Lord Help Me Be Merciful

Why is it that some people are so compassionate towards others and forgive easily and others are slow to forgive?  I wish I could say that I am great at being merciful towards others as my husband is.   He forgives and forgets in an instant and I would love to be more that way.  Lord Jesus, please help me to be more merciful.

What does it mean to be merciful?  An online dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”  Usually people describe mercy as not getting what we deserve and grace as getting what we do not deserve.   Who is at the center of both?  Jesus, our wonderful Savior and Lord.  Jesus died for our sins so that we could live eternally with Him, something that we could never do on our own.

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,Titus 3:5.  

Our Savior, Jesus, endured the sins of the world on the cross, because He didn’t want us to pay the penalty for our sin which would be eternal separation from Him.   Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and felt the anguish of our sin, so that we could be clean and spotless through His gift on the cross.  What an amazing gift of mercy!

There’s something truly humbling about realizing that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation.  There’s nothing I can do to attain it; it’s all a gift from Jesus.  I can’t be good enough, or do enough things.  His great mercy made it possible for you and me.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  1 Peter 1:3.

So how can I respond to this amazing gift?  First, I can accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation, knowing it is all a gift from Him.

 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Psalm 86:5.  

My Savior died for all my sins, past, present, and future.  I can know that when I call to Him, He will be faithful to answer and forgive me.

The second thing I need to do is to show mercy to others.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

Because we have experienced God’s mercy, through Christ, we can show it to others.

 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners’ love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners’ do that.  Luke 6:32-33. (NIV) 

To show Christ to the world, we can show others His mercy and point them to Jesus.

Lord Jesus, our world desperately needs to see more of You.  Please help me and other believers to remember the great mercy you showed us at the cross.  Please help us to willingly show Your mercy to others so we can point them to You.

About the Writer:
Alana Arias 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.

Stars and Stripes, Forever?

Reading history is interesting, isn’t it? Especially when choices are made that seem so obviously wrong to the lofty eye of the reader.

While reading historical accounts, especially from the Bible, I find myself high up on my cracked pedestal thinking, “well that was dumb…I’m glad I’d never do that.” Then in the very next breath something happens to bring me down to my humble reality, such as my phone slipping out of hand and smacking me in the face as I try to look at it while lying down. (By the way, it really hurts when that happens.)

This year, America is turning a whopping 244 years old. And while we’ve had our ups and downs (to say the least), compared to most nations, God has blessed us abundantly. Our history is rich with examples of God’s hand guiding and protecting us from enemies, disasters, and even ourselves. Just look at how America came to be a nation in the first place. Only by God’s sovereign will and miraculous help could a few farmers band together and defeat a well-trained, highly lethal, imperial nation such as England.

Throughout history we can find God’s faithfulness to humanity in spite of our unfaithfulness. Regardless of our failures, He succeeds. Despite our wickedness, He is good. And in the face of our hate, He loves. Over and over and over again.

A quick search on Biblegateway.com revealed 48 separate references in the Bible where “His [God’s] preserving care was exemplified”. Most of these were broad 1st level topics which when selected led to subsequent levels of detailed accounts of God’s unique but steadfast faithfulness towards His people. The total number of individual accounts were far too many to count.

The recent pandemic has knocked our nation on its heels leaving us staggering to get our balance back. Our citizens’ lives and livelihoods have been lost due to Covid 19. But wait! There’s still hope.

The reality of God’s faithfulness has not ceased to be the case for us today. God is still devotedly working in the lives of not only individuals but throughout the global stage as well, including America. If we are still on this earth, then God is not through with us yet. We still have work to do.

Learn from the Past

Consider the book of Nehemiah found in the Old Testament of the Bible. This was written when Israel was in exile in Babylon as a direct consequence of worshipping (or being devoted to) other things besides the Lord and doing the exact opposite of what God commanded them to do. The city of Jerusalem was in ruins and this book recounts the story of brave and determined countrymen returning from exile who decided not to wallow in loss but band together and pick up the pieces of their broken nation. I believe that with God’s help, we can do the same.

But before we get to work, let’s look at the first thing Nehemiah does before picking up a shovel. In Nehemiah 1:6-7 he humbles himself with confession. And notice that he not only confesses the sins of himself and his household, but of his entire nation.

