Fact Checker

Imagine you’re taking an exam, and it’s a big one, heavily weighted, and the stakes are high. Thankfully, the exam is “open book.” Your instructor has told you to use your textbook as it has all the answers you will need to be successful. The instructor then leaves the room as the exam begins. 

Suddenly, someone enters the room and states he’s taken this exam before and can give you all the answers.   

As you move through the exam, you begin to question his answers because they do not correspond with what you remember learning. You start to notice a feeling deep inside that something just isn’t quite right. Your textbook is still available on your desk. So, do you check his answers against the textbook your instructor has told you to use, or do you decide to trust this person instead? If you decide to check his answers with your textbook, you will find that his answers are actually…false.

Ironically, our very existence on this earth is much like a heavily weighted exam, but the stakes are the highest-of-high, our eternal destination! Thankfully, the Exam of Life is open-book, and our Instructor (the Lord) has given us a textbook (the Bible) which contains all the answers we need to know. 

Also, as in this scenario, there is someone (Satan) trying to tell us the wrong answers.

 “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, this you tolerate very well!” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

Paul was warning of false teachers who were apparently teaching a “different Jesus” and a “different gospel” to the members of the church in Corinth. The congregation there seemed to be trusting these guys over their textbooks, the Scriptures (their Bible during that period). 

Messages that are either contradictory or not found in the inspired Word of God are spread by false teachers who are being led by Satan. In 1 John 4:1 the Bible says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Believing in something outside what God has said in His Word can have detrimental consequences. 

Satan is crafty. A common tactic of our enemy is to take an idea that seems righteous on the surface, but when the layers are peeled back, a flawed concept is revealed. 

See if you can spot the major flaw in this statement: “Life has purpose and meaning. God, our loving Father, wants us to find happiness.”

Well, isn’t that sweet? But it’s wrong. This concept is not found in the Bible. 

But wait! It has the words “God” and “Father” in it! And they are even capitalized! Alas, despite the utilization of “Christian” buzzwords and correct grammar usage, it’s still wrong. 

God truly is loving, and our lives do have a purpose, yet that purpose is not to find happiness as this statement implies. Our purpose is to glorify God by doing all that Jesus commands us which is primarily to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20a

“Find happiness” is a not the same as “go and make disciples.” Despite being vastly different concepts, the flaw was craftily subtle, wasn’t it?  In fact, it was so subtle that if you did not open your Textbook to check that answer, you would probably miss it. 

We must analyze all statements with what God says in His Word to prove their validity. The Bible is our textbook, and all things must be measured against it.  God has mercifully provided it for us to find all the answers we need to be successful in the Exam of Life. 


About the Writer:

Natalie is primarily 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. Natalie is on the teaching team for Women’s Bible Study at First Baptist Dallas, and she and her husband, Paul, are members there. Natalie is also a member of the SEEN Collective, a musical group that tells the stories of the women of the Bible through song and leads worship. Visit www.seen-collective.com to find out more.

 [PM1]And a “different gospel” [PM1]

Joy in the Struggles

Over the past year as the pandemic flooded the world with fear and uncertainty, the word “exposed” became a common part of everyday conversation.  We may discuss exposure to the virus, but COVID 19 may have also “exposed” negative characteristics within us like impatience, idolatry, and greed.  

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

When we think of the challenging times in our lives, many emotions probably come to mind – – anxiety, despair, fear.  Joy seems far from that list.  To consider difficulties and hardships as joyful is seemingly impossible and contrary to human nature.  Fortunately, this verse does not mean that we should be happy through the hardships we face.  God wants us to use those trying times to grow spiritually and draw nearer to Him.  

Joy is the tranquility of the soul and is based on a deep trust in the Lord.  In Jesus, we find the perfect example of faithfulness through trial as He endured the pain and humiliation of the cross, faithfully trusting in God’s plan.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

God uses the trials in our lives to test our faith.  It is like the process of refining silver in which heat is applied in order to burn away the dross, the wasteful parts.  This process continues until the silversmith can look upon the metal and see his own reflection.  Like a silversmith, God uses the trials in our lives to burn away what is undesirable so that we reflect more of Him. 

Trials, rightly used, help us grow and mature as believers.  One sign of Christian maturity is perseverance.  

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:1-4

We must trust that God, in His love and grace, is using the trials in our lives for our good and His glory. 

