Broken Promises

I have been married three times. Unfortunately, I know the deep pain of broken
promises and breaking promises. Broken vows come with devastating consequences. Some memories take years to heal, and I still occasionaly struggle with the tidal wave of grief and loss for those earthly relationships and covenants that were never created to be shattered.

God holds us accountable for our words. In Matthew 5:37, when talking about promises Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” And finally, Matthew 15:11 “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

 Jesus had much to say about words in general, but vows carry an even heavier weight. In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, there is an interesting account of the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel by creating a heart-tugging story that wasn’t true so that the people of Israel would not destroy them as they had all the neighboring tribes in their conquest to take the Promised Land the Lord had set apart for them. The Gibeonites convinced Joshua that they were foreigners and begged for peace between the two groups of people. Joshua and the leaders made an agreement with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord. Within a few days the truth was discovered, but, alas, it was too late. The treaty was binding in the eyes of the Lord, and they dared not break it lest the Lord be angry with them for breaking their word—even though the Lord’s initial command had been to destroy all the nearby cities and peoples.

 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.’ The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ Joshua 9:19-21a

 Many of us have made promises or commitments only to talk ourselves out of them by our own logic. But for anyone who has done so or even just said a careless, hurtful word, there is hope: God sent His own Son Jesus Christ to suffer greatly, die, and conquer death and sin itself to remove that sinful stain from our hearts, minds, and spirits. In the process, God also teaches us to value our words and promises, even when doing so is uncomfortable or disquieting, as it was for Joshua and the Israelites. What a gracious God we serve to give us new opportunities to follow through on our promises.

 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Isaiah 44:22-23a

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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The Harlot is Mine

joshua-rahabRahab, the harlot, you have heard of her right?  The harlot of Jericho who God gave divine wisdom, helped the Israelites scout out the city of Jericho, and was given protection when the city of Jericho fell. She now has the privilege of being in the ancestral line of Jesus (Joshua 2, Matthew 1:5).

Her story sings the beauty of grace no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  It’s a message we must always remember; not only for ourselves when we sin against God, but also for others when they assail us.

What does embracing the broken actually look like in a Christian’s life?  Or as a dear friend likes to say, “What does it look like on a Tuesday?”  On a Tuesday means showing grace and mercy to the person who has wounded you the most, extending mercy to the supposed friend who cut you down.  It means mercy to the parent who has failed, to the child who has deserted the way he should go, to the boss who is unjust, and certainly to the adulteress.

Biblical truth says you are no more worthy than any of the people who have wounded you.  You need grace; and as a Christian, you’ve received it.  Praise God!  In your great joy of salvation, see how God can use everyone.  God has said even the harlot can be used by me.

Hear me, loving someone who has deeply wounded you is impossible apart from Jesus Christ.  You have to be safe and secure in the greatest refuge before you can extend mercy to those who have trampled on you.  If you try to will yourself to unconditionally love apart from Jesus you will find the task unbearable.  However, if you instead put your total focus on Him, your weakness is perfected in His power (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He will show you the way to walk.

Seek Him today.  It is the way to freedom for all, even the harlot.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  
I Timothy 2:3-4.

About the writer:
Caroline 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.

Memorials for Generations to Come

I love being invited into my friends’ and family’s homes to see all the special decorations that they have displayed. Walking room to room alongside them, I’m given the opportunity to hear memories unfold behind each piece. As they continue to talk, bigger stories are unveiled about their lives: reflections of celebration and thanksgiving, lessons of hard work and hope.These memories come in many forms, like photographs, art, trinkets, books, or even jewelry. Each piece evokes fresh emotion in the voices of these dear ones, and I am inspired by their passions. In moments like this, when the past meets the present, I recall the stones of remembrance in the story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery.

In Joshua 4, God instructs Joshua to lead twelve members of the group to build a memorial from stones pulled from the middle of the Jordan river. In Joshua 4:6-7 he tells the men, “Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

These stones served a purpose as a memorial for subsequent generations to see and recount the miracle that God performed that day. They represented God’s provision for His people and reminded them to focus on God’s immeasurable faithfulness, instead of their own wavering faith.

When I recall the many stories of God’s faithfulness in my own life, I am challenged to make these memories evident to my family. By telling our children about past experiences, we are teaching them that, in challenging times, we are not required to take a blind step of faith. We are instead able to place our trust in God’s promises for the future because of his demonstration of faithfulness in the past.

