The Goldilocks Disorder

My name should be Goldilocks!

When ordering from a menu, I like my food to be “just right” – dressing on the side, no cheese, water with lemon. When folding laundry, I fold towels so they fit “just right” in the cabinet. When dusting, which I probably don’t do as often as you, I return decorative items so they sit “just right” in their assigned places.

How does trying to live in a “just right” Goldilocks world affect my spiritual life? It’s like oil and water! It doesn’t work!

Sometimes when I pray, I tell God how I would like things to be “just right” in my life – a quiet child, a calm day, good health, a check in the mail. Very seldom do my requests become reality because God is a good Father and a wise Sovereign. He allows only what is best, and I’m learning His sovereign plans for me really are “just right.”

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

What does it mean to say God “plans to prosper us?” He doesn’t promise to prosper us by putting money in our bank account or giving us a better job. His plans are custom-designed to teach us to thrive . . . have fortitude . . . have courage in times of trouble. I would not have chosen some of the situations God has allowed for me, and some of life’s difficulties have been lingering for many years, as possibly some have been for you as well. I’m learning God’s Spirit enables me to persevere through the challenges He allows. Because of the situations God allows in our lives, our faith can grow stronger and we can have empathy (your pain in my heart) with others. God wastes nothing.

What does it mean to say God “plans to give us hope?”  Hope in Scripture is not crossing our fingers – hoping a husband won’t leave, hoping we can get pregnant, hoping a child will graduate, or hoping we’ll be able to retire. Hope in Scripture is a blessed assurance…a peace that comes during difficulties. God is ready to give us an inner quietness even when life is hard.

What does it mean for God to say “plans to give us a future?” As God’s children, our future is assured (guaranteed . . . secure) because He has prepared a place for us to live eternally with Him.  As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.”

For those of us who have The Goldilocks Disorder, how should we face the new year?  We can rest in God’s plans.  Rest?!  In 2021 God wants us to rest?!  Life in the 21stcentury is on the fast track, and there’s very little time to rest physically, emotionally, or spiritually – right?

Where was Goldilocks at the end of the fairy tale?  She was resting . . . she was even asleep!!  She had given up trying to make things “just right.”

Yes, the story of Goldilocks is a fairy tale, but God’s Word is not. He is our Faithful Father, and His plans are always perfect. God promises His plans will give us hope in 2021 and an eternal future. He allows only what is best, and His sovereign plans are always “just right.”

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.

Behind the “Seens” at the Pageant

                            And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us . . . John 1:14

Have you ever tried to grasp the concept of “eternity?”  I have.  However, my brain is incapable of understanding how far back “eternity past” extends!  Try as I may, my mind’s eye cannot see far enough into eternity past to experience its lack of boundaries, limitations, time!  The same is true of “space:” no boundaries, no limitations.  This vast expanse is where God has always been!  God is an invisible Spirit, filling the whole universe with His presence!  There is no place we can go, see, or imagine where God does not dwell.  John 1:1-4 says that Jesus, the Word, has existed from “the beginning” and that He created everything!  Genesis 1:1 declares that God created the world; therefore, John’s words strongly affirm that Jesus is God! 

God knew the humans He created would rebel against Him and break His laws.  He taught them that a blood sacrifice was necessary in order to atone for their disobedience.  For centuries, God’s people presented the sacrifices God demanded in order to become “right” with Him temporarily- – until they sinned again!  They acted in faith that He would forgive their sins.

But God had already planned the perfect sacrifice to accomplish complete atonement for man’s sins “once and for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)  But who could qualify?  God would offer Himself (Jesus) as the only sacrifice worthy to take our place on the altar.  He always has been the only sinless One who did not have to die for His own sins!  But why would He do such a thing?  The answer is that He loved those whom He had created and had mercy on them.

But how could a spirit bleed and die?  The answer lies in the words of John quoted above.  The eternal, invisible, infinite God became flesh!  Note that He did not become God; he was already God.  But, miraculously, He conceived in the womb of Mary, a virgin Jewish girl, a body of flesh, uncontaminated by sin, uniquely acceptable as the sacrifice for the transgressions of the whole world!  Without His unlimited grace and immeasurable love, we would still be doomed to an eternity without God. But, glory be to the Father, in His perfect time, He “sent forth His Son” to be our Savior and to give us the privilege of becoming children of God through “trusting Jesus as our Savior!” (Galatians 4:4-7)

That was no ordinary baby lying in the manger there in Bethlehem.  That Baby in the manger would one day be the Savior suffering on the cross, the victorious Lord rising from the tomb, the beloved Son ascending to His place with the Father, the Mighty King returning some day to take us to dwell forever in His presence. (John 14:3)  He was and is to come the holy Son of the living God, the eternal Spirit dwelling in human flesh!  Praise His Holy Name now and forevermore!  May you have a very Merry Christmas and a deeply joyful one as you ponder these truths.

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”.

LOVE . . . Thyself

Moment of truth for me – it has always been easier to love others than myself. Some of us may give to the homeless, support pregnancy centers, fight for the equality of the marginalized, and take care of our families, but deep down we do not see the same value in ourselves. It may be because we are so focused on our flaws, or it may be because we experience the judgement of others. Regardless of the reason, some of us just can’t seem to find the same amount of love and regard for ourselves as we do for others.

And if I give away all my possessions to charity, and if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good. 1 Corinthians 13:3

Dear reader, hear me now. If we don’t find a solution for self-hatred, all our life’s purposes are useless. Whether or not we have purpose or hope, our lives WILL end. People, professions, possessions, and prominence can all fail us. But we don’t have to live in the darkness of disappointments. We can seize the truth that our value is eternally fixed and priceless to the Almighty, and we can LIVE LOVED in the Light of His truth! 