PERSEVERING BELIEVERS ARE PROMISED WISDOM.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.  God promises to give us wisdom generously when we ask for it.  We must stand firm, knowing God’s Word and His character, and believing in His loving care.  

We must approach God confidently.  

But let him ask in faith with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  James 1:6-8

When we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, trusting in and relying on Him alone, He will steady the uncertainty and anxiety that we feel and bring us peace.  

PERSEVERING BELIEVERS WILL RECEIVE ETERNAL REWARD.

God promises to bless those who persevere through trials with eternal treasures.  

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

REMEMBER THESE FIVE PERSPECTIVES WHEN FACING TRIALS:

1. Trials are sanctifying, helping us to learn and grow spiritually. 

2. Trials move us to pray and draw us closer to the Lord.

3. Trials help us to grow and mature in our faith.  

4. Trials are temporary.

5. Trials can turn to treasures when we persevere and seek God through them. 

***This blog post is an adaptation of a Sunday School lesson taught by Patty Lovvorn in the writer’s Sunday School class.

About the Writer:

Candice has been a member of First Baptist Dallas since 2018 and serves in the REAL Talk Sunday School class. She is a wife, mother, and high school English teacher at a campus for at-risk students. Candice is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and principal certification.

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 for 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 2021 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 2021 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.

#momfail

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

They say it was Thomas Edison who said, “I didn’t fail. I found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I was a failure before there were cute hashtags for it. Just a month away from getting married, and probably quite distracted by the fact, I took a daycare job. I showed up bright and early in the morning with my lunch in hand mentally prepared to stay until the last of the kids were picked up.

I hated everything about that job. Spending all day in a room full of 2- and 3-year-olds was exhausting, and when they went down for nap time, I wanted to nap, too! All I could think about was getting to my next phase in life. I checked off every day as one less day I had to “put up” with this job. I’m sure the boss was glad to get this young, antsy know-it-all off her hands! I was failing at being a mom before I even was one!

What I didn’t know then, and probably would have been entirely surprised by, was that in the next 15 years, I would birth four babies and miscarry one. I didn’t know I would care so deeply about their little hearts, their stuffy noses, their sloppy kisses, their intellectual and physical development, and their ability to relate, speak, and show kindness. But I probably wouldn’t have been surprised to know I still wanted to nap when they napped!

Just like the kids, I learn and grow and become more of who I was always meant to be with each passing day. The Lord knows I still have plenty of #momfails. I seem to remember locking my first infant in the car with my keys AT THE PEDIATRICIAN’S OFFICE! But, I have found that trusting in Him and His purposes for me will be my strength when the days seem long. Just because we fail sometimes doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the failures. And who knows, maybe we’ll even be called by the Almighty to do that very thing later with great success!

Gladys Aylward, born in 1902 in England, had her fair share of failures. She felt she was called to China as a missionary but failed to pass exams in school in England and consequently was dismissed from the program. Raising her own funds was slow, and she had to travel single and alone through dangerous trials even to arrive in China in 1932. Then she still had a very uphill battle to become accepted, learn the language, and find her niche. However, those “failures” produced a tenacity in her that saved over 100 orphans’ lives when she traveled with them as the sole adult by foot over the mountains through war zones to safety!

Gladys could have easily given up early on based on her “failures,” just as I could have thought I would never succeed as a caring mom. But well-placed faith can override failure every time! Sometimes our failures serve to put us in our place, but sometimes our failures set us up to find our place in this world.

About the Writer:

Rachel grew up ministering on a boat on the Amazon in Brazil, where she was a missionary kid.  Rachel is married to Alessandro, homeschools their four children, and loves serving in various ministries through First Baptist Dallas.

The Good, the Bad, and Our Loving Creator

“If God is so loving, why would He allow that to happen?” Have you ever heard that question regarding some not-so-great story in the Bible? 

Consider the story of Samson found in Judges 13-16. Samson was supposed to be a leader for Israel and an instrument of God. So one would think he’d act like it, right? Spoiler alert: he does not. 

Sadly, Samson’s life is marked with many mistakes. Yet the “Hall of Faith” listed in Hebrews 11 names him as one the greats! Interesting. How does that work? Does that mean God was happy with all of Samson’s actions? Hmmm. 

Would God be okay with something like this:

So he (Samson) went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves. Judges 15:4-5

When I read something like this, my first thought as an animal lover is “Awww, those poor foxes!” 

