Being a Christian Feels Impossible!

I had been closely walking with the Lord for a few years when I began to feel extremely overwhelmed spiritually.  Living out the Christian life began to feel tremendously burdensome, and worse than that, I began to despair and feel as if my ability to live out the Bible was hopeless.  As I read more Scripture and what’s expected of Christians, I was drowning in the difficulty and seeming impossibility of it all! I cried out to God in my anguish, “Father, how is this new covenant any better than the old law? There are just as many rules, and they are equally as impossible to keep!” The Lord graciously answered my cry with Matthew 11:28-30.

ALL WHO ARE WEARY

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30.

As I read and meditated on these verses that I had heard so many times before, I began to see it in a new light because this time I was living it.  I thanked God for His answer and responded with another question. “How? God, I believe what you are telling me is true, but HOW is it true?!? HOW is Your yoke easy and Your burden light? Then He responded to me with two simple phrases: “by abiding in Me” and “by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

ABIDE IN ME

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 (emphasis mine)

I spent the next several months mediating on John 15 and came to understand what Jesus was telling us before He left. My job, our job, is to abide in Him.  He Himself, through His Spirit within us, gives us the power and strength and ability to live out all that He commands of us. See Isaiah 41:10, Colossians 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:241 Peter 5:10, Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, John 14:15-18, John 14:25-26, Philippians 2:13.

BY DISCIPLINE

The next logical question we must ask ourselves is HOW do we abide in Christ? The answer to that is BY DISCIPLINE.

By discipline, we spend time in Christ by being in His Word each and every day.  Christ is the Word and the Word is Christ.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

By reading the Scriptures we abide in Christ, and by abiding in Christ we become able to bear His fruit, but apart from Christ we can do NOTHING. John 15:10 goes on to say that as we abide in Christ, we will abide in His love, and, as we love Christ, we will obey His commands.

FRUIT FULFILLS THE LAW

As we saw earlier in John 15:5, abiding in Christ results in our bearing His fruit. This fruit is explained in Galatians:

. . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23.

Did you catch that phrase “against such there is no law?” What the Holy Spirit is able to produce in us fulfills the law.  However, when we try to live for Christ with our own efforts, when we try to observe His commands on our own, when we try to uphold the law by our own strength, we will fail. As Jesus told us, apart from Him we can do nothing.  This idea of fulfilling the law appears again in Romans:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  Romans 13:8-13 (emphasis mine)

Specifically mentioned is the fruit of love.  When we love, we do what is right; but we must remember that this love first comes from abiding in Christ and in His love.

 

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

So how do we live out our Christian lives in a way that fulfills the law, glorifies God, bears His fruit, and testifies Jesus to others? By abiding in Christ.

And how do we Abide in Christ? BY DISCIPLINE.

  • Make time for God each and every day.
  • Ensure that this time includes reading, meditating on, and studying Scripture, as well as praying. This will take discipline because life will threaten to take away this time. You will be tired, busy, distracted, and maybe even discouraged.  Cultivate discipline in your life by committing that you will spend time abiding in Christ each and every day regardless of the circumstances.
  • Discipline by nature requires training and sacrifice. It is difficult and must be worked at repeatedly to attain the desired new behavior.
  • I use an acronym to help me live my life each day, one day at a time: “EACH”
    • E= Empty myself of myself. Start with surrender.
    • A= Abide in Christ. Refuel/refill myself with Christ, His Word, the Holy Spirit, and His power.
    • CH= CHoose love. As I make decisions, interact with people, talk, respond, and think, I am to do so in love; for love fulfills the law.

About the Writer:
Ashley is a Tennessee transplant in Dallas and mother to a young daughter. Ashley has been a member of FBD since 2014. In 2018, the Lord called her to serve full-time with the church where she works in the Finance & Accounting office. When Ashley is not at the church, you can find her and her daughter out in nature somewhere, hiking or camping, enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Lord’s creation.

 

 

Are You Neurotic?