Here are three Cs to help us remember our predetermined and unchanging worth:

THE CREATION

First, Scripture makes it clear that every human is made in love by their perfect Creator as an image-bearer of Himself and a uniquely distinct expression of His desire to know them intimately (Genesis 1:26-27). Psalm 139 is a poetic description of just how precious we are as His creation. Not only that, but it confirms that He truly knows all our wonders and warts – and He STILL considers us worth His time and love.

Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up;
You understand my thought from far away. 

THE COMMANDMENT

Second, Jesus drew specific attention to the love of humans in a summation of the entirety of written Scripture in Matthew 22.

‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.’  Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament passage found in Leviticus 19:17 where there were a myriad of laws concentrated on how to deal with people – especially when someone disliked or disagreed with another person.

There was a requirement to treat others with the respect and love that one KNEW the Almighty had for said individual. Treatment of any individual, even correction, must happen with compassion in spite of any flaws. So, in order to love others, one MUST know how to love one’s own self in spite of any flaws.

THE COST

Finally, there is a fool-proof way of knowing what something/someone is truly worth. It’s based on how much it/they cost.  2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about this price – the same one Jesus paid for every human. In the same chapter, Paul also addresses our earthly “tent” (body or mind) being one with which we are not always satisfied and that our desire is truly to leave it and be with Him. Finally, it also confirms that it is the love of Messiah Jesus that saves us because He has done the dying for our wretchedness and has given us life. 

 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  John 10:10-11

About the Writer:

Rachel, husband Alessandro, and their four homeschooled children have been members of First Baptist Dallas for a decade. She is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and has been an educator for 20 years. Rachel serves in Choir and Student Worship.  After surviving depression and attempted suicide, she intentionally lives for the One Who died to give her life!

Don’t Let the Trial Mold You – Instead, Let the Spirit of God Transform You!

One never knows what he or she will be called to face on any given day.  Whether it is a trial that bears our name, circumstances that endeavor to engulf us in fear, or a sickness that leaves a powerful mark, God is fully aware and completely in control of all that comes our way. Nothing will ever happen to us apart from God’s ordering it or allowing it.

I had come home to Alabama to visit for a few days to work and to spend time with family. My staycation was much needed, and I adored my time significantly. I enjoyed cooking those Southern dishes, visiting with my adult babies, and making memories with my grandchildren that I will cherish for a life-time. Yet as it all came to a close, my health began to be somewhat disturbed.

After returning home to Texas, I continued to feel poorly. As the days progressed, so did the decline of my health. Exhaustion overtook me in a way I can’t explain, affecting my legs, arms, and my entire body, landing me in a bed for weeks. “You have an infection,” stated the doctor. However, what kind of infection no one knew. So, bed rest was ordered, along with the consumption of fluids.

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 NASB

One evening as I lay in the emergency room preparing for a spinal tap due to a stiff neck that had developed through this sickness, I received a text from my daughter-in-law with the Scripture passage (Isaiah 41:10.) The text stated: “You sent me this the other day and it’s so fitting for the situation. Don’t be nervous. Prayers.” I found myself reciting Isaiah 41:10 over and over as I awaited both test procedures and test results.

Do not fear…. Throughout this sickness, God has kept fear from overtaking my heart. I am under His watchful eye, His Fatherly care, and His unconditional love. He will not allow anything to touch my life that He has not first approved.

For I am with you…. I have never felt the presence of the Lord in my life as I have through this difficult period. His love has overtaken me, His peace has ruled me, His grace has sustained me, and His joy has kept me.

God has most definitely strengthened me, helped me, and is upholding me with His righteous right hand. He has rekindled a love in my heart for Himself, for prayer, and for His Word. The Lord has changed my heart in a way I can’t explain. And I praise Him!

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5 NASB

Notice: Tribulation brings perseverance. Perseverance brings proven character. Proven character brings hope. And we are told that hope does not disappoint!

Our tribulation will bring more than just the trial’s hardships. Through Christ, it will bring lasting change.

When we go through testing times and trials, we will be affected one way or the other. We will either come out on the other side, better from what the Lord has taught us through the trial or bitter from having to go through it. We will be joyful in the midst of dire circumstances or discouraged by all that has taken place. We will either be altered by the trial itself or transformed by the Spirit of God.

I have learned the following truths during trying situations:

  1. It’s about the Lord, His glory, His purpose, His plan. When I make the trial about myself, my focus has been skewed. Discouragement will come and I will miss various lessons God wants to entrust to my life.
  2. He is trustworthy. Even though I may not understand what is happening, I know He does, and I trust Him in it, through it, and with it.
  3. He has a purpose for this trial. God has a purpose for everything we go through. Therefore, we must let Him have His perfect work through it, learning the lessons He wants to teach us while experiencing the blessings He brings in the midst of it.
  4. The trial will produce what God calls within our lives. Once again, tribulation brings perseverance. Perseverance brings proven character. Proven character brings hope. And we are told that hope does not disappoint!

The trial will bring forth a changed heart, resulting in a changed life.

I will never be the same because of the Lord’s work through this recent trial. He has done something in my heart that I can’t explain, and I praise Him for it. In moving forward, I never again want to face any trial without the Lord and without submitting myself under His Lordship to learn all that He wants to teach me through it. Don’t let your trial be wasted.

Instead of allowing the trial to mold you, let the Spirit of God transform you through it.

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.