My emotional reaction to reading an account like this is not uncommon. Sometimes when reading Biblical narrative, the details of the stories can be hard to swallow. The Bible has true historical records in it. This was real life with real cruelty and real devastation. 

With so many reports of death and destruction it may prompt some to ask, “How can God be OK with all this corruption?” This leads them to question God’s character and doubt his righteousness and goodness.  

When reading Biblical narrative, people also tend to get distracted by the horrible consequences of the curse of sin. They may assume that because a story is merely “in the Bible” God condones all aspects of the story. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

When reading these accounts, it’s very important for us not to let the character of men define the character of God. We have to remind ourselves that when the Lord uses someone to carry out His plan, that does not mean their actions outside the Lord’s instruction are acceptable to Him.

The Bible tells the accounts of flawed men and women. Some of them may have been celebrated for their faith even though they did not always “hit the mark” morally.

Despite the fallen people described in these accounts, we know God is 100% good, 100% righteous, and 100% loving. And those are just a few attributes of His perfect character.  

Knowing the character of God is the pole we cling to when circumstances and questions cause us to spin, when we don’t understand why something happened the way it did. 

The account of Samson’s exploits is one of the many examples of God utilizing flawed people to accomplish His will. He uses imperfect people for His perfect plan— imperfect people such as you and me. Aren’t you grateful that, despite our many blunders, we are still usable by Him? Praise God!

“How can God be okay with bad?” is not the question to ask. The real head-scratcher is, “How can God, Supreme Creator, be so incredibly patient with us?” We are the ones who commit these horrible acts in the first place! Logically, one would assume the Supreme Creator would have wiped us out a long time ago. 

The fact that He did not do that, and that He has immense love and patience for us is mind-blowing! 

Think how much easier it would have been to start over instead of dealing with all the bad. Certainly it would have been easier than the cross, I would imagine. But no. Out of His great love for us, He chose to work with us instead. 

We must read these stories with humility.

Remember the Bible in its essence is a love story, a story about God chasing after His wayward creation so that He can be reunited with us, though we were the cause of separation in the first place. 

  • His holiness does not allow for us to be near Him outside the covering of Jesus’s sacrifice.
  • He desires that no person be doomed to an eternity separated from Him. Therefore, He has tolerated all kinds of “awful” just to get to us. 

That’s how much He loves you, friend. He’ll put up with this kind of behavior found in the book of Judges and all throughout the world, just to get to you

About the Writer:

Natalie is primarily 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. Natalie is on the teaching team for Women’s Bible Study at First Baptist Dallas and she and her husband, Paul, are members there. Natalie is also a member of the SEEN Collective which is a musical group that tells the stories of the women of the Bible through song and leads worship. Visit http://www.seen-collective.com to find out more.

Please Stay on the Wall – Someone Needs You!

Tom had reached out to a friend for prayer. As he conveyed his request, the individual began to pray over his need. When the prayer concluded, Tom humbly stated, “Please stay on the wall.”

Tom understood the effectiveness of the Christian who tirelessly commits himself to sharing the gospel of Christ. In that same token, Tom knew all too well the intense desire of the enemy to deter the Christian from staying on the wall through various means (e.g. discouragement, weariness, etc.). Tom knew that for people to be reached, including himself, Christians must stay on the wall instead of climbing down and walking away from a God-called mission.

Years prior, an urgent need touched the heart of a man named Nehemiah. God used the hardship to move Nehemiah not only to a period of prayer, but to one of action as well.

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, 2that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3They said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.’ 4When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:1-4).

Not only were the people discouraged, they were in danger. Why? Because the walls that had once surrounded and protected them were now broken down. The walls needed to be rebuilt, and God called Nehemiah to the special task of rebuilding.

As Nehemiah embarked on the mission God had called him to, fierce enemies often met him on the path. Continuously the adversaries came with snarling remarks and fearful tactics. Their goal? To get Nehemiah and the people to cease work on the walls.

“Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, 2then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’ But they were planning to harm me. 3So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:1-3).

God called Nehemiah to pray—to go—to rebuild—and to remain on the wall until the mission was accomplished.

 

  • Nehemiah focused on the mission at hand: “I am doing a great work.”

Nehemiah knew what he had been called to do and why he had been called to do it. Next, he recognized who it was that had called him to the work, and this caused him to spotlight the labor as one of greatness!

