Role Models Run Riot

Reading the Bible, one shifts at some point from looking to the individuals in the Bible as amazing role models to focusing on how God graciously and miraculously used them in spite of their, at times, colorful personality flaws or even downright sinfulnactsess. Other than Jesus Christ Himself, God in the flesh, I can’t think of one person who didn’t, along with their great deeds of faith, have some pretty convicting failures stacked against them. Sometimes their foolishness strikes me as funny, but most of the time it fills my heart with such gratitude to know that my God doesn’t require perfection to let us be part of His story. In Acts, chapter 23, Paul gives an excellent example of righteous justice gone bad. Paul knew the Jewish laws well and knew that his rights for a fair hearing were being wrongly denied. And how did he respond? He stood up
for himself by calling out his judges’ wrong.

“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’ The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?’” (Acts 23:1-3)

However, in standing up for his rights, he too violated God’s commands and was called out for speaking against the high priest’s authority (Acts 23:5).

In the process of representing the resurrection of Christ, his own hot temper and sinfulness, one might say, ruined the chance God gave Paul to represent Him. He even had to confess publicly—how humiliating! However, as we read further, that very night the Lord appeared to Paul with encouraging words:

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.’ Acts 23:11

I love how God does not require us to be 100% christlike all the time in order for Him to accomplish His work through us and bring praise to His name! We stand on the foundation of Christ alone for righteousness. How encouraging to be able to bask in God’s forgiveness by humbling ourselves when wrong (as Paul did), and still know God can continue to use us to spread the message of hope and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3-4

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

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Sound Asleep in a Less Than Perfect Room

sound-asleepRecently my husband and I traveled to Portland, Oregon.  We strolled downtown and anticipated our stay at the Sentinel Hotel, described on their website as “a luxury hotel with vision” with signature amenities: pillow menu, luxurious linens, beehives on the rooftop for producing local honey, and hand crafted ice cream.

Our day ended with a lovely meal. Fully satisfied and relaxed, we walked to our welcoming suite at the Sentinel. Everything seemed perfect for a restful night’s sleep. We crawled into the luxurious, king size bed with fluffy pillows,  and turned out the lights. But then it started:  so . . . much . . . noise!

The MAX Light Rail clanged on its tracks. People exited restaurants and clubs. Horns honked. Buses rumbled. A woman belted out an off-key song at the top of her nicotine- damaged lungs. Accoutrements offered by the Sentinel did not provide sound sleep, not even in that perfect room!

But, long ago in a different place, the apostle Peter experienced sound sleep in a less than perfect room where sleep would have seemed unlikely!

Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. . . When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. Acts 12:1-6

Peter was resting in prison! No king size bed. No pillow (not even one). No luxurious sheets. How could this be?

His friend had just been murdered by Herod. He was bound with chains between two soldiers. Peter’s future seemed bleak!

How . . . could . . . he sleep? Here are some reasons sleep was a reality for him.

  •  Peter had learned to trust Jesus— the One who walked on water, the One he once denied. Peter knew Jesus conquered death and the grave—Jesus was alive.
  •  Others prayed for Peter. He was chained by men, but Peter was kept by Jesus.

While real physical circumstances may sabotage your sleep, your soul can rest in sweet assurance and peace because of Jesus. The psalmist wrote, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 NKJV).

Clearly, Peter learned to rest in Jesus, even when circumstances where frightening, uncomfortable, and uncertain. What about you? I pray you rest in knowing you are kept by Jesus.
God’s grace continues to prove sufficient in my middle-aged life. Most nights I sleep well; however, on that rare occasion when my mind is working overtime or my heart is heavy, not so much.  But be sure, I rest well and completely in Jesus – and that is something Advil PM can’t provide.coffee-cup


About the Writer:

Cindy serves the Lord and receives great joy by teaching for almost 23 years in the Vessels Sunday School class, and through Oasis Women’s Bible studies at First Baptist Dallas.

 

Why Jesus matters for the Muslim, Jew, and You!

The book of Acts reads like a national best-seller with exciting plot twists, great character development, surprise characters, and supernatural creatures. Acts will make you excited to be a Christian. It reminds readers that the Holy Spirit is real; this thing called Christianity is alive, powerful, and exciting; that being a Christian is not boring but the greatest adventure anyone has ever be called to; and God is all-powerful and full of surprises for his followers! Do I have your attention yet? Good!

jews-praying-at-temple-mountThe biblical story I want to point you to today is found in Acts 10 and records the Roman centurion, Cornelius’, conversion to Christianity. Cornelius is thought to be the first Gentile (anyone who isn’t born a Jew) convert to the Christian faith. This is important for people who believe that Christianity is a predominately American religion that is insignificant for the rest of the world. The first Christians were Jews and they marveled that a Gentile could become a follower of Christ. Cornelius was, “a devout man and one who feared God will all his household…and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10:2). But even though Cornelius was a devout man who was constantly praying, God sent Peter to tell Cornelius about Jesus. Even though Cornelius was praying to the right God, he was not praying through the right mediator, Jesus Christ. Peter ends up telling Cornelius about Jesus, “through His name (Jesus) everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins”(Acts 10:43). Cornelius and his household accepted Christ right then and received the Holy Spirit.

