Put Your Family First . . . Right?

Wife.  Mother.  Daughter.  These titles come with joyful responsibilities (most of the time.)  We work hard to take care of our families.  All other commitments are under the umbrella of our primary task which is to provide for those we love.  They are “our job;” very often, they are our responsibility in addition to the work outside the home, making them our second, third, or even fourth job.  Many times, we sacrifice ourselves to ensure they get what they need.  But in our determination to fulfill these responsibilities are we forgetting the One who gave us this task in the first place?

Abraham is known for being a faithful follower of God.  He was always willing and ready to do whatever the Lord told him to do, even sacrificing his only son.  According to Genesis 22:2-3a

He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey . . . 

Abraham obeyed. The Bible never mentions him protesting or coming up with an alternative plan.  In fact, in Genesis 22: 12b (NIV) we read, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”  God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac and provided a ram in some nearby bushes.

Notice how many times the phrase “your only son” is used.  Throughout this chapter the Lord uses this phrase 3 times. The first time He used the phrase He made a point to say “whom you love,” just to be clear.  The Lord emphasized this phrase because this account was foreshadowing how God was going to save us.  He sacrificed His Son, His only Son, whom He loved as a sacrifice for us so that we might believe and get to spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

God wants all of our heart.  And he should get all of our heart.  He sacrificed His only Son for us after all.  He demands to be our top priority, even ahead of our family. Nothing can be more important than Him (Exodus 20:3). We have been given stewardship over the blessings God has given us, and that includes our families. Anything that replaces God as a priority in our hearts becomes an idol, even the blessings He gives us to manage.  Abraham realized this and lived it out, despite not having an example (or multiple examples) of faithful men before him as we do.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

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The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:3

One of the most memorable professors I had in college was a middle-aged, never-married woman who had a fierce love affair with the English language. Every year she took a pilgrimage to Oxford, Mississippi, William Faulkner’s home. She returned animatedly to class describing tidbits of information concerning her favorite author. As a newly engaged 19-year-old, I was in love, but it certainly wasn’t with English, nor Faulkner. All I could think about was finishing college early and marrying my fiancé, who I was sure would fulfill my deepest longings for happily ever after.

We both loved Jesus, and looked forward to a life in vocational ministry. However, my devotion during that final year of college couldn’t be described as sincerely and purely given to Christ. We took as many classes together as possible, one of which was the Southern Literature class taught by the Faulkner-loving professor. We remarked how sad that her devotion to a long dead writer, given to run on phrases and strong liquor, seemed a substitute for relationship with a living person.

Fast forward a few years, and our own fairy tale was neck-deep in babies, bills, and bad attitudes. What started out as stars in our eyes became a meteor shower of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. My devotion to the idea of my husband meeting all my heart needs wore thin, as did his patience in dealing with a perfectionistic wife. Thankfully, God answered our desperate prayers for help, and we met some wise counselors who redirected our focus back to the only One Who truly fills the holes in our soul.

Like Eve, the first woman and mother of us all, our hearts are easily led astray when we look to anyone or anything other than Jesus to be our everything. Eve’s sin was in believing that God hadn’t already given her what she needed for life and godliness. The serpent seized the opportunity to appeal to Eve’s desires, which in themselves were not wrong. What was wrong was allowing those desires to replace God’s plan for fulfilling them and believing a lie.

As this new year begins, let’s allow Christ alone to capture our heart’s devotion. Let that apple fall far from the tree!

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

The Goldilocks Disorder

My name should be Goldilocks!

When ordering from a menu, I like my food to be “just right” – dressing on the side, no cheese, water with lemon. When folding laundry, I fold towels so they fit “just right” in the cabinet. When dusting, which I probably don’t do as often as you, I return decorative items so they sit “just right” in their assigned places.

How does trying to live in a “just right” Goldilocks world affect my spiritual life? It’s like oil and water! It doesn’t work!

Sometimes when I pray, I tell God how I would like things to be “just right” in my life – a quiet child, a calm day, good health, a check in the mail. Very seldom do my requests become reality because God is a good Father and a wise Sovereign. He allows only what is best, and I’m learning His sovereign plans for me really are “just right.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

What does it mean to say God “plans to prosper us”? He doesn’t promise to prosper us by putting money in our bank account or giving us a better job. His plans are custom-designed to teach us to thrive . . . have fortitude . . . have courage in times of trouble. I would not have chosen some of the situations God has allowed for me, and some of life’s difficulties have been lingering for many years, as possibly some have been for you as well. I’m learning God’s Spirit enables me to persevere through the challenges He allows. Because of the situations God allows in our lives, our faith can grow stronger and we can have empathy (your pain in my heart) with others. God wastes nothing.

