Who Said That? Who’s There?

Have you ever been in school and your teacher suddenly announced, “All right close your books and put up your notes- it’s pop quiz time!” Then, in an attempt to ease the panic amongst the students faces, the teacher says, “Don’t worry! You’ll be fine….as long as you’ve been keeping up with your readings.”

Our entire existence on this earth is filled with daily, multiple pop quizzes. We are constantly being tested on what we know to be true.

Think about what has been told to you most recently. What pretty, scripted quote is coming up on your news feed? Is it from God? What “random thought” has been entering into your mind most recently? Is it from God?

Now for the follow up questions: how are we going to know the validity of what is being told to us unless we’ve read the Word of God? How are we going to separate truth from lies unless we’re immersing our mind in the Truth?

The fact is, despite our usual day-to-day comfort, we are in fact in a war against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Consider Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

According to this verse, the Apostle Paul says we are in a battle with the “unseen forces of this world’s darkness.” Demons y’all. He’s talking about demons. Demonic attacks are a very real and modern occurrence and it does not have to look like a scene from The Exorcist to be an assault. Most often it is much more subtle than that. They are interested in the long game. Slowly but surely, they constantly plague our minds and try to influence us to turn away from God and His goodness in order rob us of the spiritual blessings God has given us.

Did you catch that? THEY ARE TRYING TO ROB US.

I’m from Texas, born and raised. So, my natural response to that fact is to arm up! Who’s with me? Let’s find out how:

Open Your Textbook

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.  II Corinthians 10:5

The Apostle Paul is saying we must analyze everything we’re hearing! And then make what we believe the very thing Christ has said in His Word, or as Paul says at the end of verse 5 “to the obedience of Christ.”

The Bible is a divine weapon that protects our minds from false statements both about God and supposedly from God. But the Word of God does not do us much good if we don’t use it! It’s as useful as a gun in its case or a sword in its sheath.

Our Adversary has convinced the world that this divine weapon is frail and powerless, but the truth is, neither he nor his henchman can oppose it. Would you like to know how Jesus Christ Himself won the battle in the wilderness against the Devil during His earthly ministry? You guessed it. He quoted Scripture in response to the lies the Tempter tried to bait Him with (Matthew 4:1-11). The Devil even took Scripture out of context to use it against Jesus during this time. Even more reason for us to know the Word of God.

Two crucial things we need to know about our enemy: unlike God he is not omniscient and he is not omnipresent. Meaning, he cannot or read our minds and he cannot be in more than one place at a time. Therefore, he uses his workers, fallen angels that we call “demons,” to do his bidding. They also do not know our thoughts but watch our habits and responses to figure out how/when to attack us.

Friends, for too long we have been sitting idly by and letting the enemy win the day to day battles. When the Devil and his demons can influence us because we don’t know God’s truth or more plainly because we don’t give any effort to knowing His truth – that’s an easy win for them.

Don’t let them rob you. Reading the Bible is more important than we think. We must learn it, know it, and apply it in order to pass the pop quizzes of daily life on this earth.

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.

Attitude Replacement

Occasionally I have heard Christians say, “It’s okay to be angry with God!!! He can take it!!” However, I have never felt comfortable with the idea of me shaking my fist in God’s face and ranting at Him in anger. I don’t think I am entitled to do that. And I don’t believe God’s Word encourages us to do it either, but instead gives us what I would call “The Antidote for Anger.” And, that would be gratitude!

Whenever I read the following verses, I find their message to be very sobering:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened.  Romans 1:20-21

The New Living Translation uses these words:

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. Romans 1:21a (NLT)

As Paul was indicting the whole human race for its guilt before God, it is as if he were saying, “The least anyone could do is be grateful!” Even an atheist could have a grateful heart, though he wouldn’t know to Whom he should be saying “Thank You!” A wonderful thing happens when we express appreciation: we give up our “right” to be angry! It is pretty difficult to be angry at someone who has blessed you in some way. How much more applicable is this principle in relation to Almighty God!

Even the poorest among us can be grateful for the sunrise each morning, waking up to enjoy a beautiful sunset, or observing a baby’s smile. Many mornings, as soon as I wake up, I thank God for a good night’s rest! I constantly thank Him for bringing me into this world right here in Dallas, Texas, in the United States of America!!! I thank Him for my wonderful parents, sister, and grandparents who all lived together along with me in our house. I wouldn’t exchange my upbringing for any amount of money. I thank Him for bringing my precious husband and me together and for giving us many years of happy marriage with good health, great friends, and opportunities for service in the church. I thank Him for two exceptional children, their loving and faithful spouses, and our three perfect grandchildren!!!! (Yes!!) I am grateful for the schools and churches I have attended and all of my pastors, school teachers, and Sunday School teachers! Most of all, I thank God for inspiring holy men to write His Book, containing all we need to know for life and eternity, and for sending His only Son to die a sacrificial death to make atonement for the sins of the world, including mine. . . all of them!