Through both good and bad times, our lives tell the story of God’s perfect plan to use all things for our good and for His glory. No obstacle is too large for Him.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Press On

Have you ever run in a race only to be frustrated to find you were not in or even near one of the top groups to finish? I can still remember participating in high school athletic track meets. The coaches thought I should be good in the shorter races, but I failed miserably and was in middle or near the last of the pack. In reflection, I cannot imagine why anyone thought I could win, as I was much less than enthusiastic about track and had never practiced, or even participated, until the last week before a competition.

Running the Righteous Life

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul reflected on the whole course of his life, which by worldly standards would have been considered to be quite a success. He was born into the right tribe, from the nation of Israel, a Pharisee (which meant he knew and followed the Jewish law), a persecutor of the church, and outwardly righteous. However, he counted all this as rubbish (Phil 3:8), as he had been practicing works-righteousness, and not faith-righteousness, which is only from God through faith in Him. Yet after his salvation experience, Paul had a totally different outlook, and encouraged the churches with his writings.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

In these verses, Paul was comparing our walk with Christ to the Greek Olympian games. He made clear that he had not “arrived” or attained the goal of being Christlike, but was still very much in the race of the Christian life. Nor has he become “perfect” or mature in his walk. He still had more spiritual heights to climb. Yet he was still actively pressing on toward Christlikeness.

I cannot count the times in my spiritual life that I have failed to meet the high standard of righteousness, and I cringe at the thought. But Paul tells us to continue on, to pursue Christlikeness with the following:

  • Enthusiasm- acting with maturity, yet vigorously and with zeal
  • Persistence- keeping on trying, pressing on daily
  • Purpose- remembering the goal, Christlikeness, because one day we will meet Him face to face
  • Concentration- forgetting the past failures that might overwhelm, or the successes that might bring complacency. Rather we are to keep looking ahead, always focusing on the prize. As Charles Stanley says, don’t waste time looking back.

My prayer is that I may never become stale in my walk with Christ, that I remain steadfast in my faith, serving Him with humility, yet with great joy and enthusiasm, remembering that one day I will be with Him for eternity. This earth is not my home; so I press on.

About the writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

The Secret of Contentment

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)

If you grew up going to church or have been a believer for any length of time, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this passage. I have always loved the comfort that stems from it. Reading back over it in preparation for writing this blog however was eye-opening. Look back at verse 12: “I have learned the SECRET.” I don’t think I have much paid attention to that crucial word that has such an impact on the way I now view my circumstances.

Are you a planner like me? I like to pretend that I am super spontaneous and go with the flow, and I am very laid back for the most part; but I prefer to know what’s coming next in life, don’t you? The Lord and I have had lots of chats (which consist mostly of me telling God how He should probably follow MY plan) about the plans I have for my life and, in turn, learning what His plans are (which are by far better than any I could ever dream up.)

The nugget in this passage of Philippians where it talks about the secret of contentment has the power to transform my controlling personality if I allow God to  nudge gently me when I slip into old habits. What are you holding onto in your life that God is asking you to let Him carry? For me it’s being frustrated at not knowing what the future holds so I can plan ahead! But when I ask Him to show me where I need to let go and trust, He is gracious to show me in tangible ways that He’s got this and won’t let me fall. There will be times that I pray for specific encouragement and that very afternoon I’ll get a card in the mail from my bestie, or I’ll have the joy of buying a coffee for someone else who may be having a crummy day. Contentment reminds me to live in the moment so that I can enjoy those daily blessings.

We’re all in this journey together, my friend. Contentment is a daily practice, sometimes hourly if you’re impatient and intent on getting your way like me. BLESS. The secret of contentment is Jesus, plain and simple. If we are walking closely with Him, we’ll want what He wants and be satisfied with what He provides, even if it looks very different than we thought it would.

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries.In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

Keep It to Yourself

Paul’s opening remarks to the Philippians are so encouraging and loving they leave no doubt about how important encouragement and support of them was to him. He was a prisoner of Rome; but, when he picked up his quill, he had nothing but positive things to say to his ministry partners in Philippi, partners that had come to his aid at a critical time.