What does it mean to say God “plans to give us hope”?  Hope in scripture is not crossing our fingers – hoping a husband won’t leave, hoping we can get pregnant, hoping a child will graduate, or hoping we’ll be able to retire. Hope in scripture is a blessed assurance…a peace that comes during difficulties. God is ready to give us an inner quietness even when life is hard.

What does it mean God to say “plans to give us a future”? As God’s children, our future is assured (guaranteed . . . secure) because He has prepared a place for us to live eternally with Him.  As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

For those of us who have The Goldilocks Disorder, how should we face the new year?  We can rest in God’s plans.  Rest?!  In 2019 God wants us to rest?!  Life in the 21stcentury is on the fast track and there’s very little time to rest physically, emotionally, or spiritually – right?

 

Where was Goldilocks at the end of the fairy tale?  She was resting . . . she was even asleep!!  She had given up trying to make things “just right.”

Yes, the story of Goldilocks is a fairy tale, but God’s Word is not. He is our Faithful Father and His plans are always perfect. God promises His plans will give us hope in 2019 and an eternal future. He allows only what is best, and His sovereign plans are always “just right.”

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

 

 

Behind the “Seens” at the Pageant

                            And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14

Have you ever tried to grasp the concept of “eternity?”  I have.  However, my brain is incapable of understanding how far back “eternity past” extends!  Try as I may, my mind’s eye cannot see far enough into eternity past to experience its lack of boundaries, limitations, time!  The same is true of “space:” no boundaries, no limitations.  This vast expanse is where God has always been!  God is an invisible Spirit, filling the whole universe with His presence!  There is no place we can go, see, or imagine where God does not dwell.  John 1:1-4 says that Jesus, the Word, has existed from “the beginning” and that He created everything!  Genesis 1:1 declares that God created the world; therefore, John’s words strongly affirm that Jesus is God! 

God knew the humans He created would rebel against Him and break His laws.  He taught them that a blood sacrifice was necessary in order to atone for their disobedience.  For centuries, God’s people presented the sacrifices God demanded in order to become “right” with Him temporarily- – until they sinned again!  They acted in faith that He would forgive their sins.

But God had already planned the perfect sacrifice to accomplish complete atonement for man’s sins “once and for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)  But who could qualify:  God would offer Himself (Jesus) as the only sacrifice worthy to take our place on the altar.  He always has been the only sinless One, who did not have to die for His own sins!  But why would He do such a thing?  The answer is that He loved those whom He had created and had mercy on them.

But how could a spirit bleed and die?  The answer lies in the words of John quoted above.  The eternal, invisible, infinite God became flesh!  Note that He did not become God; he was already God.  But, miraculously, He conceived in the womb of Mary, a virgin Jewish girl, a body of flesh, uncontaminated by sin, uniquely acceptable as the sacrifice for the transgressions of the whole world!  Without His unlimited grace and immeasurable love, we would still be doomed to an eternity without God.  But, glory be to the Father, in His perfect time, He “sent forth His Son” to be our Savior and to give us the privilege of becoming children of God through “trusting Jesus as our Savior!” (Galatians 4:4-7)

That was no ordinary baby lying in the manger there in Bethlehem.  That Baby in the manger would one day be the Savior suffering on the cross, the victorious Lord rising from the tomb, the beloved Son ascending to His place with the Father, the Mighty King returning some day to take us to dwell forever in His presence. (John 14:3)  He was and is to come the holy Son of the living God, the eternal Spirit dwelling in human flesh!  Praise His Holy Name now and forevermore!  May you have a very Merry Christmas, and a deeply joyful one as you ponder these truths.

About the Writer:
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Studies teacher. For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans, who call her “Gigi”.

Will he know where I am?

I can remember this one Christmas at the age of  six or seven.  We were making the trek to Dallas from Houston, and the only real issue I had with this trip was that this was the year I was supposed to get an American girl doll.  It was a big deal, and I needed to know if Santa would know where I was.  Would he be able to find me and bring me my doll?  Would my doll be all alone in Houston while I was in Dallas?

For my little girl heart, it was a real question.

Later in life I learned the truth of Santa and the realization that my doll was never going to be alone in Houston.

But have you ever asked yourself these questions of God?Will He know where I am? Will I be alone in this new city or new adventure?  Will He be able to find me?

The beauty of Christmas is the reminder that God loves us so much He sent His son for us.  In that truth, there is the hope and peace that He knows where we are always, and loves us so much that He sent His son to this world so that we may be saved through Him.

What a calming peace!

I remember walking down the stairs Christmas morning to see my doll there waiting for me.  The joy that I found at that moment is one I can still remember.

