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.

Whatever!!

Whatever!! Wow, this word has taken on a new meaning over recent years.  It has morphed from an innocent response with overtones of complacency to a firey blast of dismissal and degradation.  At least that’s the way it comes across when I react to someone with that “high-to-low” tone and snippy attitude of mine.  Ouch!

But when I subject others to “whatever” and then feel the pang of regret, I’m reminded of the that passage in the Bible that uses “whatever” over and over and it makes me want to revisit it.  Here’s the passage Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

It’s important to put things in context when you read a few verses in the Bible.  In this context, the author, the Apostle Paul, is writing.  You might think Paul was elevated by many since he was influential in the early Church, and started new churches and was used by God to pen much of the New Testament. And you might think that Paul was sitting in his study looking out over the Mediterranean and was inspired to write this noble, pure, and admirable passage from his pleasant surroundings.  But in fact Paul was in prison under the watchful eye of the Roman Guard. Paul tells us in this book that he had experienced all the delicacies of life, as well as the sufferings.  And at the time he wrote this passage he was suffering.  In the words before this passage, Paul is talking about rejoicing.  In fact the whole book of Philippians is about rejoicing while suffering. He talks about not being anxious, but telling God your worries and thanking Him for his provision in advance.  And then the peace of God will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

In these recent days, we have gotten just a little taste of suffering and I’ve heard myself mutter “Whatever” on more than one occasion.  What about you?  Is it getting a little old staying in your home day after day, and wondering when the next delivery of toilet paper is going to arrive?  “Whatever!”  But let’s take a minute and revisit this beautiful passage. Remember that thinking on whatever is true and honorable, right and pure, lovely and good, excellent and worthy of praise, will bring us to a place of thanksgiving, our hearts and minds guarded by God, and above all, God’s peace will always be with us, whatever!

About the Writer:
Pam Brewer is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.