Nehemiah 1:6-7:  let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.

When you read what led up to Israel’s punishment via exile, you might be tempted to think, “Well duh, you bowed down to a statue instead of the Living God. What did you think was going to happen?”

Reading history is interesting, isn’t it? Especially when choices are made that seem so obviously wrong to the lofty eye of the reader… I wonder what choices we’ve made that will seem so obviously wrong in the lofty eye of the future reader?

2 Chronicles 7:13-14: If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (emphasis added)

Fellow Americans, we must humble ourselves. We must realize that there are direct consequences to our actions.

God promises us that if we will turn back to Him, forsaking other things that distract us from our attention to Him (money, power, lust, etc.) He will gather us and heal our land! We will be safely held in His mighty hand.

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.

 

Pursuing Relentless Forgiveness

I am confronted with a daily challenge.  How do you forgive someone who intentionally hurts and offends you every day?  How do you endure someone you can’t walk away from because you are tied to them by God and earthly law?

Both the Word and wise counsel from others say that we must forgive, continually, if needed. Matthew 18: 21-22 shows this to us:

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I don’t say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

In Matthew 18:23-35, He then teaches us the parable of the unforgiving debtor.

However, since I am still flesh, I struggle when faced with the same unrelenting offenses every day, and I have to take one day at a time.  Some days I can choose not to think about it and be truly grateful for all the amazing things that God continues to do in my life.  I can “rise above” it.

Other days, I find myself deep in the ditch with my old friends, resentment and bitterness. On these days, it feels cruel that I am, in fact, dishonoring all the Lord has done by focusing on these worldly offenses rather than choosing to forgive as He forgave me. I don’t like to think of myself as a hateful person, but I can’t deny feeling contempt. This in turn brings shame and a feeling of helplessness with it. I envy those whose deep hurts are in their past, even if they are still struggling with healing. It is difficult to heal, defend my heart against ongoing offenses, and resist the temptation to seek my own will all at the same time.

Over time, this cycle of good and bad days is stretching out to include more good ones than bad. The practice of mindfully giving this issue over to God each day and intentionally choosing to trust that the Lord will work all things out for good helps because He has already proven this to me personally so many times. Occasionally, I get tired and frustrated and feel that I may not be able to endure or withhold from seeking my own will. There have been times when I have prayed in the form of a full-on hissy fit style meltdown before the Lord (please don’t tell me I’m the only one out here who has been there as that would be embarrassing). In that situation, I beg Him to change my attitude when what I really want is for Him to change my circumstances. In those moments, He has been faithful to soothe my frayed heart.

The bottom line is this. My testimony hinges on all of the amazing ways the Lord has intervened, comforted, guided, protected, and prospered me. It hinges on my continued trust in the almighty sovereignty of the Lord. I continue in obedience, humility, gratitude, and perseverance despite my desire for relief. All in this world is transient and finite, and I desire to honor the blessing that I will inherit.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  1 Peter 3:8-9 

About the Writer:
Amy is a joyful believer who is experiencing the healing power of understanding one’s identity in Christ. She is grateful to serve among amazing sisters in Christ at her church and for a church body full of beautiful believers who model the pursuit of Christ with their words and actions. She is also a mother of two tweens (pray for her) and enjoys her career as a scientist and medical writer.

 

The Courageous Ask

Prayer takes courage.  Remember Elijah’s challenge to the false prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18?  

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.  And all the people said, ‘That is a good idea.’  I Kings 18:24

This was a bold ask on the part of Elijah with much at stake. When it came time to pray, Elijah’s prayer was simple:

 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.’ I Kings 18:36-37

Time after time, story after story, the Bible is filled with courageous asks – many of which God answered in miraculous ways that showed His power over our lives and the world around us.

I must admit that it is difficult for me to pray courageously. I do not doubt that God is able, but deep down inside I ashamedly admit that if I were to stand in front of others and ask God to prove that I am His servant and that my ask is so that others might turn back to the true God, I fear that He wouldn’t come through for me. I fear the crickets of a silent response. I fear that my ask might not be in line with His will. It is hard to forget all the past prayers God has answered with “no.”