Nehemiah’s few words, “I cannot come down,” reflected the heart of a man who knew that his mission was not about himself, but instead, about the needs of others’ safety and protection. Nehemiah comprehended the importance and the benefit of the wall being rebuilt. Furthermore, Nehemiah was called to act courageously with great perseverance to see the rebuilding of the wall to completion.

Every single day we are given to live, we have an opportunity to impact others for the Kingdom. In so doing, we can either stay on the wall carrying out the work God has called us to, or we can allow discouragement and criticisms from the enemy to talk us down from the wall God has assigned to us.

May I encourage all of us today to do the following:

  • Refuse to lose our focus. Remember, for such a time as this, we have been called to do the task in front of us. Focus on Jesus instead of on the problems.
  • Recognize the importance of what God has called us to do.
  • Remember our calling (giving allegiance to God), rebuff the enemies (by not giving them power), remain steadfast (continuing the work), and refuse to leave our post (standing firmly in our positions) even amidst opposition.

Onward soldiers! Someone needs you! Please stay on the wall!

About the Writer:

O’Shea is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. As a member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. 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 is currently working on her D.Ed.Min at Southwestern in Family Ministries.

Hands and Feet of Christ

I’m currently sitting in my house with a hole in the wall from a broken pipe, furniture scattered everywhere, messed up floors, and tears of thankfulness in my eyes.  Why?  Because of God’s people! God worked in my life, and I had the privilege and honor of seeing His hands and feet at work in this situation.  What a beautiful story of His provision!

Are you like me, having experienced the catastrophic snow storm of 2021?  There were power outages, water issues, hazardous road conditions, gas shortages, and lack of supplies in some areas.  Add to that COVID precautions, and you’re in for a real treat—not! 

I was in my living room and heard what sounded like a shower.  I ran back and forth upstairs to see what was going on; within seconds, water was dripping, running through the walls, under and on top of the floors, and boom!  There was a broken pipe spewing water like a faucet through the wall. I called my husband, who was in search for firewood and who immediately came home, texted my family and Sunday School Class, and just like the water pipe—boom!  God’s family was at work. The neighbor’s barking dog alerted the owner. She came immediately with a tool to turn off the water and also loaned us her wet vac to suck up the water. Then my family and Sunday School members came as quickly as they could with their wet vacs as well. Within minutes there were people here helping us! They were moving furniture, vacuuming up the water, and doing whatever they could to help. Those that couldn’t physically be there were praying for us, giving us recommendations on plumbers, checking on us, and helping in every possible way. I got to see God work on my behalf, and it was beautiful!

 

Am I upset about everything?  I did shed some tears and had to apologize to the insurance lady for being emotional and not as cordial as I usually am, but I’m forever grateful.  Why?  I have fellowship with God’s people.  True fellowship.  It’s the type of fellowship that you read about in God’s Word. In Hebrews 10:24-25, the Bible says, “and let’s consider how to encourage on another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging on another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

We’re definitely in some interesting times here in the world as the day draws near!  God’s people encouraged me with their presence, prayers, good deeds, and help! What a wonderful example of God’s love from the body of Christ.

As I reflected on everything that happened, I was very grateful to be connected to a body of believers.  What would I have done if I had not been?  Things would have been drastically different, and my story would not have been nearly the same.  God wants us to be in fellowship with His people so we can “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

We see the body of Christ in action when all the parts work together for His glory.  We weren’t meant to live life by ourselves.

How can we help the body of Christ be the best it can be?  It’s simple but hard—by keeping unity.  There is nothing that Satan wants more than to cause division.  Why?  Because then the church isn’t as unified and the parts don’t work as well without each other.  People get their minds off glorifying Him and start to bicker and focus on things that aren’t as important as unity. 

 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 

We need to make sure that we aren’t causing unnecessary division and are strengthening and uplifting the body of Christ in how we treat one another.

When you accept Jesus as your Savior, not only do you have your sins washed away and are made new, but you have a loving Father who is “crazy about you,” the Holy Spirit to help and guide you, and then a loving church family to walk through life with while you’re here on earth.  Are you connected to a local body of believers with whom to experience life and to share your gifts and talents to further God’s Kingdom?  Dear friend, how can we as God’s body be His hands and feet today?