Can you imagine your pastor or your Sunday School teacher greeting you in such a manner? If your answer is “no” then I would encourage you to examine the possible reasons. Are they grumpy and distant with never a positive thing to say? Or have you never given them a reason to think of you this way? Ouch. I know; I’ve felt the breaking realization fall on me with shame and guilt. Part of my own problem has always been my love of truth and my inability to realize that it doesn’t ALWAYS need to be said out loud with a directness completely void of any grace.  Question: “Does this make me look fat?” (I will never ask that question!) Response: “No, you are fat.” Better response: “There are other styles that look so much better on you, let’s go find one.”  When was the last time a pastor asked you, “How did you like my sermon?” I have never been asked that, but I have offered my opinion with no thought of it being anything other than truth that he needed to know. >hangs head< My opinions are just that-mine-and most of the time should stay that way! As a wife/ mom/nurse, I’m always looking for what could become a problem, inconsistencies and ways to improve, as I should. As a member of the body of Christ, however, I should be seeking opportunities to encourage, to uplift. I want someone to look past my failings and view me as a beloved sister ever in need of grace and mercy. Don’t you want that, too?

Paul ends his letter with the exact way to get this accomplished. When we think on what is lovely and pure, trustworthy and honorable, when we choose to fill our minds with these things, not only will we become a delight to our church leadership, but Paul promises that we will have the peace of God as well. That is a win for everyone!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [b]dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness all the way to her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Watch the Lamb

Thank the Lord for my Sunday School Class (REAL Talk)! I started attending this class when my internal world was spiraling out of control because I didn’t know how to process the chaos of circumstances or others’ emotions and actions. I didn’t know how to be at peace, or the light Christ calls us to be (Philippians 2:14-15), when the relational world around me was not. Three years later, I am in a much different place; but still learning and blessed to serve with this group of ladies. All of us, to some extent, are touched by people who, for many reasons, can be difficult. Employers, family, friends, spouses, random strangers struggling through their own battles, etc.—there are many fellow hurt humans walking around perpetrating the same hurt on others.

 When I start to feel my own spiritual, emotional, mental, or even physical calm being influenced by another; I have to step back for a moment to stop myself from getting swept up in someone else’s drama, or from stoking the conflict with my own plentiful fuel. In moments like those, I like to turn on praise music and remember Scriptures as well as the tried and true biblical principles He’s taught me in the past. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit will give me a thought in the midst of those disciplines that is so simple, yet revolutionary to my current situation. When words sting or attitudes and actions add a crushing pressure, Christ keeps shinning rays of hope through His example.

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

 Watch the LambOne of the songs on my worship playlist is the 1986 classic from Ray Boltz, “Watch the Lamb.” When I remember how much Christ suffered for those He deeply loved yet whom had no regard for Him, it enables me to feel emotionally safe, accepted and loved. Instead of feeling confused or hurt when people press in against me or don’t hear or understand my needs, I’m learning more and more to release the rights I think are universally due all humans (Philippians 1:29-30). I’m learning how to be like Christ—to be obedient and love the person in front of me, trusting that the Sovereign Lord and Great Shepherd will tend to all my bruises and tears. Any other way starts to feel foolish.

 As I focus on God’s sacrificial love, and lift others up in prayer, I trust God to change THEM. In some unexplainable way, I also experience Him changing ME. It covers my brokenness, not just theirs.

 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil. Proverbs 16:6  

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

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.

Embracing Difficulties

Three years ago I tripped and fell in my bedroom shattering my right humerus as I slammed into a tall solid oak dresser. Thankfully, I normally carry my cell phone in my pocket, and I managed to get the phone out with my left hand to call for help. The humerus in my right arm was shattered at the top and the rest was broken into five pieces. It took two surgeries and a year of physical therapy to get the arm healed and as functional as possible.

The process of healing from the two surgeries provided plenty of time to think! During my recovery from surgery I soon realized just how short and fragile life is and began to focus on the things in my life that are really the most important. With this renewed focus on the spiritual side of my life came a real dissatisfaction with the stress associated with my job. Being away from work for an extended period of time allowed me to realize just how stressful my job was and that perhaps I would be better off if I found a job that was much less stressful or just took early retirement.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

While breaking my arm was the worst thing that happened in my life that year, it was also the best thing that happened as it caused me to take a serious look at my life and reassess my goals. I am happy to say that I worked my last day at my job a year after I broke my arm.  I am now happily living in early retirement and enjoying being available to do the things that the Lord wants me to do on a daily basis.