It’s easy for me to pray for others or for my own needed heart change or attitude adjustment. But it is difficult for me to pray for the things that I know God may choose to deny.  Am I the only person who would rather not ask than to ask and be told “no?” A “no” hurts. . .sometimes bitterly.

I cannot claim to understand why God asks us to pray, but I can obey His call to pray without ceasing and follow the example of Jesus.

These are the words of Jesus Himself to His disciples:

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’  And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?   Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Matthew 26:36-41

God didn’t grant Jesus’ prayer for this cup to be taken from Him. Yet still Jesus asked. To me that shows great courage, humility, trust, and submission on Jesus’ part.

Both Jesus’ and Elijah’s prayers inspire me to pray with courage:  Elijah because he was willing to lay his life on the line as a prophet of God in obedience to what God had prompted him to pray and Jesus because he was willing to ask even when God did not change the course of Calvary in response to His prayer.  In both cases, God answered with what was best and what was truly spectacular and miraculous.

What I don’t see Jesus saying to the disciples is this: “Pray that you may be strong enough to do what you think is best and right.” Instead, Jesus said, “Sit here and pray” or “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

May our prayers be like that of Elijah – rooted in obedience to God and like that of Jesus – willing to take the less desirable path if that is what it takes to bring glory to the Father.  May we go beyond our limited understanding and just do what He says: with faith, pray.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay loves movement of most every variety. Some of her favorite moments are going on long walks, runs or bike rides in some new uncharted territory or exploring some intellectual or emotional space waiting to be uncovered. By day she works at First Baptist Dallas and in her spare time you will find her enjoying family, teaching mindful movement classes or serving in some community that has as many questions about God and life as she does. She is passionate about God’s Word applied masterfully by the Holy Spirit’s leading and believes the kindness and compassion of Christ changes hearts and unbinds minds – the most significant movement of any kind.

 

The Nameless Woman

Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. Romans 16:13

In Romans 16, Paul sent personal greetings to people who were special to him. What had Rufus’ mother done for Paul that she would have been like a mother to him?  Who were the people involved in this verse?

Who was Paul?

As a faithful follower of Jesus, Paul spent his adult life testifying to the truths of Christ. He encountered extreme, relentless, and undeserved persecution. In this one short verse, we learn God provided a place of respite for His weary servant.

Who was Rufus? 

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 15:21 (NIV)

Scholars believe Simon became a follower of Jesus Christ after he carried Jesus’ cross. When Simon returned home, it appears his family members also became followers of Jesus.  Simon’s sons, it is believed, grew up to be leaders in the Christian movement and Rufus became a friend to Paul. Paul’s words reveal Rufus’ mother had a special place in his heart. The father helped Jesus, and the mother and son helped Paul. One man’s encounter with Christ changed a whole family!

Who was Rufus’ mother?

Since we don’t know anything about this nameless woman, we can only surmise what she might have done for Paul. Did she provide meals for him, wash his clothes, furnish a comfortable, clean bed so he could rest, listen to his stories of pain and joy over God’s provision and power through difficulties, encourage him to persevere, and pray for him to have courage, strength, tenacity, and safety? We can imagine Paul and Rufus, and Rufus’ mother sitting by the fire as they talked into the night about Jesus and the changed lives as people were coming to faith in the Messiah.

When Paul experienced closed doors and opposition in the towns he visited, Rufus’ mother opened her door and ministered to his needs. She cared, encouraged, listened, and loved as only a mother can. She lived out her faith in selfless deeds of kindness.

We can be encouraged and motivated by this unnamed woman. God uses this one short verse to remind us that what we do matters to Him. When we sing to little ones and their friends, God sees. When we feed noisy, messy teenagers and pray before they eat pizza out of a cardboard box, God is aware. When we’re doing our Bible study, and our daughter and her friends come crashing through the door, how we respond is seen by God. When we make pancakes in colors and shapes for our grandchildren and clean up the sticky syrup, God knows. When we encourage adult children to persevere and trust God despite difficulties, He hears. When we’re babysitting our niece and nephew, and they want to go to the park, God knows I need to be working and can help me make up the time later.

