Promises, Promises

When I read the book of Joshua, I am overwhelmed with the patience and persistence of God to fulfill his promises to his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. Throughout the book we read about how the Israelites responded disobediently to the instructions of the Lord . . . taking things from the destruction of Jericho that had been set apart for the Lord (7:1), and building an altar for themselves to rebel against the Lord (22:16).  And what was God’s holy response to their acts of disobedience?  We find it in chapter 21, verse 45:

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

In fact, from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 23, we keep reading about the Lord and exactly how he fulfilled his promises.

Wow!  That just blows my mind.  When I think of the times that I have been disappointed by friends or family, it doesn’t come to my mind to fulfill all the promises I have made them.  I tend to lean toward unforgiveness, thinking of the unfairness against me, or even lashing out or getting even.  But not God . . . in His mercy He forgives my unfaithfulness.  In His grace he forgets my desire to build walls against Him or his loved ones. In His love He continues to fulfill all the promises He has made to me. Now, that is worth praising Him.  That is worth trusting Him.  That is worth serving Him.  That is worth loving Him.

As a matter of fact, when I read these verses, I want to be forgiving like God; I want to be faithful like God.  Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, or my own plans for improving my situation, I want to let Him continue to show me His character of faithfulness through these Bible truths, like he does in the book of Joshua.

He has such a long way to go with me, but I’m so very thankful he doesn’t give up. He just keeps on cranking out the lessons with His promised blessings attached.  And then I am reminded . . .  “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”

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.

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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.

 

 

Twist, Turns, Trust

John Piper describes the believer’s life as a twisty-turny state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides, dark mists, and slippery curves. Sometimes the difficult road is caused by our own sin, sometimes by the sins of others, sometimes for the purpose of glorifying God, and sometimes just because life can be a rough road.

Along that hazardous, twisted road are frequent signs of hope, but unfortunately, it’s possible to completely miss them. We can keep our eyes up always looking for the signs of hope–the presence and sovereignty of God–or we can keep them focused on the mist, the precipice, and the darkness. The experience of our journey is not determined by our circumstances, those twists and turns, but by our responses to them. Will we keep our eyes peeled for the signs of hope and trust? Or will we focus on the twists and turns and allow our faith to falter?

The book of Ruth describes two women who between them cover almost every season of life and every type of emotion. First, we meet Naomi, a woman in dire circumstances. I cannot overemphasize the severity of her condition. In a culture where a woman is completely dependent on her husband or sons for support, Naomi is bereft of both. She and her two daughters-in-law have no means of sustenance. She is childless, widowed, impoverished, aging, and destitute of all land and possessions. She decides to return to Bethlehem, her home.

When she arrives, she tells her old friends to call her Mara, which means bitter, “. . . for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21, ESV) Naomi, consumed with sorrow, looks down at her circumstances and suffers spiritual amnesia. Her faith is shaken. She missed road signs of hope on her dark and winding road. What were they?First, God wooed her home from Moab, a godless country. Second, He gave her Ruth, a woman who steadfastly refused to leave Naomi’s side despite her bitterness and hopelessness.

Scripture hints of God’s plans for Naomi and Ruth.

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her . . . And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:22

This is one giant road sign of hope–hope of a new day, a season of spring, and a ripe harvest after famine. God has an abundant future in store for Naomi and Ruth. His loving-kindness, provision, and ultimately redemption are beautiful themes of this book.

Look up, Sweet Friend, if you’re walking a twisty-turny road of tragedy or pain. Look up for signs of the Lord and hope!

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. Psalm 130:5

His Word–a trustworthy place in which to hope. The LORD–a trustworthy One on whom to wait.

About the Writer:
Joni C. passionately enjoys sharing what she learns studying her Bible with the ladies of Refresh and Refresh@Night. Her days are best described as comfortable chaos – filled with grandchildren, a sweet mom-in-law, study time, and unexpected changes in plan. She’s also a frequent flyer to Pittsburgh for fun and cold weather chaos with her transplanted grandchildren in the north. All of this is far from the bon bons and leisure time her husband imagines her daily enjoying!

How Much Do You Know?

Can you name any three of the ten commandments?  Or, two of the Gospels?

Can you list some of the apostles?

Is this the correct chronological order for Biblical leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, and Jesus?

Did you know we are not to associate with a gossip? (Prov. 20:19)

At the risk of revealing my age, I “confess” that I have two grandsons who recently graduated from high school. During that sweet time of reminiscing, I found a picture of me reading to them together when they were less than two from “Elmo”- one of those picture books with the music and sound buttons. In the window seat near where we sat in our big recliner also lay my Bible. As I looked at that picture, I was saddened. Not sadness because they were now grown and that time was past, but emotions of deep regret because I had not been reading to them from His Word during each and every opportunity I had been given.  

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,  and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

What the Bible Says

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul shared his desire for the new Christains of the church to know and understand what great wealth they had in Christ. The verse above is a part of a prison prayer for his new converts, and it is not in any way referring to materialism. On the contrary, Paul was praying for us, as well as the Ephesian believers:

  • to be enlightened- to be able to see and understand spiritual content,
  • to have hope-with Christ we have a living hope, the Comforter within us day by day, encouraging us to live for Him in all we do,
  • to know the riches of His inheritance, in His saints, that’s us!  Even though I have never felt like a saint, that is how He sees us, and
  • to understand the exceeding greatness of His power we have in the Holy Spirit, the dynamic energy to which we have access.  We need His power, not only because we are so weak, but also because we have enemies in the spiritual realm that would love to rob us of our peace, and we cannot fight them alone. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Food for Thought

Even though we become “rich” when we accept Christ, unless we read the “bankbook” we will never understand the spiritual wealth, precious gems, and priceless truths God has for us. It is not enough just to know about God; we become more satisfied and at peace when we really “know” Him as our Guide, Friend, and most importantly “Abba” or Father.

  1. Spend time in His Word,
  2. Train your children to do the same, and
  3. Attend church, one which not only reads scripture, but teaches scripture as well.
  4. Determine to grow spiritually through sound Biblical leaders and teachers such as: Dr. Robert Jeffress on Pathway to Victory, Dr. David Jeremiah onTurning Point, and/or Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries, just to name few.

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.

Women: God’s Instrument for Justice

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. Psalm 138:7

Anyone who tells you that the Bible degenerates women hasn’t closely examined it’s message of unconditional love, especially for the vulnerable.  The Bible is rich in accounts of God using the weak to defeat the strong (what an amazing way to show His power!). In the fallen world of patriarchal culture, circumstances often left women broken and victims of the destructive desires of men.  But the suffering will not last, and Jesus will one day come back and defeat evil once and for all. (Revelation 19:11-21)  Men’s power cannot stand next to God’s power.

In the book of Exodus we get a glimpse of God’s power to defeat evil men when He used women as his instrument of justice.  Pharaoh was fearful of the growing Israelite nation and sought to destroy them through the genocide of all newborn boys.

Two blessed midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, defied Pharoah’s order to kill all the Egyptian baby boys as their mothers gave birth to them. (Exodus1:15-20)  These heroines remind me today of the many women who work in crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and foster care; protecting and advocating for the most vulnerable among us. They stand powerfully against seemingly unstoppable injustice.

In addition, Pharoah’s own daughter was instrumental in his own destruction. She found baby Moses hidden in the reeds. She brought him into Pharoah’s house and raised him s her own. Pharaoh’s adversary grew up in his house because God used his daughter to thwart Pharaoh’s evil plan of genocide for the Egyptian people. (Exodus 2:5-10)  In perhaps what seemed to be quiet ways, these women through God’s diving will toppled the terrifying and oppressive power structure that reigned with ear over their lives.

Dear Sister, you are precious in the sight of God.  He can use you powerfully for His glory. While the world may objectify, sexualize, and stereotype women as less interested or capable of leading; God knows your great worth.  Men will fail you and leaders may oppress you, but God has not forgotten you.  He has heard you.

There is deliverance.  The powers of this world:  nations, unjust leaders, abusive boyfriends and husbands will fall. . . so hold on.  God is trustworthy and good. The oppression of this world cannot stand though it’s weight may be crushing.  God is working in the midst of the broken and vulnerable.  We can rest in his promised victory, and we can look for how He might use us to bring justice. . . just as He used Shiphrah, Puah, and Pharoah’s daughter.

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.

The Faith of a Child

One summer my daughter decided she wanted to learn to play the piano and wanted a piano of her own. This was no small request as funds for a piano were certainly not in our budget. Her father was in school, and I was the only financial support for our family. I told her I would pray with her about the piano. We wouldn’t let anyone know, and we would simply trust that if God wanted her to have a piano He would provide one.

The Faith of a Child

One day my pastor’s wife called and asked if my daughter wanted a piano. She had a piano that her parents had given her when she was twelve, and none of her children wanted this turn of the century upright piano that she dearly loved. She decided to pray about the piano, and God directed her to my daughter.

I explained to my pastor’s wife that we had been praying for a piano but had told no one about it because we wanted to know that if God provided a piano that it was truly from Him. She was overjoyed to know that she had heard clearly from the Lord and that it met a need that we had been praying about. We made arrangements to pick up the piano, and my young daughter learned a great lesson in trusting God to supply her needs. Paul writes in Philippians:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

This is a scripture that has been very important to me for many years, and it is one that my daughter truly understood at the age of nine.

I won’t say that my daughter has always had everything that she ever wanted, but she certainly has always had a very strong and positive faith in God and that He would supply her needs. Her faith has always encouraged my own faith through the years.