I’ve always been very disciplined. Well, maybe not always, but the last 25 years of my life for sure. In that time, I’ve missed maybe 20 days without a workout (if you don’t count my scheduled “recovery” days). I’ve eaten a total of maybe one large plateful of junk food in all that time, and I can’t think of more than maybe two things I bought and regretted purchasing that couldn’t be returned. I don’t credit any of this to a superior level of discipline, though. I think different personalities have certain predispositions, and some things come easier to me than others.  On the other hand, throw me into a different culture and I can come across as extremely frivolous, wasteful, and weak-willed.

In all the above mentioned cases regarding control over choices, activities, decisions, and priorities, I would say I felt pretty confident. Then came debt. I quickly became aware of my naivety and anxiety about my skills to successfully navigate through it. With all my discipline, I couldn’t imagine a way around it. Instead of denying it, I had to learn to balance it and manage it for a season. I was overwhelmed with the reality of my need for God’s wisdom and grace. Even with a new relationship status, I once again enrolled my daughter in an excellent Christian school and also had the expenses of necessities like bills, food, and shelter. I had to face the fact that I would need to take on some debt to create a stable and positive environment for my daughter and myself. Debt is something I’ve never been willing to choose. Just as we can’t control the trauma (Greek for “injury”) that disrupts our imagined lives, we can’t always control the debt that we enter into or that is forced upon us.

In past months and years there was such a fierce and menacing fear surrounding debt. To me it signified losing control over my future.

In the Bible, storing up wealth is a topic about which much is written. Money, debt, saving, and greed are mentioned more than many other issues in the Bible. Jesus began one of His parables about money with:

Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions. Luke 12:15

Jesus was speaking in response to a man concerned about receiving his inheritance and more comprehensively addressed the folly of thinking that our security and comfort are a result of personal planning and execution. In reading a commentary of this passage of Scripture, it was not the rich man’s plans or successes that Jesus was calling foolish but his priorities and belief that his future was in his control.

Reading this passage for the first time in light of my current situation, I am convicted that a desire to save up and plan for the future is not always the wisest or best thing to do. I am at peace with giving up my perceived control over future stability, plans, and dreams for the pressing needs of today. Even these, God, in His great mercy and sovereignty, is working into His perfect plan.

Tomorrow may never come, and Jesus calls me in the same passage to be rich toward God now. He wants me to be free from worry about the future and to seek first His Kingdom – to put on an attitude of looking to help with the needs of others.

I am grateful that for me to practice diligence in financial matters, I can now place everything at Christ’s feet and ask Him to help me to be wise, to realize that He provides for me, and to ultimately trust Him with my future. I may still enjoy discipline, goals, and results, but at least now I don’t have to be as neurotic about it knowing that He alone can ensure my firm footing!

About the Writer:
Lyndsay loves movement of most every variety. Some of her favorite moments are going on long walks, runs or bike rides in some new uncharted territory or exploring some intellectual or emotional space waiting to be uncovered. By day she works at First Baptist Dallas and in her spare time you will find her enjoying family, teaching mindful movement classes or serving in some community that has as many questions about God and life as she does. She is passionate about God’s Word applied masterfully by the Holy Spirit’s leading and believes the kindness and compassion of Christ changes hearts and unbinds minds – the most significant movement of any kind.

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

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

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

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

Post-Game Interview

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

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

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

Reflections. . .

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

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

Reflections. . .

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

JESUS, THE GREATEST SIDELINE COACH OF ALL TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Writer:
O’Shea is the mother of two and nana of five and enjoys both roles tremendously. She is the Executive Director of Entrusted Hope Ministries where she loves serving through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, O’Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and is currently working on her D.Ed.Min at Southwestern in Family Ministries.

The Nameless Woman

Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. Romans 16:13

In Romans 16, Paul sent personal greetings to people who were special to him. What had Rufus’ mother done for Paul that she would have been like a mother to him?  Who were the people involved in this verse?

Who was Paul?

As a faithful follower of Jesus, Paul spent his adult life testifying to the truths of Christ. He encountered extreme, relentless, and undeserved persecution. In this one short verse, we learn God provided a place of respite for His weary servant.