I challenge anyone to spend time enumerating all of the ways God has blessed her life and then see if she can still be angry with God. Consider Philippians 4:6-7:

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.

Thanksgiving has the power to replace an attitude of rage with an attitude of humility and submission to God’s will. Instead of raising an angry fist toward God, all of us should be raising holy hands to God in thanksgiving and praise!

About the Writer:

Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Studies teacher. For many years a stay-at-home wife and mother, she is now also a grandmother to three young Oklahomans, who call her “Gigi.”

 

Who is Standing at Your Sideline: In Need of Mercy, Grace, and a Second Chance?

On January 14, 2020, millions watched as Clemson and LSU played for the College Football Playoff National Championship. Excitement filled the air as both teams took the field to compete in one of the biggest televised events of the year. As the game progressed, numerous life lessons began to emerge from a 100-yard classroom called a football field.

In every football game, flags are thrown, time-outs are called, and mistakes are made. These moments create opportunities for players, coaches, and fans to respond either positively or negatively to the results.

With only a few minutes remaining in the game, Clemson’s quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, fumbled the ball. As the entire nation watched, the young man made his way to the sidelines where Clemson’s head coach stood watching and waiting. Yet, how Coach Dabo Swinney responded to the young man’s fumble will forever be remembered in the hearts of many—especially in the heart of one young man standing on that sideline.

Post-Game Interview

As reporters filled the room for the post-game interview, Swinney took his seat. As correspondents asked their questions, one particular inquiry grabbed my attention. In regard to Lawrence’s fumble, one reporter asked what the coach had said to the young man as he approached the sidelines. Swinney responded, “I just told him to keep his head up. I told him that I loved him, and this was a great opportunity to lead and to respond.”

OBSERVATIONS FROM SWINNEY’S RESPONSE TO A YOUNG MAN STANDING ON HIS SIDELINE:

Observation One: Swinney placed more value on Lawrence’s life than on his fumble. 

Reflections. . .

  1. He did not look outwardly at the mistake, but inwardly at the quarterback’s heart.
  2. He immediately sought to encourage Lawrence. He stated, “Keep your head up.” Swinney told him he appreciated him, as well as his fight, grit, and will.
  3. He reinforced his belief in the young man by reminding him that he was loved.
  4. He pointed the young man to look toward the opportunity that was in front of him instead of focusing on the fumble that was behind him. His was an opportunity to lead and respond well.

Observation Two: Swinney responded positively about Lawrence instead of negatively.    

Reflections. . .

  1. With a nation watching, he conveyed encouraging words that built up Lawrence instead of damaging ones intended to tear him down.
  2. He pointed others to the good in the young man’s life, to his many accomplishments, and to his character. He alluded to how special Lawrence was.
  3. He expressed his confidence in the young man by stating, “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”

JESUS, THE GREATEST SIDELINE COACH OF ALL TIME

Throughout the Bible we read of countless individuals who found themselves standing on a sideline with Jesus. Well, maybe not a 100-yard sideline, but a “life-altering moment” sideline—a moment where grace and mercy were desperately needed. As we take a quick glance at some familiar stories from God’s Word, note how Jesus placed more value and emphasis on people’s lives and their callings than He did on their mistakes.

Peter denied Christ at a most crucial time. He probably thought his ministry days were over. But one day, as he returned to his profession of fishing, Jesus met him where he was, restored him, then encouraged him to get back to doing what he had been called to do.

David, a man after God’s own heart, dove head first into an adulterous relationship, then murder, then running from the God who had loved him and had led him throughout all his life. Yet God met him in his disobedience. David repented, and God restored him and used him greatly.

The woman caught in adultery was thrown on the ground before Jesus. Yet instead of experiencing the shame and condemnation she had from others, she experienced the love of a Savior. He directed her to go and sin no more. He saw value while others saw only her sin.

At one time or another we have all found ourselves standing on a sideline with Jesus in need of His mercy and His grace. From fumbles to poor decisions, we have knelt on bended knees asking God to forgive us, restore us, and even grant us a new beginning. During such moments, Jesus met us there with both mercy and grace.

Consider this question: Do we offer mercy and grace to those who have made mistakes toward us personally?

Not too long ago I was in a conversation with a godly minister who taught me a life changing principle. There were people at one of his previous churches who had left the fold because of past wounds that had never healed. Instead of being discouraged over the situation, the godly man chose to minister to their wounded hearts by reaching out. The minister stated, “I am trying to bring them back on the team. . . . They have value to this ministry.” While others saw those individuals as troublesome, this man saw them as having value and a place on the team. He recognized that they were useful for kingdom-building. In this moment, I didn’t see that minister; I saw Jesus.

I left that meeting convicted of how I had treated people in the past, but also inspired to be proactive in showing people the Savior’s love. You see, I have always been quick to dismiss instead of embrace or to offer cold shoulders instead of ones on which people can lean. After this meeting, I walked up to a sideline of my own where Jesus was waiting to deal with a heart that had certainly handled some matters poorly. Once again, I found His mercy and grace. I knew instantly that He wanted me to show others the same.

