Jesus. So I want to ask you, too, if you’ll end our time today by joining me in praying for the kids. All you Loises and Eunices with your children and grands of however-old. And all you who, like me, that have no children of your own but know some young people you have a million feelings for. Let’s lay our hands on ‘em today. Pray with me for the kids, that they would know the true Christ—the compassionate and powerful Jesus—and that He will make them brave.

Sweet Jesus, You ignited my faith. Make it roar. Through Your spirit, supply me with the courage to be obedient. To love as You love. To fight the battles against the darkness of this world through the mighty strength that only comes from You. With compassion for the people You died to save. And when I am afraid, remind me again how You’ve already defeated death. Remind me again how my true security is with You, unshakable, eternal. Remind me that You are my brave. Amen. 

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Witnessing perfect bravery & living in our own “My Brave” attitude – @KaleyFaithRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kaley RheaAbout the author: Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). She also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Join the conversation: How has Jesus become your brave?

Fly, Baby, Fly!

by Sheri Schofield

It was springtime here in the wilds of Montana, a busy time for all the animals and birds that were raising their young. One morning I looked out over our rugged landscape to see a family of ravens flying toward the towering rocks by our house. The parents were teaching their young to fly that day. As they touched down, one of the young ravens slipped and struggled to recover. It managed to get a firm hold, but I could tell it was scared. One by one the other young birds flew short distances from the rocks and returned. But the one that had slipped refused to fly.

The parents circled the rock around their scared baby croaking, “Fly, Baby, fly!” But Baby croaked back, “Are you kidding? I’m not budging from this rock!”

This went on for a couple hours. The other fledglings were doing very well. But not Baby. Finally, the raven family headed back up the canyon. Baby squawked, “Don’t leave me!” But its family kept flying. Finally, Baby flapped his wings and followed his family back to their nest.

I thought about how many times I feel just like that baby raven! I experience a difficult situation, and I withdraw. My computer tech tries to teach me something, and I can’t figure it out, so I choose to let it go rather than continue the struggle. I run to my comfort zone, my regular household responsibilities. I tell myself, “I’m too old for this! What am I thinking! I live out in the mountains, far from civilization. My children are grown and don’t use this technology, so I can’t call them and ask for help. This is too much for me!”

But God didn’t create me to stay in my comfort zone. He wants me to be brave. He wants me to fly!

In Psalm 61:2 (NIV), David wrote, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Like the raven, I feel secure on my Rock. My God is my safest place of all. But unlike the rock next to our house, my Rock moves with me! If I venture to fly into the unknown, my Rock, God’s love, flies beneath me, ready to uphold me if I grow weary!

David also wrote, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:9 (NIV)

I can hold onto that! I can boldly say, “If I attempt to rise above this computer mystery, if I explore these new ideas and try to apply them, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast!”

So, Lord, let me be brave! Let me respond to your call to “Fly, Baby, fly!”

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, was launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you cling to the Rock?

Photo by a-shuhani on Unsplash

Fighting the Impossible

by Janet Perez Eckles

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”                                                                                                                             Job 1:6-7 NIV

Did he say the earth? Gulp. Friend, you and I are on that same earth on which he roams. And we need to watch out because “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV).

He’s probably licking his lips, staring at us. And when we’re alone, seated on our bed of self-pity, surrounded by walls of gloom, lamenting our impossible situations, we become more appetizing. We’re more appealing because we’re weighed down by negativity. And we’re weakened by moments of hopelessness.

I’ve been there. And unaware of what an inviting prey I was, I was soon to be his spiritual lunch.

The giant I faced towered over me, reminding me of my frailty, whispering I was defenseless.

That’s the place the enemy wants us, mired in defeat and deceived in thinking that victory will only come when the impossible problem would be removed.

David faced that kind of giant. And like you and I, David probably had to shoo off the enemy’s lies: that problem is too big, destruction is inevitable, the pain will be fierce, or you are doomed to lose. The enemy also presented opposition from all sides: his brothers doubted David’s abilities, King Saul scratched his head in bewilderment, and when Goliath saw David’s size, he laughed.

But God smiled … and prompted David to shed the armor King Saul had given him.

The metals and chains were way too cumbersome for his thin body. Armed with a simple slingshot and a handful of stones, He trusted in a power outside himself: the faithful competence of the Living God.

Have you faced a giant looming over you? One that mocks your courage and laughs at your faith? The lies that say your 2-inch faith is no match for the 9-foot giant of impossibilities? The deception that promises you’ll never see relief, healing or triumph?

We’ve all faced that at one time or another. And in desperation we mistakenly slip on the wrong kind of armor—our own abilities, wisdom, and solutions. But as we drag ourselves toward the battlefield, we find that human armor hinders us. It’s too heavy with pride.

That’s when you and I do what David did. We shed that wrong armor and pull out our best weapon instead. It’s the gigantic love God has for us that must fuel our courage. That’s why David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty” (1 Samuel 17: 45 NIV).

Did you read that? The God David spoke about is not just any god. He’s the Lord almighty, creator of the universe, and immensely powerful.

Troubles can come from all sides bearing the sword of anguish, the spear of anxiety and the javelin of fear. But you and I come in the name of the Lord–with confidence, with resolve and trust that through Christ, the victory is already won.

And holding the smooth stones of faith, bearing the spiritual weapon of God’s faithfulness, we can face any giant of impossibility in the name of the Lord.

I had to make that choice. When my son was killed, I heard the lie that I would never find peace again. But the giant’s lies are no match for God’s truth, that God’s restoring power could heal that which seared, restore what was broken, and defeat the giant who threatened my peace.

To us, our problems can seem gigantic, but to God they are minuscule. They’re big when we see them with human eyes. They shrink when we see them through Christ’s eyes. And as we gaze at our problem we have a choice: either to live hoping for blessings, or to bless the hope we already have in Christ.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.     1 John 4:4 NIV

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Join the conversation: What giants are you facing? What lies are you hearing about your situation? What are the truths that will silence them?

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash