People of God

Once,  when I was a little girl hiking in the mountains with my family, I suddenly discovered I was alone.  The family was only a few yards up the trail around a bend, but I panicked. In the deafening silence of those massive mountains, I ran screaming down the trail until I saw my mama.

 “I alone am left, and they seek to kill me,” cried Elijah to God (1Kings 19:14). In truth, only the last half was correct, because King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel wanted Elijah dead.

But Elijah wasn’t alone, for God never left him. He never does. As Jesus promises us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

God also reassured Elijah that there were several thousand loyal believers, and there was a special friend he was soon to meet, Elisha.

Just to clarify, we are speaking of the God of the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The people of God are defined as, “all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:2). People of God have placed their faith in Jesus and depend on His mercy and power for everything in this life and eternity.

In Hebrews 11, there is a list of several people of God who called on the Name of the Lord. Known as the cloud of witnesses, their lives testify of their faith, for which they received God’s approval. In the centuries since then, more have joined them with their own stories of faith–hymn writers, great preachers, Christian authors, missionaries, and millions of others.

Today there are still many who walk by faith in Jesus–people living on your street, sitting in your pew at church, sharing Christ on radio and TV. Like giant redwood trees that can withstand the forces of nature simply by the intertwining of their root systems, so Christians can intertwine and support each other.People of God

A wonderful example in the Bible is the dramatic story of Joshua leading the new little army of Israelites against the fierce Amalekites, while Moses interceded on the hill, holding up the staff of God in prayer. When his arms grew heavy, Aaron and Hur came along and supported him (Exodus 17:8-13).

A recent true story is told by a missionary who was telling some Chinese home-church pastors about the Christians in Muslim countries who also face persecution. What a surprise and delight for the isolated Chinese pastors to learn of their Christian brothers–and they committed to pray an hour a day for them.

The New Testament calls God’s people the “one anothers,” a wonderful gift God has given us, and with instructions on how we should treat one another. Among the long list, we are to love, forgive, accept, and thank God for one another.

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

About the Writer:
Ruthe Turner loves serving as the Director of Truett Library at First Baptist Church Dallas, a church where a person can be “firmly rooted and grounded in love” through the testimony, teaching and preaching of our pastor and leaders.  You are invited to visit the library, where resources are made available for you to learn more of God and the People of God.

Your People

The People of God…For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.“ 2 Corinthians 6:16

An important distinction in the South is not only where you were born, but also who your people are. I remember my grandmother and aunts discussing the latest news from the community. “Oh, you know Bobbie Sue, her people are from right outside Water Valley.” Then, they would proceed to explain how she was related to her people, by marriage or birth. Usually, what would follow would be an entertaining tale or two about the defining characteristics of those people, which I soon came to understand meant:  extended family. Your people, I figured out, were where you came from and to whom you belonged. Bigger than your nuclear family of origin, it was a broader heritage, encompassing not only who you were, but also where your roots began. For a child who grew up overseas and returned to the States every few years to visit, it gave me a warm, secure feeling knowing I had people to belong to, who looked somewhat like me and loved me unconditionally.

My favorite part of those discussions was when one aunt would look over at me and remark, “You know, she really looks like her Daddy.” “You think so? “ another aunt would counter. “I sure do see Bobbie Ruth in her.” Later, I would sit in front of the mirror and try to see my parents’ images in my childish features.

And so it is with the people of God. In the Gospel of John, chapter fifteen and verse sixteen, Jesus speaks, “You did not choose Me but I chose you…” (NASB) The letter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and written by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians says, in chapter two and verses nineteen and twenty, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Also, the second letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians in chapter 6 and verse sixteen says, “…I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (NASB)

These passages are but an example of many in which God claims those who believe in Jesus as his people. Just as we reflect the characteristics of our earthly heritage, we are continually being “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29 NASB). God loved us so much, before we ever thought of loving him: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB). No matter what our earthly background is, we now can have a place as one of God’s people, a place to call home forever.

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

The People of His Pasture

Returning to a church, after a period of disassociation with it, was prickly to say the least. On more than one occasion I broke down in tears before a church event worried my pants might be too tight, or my open shoulders too revealing, or my love of vibrant colors too distracting. It was good enough for God every other day of the week, but come church-time and my anxiety levels would go WAY up.

I remember one occurrence years back as a missionary overseas letting a good friend borrow a simple cross necklace cut from stone for the Sunday service. Never had the pastor called me out about it, but from her he demanded prompt removal of the “sacrilegious” adornment. During those same years I began to question the responses that my fur coat and black leather stiletto boots would cause when on furlough in the States. Crosses in one country and practical (YES, during the mid 90’s fur and stilettos were practical because options were simply quite limited in a post-Soviet country) winter clothes to guard against the elements in the other, neither one seemed worthy of condemnation to me; yet there I was internalizing it. Condemnation from others and self only increased in the years to follow and I ran from the church–stopped filtering things through the grace and Truth of God’s Word.

Frankly, I didn’t join First Baptist Dallas with stellar references and a winsome history. And initially, each day with God’s people was like rubbing salt in a wound, reminding me of my sins and making it very difficult for me to move forward without feeling deep shame. If it wasn’t for the kindness and salve of the Lord’s merciful presence which kept drawing me back, there is no way I would have continued subjecting myself to such discomfort while receiving grace, healing and wise instruction.

The thing that I LOVE about our church and His people though is this: we are not perfect. None of us. Not one. Nope. But the God we celebrate and follow is, and HE has called us to continue in fellowship with each other. He wants us to live out our faith together and live well showing love and grace towards one another. HE says accept one another—so we do. HE says to instruct one another—so we do. HE says to carry each other’s burdens—so we do. HE says to in humility consider others better than ourselves—so we do. HE says to encourage, pray for, confess to, serve, forgive, etc. It is our God, His desires, and our need for the Savior that continually draw us, His people, together. It is our gratitude to such a loving, wise God that brings us back to worship and serve, that encourages us to seek His corrective Word of Truth.The People of His Pasture

The people of God do not gather with egocentric motives to become a better member of society or to conform the world to our image. The people of God are blessed beyond measure—chosen and beloved by the Creator God Himself (1 Peter 2:9-10). They are the ones that, through faith in Jesus Christ, are completely forgiven, cleansed, accepted and adopted into the family of God. They are the ones who walk behind the Shepherd.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:23

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 raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

Aliens and Strangers

I was cooking dinner one evening when I heard something on the news that immediately got my attention. One hundred finalists had been chosen for a chance at receiving a one-way ticket to Mars. I stood there in disbelief, absent-mindedly holding up the cooking spoon, which was now dripping spaghetti sauce onto the stovetop. I reached for the remote and quickly turned up the volume over the sounds of my playing kids. I listened in awe as the news personality explained that a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands is planning to establish a permanent colony on Mars. The human colonists will complete their lives on Mars, never to return to Earth.mars

For the rest of the evening, I could not get Mars off my mind. The idea of human beings being sent to start a colony on Mars bewildered me.

As I reflected on the “what ifs” and worried about these future Martians, I thought about the scripture from Peter that refers to Christians as “aliens and strangers.”

He writes:

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them; glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12

It occurred to me that we, God’s people, are already aliens living in a strange land. Although we have secured land, built homes and live out our lives here on Earth, the Bible tells us that we are pilgrims, sojourners, traveling to our permanent destination, which is in Heaven with Christ our Lord.

As people of God on our pilgrimage through Earth, how then should we live? We are to live in such a way that unbelievers will witness our excellent behavior and by seeing God’s grace in us, have a desire to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

About the Writer:
Gabby Brown is a daughter of God Most High. She is married to her best friend and she is the mother of two amazing little boys. She leads the adoption ministry at First Baptist Dallas, and supports her husband in his role as teacher of the Growing Roots Sunday School class. 

Investing in the Women of God

And let us encourage one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. And all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25

The women of First Baptist Dallas have had a profound impact on my life:

Nicole Calhoun is a prayer warrior. She is a heart sister and a dear friend. After I endured two miscarriages, she prayed for and fasted for my daughter regularly while I was pregnant. It was truly the greatest gift anyone gave to me as I awaited her birth. I LOVE to give Nicole a hug every time I see her. She is such a joy; and I feel blessed by her presence because she is, without fail, encouraging.

Crystal Pennington is a missionary with Wycliffe. She and her husband Ryan were members of our church before they were called to Papau New Guinea. I’m encouraged by Crystal’s faithfulness–to serve in a far away land helping her husband in their life’s work of translating the Bible into unreached languages, while also raising children. I’m also awestruck when I get an occasional e-mail of encouragement from her or note that she’s praying for me. How does a woman so invested in God’s mission to the unreached overseas have time to invest in me–all warm and cozy back here in the States?

Marian Ashwill has invested in my life from the day she met me. She opens her house for our Ladies Bible study. She prays for me regularly. She has consistently spoken biblical truth into my life. There are lots of young moms and wives that Marian takes the time to encourage; but when she spends time with me, she is clearly engaged in this. Here with me.

There are many, many other women who encourage me in my walk: a well timed text from a friend who says “God just placed on my heart to reach out to you,” a quick lunch to catch up; a note of encouragement in the mail.

My walk with Christ has been shaped, strengthened, and reinforced by the women who have taken the time to invest in me. Their encouragement fills me with the power of God. Consider how you can encourage other women in their walk: a text, a card (who doesn’t love snail mail?!), a reminder of a Bible verse that speaks to their heart or current circumstance.

The women mentioned above are not necessarily my “best friends.” Let me be clear–they are near and dear and precious to me in every possible way. I could not love them more. I mention this just to say that a relationship built on Christ is strong. You don’t have to be someone’s nearest and dearest to be an encouragement to them and have a profound and lasting impact on their life.

Marian has often told me, “Two things are eternal–people and the word of God.” Let us encourage other women to good deeds, and not forsake gathering together, but consistently and with renewed vigor remind each of them of how valuable they are in Christ. Let’s invest in what is eternal. The people of God, particularly the women God has placed around us, are a place we’ve been commanded to invest.

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