A Chosen Instrument

Years ago I was scheduled to share my testimony at a small retreat home in the South. Ladies from several different churches were represented on this evening to hear from the line-up of speakers. I was thankful for the opportunity to share, yet unaware of what I would face by a particular speaker that would follow me.

I knew with certainty that my narrative would be quite different from the other speakers. My journey was not theirs, and it was lined with pits of sin and many mistakes. But what the Lord had done through it was what I wanted most to share.

As I sat before several women, conversing about my story, I was completely transparent about my former days and how God had redeemed them. Afterward, I took my seat in the back of the room while the speaker following me took her seat at the front of the room to begin her lecture. Yet instead of opening her story with an introduction or a simple hello, she let out a spoiling sigh in regard to my testimony, aligned with a remark that appeared to be somewhat disdaining. I was taken off guard, to say the least. But then, Jesus!

Throughout God’s Word, we read of countless individuals whom God used mightily to help build His Kingdom, in spite of their past.

Paul was a man who was used significantly by the Lord. However, he, too, often faced cold shoulders and doubting Thomases due to his past.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Acts 9:10-19 NASB

Notice the Lord’s words once more to Ananias in regard to Paul: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Even though Ananias did not believe in Paul, God did. The matter was settled in regard to Paul’s past. But it was settled by God, not by man.

I remember the day I cried out to God and said, “How can a Holy God like You use somebody like me?” Within my spirit came, “It’s not about you; it’s about My Kingdom.”

A pastor once stated, “The church is a hospital for the sick.” I agree, yet so often the church is the one engaging in the wounding. Have we forgotten how God used David? Peter? Moses? Rahab?

A passage of Scripture that has recently caught my heart’s attention is Galatians 1:1. It states: “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead). . .” This passage of Scripture notes that Paul was not sent by man but through Jesus  Christ and God the Father.

Question to ponder:  If God is the One who sends us – (and He is) – then who are we to allow man to set us down?

Back to the retreat story: Weeks after that particular speaking engagement, I received a phone call one day from a woman who was in that group of ladies at the retreat center. God had used my testimony in her life, for she too had a past. She requested to meet with me and wanted to bring another lady with her. Though one may have viewed my testimony as shocking, God used it to help others while opening a door to minister in a profound way.

It’s God’s business whom He uses and how. It’s about His Kingdom and not ours. Paul, in spite of everything he faced, continued moving forward with Jesus, taking Him at His Word. He was forgiven. He was called. And He was willing to be used by God, for the glory of God and for His Kingdom.

Do you see yourself today in this story? Do you, like the woman speaker, see others’ faults as unredeemable? Or, do you have a past that is battling to keep you in bondage? Settle the issue today. We are called by God, not by man. Don’t let others set you down, and don’t be the person who tries to clip the wings of those whom God has called to fly. Let God use you. Answer His call and move forward with Him to your destiny. Much awaits you!

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. She 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.

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!

Courageous: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart Luke 2:17-19

Having raised two kids of my own, I can remember times when I would look on those little wonderful babies and think, “Can they get any cuter, any smarter, any more inquisitive or any funnier?”  It was so much fun watching them discover the wonders of this life and how things work, and as they grew, more about themselves, their passions and dreams.  It is truly the joy of motherhood to be given the privilege to be up close and personal with God’s wondrous little humans.

When I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I am filled with wonder again, but this time I am conflicted with so many emotions.  She obviously knew that His birth was a miracle because she, above any other human, knew that He had been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure she looked upon His sinless childhood and asked herself many times how she could have been chosen for this enjoyable journey. . . the perfect two-year-old, the perfect big brother, the perfect adolescent, the perfect adult son. . . what a sweet ride!

But then, I remember that Mary was a Jewish girl, raised with the Torah and the prophets readily available to her on any day, at any time.  I have to believe that, when Mary discovered who her Son would be, she began to search the Scriptures for more of His description, His assignment from the Lord, and ultimately His fulfillment of those same Scriptures.  

