New Testament

Pondering Grace: It’s Better to Give Than…

I’ve been doing a little thinking about the last post, and in combination with some recent personal events, something has been rattling around in my mind to the point of distraction. Usually that means it’s time to write. (A lot of you “get” that, I’m sure.) Here is my best effort to capture it, though it feels a little like herding cats.

I can be selfish. What—you can, too? It can be comforting to know we’re not alone in some things. I don’t suppose any of us honestly wants to condone or encourage it, but acknowledging the problem can be a step toward change. It’s all about bringing the dark things into the light.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:19-21

Friends, we ultimately choose whether to merely exist in the shadows or live fully in the brilliant daylight. And the choice is going to be hard for a time while the decisions cause angst between what we habitually know and what we really, really want. Much like running a marathon begins with a few single steps toward the goal, we take single, isolated steps toward bold choices that lead to change and a new “daylight” lifestyle that honors God. There have been several teachable moments for me in this area recently.

I have choices, and lots of them, every day. It’s almost always a choice between a sweet aroma of grace or the stench of something quite different. I think we can all distinguish between the attractive qualities of grace and the repulsive qualities that go along with selfishness, dishonesty, disrespect, malice, and the other nasty options that abound. We don’t want to be on the receiving end of the nasties, but we shouldn’t be on the giving end, for sure! Followers of Christ have been given clear direction. There are various lists of evil behaviors in Scripture; they are easy to find (Matthew 7:20-23; Romans 1:28-32; Titus 3:3; etc.). Being familiar with these helps us identify the worst choices.

The comforting part of the lists above, if there were any, might be that Titus 3:3 establishes the behaviors are common to all of us, at least at one time, or in a season of life (pre-conversion, for the author of the book, it appears):

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

When decisions are hard, I’m reminded to soak for a while in that “At one time we too were” there. I’m not alone. It’s not uncommon, but it’s not okay. There’s some tension for you right there!

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

When property is damaged or stolen, feelings are trounced upon, or I feel insignificant as others disregard me in conversation (notice the “majors” and “minors” in my list), I will have a difficult time. I’m offended, and it’s a big deal to me. I’m reminded of the printed warning on my car side mirrors: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. It’s a somewhat poor analogy compared to the straight forward “plank-speck” analogy in Matthew 7 and Luke 6, but bear with me.

Consider how myopic we might easily become. Either the offense triggering the poor choice becomes greater in our field of vision (closer than it appears in reality) or the grace we received at the cross does. And it’s a choice—a tough one, though. Things have monetary and sentimental value, our hearts crave significance in relationship, and our mistakes or others’ can drive us to undesired behavior. Grace-filled humility contrasts starkly against our natural desires for significance, respect, and honor. Dear goodness! It’s insanely hard when our pride goes head-to-head with genuine humility, isn’t it?

I am brought back, full circle, to the post in Romans about the “Do-Do Chapter.” I do selfish things I honestly don’t want to do, and I don’t do gracious, humble things I genuinely want to do when I consider the sacrifice of grace on my behalf at the cross. It takes different forms: “big stuff” I believe jeopardize my overall comfort, health, and well-being and “little stuff” that hurt my feelings a wee bit.

When I read Titus 3:1-11, I’m challenged to be completely different than I might otherwise want to be. But, there is a reason and a purpose behind making the changes:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. v. 4-8

What’s the whole point of being a “giver” of grace? Is it perhaps better to give than to receive in this case? Yes, and—just yes!

We have been the recipients of incredible mercy! The passage is clear; we’ve been granted merciful grace that offers rebirth and renewal, right standing (justification) with God, and adoption benefits (rightful heirs). That’s the reason behind making the changes. Being wholeheartedly devoted to doing what is good and right as a gift to others is what we’re called to. But, in as much as it benefits others, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It is all-around “excellent and profitable for everyone.” That includes being beneficial to the giver. Giving grace benefits the recipient, but it also shapes our character after the One we follow. There’s a benefit we might not be counting in the mix, but it’s huge! It means our decision to be grace-givers will get easier with repetition, and we will be most definitely be changed. That’s the purpose behind the changes.