My prayer is that others will see that this lesson of waiting for God’s provision laid the foundation for a lifetime of trusting in God for my nine year old daughter. As parents, we don’t always need to give our children everything that they want. Sometimes the best gift we can give them is a lesson in waiting on God’s provision.

About the Writer:
Anna Schaefer leads the W.E. C.A.R.E. team for the Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a widow, a mom, a grandmother and grateful to the Lord for giving her opportunities to share with other women in several ministries through First Baptist Dallas.

I Like Play-Doh®, but I Am Not the Potter!

It’s a rainy day, a day fit for remembering. I don’t know why, but colorful Play- Doh ® memories are rushing in and filling up my head! You know what I mean, don’t you—days around the kitchen table with fresh containers of colorful, sticky craft dough? On Play-Doh® days, lids are popped open, and hands roll and press, stretch and pull to make the pictures in little heads take shape in little hands. On these kinds of days when my three children were small, many times they called me to intervene—to take over the molding because their hands weren’t big enough. Things just weren’t taking shape the way they dreamed. It brought me great pleasure to take the clay into my hands and press until the finished product appeared before our eyes.Play-Doh

Right in the middle of all this remembering today, the Lord redirected my thoughts to see things clearly about His faithful, loving hands—hands so trustworthy to intervene! I have certainly called on Him to help. My hands just aren’t big enough to handle things. Wait! That is not a strong enough statement! My hands are not big enough, skilled enough, nor faithful enough to handle anything!

As mothers, we repeatedly find ourselves desperate for the Lord’s mercy and grace in our own lives and in the lives of our children. More than once we must cry out to our Father to intervene. Time and time again, we must surrender our children to His faithful care, His work, and His will. I confess that this has been a struggle for me. Though I trust the Lord with my life, I often find myself anxiously asking the Lord, “Pardon me, Lord, what are you doing in my child’s life?” I ask, knowing full well, He will answer by working in my heart. He, the Potter, presses me, the clay. He shapes and molds with precise tenderness. He is tireless, and He works on until finally, I am convicted and convinced that He always does what is best for His glory and for my good. And then, I am reminded once again, I can trust Him!

Play-DohIt is in these desperate moments that I know great comfort by the Spirit’s work in my mind and heart; furthermore, I can be fully assured of the Lord’s boundless, extravagant love for my children, and so can you. He is certainly trustworthy regarding those we love. The Lord is tender toward the desperate cry of a mother—it is her cry of surrender, and it is proof that her faith is in Him alone and not in herself.

“. . . Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand . . .”
Jeremiah 18:6

“But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father,
We are the clay, and Thou our potter;
And all of us are the work of Thy hand.”
Isaiah 64:8

About the Writer:
God’s grace has proven sufficient in Cindy’s life over and over again, and she loves sharing His truths! She is a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys travel, flowers, fresh herb and vegetable gardens, compelling books, a cup of robust coffee, a pot of tea and warm scones, lively family meals, good cries, hearty laughs, and long walks with her husband, Doug. 

Every Good and Perfect Gift

In the words of the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus, “All is flux, nothing is stationary.” That the world around us is constantly changing is a natural law that one can bank on. Isn’t it a relief that God’s character does not follow His creation’s nature of change (James 1:17)?

Transition and changes in life are typically mingled with emotions. Also, some changes come unexpectedly and without our consent. In one particularly radical period of transition in my life, I remember it seemed there wasn’t a plan or hope left standing. Relationships, previous goals, career aspirations, independence, health, finances, possessions, ministry — everything seemed to be destroyed from the inside out. It was at that point I encountered a test: today would I obey God and trust Him? Would I try yet again at my own way or avoid what I knew He had prepared for me? Would I obey God when I didn’t understand and didn’t like His direction?

This past month the First Dallas Women’s Ministry highlighted a Bible Study by Pricilla Shirer on the life of Jonah. After studying Jonah, one might easily come to the conclusion that he is not the poster child of a joyful servant. In the same way, I may not meet every change of direction with the grace of a skilled dancer — I may stumble my way through the awkward confusion of leading versus following. Either way, God is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He wants my heart to trust His unchanging character as I choose to follow Him through life’s ups and downs, twists and turns.

In the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus, I believe we find courage and hope to meet Heraclitus’s observation. God loves us. He has a full, abundant life waiting for us, and He is able to accomplish more than we can comprehend. Hidden inside His calling to meet the unexpected with trust and obedience, is a gift beyond our limited understanding. More of Him.

Every Good and Perfect Gift

 “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:19-21

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 Christ. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to raising her daughter to know and love the Lord. 
Lyndsay has a blog dedicated to sharing and celebrating the work of Christ through her experiences as a missionary, world traveler, knowledge seeker, and recipient of God’s lavish grace.