I ask myself when I read about her bold moves recorded in the Bible, “What was she thinking?”  For example, at the wedding in Cana, described in John 2:1-11, when she told Him to turn the water into the best wine, perhaps she was thinking, “It is time for everyone to discover about the Son of Man the things I already know.”  Or what was she thinking when she came to take Jesus home because “he was not in his right mind,” as in Mark 3:20-34.  Was she trying to rescue Him from danger, take Him home where she could care for Him, and perhaps hide Him from the inevitable coming storm, delaying God’s plans?  And finally, what was Mary thinking when she observed the final week in Jerusalem when Jesus showed His deity, authority, and ultimate sacrifice for all? Did Mary remember that He would conquer death as she had read in Isaiah 53, or was she simply taking in the fulfillment of His suffering? 

Whatever the answers to all my questions are, this one thing I know.  Mary was courageous because Mary believed, as you may read in Luke 1:46-55. Mary had hope and on that day of her Son’s resurrection, Mary had to laugh and perhaps look up to God the Father with a wink and a nod, finally understanding the answers to all her questions, now confident that God had the answers all along the journey.  

Finally, my last question regarding Mary the mother of Jesus is “What was it like when she met her Son, God’s Son, the Son of Man face to face again?  Perhaps He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” and “Welcome home Mom!”  Mary is one of those I’d like to visit when I get to Heaven, just to hear about her personal journey as she experienced the joys of motherhood with the One who would ultimately save her.  

Please consider these questions:

  1.  As you look at Mary’s life, what characteristics do you see that God saw when He chose her to be the bearer of His Son? Were these her characteristics or were they God’s in her?
  2. When you remember that Mary knew the outcome of her Son’s earthly life and ministry, there had to be times when she was overcome with grief and fear.  How do you think she recovered during those times?  How can we recover when we also are overcome with grief and fear?  

If Mary can live her life with courage knowing the danger that was to come for herself and her Son, we can look at her example and know that God was certainly with her through it all. We also can live our lives knowing that God is certainly with us through all of our trials.  We can have courage because Jesus has already won the victory!

About the Writer:

Pam is Director of Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.  

Red Light, Green Light

Solomon’s life and reign are recorded as possibly one of the most prosperous in the Bible. Solomon’s success is attributed to his dependence upon the Lord to guide his steps.  Solomon depended on God to tell him what to do and when to do it. Solomon’s journey shows us that God is trustworthy, and, if we are patient and faithful to obey His commands, His promises will not return void.

In 1 Kings 8:17-19, Solomon recounted the fact that his father David had come up with the idea to build God’s temple, a permanent structure where God could dwell.  But God told David “no.”   Did God say “no” because it was wrong for David to want to do this? Not at all.  Verse 18 says that God commended David for what he wanted to do:

My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’

God commended David because his motives were in the right place, but just because someone has the good motives for doing something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.   For example, in Texas we have the “right on red” law. This means that a driver can make a right turn despite a red traffic light. However, just because the law says it’s ok, and the reason you want to do it is to help out the drivers behind you who might be in a hurry, does that make it a good idea to go ahead and turn without checking for oncoming traffic first?  No.  You could have a wreck.  First, we have to check to see if there are cars, people, or any number of hazards before we pull out.  In the same way, first we need to check with our Heavenly Father, who knows all things and sees all things, to learn whether what we’re wanting to do is a good idea or not.

Solomon showed us that we should trust God and follow His directions in order to have peace in our lives.  That instruction seems simple enough, but I found myself asking the question, “How do I know that I’m hearing Him correctly?”  Well, how do you hear anyone? You listen to their words. The Bible is God’s Word.  Read your Bible.  Study your Bible.  Listen to God’s Words.  God’s voice gets louder and louder the more we spend time with Him learning about His character and His attributes, just as when you start to spend more time with people, the easier it becomes to understand them.

God will have specific instructions for you and your journey, and He will communicate that to you however He sees fit.

I also have found myself wondering, and still do sometimes, “Is this my own ambition, or is this from the Lord?”  Understand this: He will ALWAYS back up what He says to you personally with Scripture — His written, permanent Word. And His Word never changes.  Ever.  If what you’re hearing does not line up with His permanent Word, that’s not God speaking to you.

The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever.  Isaiah 40:8 NIV

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.

What Comes From Righteousness?

A few weeks before my mom died, I was sitting on my back porch continuing a study of the book of Isaiah.  As I read, a verse suddenly jumped off the page. Has that ever happened to you? I stopped and read it over and over again. 

