By Faith . . .

God says that faith is the one thing that is required for us to enter into Heaven.(Ephesians 2:8) That’s it. This is a simple concept but we as humans often try to complicate it. By trusting (having faith) that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay the price for our blunders, we can have eternal life in paradise.  I believe that complicating the simplicity of salvation enough to steer people away from it is Satan’s ultimate goal.  But God’s Word says over and over again how faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us is the most important of all.

Hebrews 11:6a  And without faith it is impossible to please Him (God) . . . 

Jesus Christ emphasized the importance of faith in His time here on earth. Oftentimes when He healed someone, He referenced the person’s faith in relation to their healing. (Mark 2:5), (Luke 5:20), (Luke 7:50), (Luke 8:48), (Luke 17:19), (Luke 18:42)  And that’s just a sample of the references!

Here are a few more key facts about faith:

  • Faith requires patience as it always responds to God on God’s own timing and conditions. (Hebrews 6:12)
  • The testing of faith produces perseverance. (James 1:3)
  • Faith enables us to  encourage one another as believers. (Romans 1:12)

Faith ultimately means that we believe God exists and that He rewards us. We expect him to work in our lives and bless us all the time. Real faith doesn’t need to know all the details.  After all, Abraham and Sarah didn’t know why they were traveling and Noah didn’t know when the flood was to happen.  These pioneers of faith knew only that God had told them to “go” or “do”.  In fact, did you realize that Abraham and Sarah did not ever arrive to a place where they would call home? From the time he was called by God to leave his homeland, Abraham was continually traveling.  Having true faith also means recognizing that, as Christians, we are living in this world as in a temporary “rent home.”

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13

Okay, so we believe – now what?  Good question!  James 2:17  has the answer, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”  Faith without action is dead! Remember the popular line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come?”  Well that quote is also implying, “If you don’t build it, they won’t come!”  If we don’t live as though we believe in Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord over our lives; we are not being a good example to others and may be a hindrance to them. By not acting out our faith, we are useless in building God’s kingdom and making disciples, which He specifically asks us to do.  Put your faith to work and watch God do incredible things in your life and the life of everyone around you.

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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Great is Your Faithfulness

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB)

Have you ever heard the expression, “Back to the Potter’s house we go?” I have and have also experienced first-hand its true meaning. At one point in my journey, not only was God bringing a restoration most amazing to my life, but also a divine reshaping.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying,“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.  But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potterdoes?” declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:1-6 NASB)

Jeremiah was soon to receive a staggering message from God, as he monitored the work of a potter working on a vessel. As he quietly observed the potter’s production, a change was about to take place. The clay had become spoiled in the hands of the potter.  However, with certainty, the potter would not leave the vessel in such disarray. “So he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make” (Jer. 18:4).

The clay in this passage refers to the children of Israel, who had strayed from God. The Potter is the Lord Himself. And even though the clay was spoiled, it pleased the Lord to remake His children into a new vessel.

This story captivates my heart immensely for I, too, was marred clay. I had two choices during this particular season of my life. I would either be shaped by my circumstances or refashioned by the Potter Himself. I chose to surrender my life to His care.

From years of sinful dwellings, I never imagined that a Holy God would desire to place me back on His wheel to refashion. Yet He did.  And, even though I had no idea at the time what all that would entail, I knew one thing for sure; I was loved by a faithful God.

Remember, damaged clay in the hands of God can become His masterpiece.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. 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 will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

Halt: Four Ways to Avoid a Panic Attack

Have you ever felt so afraid you were unable to breathe?  Have the worries and busyness of this world ever weighed heavily on your mind?  Does Satan really ever attack you in your weak spots (those things we worry most about) to try to destroy your joy?

A few months ago, after an exceedingly hard week both physically and emotionally, I experienced a panic attack in which I could not breathe, felt like I was choking, and my heart was filled with fear. I paced the house, moved from my comfortable bed to the couch, and on to an upstairs bedroom. Still restless, I drank a glass of milk, read my Bible, repeated verses aloud, but nothing seemed to help. Fear gripped at my heart, telling me I was incapable of doing anything.  After about three hours of what felt like wrestling with Satan, and finally convinced that I would just quit everything in which I was involved when morning came, sleep finally overtook me.

The next morning, with the dawning of day, the thought came that this might have been an attack from the Deceiver, the Father of Lies, or Satan; but in the darkness of night I was unable to drive him away. With daylight came ease of mind, peace, and strength from the truth of scripture that I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13)  and refreshment in the promises of His word and deliverance from all my fears (Psalms 34:4), (Psalms 34:7)  I realized how very small from God’s perspective my worries really were and that he was in control of it all. (Psalm 103:19)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.