About the Writer:

Alana faithfully serves at her church home, First Baptist Dallas, where she enjoys using her talents and gifts to help others grow in Christ.  She taught elementary music in public schools for nineteen years.  She is married to Mike, and they have a cute mini golden doodle puppy named Bentley.

 

 

Lessons Learned from Leadership Observed

We both learn from and teach lessons daily. They are taught through various venues, including people God chooses to use as instruments in our lives. Today I want to share the many lessons I have learned from observing leaders throughout my journey. Some have been tough to get through, while others have been quite enjoyable — all valuable for my growth as a Christian.

and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds,  Hebrews 10:24

Leader Number One: I remember sitting in a leadership meeting in a church setting as the Executive Pastor began to lead. On this particular day, the minister asked a question of individuals gathered for the meeting. He wanted to hear suggestions from those who served within the church on ways to reach more people for Christ. People began to respond, offering insights to his great question. What did I observe–learn?

Lessons Learned: (1) The pastor valued his employees and their opinions. (2) He listened. It was important to the leader to not only listen but to learn for himself better ways to reach others. (3) He took note. This part impacted me more than anything. He didn’t just listen and disregard; he took notes to learn from and also to implement. Even though the Lord had placed the pastor on a big platform, he was never beyond learning from others. I walked away from this meeting with lessons I would never forget. Always value others. Listen. Take note, humble yourself, and be willing to learn from people God places in your path.

Leader Number Two: He was a pastor, a father figure, and a friend. He paved the way for many lessons to be taught while serving as my pastor in my early twenties. How I serve in ministry today reflects his impact on my life in many ways.

Lessons Learned: (1) He recognized the gifts God had bestowed upon my life and called them out. (2) He opened doors for me to be used for God’s Kingdom. (3) He both encouraged me and inspired me to go far and beyond in ministering to others. (4) He taught me by his example how important the lost and broken are to Jesus and how imperative it is for the church to reach them. I am so thankful for his example.

Allow God to use you to help others a long the way. See their gifts. Call them out. Take a person under your wing to encourage and teach.

At times, we will learn lessons from individuals who have struggled in the area of leadership. No one person has done it all right. I certainly have not! Yet even in the midst of our failures, we can still learn lessons, grow from them, and entrust them to others. Nothing is ever wasted in the eyes of our Lord.

Leader Number Three: Years ago, I met an individual who served in a ministry role–yet sadly, his position title did not match his lifestyle. I observed many times his gossip within crowds he was called to serve. He notoriously embarrassed people in front of others with his unrelenting remarks that would cut to the bone. At times, jealousy drove his life and harsh words erupted from his lips as he attempted to serve others. His mistreatment of individuals left a trail of hurt.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will advise you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

Lessons Learned: Satan wanted to use this time in my life to cripple me, yet God used it to redirect and reposition me. Satan tried to use this season to create anger and bitterness, but God used it to teach me humility and obedience. Satan wanted me to reflect his character in how I responded, yet God’s Spirit working through me reflected His image instead. Satan wanted to use it as a stronghold, yet God used it as an effective tool. Was it an easy time? No. But in looking back, I’m thankful for the way God used it.

  • Additional insights learned:
    People are watching us, in every way, in how we live, how we respond to others, and how we minister. When we mistreat or mess up, repent of it, get it right with God, and then get it right with those we have offended.
  • How we use the tongue and how we treat others will be remembered more than any sermon or Sunday School lesson we will ever prepare.
  • As leaders, we will make mistakes. Yet as stated earlier, we can learn from them. I will never be a person remembered for doing it all right. However, I pray to be a person remembered for learning from my mistakes and for finishing strong in spite of them.

The Lord watches over all who love Him, But He will destroy all the wicked. Ps 145:20

About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She 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 is currently working on her D.Ed.Min. at Southwestern in Family Ministries.

 

Nauseating to the King

It’s the end of a very long day. Your muscles ache, the energy tank is running on E. But thankfully your responsibilities are complete, and you’ve got some time before bed. What is a wonderful cure for tired muscles and an overworked mind? Ahhhh, yes! A nice, hotter-than-hot soak in the tub. 

Can you feel your muscles start to relax at just the thought? After drawing your bath and locating your candles and scents (maybe even some chocolate if it has been an exceptionally bad day,) your anticipation of how good that steamy water is going to feel has reached its climax. You dip your toe in and. . . wait a minute. . . no. . . no. . . NOOOOO! The water is LUKEWARM! Oh, the devastation!  