This nameless woman who lived thousands of years ago left a powerful and timeless legacy for us. Oh, God, please help us respond in love to our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and their friends! If the friends of our family never remember our name, please help them to have a strong, positive memory of how they felt when they were with us! Give us joy in serving, a kind response when interrupted, gentleness when speaking truth to ears that seem not to be listening, and patience when we mop up spilled drinks and wash piles of dishes. Help us, God, to remember that what we do and say and how we respond and react today are important to you and will matter in eternity.

What was Rufus’ mother’s reward?

We can imagine that when Rufus’ mother entered God’s presence she heard,

Well done, good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:23a (NIV)

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.

Let Jesus Pick Up Your Trial

Throughout our journey as Christians, we will face periods of suffering from both trials and difficulties. These encounters will at times produce stressful moments along with paralyzing fear within the hearts of believers. Yet, instead of running to the throne room of grace, we often rush to other resources for help and comfort, ones that demand self-defense and self-strategy.

  • We Panic.
  • We Plan.
  • We Pursue.
  • We Protect.

Sometimes We Panic: The trial that overtakes us often produces fear. If we are not careful, we will immediately give power to the forbidding panic.

But the Lord says . . .

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Let’s examine this verse for just a moment.

The Lord says, “Do not fear.” Why? For He is with us.

The Lord says, “Do not anxiously look about you.” Why? For He is our God.

The Lord says, “I will strengthen you.”

The Lord says, “Surely I will help you.”

The Lord says, “Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Sometimes We Plan: In the mix of the brewing trial and fear, we position ourselves to try to figure out the best way to manage the hardship at hand. How? We strategize. We look around at the best options possible to handle the crisis. We run to different sources to try and solve the problem.

But God’s Word says . . .

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5–6

Let’s examine this verse for just a moment.

We are told through this verse, first and foremost, to “Trust in the LORD with all our hearts.” We are not told to trust in people or in resources, but in the Lord. . . with our entire hearts. Next, we are told to refrain from leaning on our own understanding. We get into trouble when we try to figure out or carry out our own plans based on our own understanding. God says to trust Him instead of leaning on what we feel is best. Last, we are told to acknowledge God, and He will make straight our paths.

—Sometimes We Pursue: After we carefully plan the course of action, we pursue it with all our might. Then, as we are running speedily ahead, we look back, as if to invite God to “join us” on our own self-made course.

But God’s Word says . . .

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.  Proverbs 14:12

Sometimes We Try to Protect: When enemies come against us, often our first line of defense is one of self-defense. We want to protect our names. We want to protect our reputations. We want to protect our hearts from being hurt any further. Yet we must remember this important truth: God will avenge His own. That is His specialty. We can both rest in His love and faithfulness and trust Him to intervene, as only He can, on our behalf.

God’s Word says . . .

‘No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17

At one point in my life, I had an encounter with a lady who struggled with an obsession of jealously toward me. She came after me in ways no Christian ever should. It was an all-out attack, intended to keep me from being seen and heard.

Manipulation and deceitfulness bred deep within the lady’s soul, and the overflow of her heart resulted in different strikes against me. Yet, instead of reporting her actions, I chose to ignore them. This poor decision left others with unanswered questions as to the truth of the situation.  I began to realize that those individuals thought poorly of my character. Since they didn’t know the truth, I was tempted to run to them in order to protect my name. But one evening, I went before the Lord’s throne of grace. I wept profusely as I placed my request at the feet of Jesus. Then, as I concluded my prayer, I asked Him to pick it up. I wanted it in His hands. Yet what He chose to do with it from there was not my business but His only. From that moment on I had a surreal sense of peace.

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

Instead of panicking, planning, pursuing, and protecting, why not try something different? Why not do the very thing God asks us to do? Bring the trial to Him and then trust Him with it.

Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Giving one’s life over to Jesus will result in peace and victory. Bring to Him today what you have been trying so desperately to fix. He will pick it up.

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. 

The Act of Discipline

Paul referenced our journey in the faith like an athlete running a race.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1. 

Wow!  When I think of people that are running a race, I immediately think of people that are disciplined.  In order to train for a race, you have to exercise daily, follow a specific training schedule, watch what you eat, make sure you are getting enough rest, and sometimes say no to things so that you can get the amount of training time you need.