Who was Rufus? 

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 15:21 (NIV)

Scholars believe Simon became a follower of Jesus Christ after he carried Jesus’ cross. When Simon returned home, it appears his family members also became followers of Jesus.  Simon’s sons, it is believed, grew up to be leaders in the Christian movement and Rufus became a friend to Paul. Paul’s words reveal Rufus’ mother had a special place in his heart. The father helped Jesus, and the mother and son helped Paul. One man’s encounter with Christ changed a whole family!

Who was Rufus’ mother?

Since we don’t know anything about this nameless woman, we can only surmise what she might have done for Paul. Did she provide meals for him, wash his clothes, furnish a comfortable, clean bed so he could rest, listen to his stories of pain and joy over God’s provision and power through difficulties, encourage him to persevere, and pray for him to have courage, strength, tenacity, and safety? We can imagine Paul and Rufus, and Rufus’ mother sitting by the fire as they talked into the night about Jesus and the changed lives as people were coming to faith in the Messiah.

When Paul experienced closed doors and opposition in the towns he visited, Rufus’ mother opened her door and ministered to his needs. She cared, encouraged, listened, and loved as only a mother can. She lived out her faith in selfless deeds of kindness.

We can be encouraged and motivated by this unnamed woman. God uses this one short verse to remind us that what we do matters to Him. When we sing to little ones and their friends, God sees. When we feed noisy, messy teenagers and pray before they eat pizza out of a cardboard box, God is aware. When we’re doing our Bible study, and our daughter and her friends come crashing through the door, how we respond is seen by God. When we make pancakes in colors and shapes for our grandchildren and clean up the sticky syrup, God knows. When we encourage adult children to persevere and trust God despite difficulties, He hears. When we’re babysitting our niece and nephew, and they want to go to the park, God knows I need to be working and can help me make up the time later.

This nameless woman who lived thousands of years ago left a powerful and timeless legacy for us. Oh, God, please help us respond in love to our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and their friends! If the friends of our family never remember our name, please help them to have a strong, positive memory of how they felt when they were with us! Give us joy in serving, a kind response when interrupted, gentleness when speaking truth to ears that seem not to be listening, and patience when we mop up spilled drinks and wash piles of dishes. Help us, God, to remember that what we do and say and how we respond and react today are important to you and will matter in eternity.

What was Rufus’ mother’s reward?

We can imagine that when Rufus’ mother entered God’s presence she heard,

Well done, good and faithful servant. Matthew 25:23a (NIV)

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

You’re Stressing (Stretching) Me Out!

No, that wasn’t me yelling at my kids.  But it sure has been me talking to God!  Although it is absolutely normal and healthy to experience stress, at the least it is unpleasant.  And at most it is heart-breaking and potentially crippling. However, stress is what shows us that something needs to shift.  And shifting is exactly what brings about new perspective and ability. We should be surprised neither that we experience stress nor that we reap benefits from it!

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 4:17-18

 Blessed . . . and still stressed!

Im sure youve seen the cute memes – you know the ones – over a calming background of some colorful panorama of the quietude of nature is some catchy phrase like, Too Blessed to Be Stressed.”  As well-intentioned as they might be, they’re just not true.  The Bible says:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Okay, yes, I agree, we are VERY BLESSED.  Growing up on the Amazon River and having met thousands of people who have never even seen a school bus, a computer, or a doctor before, I agree that most of our lives are overflowing with blessings we certainly don’t deserve.

But recognizing blessing doesn’t nullify the fact that we still experience stress, even to severe degrees. If anything, the most precious of treasures are often contained inside vessels that take the hardest beating!

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart…But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 2 Corinthians 4:1,7

But first, let’s stretch.

My local gym only allows clients who are 13 or older so my daughter waited until her birthday to start working out with me.  At one of our first sessions, I took her to the back corner to explain how to stretch.  I said, “Do you feel that burn in your muscle?  That’s normal.  You shouldn’t feel pain like you’re actually hurting yourself, but you should feel uncomfortable. And if you hold it there for a minute or two while you take some deep breaths, that tension will release.  That’s how you know that muscle is ready to be worked out.”