So why does the biblical account of Cornelius’ conversion matter for us in 2017? A few weeks after studying this story, I found myself in an Uber with a Muslim driver. This man was telling me how he and I, a Muslim and a Christian pray to the same God. Honestly, I was tired, jet lagged, hungry, wanted to get home, and didn’t feel like trying to recall all my apologetics arguments. But then God brought to my mind the story of Cornelius. I told my Uber driver that the Bible says it is impossible to accept God while rejecting Jesus. The idea that all religions are basically praying to the same God is a lie being told in our schools, homes, friend groups, media, and even some churches. That’s why we must know the story of Cornelius, who though he was sincere, devout, religious, and even praying to the right God; he was sincerely wrong until He accepted Christ as his Savior. That is not my word. . . . , that is God’s view of people who try to come to Him without Jesus.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name (Jesus) under heaven that has been given…by which we are saved. Acts 4:12

Christians that teach Jesus is the only way to Heaven are often labeled intolerant. This is why we as believers must rest in the fact that pointing people to Jesus is not harming them. Salvation is more than about hurting someone’s feelings. Salvation is the difference between life and death in this life, but more importantly determines our eternal destiny. You are never ultimately hurting someone by telling them the Truth of the gospel in love.

About the Writer:
Julia is the Girl’s Ministry Director at First Baptist Dallas. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor who trained at the world-renowned Meier Clinics.  Julia is a professional speaker for Just Say Yes, speaking nationwide on the topics of suicide, depression, self-harm, and eating disorders. Julia is passionate about her three favorite topics theology, psychology, and ryanology. She has been married to her junior high sweetheart, Ryan, for eight years and loves ministering to teenagers alongside her best friend and favorite boss. Julia has a heart to see people experience the same freedom through Christ that she has experienced!

I Need to be With Jesus

We elected a new president last night. I know I just dated this blog post, and you might this minute be oh-so-tempted to stop reading it. But please, read on. I learned some things today I think will serve me well in the coming days. I learned that the name-calling, judgment-rendering rhetoric permeating posts, blogs, and tweets isn’t going to disappear even though the polling places are closed. Consequently, I learned truth and grace are essential if I hope to walk in faith in this climate of hatred and opposition.

I learned I need to spend time with Jesus.

When Peter and John were arrested and examined for proclaiming Jesus, their enemies marveled at their boldness.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and under-stood that they were uneducated, and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

Peter and John’s boldness came from being with Jesus. Although their ability to be with Jesus might have been easier to achieve physically, we have no less opportunity than they to be changed by Him. We do, however, have an easier time avoiding Him. Avoiding Him is what I must not do.

How do I be with Jesus in the 21st century? I choose to abide in God’s Word every day, and then pray for and submit to the Holy Spirit’s power to change me through His Word. Being with Him accomplishes infinitely more than a 500 word-count blog post can express. I offer two truths.

  1. As I spend greater amounts of time with Jesus, I grow to be more like Him, and He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus unapologetically proclaimed truth to all who heard Him. And He did it with unconditional and unlimited love (grace) for every hearer. It is easy for me to err on one side (truth) or the other (grace). For far too many of my adult years, I erred on the side of truth at the expense of grace. The result was a critical and judging spirit. But erring on the side of grace at the expense of truth can result in empathy that ignores God’s standard of holiness. We need both–grace and truth.
  1. As I spend time with Jesus, abiding in His Word, I reveal to those who know me that I am truly His disciple (John 8:31-32). And, as an added benefit, I will know the truth, and the truth will set me free. I will know the truth about myself, others, circumstances, life, and Him; and I will know that truth will indeed set me free–free to express truth and grace in word and deed.

I posted this picture on my social media accounts the day after we elected a new president with this caption.Need Jesus

“I pray if I encounter you today, you can recognize that before I met with you, I’d been with Jesus.”

May this be true of me each of the coming days.

About the Writer:
Joni C. passionately enjoys sharing what she learns studying her Bible with the ladies of Refresh and Refresh@Night. Her days are best described as comfortable chaos – filled with grandchildren, a sweet mom-in-law, study time, and unexpected changes in plan. She’s also a frequent flyer to Pittsburgh for fun and cold weather chaos with her transplanted grandchildren in the north. All of this is far from the bon bons and leisure time her husband imagines her daily enjoying!