All of us, whether we have actually run a race or not, are running the believer’s race.  How does God want us to prepare and train for that?

fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

Jesus’ life is the greatest example that we can follow.  I believe the first part of this verse is key: “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  This is such a simple, yet powerful statement, don’t you think?  When I fix my eyes on Jesus, I make Him the center of my life and everything I do centers around that.   When Jesus is at the center, I remember that He is my:

Salvation– “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,”  (Titus 2:11)

Strength– “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Compassion and Comfort– “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV)

Peace– “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.” (John 16:33 NIV)

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, HE is the source of our salvation, strength, compassion, comfort, and peace, etc.  We don’t find those in anyone else.  The world tries to get us to turn our eyes and shift our focus away from Christ to what the world has to offer.

How does the race play out in our lives?  Maybe we think we are running pretty well on our own most days as we strive to go about our day.  We call our friends or family when some unexpected turn happens, and ask them how we should move forward.  We think our husbands will be cheering and running along side us the whole time while making us happy.

How can we run our race effectively?  The answer:  Jesus.  We fix our eyes on our Savior, who ran the perfect race and died for you and me, so we could live with Him forever.  We look to Him each day as we learn more about Him and His Word, we learn how much He cares for you and me and the wonderful plans He has for us.  As we talk to Him in prayer, we learn more of His heart and will for our lives and have sweet communion time with Him.  As we serve Him daily, we see how amazing He is and all that He can do.  As we meditate and memorize His Scriptures, we train our mind to remember and focus on how wonderful our Heavenly Father truly is.

I am sure most of us have heard the quote by Frank Outlaw:  “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions, watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”  When I think about that admonition, it reminds me the importance of daily discipline in one’s life. 

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.  I Corinthians 9:25-27

Let us run, my friend, the race set before us as we shift our eyes and center them on Jesus, and let Him direct us through this journey of life.  May we discipline ourselves and pursue Jesus daily, so we can run the race to honor and glorify Him in all that we do.

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 has also 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.

You’re Stressing (Stretching) Me Out!

No, that wasn’t me yelling at my kids.  But it sure has been me talking to God!  Although it is absolutely normal and healthy to experience stress, at the least it is unpleasant.  And at most it is heart-breaking and potentially crippling. However, stress is what shows us that something needs to shift.  And shifting is exactly what brings about new perspective and ability. We should be surprised neither that we experience stress nor that we reap benefits from it!

For 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 4:17-18

 Blessed . . . and still stressed!

Im sure youve seen the cute memes – you know the ones – over a calming background of some colorful panorama of the quietude of nature is some catchy phrase like, Too Blessed to Be Stressed.”  As well-intentioned as they might be, they’re just not true.  The Bible says:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Okay, yes, I agree, we are VERY BLESSED.  Growing up on the Amazon River and having met thousands of people who have never even seen a school bus, a computer, or a doctor before, I agree that most of our lives are overflowing with blessings we certainly don’t deserve.

But recognizing blessing doesn’t nullify the fact that we still experience stress, even to severe degrees. If anything, the most precious of treasures are often contained inside vessels that take the hardest beating!

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart…But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 2 Corinthians 4:1,7

But first, let’s stretch.

My local gym only allows clients who are 13 or older so my daughter waited until her birthday to start working out with me.  At one of our first sessions, I took her to the back corner to explain how to stretch.  I said, “Do you feel that burn in your muscle?  That’s normal.  You shouldn’t feel pain like you’re actually hurting yourself, but you should feel uncomfortable. And if you hold it there for a minute or two while you take some deep breaths, that tension will release.  That’s how you know that muscle is ready to be worked out.”

I started thinking about what I told her while considering my own stressors. Whether it is a rubber band, human muscle, or our personal life, there’s a domino effect that happens when something is being stretched. Stretching leads to tension; that tension (when properly handled) eventually leads to a release; and that release enables us to do what could not be done before – strength for the task.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Messiah, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  1 Peter 5:10

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4

Stress the Truth!

Maybe a wiser choice would be to share the memes that say something like, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.”  And it’s totally OK if you hear Kelly Clarkson’s voice sing it to you!