How gross is it when something you anticipate being hot or cold ends up being lukewarm instead? Lukewarm soup and lukewarm ice cream are unappealing to most of us. 

Goldilocks may have wanted her bowl to be lukewarm, but it is an aversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Let me give you a great example of this kind of behavior in Judges 15:9-13. This passage is describing when Samson kills a bunch of Philistine men and then goes and stays in a remote cave. The Philistines, who seek retaliation for Samson’s actions, go to the land of Judah trying to find him. 

For context, the men of Judah have been instructed by God to overtake Philistine land and submit to Him and Him alone. But note their response to this situation. They declare the Philistines as their authority and they retrieve Samson for the Philistines, without even being asked to, as recorded in verse 11.  

Now here comes the real “kicker.” Not only do they declare the Philistines as their authority and not the Lord, but they also intend to keep it that way: 

Then they said to him, “We have come down to bind you so that we may hand you over to the Philistines.”  And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not kill me.” So they said to him, “No, but we will bind you tightly and give you into their hands; but we certainly will not kill you.” Then they bound him with two new ropes, and brought him up from the rock. Judges 15:12-13 NASB

The men of Judah are not so hot for the Lord that they “arm up” with Samson or so cold that they try to kill him for the Philistines.

By failing to recognize this opportunity for rescue, they are proving that they are perfectly comfortable in their current situation, and they’re trying their best to appease both sides of this war, otherwise known as compromise

This, friends, is what lukewarm service to our Lord Jesus Christ looks like: neither hot nor cold.  And it’s so detestable to Him that He spits it out. 

He DIED for us, and we can’t even be asked to get uncomfortable for Him; may it never be!

You may have heard it said that American Christians are “asleep,” meaning that for many of us, there has been little, if any, negative consequence to publicly claiming our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far, for the most part, we’ve been able to fit right in with anyone and everyone. 

But over the past year, the Lord has shaken the foundations. And soon, we’re going to be forced either to jump out of bed. . . or to pull the covers up over our heads. 

The world is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christians. Bible believing Christians in America are now publicly being singled out as instigators of violence and some are calling for the detainment and removal of us from American society.

Even now there has been published a 28-page document crafted by 15 persons who hold authoritative positions in American government calling for the stripping of First Amendment rights from Christians who advocate Biblical positions on the sanctity of life, marriage, education, and the nuclear family. 

All of us, each and every one of us, have been or will be forced to make a choice in the coming days. 

Friends. It’s time to heat up. 

About the Writer:

Natalie is primarily 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. Natalie is on the teaching team for Women’s Bible Study at First Baptist Dallas, and she and her husband, Paul, are members there. Natalie is also a member of the SEEN Collective, a musical group that tells the stories of the women of the Bible through song and leads worship. Visit www.seen-collective.com to find out more.

Powerful Lesson

Behold, God is exalted in His power;
Who is a teacher like Him?
 Job 36:22 

Power outages were a common problem for most of us in February 2021. Below-zero temperatures in Texas caused power grids to be overburdened and numerous homes, buildings, schools, and churches to be without power.

One thing I learned in our power outage was that you still reach for the light switch to turn on the power! Duh! Although I knew the power was out, I still expected it to be on. As I flipped on the switch, and nothing happened, I immediately thought, “Thank you, God, what when I turn to you, you are never without power and you have no power outages!” His power is always in full supply and He is always available to us when we reach to Him.

After the power came on in our house, I found verses that reminded me of God’s power:

From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen. Job 37:10

He showers snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes.  He hurls His ice as fragments; Who can stand before His cold?  He sends His word and makes them melt; He makes His wind blow, and the waters flow.  Psalm 147:16-18 

There is none like You, Lord; You are great, and Your name is great in might.  Jeremiah 10:6 

God is a great teacher! He was teaching me a spiritual lesson during our power outage. I learned that His power is without limit.

So,

            –when I have no strength, God supplies what I need

            –when I am afraid, God promises I can trust in Him

            –when I am in trouble, God is an ever-present help

            –when I don’t know what to do, God’s word is a lamp to my feet

            –when I am lonely, God promises He will never leave me or forsake me

Hopefully, none of us will ever have to go through another power outage! I have learned the lesson about God’s unlimited power. Since no teacher compares to God, we know His next lesson will probably look different! I pray the next time He presents me with another lesson that He will find me a willing student.

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.