How much more joy is found in knowing that I never have to question if God knows where I am.  I never have to wonder and wait for a sign. I can stand boldly on the truth that he knows everything about me.

Psalm 139 teaches us this:

Lord, you have examined me
    and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
    You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
    You know everything I do.

As a child of God, I am sure He knows me, and,  if you are a believer, He knows you, too.  There is no question, no reason to wonder! This Christmas rest on the truth that Christ came because of God’s love for us.  And, in that loves comes the truth that He knows us personally.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days teaching 6th graders the value of math and science while also displaying the love of Christ, and her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest.

Christmas Traditions That Point to Jesus

Many Christian moms strive to make sure the Christmas season doesn’t get swept away in commercialism, but is truly a time of joy. What an opportunity we have to celebrate with our family the greatest miracle the world has even known!  God coming to earth as a baby named Jesus to rescue us from the curse of this world is worthy of jubilant celebration. Christian moms know this and desire this for our families, but cutting through the expectations of the season and getting to the heart of Christmas can be difficult. What’s the solution?

There is no formula. What works best for one family doesn’t create a mandate for others to do the same. Some mothers excel at and relish in Pinterest-worthy advent projects.  Others find doing simple things like reading stories that point to Jesus’ coming in the Old Testament best for their family. I humbly share a few things our family does with our young children to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps one of these strikes a chord with you or gives you an idea all your own.

  1. Our girls love playing the “Star from Afar” game. My husband and I move the star every night, and the girls wake up each morning to search for the star. Upon locating it, they move the wise men under the star as they follow it on their path to meet the new King! When my girls wake up Christmas morning the star is over the manger and they along with the wise men find the Savior!
  2. We host an annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, normally on Christmas Eve. It’s small and simple. We have a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We sing a few Christmas songs and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. The children put on a play of the Christmas story using things we have around the house like sheets, sticks, and blankets as costumes.
  3. We snuggle on the couch and watch a YouTube video of Joy Williams song “Here with Us” set to scenes from The Nativity Story.

Children thrive on rhythms and routine. Having a few traditions in your family that clearly point to the wonder and awe of Jesus’ birth will seal in the lives of your children the miracle of Christmas. Celebrate and rejoice!

About the Writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

The Greatest Story ever Told

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 6:7 NASB)

My favorite time of the year is Christmas. I anticipate its arrival with great enthusiasm. Every year as the season emerges, my adulthood mannerisms quickly shift to childlike behavior, as I watch my Mother prepare for a magnificent holiday time.

Family Gifts

Preparations are constructed months in advance for Christmas at Mother’s house with various individuals in the community offering helping hands. People dash in different directions, with a mission to find whatever gifts Mother is seeking for her kids and grandkids. Surprises always await her family.

 

Christmas Décor

Decorations are taken out of storage and arranged neatly throughout Mother’s home. Each room contains some type of Christmas décor displaying Mom’s most treasured adornments. Several trees are embellished with ornaments and placed in various quarters, adjacent to numerous Santa Clauses displayed. Then comes the moment my mother looks forward to the most. The walk through:  highlighting one special room.

The Manager Scene

A gentle voice exclaims, “Follow me.” Mother leads her family to a significant area in the middle of her home. The atrium. A room occupied by flowers throughout most of the year, is emptied out weeks before Christmas to display a beautiful manager scene for all to behold. As the family arrives, Mother stands in front of the exhibit with a smile on her face as she reflects on the true meaning of Christmas. While carols play in the background, Mother begins to convey an amazing story still impacting the world to this day.

In the same region, there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 NASB)

Jesus left the comforts of Heaven to be born in a manger. The Lamb of God, rejected by many, gave His life on a cross for the redemption of all mankind. A Savior arose the third day, with a promise to return for His own. Jesus offers Salvation to all who will believe.

In the midst of all the rush of the Holiday season, let us gather our families together to disclose the true meaning of Christmas. May we never forget to remember the greatest story ever told.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)

 

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She loves the opportunity to serve through various ministries at First Baptist Dallas as well as Entrusted Hope Ministry.  She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and began her doctoral work at Southwestern this past fall.

Your Secret Weapon: An Attitude of Gratitude

Around Thanksgiving our focus shifts into reflection and recognizing all of the blessings in our lives. A newer trend of making a daily list of your personal blessings has emerged even on Facebook.  But did you know that “an attitude of gratitude” is a spiritual tool we have at our disposal for the war that is raging between good and evil in our lives?