The truth is, times of stress WILL come, but remember, when the stretching is done, God will have enabled you to do even more than ever before!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

About the Writer:
Rachel, her beloved husband Allesandro, and their four homeschooled children have been members of First Baptist Dallas for almost a decade. The Lord allowed her to attain a K-12 Choral Music Education degree from Ouachita Baptist University while simultaneously delivering her from illness and certain death. Her profession as an educator spans almost 20 years, including 15 years as a private vocal coach. Having been raised in a ministry family in both the U.S. and Brazil, Rachel finds it practically instinctive to serve her community through education and worship ministries. She is daily dependent on the Lord’s supernatural intervention to fuel not only her passions to learn, educate, and serve, but her personal faith to press onward.

 

Mercy for Mercy

As I have journeyed through The Beatitudes verse by verse, I have learned a great deal about finding true joy.  As I came to Matthew 5:7,

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy, 

I thought, “Well, that’s self-explanatory isn’t it?”—until I really dug into the Word to understand the characteristics of the merciful.

Mercy is…

First, I needed to understand what mercy is and how mercy is shown. I read this passage in different translations, and “merciful” was expressed as “tenderhearted,” “compassionate,” or “kind.” Then I looked it up in the dictionary and saw the words “forgiving, gracious, forbearing, mild, and patient.”  WELL… that was a definite knife to the heart!  I needed to step back and think… “Wow, how many times had I not been any of those things to my brothers and sisters in Christ, let alone to non-believers??” In Matthew 25:34-40, we read what Jesus said about showing mercy. Those with the gift of mercy are more often inwardly affected by the needs, sicknesses, or miseries of others and will try to relieve them of their suffering.  They are eagerly willing to forgive others for their faults because they also need and expect forgiveness from God.

Joy in Mercy

Second, I found it interesting how each one of The Beatitudes starts with “Blessed” which means “happy” or “joyful” in this context.  To re-read it, it says: “Happy or joyful are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” How can someone be happy or find happiness while someone else is suffering?  Well, for Christians, mercy is a Spirit-led ability to show compassion and cheerful love to someone who is suffering and obtaining mercy in return.  They will find great joy and happiness in being merciful to others.

Show Mercy

While some of us may not have the gift of mercy, we are still called to SHOW mercy!  Galatians 6:2 instructs us to:

Bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 

We must have compassion toward believers and non-believers and help them.  We are to have pity on those who are in sin and seek to inform them of their errors, in love, showing them kindness in their times of suffering.  For those with the gift of mercy, they must take EXTRA care to discern what the Lord is leading them to do and NOT merely what their hearts are saying to do. Those are two different things.

Mercy for Mercy

The second half of this verse goes on to tell us that those who are merciful are promised to receive mercy (probably in a time when they need it most).  In the same manner as the merciful deal with others, God will also deal with them.  The Lord will incline the hearts of men to show mercy to them and to deal kindly with them in this world in the same way that they showed compassion.  But, most importantly, the Lord Himself will grant them mercy and loving-kindness.  If nothing else, this should be a strong and powerful argument to persuade us to show mercy to others in any and every way possible within our power.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36

What better way is there for us to imitate God than by showing mercy?  (Exodus 34:6)  NONE, because while we were guilty sinners, God showed mercy on us by giving His Son to die for us.  What greater joy could we find than in offering mercy just as our Lord offers us new mercies every day?

 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

About the Writer:
Andie is the wife of Michael, a mother of two adult sons, one of whom serves in the Army, and a special needs teenage daughter, whom she home-schools, and the grandmother of two precious children.  She has found great joy in serving with the First Baptist Women’s Ministry through Women’s Bible Study and teaching in Discipleship University. Andie has developed a personal ministry through crocheting to touch active duty military members and their families.

 

 

 

Arresting Your Anxiety

As I dropped my daughter off at school one morning a few months ago, I ran into a beloved former teacher in the hallway. I was surprised to see her since she quit many months ago. I exclaimed, “Hi!!!,” and began to converse with her.  I asked if she was back in the classroom, and shortly into the conversation she began to tell me that when she left she was having severe anxiety and was still struggling with it.  She made the comment, “But you know, it is what it is; we have thoughts and we just can’t control them.”  I stopped her and lovingly, but firmly, stated, “No, that is not true. That is a lie.”