In my opinion, it is better to be a “giver” because that’s the ultimate calling on the Christ follower’s life and reflects the merciful, gracious nature of the One who sacrificed everything at the cross. Living out our high calling is both noble and the working out of our faith in this life amid the culture. And the cross—the sacrifice there must become more our motive for what we say, think, and do. Or if not, introspection is seriously needed to root out the reasons for choosing to exist in the shadows rather than living in the brilliant daylight.

My prayer:
Dear Jesus, you’ve given me so much mercy and grace, and in doing so, you’ve assigned great value and purpose to my life. What an incredible gift you’ve given me! And it is not without reason and purpose. You loved me, and so sacrificed all for me. You love others, so you give me the opportunity to humbly offer the same loving mercy and grace to those in my sphere of influence. Then they see you in and through me and my choices. You want to change me, and you want others to be changed, too.

Dear Spirit, empower me in my weakness. Give me strength to reject the darkness and walk boldly into the brilliant daylight.

Dear Me (and those reading along), “live by the truth” and be courageous!


Photo Credit: “Objects in Mirror” – Jennifer J. (A little “doodle” I did a few years ago. All rights reserved.)
Scripture source: @

Pondering Grace: My Advocate

Some consider Paul’s epistle to the Romans to be a key, theology-teaching book in the New Testament. At this point in my study, I strongly agree. Quite a few verses at Fragrant Grace have been from Romans, and that seems to speak to the rich understanding of or the undeniable emphasis the author placed on grace. I love that—Paul gets it!

Romans 7 has always been affectionately known as the “Do-Do Chapter” to me. (Yes, there is more than one way to “hear” that when it’s said out loud, and at times I can be flexible in how I’m thinking about it.) If your Bible is like mine, you see large or bold print headings on the page. The one that grabs my attention in my NIV translation reads “Struggling With Sin.”

The beauty of this part of the chapter is Paul’s fairly clear (though maybe not concise) explanation of the major “players” in everyday life: God’s law, sin, the natural nature we all have, the internal battle that rages, and Jesus Christ. Starting at verse 7 through the end of the chapter is where I find myself reading and re-reading. I’m constantly reminded of the battle in my soul between knowing what is right and doing it.

Here’s the portion that stood out to me:

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 7-8 NIV

God’s law, with its own special glory, is holy and is designed to point toward holiness. It cannot make a person holy, even in near flawless obedience to it. We’ve discussed that before in other posts. But, we were given the law in order to know what sin is, just as Paul points to the example of coveting in verse 7. We wouldn’t know right from wrong clearly without the law.

It’s verse 8 that gets me, and maybe you can relate. When I know what’s right and wrong, it seems inevitable that I am seduced to the wrong somehow too often. The natural, sinful desire in me leans toward the very thing spelled out in the law as wrong. Why, oh why, does this have to be so? More and more this chapter awakens me to the battle within me and the “doo-doo” in the “Do-Do.” Know what I mean? (Is that a bit “too real” right there?)

I don’t want to continue in old, unhealthy, or flat-out wrong ways. I find myself and others around me hurt, and I’m more keenly aware of the emotional condition of the heart of God. There’s the hook on which change hangs right there! When I realize the wrong is more painful to me, others, and God than making the right choices, I’ll begin to change. Deciding what’s honestly painful is the trouble, I think. When it’s “not that painful” to continue in the patterns I’ve got in place, I’m reasonably comfortable. Probably too comfortable.

So, those patterns can be called sinful and wrong when held up to the perfection of God’s law. Eventually it becomes obvious that I’m doing things I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do (Romans 7:15). The reality of the life we live is that we are going to continue to sin until the moment we step into eternity and everything changes. That’s one of the most difficult tensions we exist in here and now. (But, dear Lord, don’t let me continue in selfishness or obliviousness to my peril!)