Instead of giving the world our opinions, let’s give the world Jesus.

We can certainly learn valuable lessons from Coach Dabo Swinney and the godly minister about dealing with those standing at our sidelines. But no one can ever teach a heart as Jesus does. When our hearts are overtaken by His transformation, we too will respond to others in a way that will bring lasting impact. A person will reflect what is on the inside of his or her heart, and those reflections will either draw people to Jesus or scatter them away.

Who is standing at your sidelines right now? Who has “blown it” with you? Who needs your grace, your mercy, or a second chance? May we never cease to give what has been given to us over and over by our Savior: love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

Lord, help us never to forget all the times You have met us on the sidelines of life. May we never cease to give mercy and grace to others who have made mistakes that have directly impacted us personally. Help us to seek unity instead of disunity, restoration instead of retreat. In Jesus’ name, amen.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of five 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. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and is currently working on her D.Ed.Min at Southwestern in Family Ministries.

Provision for the Proud

I am a Superhero kind of gal–Marvel, DC Comics–I like them all. They are at the top of the list among some of my most liked movies, trailing closely behind The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movies. Some of the heroes in those movies are so proud and arrogant it is downright comical, but, then again, some of them are straight out of comic books. Each one is convinced that he can save the world; each one is convinced that the world would fall apart without him. Each one had real passion. . .and a great deal of pride!

It would be a miscalculation, however, to assume that conviction is always prideful and that humility is lack of conviction. I have heard it said that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” That concept has never really made much sense to me. I mean, wherever I go, there I am!

What does make sense to me is the biblical examples of pride versus humility.  Pride in the Bible is summed up by a few characteristics: independence from God, disobedience, unwillingness to hear the Word of the Lord, setting oneself above the needs of another because of certain advantages or abilities, or trusting in oneself.  In story after story, the Old Testament is filled with accounts of the kings of old who believed themselves to be as gods and who rejected the godly advice given to them from God’s prophets.  Of course, the Lord reminded these kings that they were not so high and mighty.  Ezekiel 28:2-10 gives an account of one such king who experienced God’s rebuke to his prideful heart.  Pride and disobedience go hand in hand just as humility and trust stand side by side.

Consider Genesis 22:1-2, 10-12, 15-18

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’

Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’

Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, 

‘By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’

 

Because Abraham chose to humble himself in obedience and trust, God entrusted him with one of the greatest covenants in the Bible!

A sadness rises in my spirit as I recall the many times I have acted out of pride or not displayed the trust and obedience of a humble heart. Yet I praise the Lord, for He knew we would choose our own way.  Since the Garden of Eden we always have.  Accepting Christ’s cover of forgiveness and trusting Him enough to follow in obedience is perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of humility we could have before God.  The most powerful conviction of all is perhaps that of the humble that chooses to trust God and obey Him–even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

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.

 

Unseen Roots

We probably should not have spent so much money at the plant nursery. Every flowering plant was enticing–- pretty, colorful, fresh, and healthy. My husband and I bought mulch, fertilizer, and numerous flats of flowers. I looked forward to the colorful blooms we would soon see in our flower bed.

Once we were home, and after pulling up the flowers from last season, we were ready. Since my husband has artificial knees, our plan was that I would dig the holes, he would take each flower out of the container and hand it to me, and I would plant it. Easy! Teamwork! Digging tool in hand, I expected digging a hole for each container of periwinkles would take only a short time.

But our great plan did not go as we expected. When we had pulled out the flowers from the previous season, many of the roots had remained, unseen, under the surface. The old roots were blocking every new hole I tried to dig. For every new plant to go in the ground, I spent twice as much time pulling out the roots of the old flowers. Dried and clotted dirt clung to the roots, and each new hole required great effort on my part. My husband waited patiently for me to remove the roots from each hole.

As I dug and pulled out the network of roots, I began to think of my hidden roots of sin. Each root of sin had become an invisible network within me. Sin needs to be removed from my life, but it has grown strong and takes effort and time to be removed. God prompted me to realize He is wanting my sinful habits, words, attitudes, actions, and reactions to be removed so I can grow to be more like Christ.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…and put on the new self. 
Colossians 3:5, 10 NIV

I have a lot of work to do. Are my family members and friends sitting nearby waiting, hoping, and praying for me to work to remove those roots of sin from my life? Some of my sins lie dormant under the surface, and it is easier not to think about them or deal with them.

It is easy to read about the Israelites grumbling in the desert, but I also grumble, and I need to stop.

 We smile at Peter’s “foot in mouth” problem, but my “foot in mouth” problem is not humorous and can be hurtful.

Jacob was jealous of Esau. I fall snare to jealousy, too, and I know those envious thoughts undermine my trust in God’s sovereignty for my family and me.

“Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth you have for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”
(Clara H. Scott, 1841-1897)

 

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.