TAKING THOUGHTS CAPTIVE

While we cannot control the thoughts that pop into our mind, the Bible tells us that we CAN control what we do with them.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

 

When a destructive thought comes into our minds,  we have the right to evict those thoughts. We can choose not to allow the thoughts to remain, we can choose not dwell on them, we can choose not to expand on them, or we can choose to cast the thoughts out of our mind like unwelcome tenants that refuse to pay rent!

The following 5-step process is a discipline I began to use during a year of extreme mental sabotage.  I began to see these destructive thoughts for what they were: threats to my peace, my joy, and my freedom in Christ.  The Bible says the enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10)  Anxious, fearful, destructive, harmful, untrue thoughts are fiery darts from the evil one seeking to steal your joy, steal your peace, steal your sanity, kill your faith, kill your hope, and destroy your effectiveness for the Kingdom.  This should stir up within us a righteous indignation to fight back!

5-STEP PROCESS

  1. STOP
  2. SCRUTINIZE
  3. SOLVE
  4. SEE
  5. SUBSTITUTE

STOP – The first thing you should do is stop and recognize that a thought has come and commit to going through this quick five-step exercise. Whenever I have thoughts that begin with “WHAT IF” or “I’LL NEVER” or  “I’LL ALWAYS,” I take that as a call for a timeout and STOP.

SCRUTINIZE – The next step is to analyze the thought. Some probing questions you may ask yourself as part of this analysis could be:  Is this thought true or false? Does this thought give me peace and joy or anxiety and fear? Is this thought constructive or destructive? Does this thought bring life or death?

SOLVE – After scrubbing down the thought, assign it simply as either a “good” thought or a “bad” thought.  A good thought is one that is true, brings peace, is useful, and gives life. A bad thought is one that is false, brings fear, is useless, and brings death.  If the thought is good, keep it. If the thought is bad, make it your prisoner.

 SEE – Next, visualize the process of capturing the thought. I love visualizing things because it helps make them more real.

Picture this. You see a dirty, no good, sleazy conman walking up to you. He threatens you saying, “Give me everything you’ve got!” But then you see that you’re a police officer! You have a belt around your waist with a gun and handcuffs, and most importantly, you have authority. You’ve been granted the authority to take anyone into custody who is a threat to the overall well-being of yourself or others. With your authority and your weapons, you take this man captive.  You now see him in a jail cell, behind bars, and you are walking away.  Later that man will have to answer to the judge.

Another visual I use apart from the prisoner analogy is to step back as an observer of myself; then I imagine that the bad thought is a tangible mass I see floating into my mind.  I watch myself reach up with my hand and grab it. Then I crumble it into a tight fist.  Next I walk over to a trash can with a lid, open the trash can, and throw the thought away.  I wipe my hands and walk away with a smile on my face.  I may even say to myself as I walk away, “Good riddance, ya filthy thought!”

SUBSTITUTE Finally, you must replace the thought.  Imagine your mind is now left with an empty hole, and this hole has to be filled. Either you fill it with something good right now or another bad thought is going to float right back in.

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to wonder or guess about what to pick.  The Bible tells us what we should think about.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

FIGHTING LIES WITH TRUTH

I especially love the “whatever is true” part of this verse.  Oftentimes the destructive thoughts that seek to consume me are lies.  The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

It’s helpful to have your weapons ready beforehand because mental fights are rarely announced in advance. They come swiftly and suddenly and hardly ever while you are sitting down reading your Bible.

In preparation, take some time to write down the thoughts that overwhelm you most often. Whether they are anxious thoughts, fears, regrets, whatever, write them all down. Then, one by one, research scriptures that address each thought and write those verses below the destructive thought. Have this ready to go for the next time the pesky thoughts come.  Read, speak, or shout the Word of God in the face of your enemy, refusing to back down.

About the Writer:
Ashley is a mother to a young daughter and a Tennessee transplant in Dallas. Ashley has been a member of FBD since 2014. In 2018 the Lord called her to serve full-time with the church where she works in the Finance & Accounting office. When Ashley is not at the church, you can find her and her daughter out in nature somewhere, hiking or camping, enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Lord’s creation.