What do we do with that? Look for the fragrant grace wafting before your Holy God on the throne.

My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. ~ 1 John 2:1 HCS

John’s epistle is dripping with truth and grace! Surely, we don’t want to sin, and as far as it depends on us, we should avoid it. Simply put, when you know what sin is, don’t sin. But—

But is one of those “hinge words” on which everything turns. I know John says “if” in the text; I’d be tempted to say “when” in my own words. If or when sin happens, there is an advocate. My favorite printed resource on the names of God offers the Hebrew translation for Advocate: Malakh Melitz (advocate, intercessor), though I had to do a little online legwork to share in this blog.*

The grace is in Jesus, the Messiah, our Advocate before the Holy God who cannot be in the presence of anything unholy. I need to sit with that because that is the point at which sin is separated from the law and dies (Romans 7:8b).

An innocent God-man nailed to a criminal’s cross at Golgotha—all for me—to become the one and only possible Advocate before Holy God. The One who defends me, argues on my behalf, presents me innocent by his own blood shed for me. When he died, everything changed!

I find myself ever thankful for grace, Jesus!

Mmmm. The sweet fragrance of “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)!



THE NAME: HaShem: Daily Devotional Worship by Dr. Barri Cae Mallin

Remember: I’m My Daddy’s Daughter.

I’m a daughter of the Most High, a wife, mom, sister, friend, and maybe some other descriptors to others. Today I need to remember who I am, or I’m likely to misbehave. Does anyone else get that? When I lose sight of who I really am (my Abba’s daughter), I tend to behave in ways that are unbecoming of a godly woman. So far today, I’ve succumbed to the peer pressure and circumstances more than I’d like, so I’m heading back to my roots, so to speak.

One of my favorite authors is Lysa TerKeurst, and I love one of her major points from Unglued: Remember who you are. Well, I’m a child of the King, and I’ve got a few hundred or so reasons to check my heart, mind, soul, and strength against the standard laid out in Scripture. Circumstances or the “supporting characters” in my everyday life may be unique, dynamic, or unstable. My strength may be long gone. I may have no clue what to do next. None of these things should determine my identity in the big picture. (Yes, I have to put up a reasonable fight for this one on a regular basis to keep it at the forefront of my mind.)

Surrounded by increasing pressures or challenging peers may describe my environment, but it doesn’t have to define me or my actions. Tired is sometimes what I am, but it’s not who I am. I may lack the wisdom to navigate some of the challenges well, honestly, but I don’t have to act rashly or inappropriately. Why? Because of who my Daddy is.

And because you are sons [and daughters]*, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Galatians 4:6 HCS

 flower pink 2 WALK
Thank you, sweet Jesus, for being my Way back to my Father. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, the Spirit who was crucified with you, resurrected, and now resides in me with great power. More than that, dear Spirit, you cry out to my Abba on my behalf. I’m thankful for all that grace granted to me, a daughter!

(Today is a good day to remember that!)

You’re not surprised there’s more, right? Remembering who I am as a daughter of the Most High has to have a real effect on my life. Certainly I should notice a difference, but those “supporting characters” in my life’s drama should notice, too. If they don’t, there’s something to address in me. I am charged with living a life that is countercultural, full of love and grace, and not a disgrace.

These verses are the ones that I was exploring this morning:

For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. For in yet a very little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life. Hebrews 10:36-39 HCS

I love these words!

Oh, sweet Jesus, I need you! I am weak, and I’m struggling to do our Father’s will. Please strengthen me for the work, so I will be ready for your coming, and I will receive the promises (the Messiah’s shalom and eternal life). I live by faith in you, Jesus, through your righteousness. I don’t want to shrink back; I want to walk forward in faith. Amen.

Thanks for stopping by.


* The words “and daughters” added by the author.