I started thinking about what I told her while considering my own stressors. Whether it is a rubber band, human muscle, or our personal life, there’s a domino effect that happens when something is being stretched. Stretching leads to tension; that tension (when properly handled) eventually leads to a release; and that release enables us to do what could not be done before – strength for the task.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Messiah, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.  1 Peter 5:10

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4

Stress the Truth!

Maybe a wiser choice would be to share the memes that say something like, “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.”  And it’s totally OK if you hear Kelly Clarkson’s voice sing it to you!

The truth is, times of stress WILL come, but remember, when the stretching is done, God will have enabled you to do even more than ever before!

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

About the Writer:
Rachel, her beloved husband Allesandro, and their four homeschooled children have been members of First Baptist Dallas for almost a decade. The Lord allowed her to attain a K-12 Choral Music Education degree from Ouachita Baptist University while simultaneously delivering her from illness and certain death. Her profession as an educator spans almost 20 years, including 15 years as a private vocal coach. Having been raised in a ministry family in both the U.S. and Brazil, Rachel finds it practically instinctive to serve her community through education and worship ministries. She is daily dependent on the Lord’s supernatural intervention to fuel not only her passions to learn, educate, and serve, but her personal faith to press onward.

 

God Was Ahead of Us

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I’ll admit it.  As I sat in my house during the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was frustrated.

Life is changing by the minute! I always carried hand sanitizer in my purse, but now it’s not just a good thing to have, it’s a necessity! Many events are being cancelled or postponed. My granddaughter’s long-awaited band trip to Disney World was cancelled. Will our son and daughter-in-law get any of their money back?  Will our granddaughter’s school have a prom and other senior activities?  Will she get to experience walking across the stage at her high school graduation?  Will we get to take the trip we planned for this summer?  Will our retirement investments ever recover?

Before social distancing, I enjoyed my freedom to do whatever I wanted. Even if I didn’t want to go somewhere, I knew I could. I could go to church, attend my weekly Bible study, have a meal inside a restaurant, attend parties, and have family and friends into our home. Before March of 2020, I knew grocery stores would typically have everything I wanted. Even if I didn’t want or need what was on the shelves, those items would be there.  But all that has changed. I’ve never seen empty grocery shelves. I’m beginning to get a glimpse of how people on the other side of the world might feel. I’ll never experience their difficulties, but at least I can understand the frustration and disappointment they must feel.

People around the world are walking around in masks and gloves, no one is shaking hands, there’s no more hugging, people of all ages are being hospitalized and some are even dying. If there’s a funeral, I’ve wondered if the family can even grieve together. It’s all so sad. Life, as we have always known it, appears to be in chaos.

Our lives seem to have been put on hold. A friend said, “It feels like I’m in a movie.” I agreed and replied, “Yes! I feel like someone has paused us in a movie and life, as we know it, feels like we’re not moving.”

As I’ve prayed and pondered these changes, God has brought to my mind the many ways He worked in advance to prepare us for this ordeal. I’ve had time to think about His preparation of our world “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Through technology, God has made it possible for us to exist inside our homes. Electronically we can:

  • attend church services and school classes
  • listen to and watch speakers, musicians, programs, events
  • give money to churches, ministries, organizations
  • work from home
  • order, pick up, and receive food from grocery stores
  • order food from restaurants and have it delivered to our door
  • receive prescriptions in our mailbox
  • see and communicate with people around the world
  • visit doctors through telemedicine
  • borrow e-books from the library
  • purchase e-books for various devices
  • bank online and pay bills

You can probably think of other things God has orchestrated. He has gone before us because He knew COVID-19 was coming. God is taking care of His children, and He is taking care of those who are not His children.

God has also reminded me:

    • He is sovereign and in control of everything.
    • He knows the end from the beginning.
    • He is trustworthy.
    • He is all-powerful.
    • He is faithful.
    • He is all-wise.
    • He is loving, kind, and good.
    • He is full of grace and mercy.
    • He sent His Son to forgive us and His Spirit to live in us.
    • He does not treat us as our sins deserve.
    • He intercedes for us.
    • He gives us hope and a future.
    • He is victorious over death and the grave.