 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. Psalms 91:1-6

Dr. Charles Stanley, from In Touch Ministries, has quoted four ways to keep ourselves from getting to the point of being overwhelmed. He used the acronym HALT:

  • H- Don’t let yourself get too hungry, take care of your physical body.
  • A- Don’t let yourself get too angry,  or emotionally distraught,
  • L- Don’t let yourself get too lonely,
  • T-  Don’t let yourself get too tired.

Even though I may never know if a spiritual battle was actually going on during my restless night (Ephesians 6:12),  these things I do know:

  • God, the Creator, and great Shepherd (Psalm 23) is able to take care of all of our needs, whether it be physical, financial, emotional, relational or otherwise.
  • We are not to fear.  Dr Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, says there are 365 verses in the Bible instructing us to not fear.  (God knew there are times I would need one for every day!)

 Do not fear, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10

About the Writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ by serving as Coordinator for Yada Yada.

God’s Goody Goody

Margery Meanwell is thought to be the original (and fictitious) goody goody. According to the British Library, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is one of the most important children’s books of the 18th century. It tells the story of two orphans, Margery Meanwell and her brother Tommy, and their escape from poverty. Dressed in rags and having only one shoe, Margery is given two shoes by a charitable gentleman. Through hard work she becomes a schoolmistress before making a good impression on the local landowner and marrying him. She inherits his wealth when she is widowed and is granted a large dowry from her brother who has also acquired great wealth in his foreign pursuits. Margery’s wealth enables her to help the poor just as she herself had been helped. She remains adamant that money is to be used for the good of others less fortunate than oneself, not for personal benefit.

Unfortunately, as I know from personal playground experience, the expression goody two-shoes is not usually used as a compliment. The admirable pursuit of the good of another has come to mean something smug and self-righteous — more often than not, a way to heckle a playmate.

To many, good is grey — an ever-shifting concept fluctuating between black and white, depending on the circumstances. For a time I pursued the path of the “healing arts” and spiritualism. During that season of my life, I saw much as grey, but more than that, I saw black as white and white as black. However, there really is no “good” definition for goodness beyond being synonymous with the nature of Christ. Test your definition of goodness against God’s Word. If it’s NOT what God calls good, it will probably be more like what the spirit of the anti-Christ calls good and therefore:

  • it cannot be measured by how closely it resembles the person and actions of Christ
  • it is often in opposition to God’s blueprint for His children or His standard of righteousness
  • it sounds very appealing, because it “feels” good
  • it involves more conclusions that are “right in my own eyes,” rather than “right in God’s eyes”
  • it is based on the argument that an individual is innately “good” rather than innately “sinful”
  • it breeds rebellion against God rather than submission to Him
  • as right as it looks, it eventually leads to destruction

For those of us who search for remnants of Eden and God’s good creation here on earth, it’s easy to want to downplay the negative effects that sin has on each one of us and on the earth itself; however, let it be known: God alone is good (Mark 10:18).

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. Ephesians 5:6-11

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

I’m One of the Others

“Some people are naturally good, you know, and others are not. I’m one of the others. Mrs. Lynde says I’m full of original sin. No matter how hard I try to be good I can never make such a success of it as those who are naturally good. It’s a good deal like geometry, I expect.”
~ “Anne of Green Gables” ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Like my favorite red-headed literary heroine, “Anne with an ‘e,’” I’m “one of the others.” I struggle with mastering both goodness AND geometry! Anne would be relieved to hear what Jesus said about being “naturally” good. In Luke chapter 18:19, Jesus declared, “No one is good except God alone.” Only God is inherently, completely, and, by His very nature, good.

Jesus very clearly states his oneness with God in John 10:30: “I and my Father are one.” In John 14:9, Jesus says, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Anything we know about Jesus is true of God, and anything we know about God is true of Jesus.

The whole of Scripture points to the goodness of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. Here are two of many descriptions of God’s goodness:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing . . . Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life  . . .  Psalm 23:1:6 (NIV)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

In contrast, we read of our lack of goodness in Romans 3:12: “…there is no one who does good, not even one.” Thank goodness, (pun intended), we aren’t left to our own resources.

Because Jesus is God and has all the attributes of God, anything God has given to Jesus can be given to me, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in John 16:15, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (NIV)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

God’s goodness is mine through the gift of His Son, Jesus, the Only One who truly is “naturally” good.

About the Writer:
Nan 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Goodness, the Nebulous Fruit

“You’re a good person.” I’ve heard those words so many times, and every time I want to scrunch up my eyes and respond with a resounding “Huh???” Goodness has always been so nebulous to me. Even the definition of the word is nebulous. So, what is a concrete person like me to make of the word?