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be righteousness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:17 NIV

Wow! To a young woman struggling with motherhood, children-hood, wife-hood, family budgets, friendships, loss of some dreams and challenges of new ones, and the ever-present question, “Why do good things come to ungodly people?” this was great news!

I called Mom.  “Mom did you know that this verse is in the Bible?” Mom said, “Well I’m sure I’ve read it before but haven’t thought about it much.”  The next day Mom called me back, “Pam, look at the context of this verse.  It’s talking about Heaven! Because we hang in there with faith through all the struggles, all the worries we have today are replaced with peace and quietness and confidence in Heaven. And the result is that we can have hope today. You can have hope, and I can have hope, even though our struggles are different.” While I was thrilled at the prospect of Heaven in this verse, it surprised me that Mom didn’t first see what I had seen—comfort in my present circumstances.  

A short time later Mom died suddenly, although a result of several difficult years struggling with poor health. Crushed, broken, angry, and lonely, I was lost in the questions to God: “Why does it have to be so hard on earth?” and “Why did you have to take Mom now, when I really needed her the most?”  And then I remembered the sweet conversations with her only a few weeks before concerning Isaiah 32:17. 

That began the journey with Isaiah 32:17 and me. In the coming years this verse would become a part of me.  I memorized it. I began to notice it in artwork, on notepads, and even on napkins!  I looked it up in various translations: NASB, the New Living Translation, and the New King James. I researched commentaries, and I learned more about this verse and Mom’s words to me.  

You see, righteousness comes from the Lord. It is His righteousness that we have, and it is sufficient for all we seek, now and in the future. Mom and I were in different places in our walk with God.  Mom was looking toward Heaven, weary and ready to receive His welcome, and to see Him face to face. And being reconciled to God in that way is the correct interpretation of this passage.  Mom saw hope and promise of the future kingdom of Jesus Christ.  I on the other hand, was looking for why I should continue to work hard, pressing on in these earthly struggles and obey the precepts in God’s Word.  I discovered it was right to remain faithful, because even in this earthy life the result would also be “quietness and confidence forever.”  This meant the peace I longed for was already with me, had been with me all along, and would continue to be with me forever. This also is the correct interpretation of this verse. That’s the beauty and sufficiency of God’s Word. What a promise!  And how beautiful that the Lord would take the same passage of Scripture between a mother and her daughter and reach each one right where she was, one at the end of her life of service, the other in the midst of it.  

So now you can see why Isaiah 32:17 is my favorite life verse among several that I hold dear.  Not only does it remind me of the last meaningful conversation I had with Mom about the Word of God, but it also reminds me that God will meet each of us right where we are and promises us that “the work of righteousness is peace, and the result of righteousness is quietness and confidence FOREVER.”  

How has God specifically spoken to you through His Word to give you peace, confidence, and quietness, and blessed you with His promise?

About the Writer:

Pam is Director of Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.  

Perfect Peace

In our world today, we are facing so many different issues.  Where does one turn when things seem to be unraveling or when one doesn’t know what the future holds?  Where do we find our fulfillment and joy, and how can we have peace during this time?  The answer is Jesus. . .Jesus, the one who loves you so much that He died for you so you could accept His free gift of salvation and live with Him forever.  The Father that loves you so much that He sent a helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide and direct His people while they are here on earth.

You see, friend, the world was not meant to satisfy our hearts. Some people are trying to find peace in our world with a new job, position, or even by changing other people.  These things were never meant to be our foundation.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33  

Jesus knew that we would have ups and downs in life and that there would be trials we would experience here on earth.  Jesus has forever conquered death and will come back for His children one day to live with Him forever.  For those that pass away before then, they will get a head start living with Him forever in eternity.  He alone is our foundation.

I know what you might be thinking. How does that help me today?  You don’t know what I’m experiencing right now.  You don’t know what I’m facing or what my life has looked like over the past couple of months.  You’re right friend, I don’t.  But God does.  He created you, loves you unconditionally, and knows your innermost needs and thoughts.