Utilizing thankfulness in our lives does several things that aren’t  apparent initially.  If I’m being honest, the concept of thankfulness didn’t mean much more to me than a way to be polite in general.  I considered it equal to other commands given to me by my parents, just like saying “please” and chewing with my mouth closed.  But turns out it’s so much more than that!

Thankfulness is a weapon that combats our stressful situations. When we focus our prayers on thanking God for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon us instead of on our needs, we activate peace within our lives. Consider this verse:

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV), Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard our hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you catch that part about how when we pray with thanksgiving, a literal peace is given to us?  I can personally testify to that.  When I concentrate my conversations with the Lord on thankfulness I am at ease about the upcoming tasks of the day, whether they’re monumental in my life or mundane.  Being thankful demonstrates to God our faith by showing Him that no matter what is going on, we still trust Him.

Additionally, when we concentrate on thankfulness, it reminds us of His unwavering goodness in always taking care of us and meeting our needs.  My pastor has shared with us a great way to remind ourselves of how much we truly have for which to be thankful.  He uses a notepad and makes two columns. On one side he writes the date and the request he’s made to God and on the other he writes how God responded. What a great way to remind us of God’s actual involvement in our lives when we (I) get too busy to notice!  I consider it a huge relief that I don’t have to “drive”; I can sit in the back seat and look at the scenery.  The One who is much better equipped than I am is the “Driver.”

Satan does not want us to know we have this tool at our disposal.  He wants us to freak out, make rash decisions, and try to take control of our own life circumstances, only to fail miserably. He is the author of destruction and is focused only on tearing us down.  I don’t know about you, but that “ruffles my feathers” a bit. I for one am not going to let him do that!  My God is bigger than the boogie man and I choose to let Him fight my battles. My job is only to be thankful that He does, in fact, do just that!

So, next time, instead of frantically searching for a life raft when we are drowning, let’s start first by thanking God for the sea.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay-at-home mom to two boys.  Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner.  She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

 

Thanksgiving

Each year my family sits around the table discussing for what we are thankful.  I never struggle with the answer, but I always wonder if my answer will change.  For the last three years, the thing I am most thankful for is one word . . . well maybe three words:  God is faithful. 

I am thankful for God’s faithfulness, his ever-constant presence in my life, his faithfulness despite my lack of the same.

Faithful means “loyal, consistent, steadfast.”  It also means “true to the facts or the original.”  What an amazing picture of who God is!

God is ever all of these…loyal, steadfast, true to the truth,  original, and never changing. But life has a way of making you feel like you are walking alone,  like you are the only one going through something.

It makes me think of that poem “Footprints in the Sand.”  You know the one and if not,  google it.  The situation it describes is  when we think we are alone, we are not. We need to be reminded there is only one set of footprints because God is carrying us.  I normally would call this poem “cheesy,”  (please do not be mad at me!)  Lately though, God has reminded me of this truth: when I am feeling unsure, He is sure of who I am.   When I am feeling lonely, He is there.  When I am feeling insecure, He provides security.

When I think I am alone and look to see only one set of footprints, it is because God is the one walking for us both, or better, that God in His steadfastness is always there.

God is faithful despite my lack of faithfulness.

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9

Our God is faithful and has called us into fellowship with His Son!  This means that in the midst of this life, I can stand on the truth God is faithful till the end and, in the meantime, He is calling me into fellowship with Christ.

In my insecurities, when I’m unsure and lonely, I am called to walk in God’s faithfulness through a relationship with His son Christ.

So, this year I am again thankful for God’s steadfast faithfulness.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days teaching 6th graders the value of math and science while also displaying the love of Christ, and her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest.

But the Nine – Where are They?

As Jesus was passing between Samaria and Galilee, He encountered ten lepers, crying out to Him for help. The Savior wasted no time in healing the individuals in need, for He loves His creation. Yet soon after the miracle took place, something very intriguing happened which caught the attention of Jesus.

While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

Even though ten lepers were healed on this day, only one returned to offer thanks. Overtaken by the goodness of the Lord, the former leper glorified Jesus’ name in gratitude for his healing. However, immediately following his moment of thankfulness, Jesus paused to ask the man a question. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?”

Desperate cries were uttered by the lepers toward Jesus, in hopes for a miracle. Yet the minute the request was granted, nine of them continued on their way, without any regard to a Savior who had restored the men to good health.

As I read this passage, I was convicted by the following thought: I consistently cry out for Jesus to intervene in situations I am facing. Yet so often, I spend more time in my pleas to Him over what I “need,” than I do in expressing thankfulness to Him for all He has done.

Jesus tells us: In all things to give thanks!

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She loves the opportunity to serve through various ministries at First Baptist Dallas as well as Entrusted Hope Ministry.  She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and began her doctoral work at Southwestern this past fall.