When I think of goodness, I think of God’s goodness:

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17

I think of this verse in Psalm 23:

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

I experience the goodness of God every single day, but how does that goodness translate to my relationships with others? I don’t see myself as inherently good. I’m just trying to show the world how much Jesus loves me, one moment at a time.  I wrestled with this one for a long time. Writing comes easy for me, and yet I’ve spent weeks thinking and praying about this one with nothing. Crickets.

But then I realized I was taking the wrong approach. I had this idea that the fruit of the Spirit meant I had to be good. That’s not it. I’m just here to show others the goodness of God. The best way I can do that is by letting his Spirit show up in my daily life, bearing the fruit we call goodness.

Ok great, now what does that look like? When I asked God that question, He gave me Psalm 27:13

I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. NIV

Our Pastor frequently reminds us that we are the salt of the Earth.  God sent us here to show his love in such a way that others will come to know Him.  Isn’t that all we can do?  So what does goodness look like in practical action? When it’s not nebulous but more concrete, it’s those things we do when no one is watching.

It’s allowing someone to go ahead of me in traffic. It’s holding back criticism. It’s feeding a stray dog, picking trash out of the park, helping someone on the street. It’s saying “thank you” at work, or lending an ear when someone is frustrated. It’s understanding that another person’s frustration isn’t personal and sometimes she needs love. It’s doing the dishes or taking out the trash when it isn’t my turn.  It’s serving at church and in the community. It’s donating to charity. It’s setting aside pride. It’s giving my time.

Goodness is no one thing, but it’s a pervasive attitude that allows God to shine through us so He may be glorified.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

 

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

Good Enough

Many times when we say the word “good”,  we associate it with term “adequate”, as in the saying, “That’s good enough.” In the English language we even use the word “good” as a comparative adjective in the series: good, better, best. In that series the word “good” is the term used for the lowest rank. But did you know that, in the Bible, the word “good” or “goodness” is actually referring to perfection? Our Father in Heaven is a good Father. He is the absolute standard of perfection and is blameless. The term “goodness” is part of His very nature.

Consider this:  He desires that not one of us should perish but spend eternity with Him.  For that reason He chases us, He gave His life for us, and, with His endless mercies He has shown us His love.  Even though we are imperfect and deserve nothing but to be punished and to drown in our constant sin, He comes after us, calling us back home to Him where we find safety and endless pleasures in His love.

Why then do we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough for Him? On the contrary, He never once asks that of us. Actually, He only asks for us to accept His goodness and let that be enough.  He knows that we will never be good enough (perfect) for Him, and that is why He, through His son Jesus Christ, paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave His life for us. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and experienced the punishment for our sin. And, when we say “We’re not good enough to have a relationship with God” we are actually saying, “Jesus sacrifice was not enough for my sin.”

 . . .  As for our transgressions, You forgive them. How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. Psalm 65:3b-4

Stop telling Jesus Christ that what He did on the cross wasn’t good enough. Instead, run to Him where you will find that Jesus Christ is good enough.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to a 2 year old and has another one on the way. 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.

 

A Lesson in Foot Washing

My husband was having a rough day, a really rough day.  And he wasn’t pleasant to be around.  I was considering whether I should tell him how difficult he was, go away, or tough it out when I clearly heard God’s voice say “wash his feet”.  As is customary, I proceeded to argue with the voice in my head.  After all, his feet aren’t my favorite thing about him, and they really weren’t dirty.  But the voice persisted.  “Wash his feet.”

I was standing in the kitchen looking for an answer, and I couldn’t just stand there without saying something I would regret, so I started washing the dishes,  It was his turn to do them, and both of us really dislike the chore.  I didn’t say a word, I just washed the dishes.

Something magical happened in that moment.  The corners of his eyes softened.  His shoulders relaxed a little bit.  He started to breathe more deeply.  When I was finished, he hugged me and thanked me.  Just like that, we were back to being “us”.  He felt better.  What he needed most in his grumpiness was kindness.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

Don’t we all need kindness when we are at our worst?  I know when I’m having a rough day, the thing I need most is a hug.  It’s not easy to hug me when I’m grumpy, but my husband does that for me.  He hugs me even when I don’t want to be hugged because he knows I need it.

The Bible is full of examples of kindness, and many words about it.  One of my favorite stories recently is in the book of Micah, and chapter 6 verse 8 jumped out at me:

Do justice.  Love kindness.  Walk humbly with God.

It really is that simple, and yet it takes discipline to stop and ask how I can show kindness in this moment.  I don’t always manage to do that, but, when I do, it’s beautiful to see how God can use my kindness to show His presence to those around me.