 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

When we have Jesus in our hearts, we can turn to him for our assurance, comfort, and peace.  We don’t need to find it in things here on earth.  We can remind ourselves of the eternal and find our joy and contentment in who Jesus is, not what the world has to offer.  Our heavenly Father will guard our hearts and minds. He will be with His children through it all.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7  

I know people have experienced a wide variety of emotions over these past months.  I myself have wondered if we will get back to “reality” and if my teaching job will return to normal.  Some days have had their ups and downs, but my heart is still experiencing God’s perfect peace.  I am truly grateful for that.  Even when I find out more hurtful news of what’s going on around me, my hope and rest is in God alone.  God’s Word says:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  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 4:16-18

What can God do with your story, my friend?  What testimony of His perfect peace will be evidenced in your life as you lean on Him? May we focus on Jesus and become better reflections of Him so others can find His perfect peace that truly satisfies any soul.

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 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.

Seeking Approval? Are You Trying to Please Men (or) God?

I was worn out to say the least. I was attempting to please one person while going to great lengths to please another person. I tried diligently to defend my character from others’ misunderstandings. Also, I showered compliments along with unremitting apologies toward those who I felt did not like me. Why? For the sole purpose of making peace. The end result? I became completely exhausted.

I needed the Lord to intervene. Instead of continuing down the same destructive path, I cried out to my Father, “Please deliver me from people-pleasing.”

One evening I walked into a situation completely orchestrated by God Himself. Within the context of the circumstance, a condition arose that not only broke my heart but the spirit of people-pleasing as well. I was reminded on this day of many forgotten truths. An entirely new view emerged—one of pleasing my Father instead of pleasing man.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, Colossians 3:23

We should live to please God, not man.

What have I learned in regard to “People-Pleasing?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

  1. Not everyone is going to like us. What should be our response? Well, not everyone liked Jesus yet He displayed love toward His enemies in spite of their dislike toward Him. He also did something else very notable. He continued to move forward in His mission and refused to allow anything or anyone to derail His journey. We, too, should follow suit.
  2. Not everyone is going to believe in us, or should they. True! We must never allow the disbelief of others to have power over our lives. If God has called you to a task, then do it with all your heart, mind, and soul. God doesn’t need people to believe in you in order for Him to carry out His work through you. Whatever He calls to be will be—regardless if others believe!

As believers we are under the umbrella of God’s protection. He loves us, He cares for us, and He desires to use us for His Kingdom. Yet we must learn to walk according to His truth instead of man’s opinion.

Point to Ponder: The mere hands that applaud us one minute may belong to the individuals who slander us the next minute. Jesus will always be faithful to His own. And without a doubt, He is the only One who will never leave us nor forsake us.

About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously.  She is the 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.

Live for the King of Kings not for the applause of mankind.

The Act of Worship

When I was single, one of my favorite things to do when I was alone was to have a “worship fest” in my room.  I would turn the volume up on my favorite songs and sing them as loud as I wanted to because no one was there to hear it (except for God of course ;)).  I could even sing one song over and over again, as many times as I wanted to, until it nourished my soul. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t mind if I sing around him and will tolerate my repetition of songs, even in the car!

Why is the act of worship so important?  Why does it nourish our soul so much? Psalm 147:1 says,

Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.

When we sing praises to our Father, we are reminded of how amazing our Father is and how much we need and depend on Him.  Just as you tell your family and friends how much you love them, we have the opportunity to tell God how much we love Him!  He has shown us the utmost love by sending His son to die on the cross for our sins so that through Him, we can live with Him forever in eternity.  Now that’s love!

We have a Heavenly Father who is not like anyone here on earth. He’s perfect, He’s The King of Kings, The Lord of Lords, The Alpha and Omega, Yahweh, Redeemer, Holy, Righteous, Healer, Deliverer, Shield and Defense, and the list goes on and on!

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15

One of the reasons I love worship so much is that it takes my eyes off my circumstances and refocuses me on my Heavenly Father.  Instead of having worry, frustration, etc.; When I focus on God, I am reminded of how truly wonderful He is and His perfect character instead of experiencing worry and frustration.  My enormous troubles just seem to shrink as I remind myself our Father truly is good.

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods.  I Chronicles 16:25

Life has its troubles, and we can choose how to respond to them.  When life seems to get the best of you, just remember how wonderful our Father is and how much He loves you.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

May we continue to be thankful for God and express our love for Him in praise.

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 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.

 

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.