Even during the most difficult of times, God’s love for us prevails. For me, embracing the difficulties during the healing process was the catalyst for change in my life. I pray that as you face difficulties in your own life, you will realize that there just might be something that God wants you to learn in the midst of the difficulty that will change your life for the better. The big lesson I learned was that His love never fails.

About the Writer:
Anna S. coordinates the Prison Ministry for First Baptist Dallas. She is a mom, a grandmother, and is grateful to the Lord for giving her the opportunity to minister to others on a regular basis.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13

A Tale of Two Sisters In-Law

We don’t always hear wonderful in-law stories, but here’s a great one about a Mother–in–law from the book of Ruth in the Bible:

Ruth 1: 9-18: “Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me . . . Return home . . .’ At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

What a great mother-in-law Naomi must have been.  But when it came decision time, even Naomi wasn’t enough for Orpah to leave her familiar circumstances.  It would require something greater:  faith.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about faith and how it plays a role in our futures. To believe in something without actually seeing it requires a great deal of hope and patience. It is so much easier to go down a path we recognize, even when that path is filled with potholes we can see.  Ruth and Orpah show us the struggle with faith.

It has always intrigued me that Orpah chose to stay in Moab, and Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.  It seems that both daughters-in-law had a sweet, loving, loyal relationship with Naomi, and Naomi genuinely cared for them and wanted the best for them.  If this is true, why did Orpah turn back and go home?

I think there is a lesson we can learn.  Ruth had seen faith in God through observing this Hebrew family while they lived in Moab.  She was willing to let what was familiar go and head into an uncertain future with the God of her mother-in-law.  Orpah loved Naomi, but she wasn’t willing to risk losing the familiar for her.  Back then, to leave one’s country also meant to leave the gods worshipped there.  Orpah was not committed to the Lord, and she was willing to lose the relationship with Naomi, whom she loved, for a life she could predict. Verses 16 and 17 are two of my favorites.  As a matter of fact, they were featured in my wedding.  In these verses, Ruth not only commits to Naomi, but she states her unwavering faith in God, leaving all other gods behind, and clinging to Him, trusting that He has a plan for Naomi and her.

It is interesting to me that we never hear from Orpah again.  Maybe she did go back and remarry, or maybe she lived a sad but safe life in her familiar circumstances.  We may never know.  What we do know is Ruth was redeemed by God’s man and birthed Obed their son, who became the grandfather of King David, selected by the Lord to deliver His people, and become the seed of Christ.  Wow, what a legacy of faith!

God uses people who will trust Him, and He blesses people who will commit to Him rather than what they can see.  I pray I can remember this when I experience challenging circumstances, and remember to be more like Ruth and less like Orpah.

About the writer:
Pam 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.

Where You Go I Will Go

A most popular yet life changing statement, You will never move forward, if you continue to look back, has resounded to many throughout the years. Yet even though we may agree unequivocally with its declaration, many of us struggle daily with actually living it out.

Of the many lessons God has taught me in the course of my journey, one of the greatest has been the importance of moving forward while leaving my yesterdays behind. However, in all truthfulness it has been the hardest to master. The enemy has persistently attacked my heart and mind by tempting me to dwell on former regrets and even previous comforts. It has been a battle hard fought, to say the least. Yet countless individuals throughout God’s Word were also required to learn this valuable lesson.

Moses led the children of Israel out of bondage and onward toward the Promised Land. However, in the midst of trials and adversity Egypt came calling in the hearts of the freed captives. A moment of looking back to what used to be, birthed a desire to return. The same pattern of temptation and response continues today.

Our journeys can often times become challenging when difficult moments tempt us to revert to our former days. Yet turning back would limit future blessings. The story of Ruth illustrates this point beautifully.

Ruth had just become a widow, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi. When the opportunity came for Ruth to return to her former dwelling, she chose instead to move forward with her mother-in-law.

Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Ruth 1:16 

As Ruth clung to her mother-in-law, she knew her hope lay in progressing forward rather than turning back. Not only was she willing to let go of her former life, she also was eager to experience a newly appointed future. Eternal rewards resulted from Ruth’s decision to proceed, ones she never even envisioned. Ruth would later be listed in the very lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let us cling to God with the same conviction as we let go of our past while taking hold of the future awaiting our grasp. Let us voice to our Father, as Ruth once exclaimed to Naomi, ‘Where you go, I will go.’

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to move forward with You while refraining from looking back. Direct my desires toward the future You have appointed for my life and remove any desires that would lure me back to the past.

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NASB

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. 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 will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.