About the Writer:
Wendy is a wife and mother who works full time in Risk Management.  Here at First Dallas she serves in Sunday school, helps coordinate Angel tree, and teaches at Discipleship University.  Her greatest joy comes from discovering how following Jesus can greatly impact her daily life and the lives of those she cares about in innumerable, practical ways.

How to Tame a Tiger: Parenting Tips and Tidbits from my Grandmother

She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Because my family and I lived with my grandparents for the first six years of my life, I have very many precious memories of living in a multigenerational home.  My grandfather owned and milked cows on a dairy.  My grandmother was a homemaker, and lived in a time when there were no dishwashers, no microwave ovens, no fancy kitchen gadgets, and with only a wringer type clothes washing machine.  Most of her wonderful home cooked meals came from the garden she had planted and vegetables that were either fresh or canned.  Out of her home came the best pies, made-from-scratch cakes, homemade candies, fried chicken and steaks, and lots of joy and fun.  During my first few years of school, all of my clothes were made by hand by her and my mom. I can remember being so excited about having five new dresses – one for every day of the week at the beginning of each school year.

Grandmother demonstrated to us all the lovingkindness which God shows to us. There were no extracurricular activities, except an occasional baseball game in a nearby field with my cousins. Some of my best memories are just being with my grandmother learning to sew, crochet, and cook; working by her side, or just spending quality time with her fishing off a dock. She led by example and worked tirelessly to see that all our needs were met.  All of us grandkids knew where she stood when it came to doing what we were supposed to do and respected her high behavioral expectations. I never remember her even having to raise her voice with any of us.  Even though she died when I was only eighteen, I am so thankful to have had her example of how to parent and lead a family with respect, love, and kindness. She was truly the Proverbs 31 woman.

As a grandmother now, I hope to pass along some of those parenting tips and tidbits I learned from her, as well as a few of my own.  Here are some of the things those include.

  • Read scripture daily – schedule a quiet time for yourself to reap the benefits of God’s wisdom. (Colossians 3:16) And pray, pray, pray. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Read scripture aloud daily with your children, talking about it in daily activities, and memorizing with them. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
  • Keep high expectations for behavior, teaching (Proverbs 31:26) and explaining to them your expectations, and train them as you go. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Don’t be afraid to discipline (train) age- appropriately with consequences related to the action. (Proverbs 13:24)
  • Set clear rules and boundaries always with their own safety in mind.
  • Be clear to the children when disciplining that you love them, but are not happy with their choice of wrong behavior, or actions. (Proverbs 3:12) And never let your own emotions get out of control.
  • Spend quality time with your children, stay connected, and know what is going on in their lives, always!
  • Finally, do all things with love and kindness, demonstrating the love of Christ, as He has done for us. (Ephesians 2:7) Don’t give up! It takes time to tame a tiger!

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

 

About the Writer:
Beverly has been a long time teacher and administrator who alongside with her husband have taught numerous Sunday school classes. As a grandparent today, she loves to share with others God’s Word and make it applicable to daily living.

 

Beyond Being Nice

As my son approached his second birthday, I held my breath and waited for the rebellion to begin. I gathered several books about discipline theories and how a toddler’s brain works and stacked them on my bedside table.

I felt so ill-equipped, as each day brought new challenges, but the more closely I looked into my son’s eyes the more I saw a child who wanted desperately to be taught. I saw a child who learned by watching and needed an example, a child who craved personal connection and needed to see, hear and feel how loved he was. This child was learning his place in the world and had a heart that was ready to be molded.

Our children are growing up in a world that is new and exciting to them, but it’s growing more perilous every single day (2 Timothy 3:1-3). We sing the song ‘This Little Light’ and tell them to go out and shine in our dark world.

My husband and I continually pray for a long list of traits that we want our children to develop. But at the top of that list is kindness because of the powerful effect it can have in winning hearts for Christ. Romans 2:4 says ‘Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?’ It sounds simple but here’s the catch . . . kindness requires us to be vulnerable.

Kindness requires an inner security that runs so deep that we are not shaken when the other person rejects or mistreats us in return. We must put aside our pride and show a gentle and genuine compassion. Our opportunity to respond is not based on the other person’s deserving of our forgiveness, but on mercy alone.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35

By teaching our children the principles of kindness, we are teaching them a multitude of other qualities like compassion, empathy, patience, and forgiveness. But all of these qualities are hollow without understanding the lovingkindess of God. This understanding can only be gained by experiencing it first hand in our lives, by having a personal relationship with Christ.

So, as parents teaching our kids about the meaning of kindness, let’s not confuse its definition with that of “niceness”. Let’s instead impress on them the grace and mercy that is at the core of kind actions. Let us point them to Christ.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.