AND Jesus is coming again to take us to live with Him forever!

So,

let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:22-23 

About the Writer:
Sherry enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, Bible study, and traveling.  She and her husband, David, are Directors of the Sonburst Class at First Baptist Dallas.

Having Faith

In Colossians 1:4 Paul writes to the Christians in Colossae about how he is thankful for them “because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.”  But what does it really mean to have faith?

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Even though we cannot see God, we can have faith in Him and who He is.  In the Bible we learn about God’s character and who He truly is; we learn about what He has done for His people and His beautiful promises to us.   We read about how Jesus came to the earth to die for our sins so that, through Him alone, we can have eternal life.  We can have faith in what He did for us on the cross.

We also read in God’s Word about His people and the faith they displayed while walking through different circumstances in their lives.  In Luke there is a woman who lived a sinful life and heard that Jesus was coming to eat at a Pharisee’s house.  She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, poured it over Jesus’ head and feet, and wiped his feet with her tears and hair.  In Luke 7:50, “Jesus said to the woman, ” ‘Your faith has saved you, go in peace.’ ”  What a beautiful display of repenting from the sins of your life and leaning towards Jesus, the only one who can make you whole again.

In Mark, we read of a woman who was subject to bleeding for twelve years.  Yes, that’s right, twelve years!  “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (Mark 5:26)  What an awful time she must have experienced in her life, not being able to be healed and spending all she had to get better.  But she heard that Jesus was coming and she thought to herself that if she just touched him, she would be healed.  She did, and, even though there were many people surrounding Him, Jesus knew that someone had touched Him.  She was fearful when He asked who had touched Him, and she fell at His feet trembling and telling Him her story.  In Mark 5:34 Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  What freedom and liberation she must have felt in that moment, to not only be physically healed, but to be affirmed by Jesus who said to go in peace.  Her life would never be the same after that moment.  All the pain and suffering she endured for those twelve years had ended and were no more.

I think about Ruth and how when her husband died, Naomi, her mother-in-law, tried to get her to go back to her home country.  But Ruth insisted in Ruth 1:16, “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.”  She stayed with Naomi and trusted in God; and He took care of them.  Ruth eventually remarried and had children.   I also think of Esther and how she had faith in God that He would change the king’s heart and how she risked her life in asking that the king would save her people.  She had learned that the Jews were to be killed on a certain day, and she knew that when she appeared to the king, if he did not hold out his scepter to her, she could be killed instantly.  Thankfully not only did he welcome her, but he also learned of the evil plots being made against the Jews in time to save them.  What faith she displayed in God and how He used her to save her people!

Faith is believing in God and knowing that He will take care of you even in the midst of hard situations.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

These precious women’s lives would have been so drastically different if they had not put their faith in God.  Other people’s lives would also have been impacted without their faith.  What opportunity do you have today, my friend, to put your faith in God?  Is it the free gift of salvation where you don’t have to worry any more about working towards salvation and acknowledging that it’s a free gift, something only Jesus can give to you?  Your life can be changed just like the sinful woman who found redemption in the midst of her tears and wet hair at Jesus’ feet.  Is there a situation in your life where you’ve tried everything and you don’t know what to do?  Esther and the woman subject to bleeding turned to God who led them through their battle.  Naomi discovered a new life when she trusted God. What does God want to do for you, my friend?  How can you show your faith in God to those around you?  May we develop the perseverance from faith that helps us to become mature, not lacking in anything, so we can be the warriors for our Savior and put a mark on our time in history.

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 has also 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.

The Best Pathway

The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.’” Psalm 32:8 (NLT)
My perfectly-laid plans for starting a family were not working out according to schedule!  It became obvious that “becoming” a parent definitely was not the easy part!  We prayed earnestly that the Lord would give us a baby.  After about three years, it appeared that there was not going to be an answer for us.  Friends were having, not just one, but two or three babies while we were hoping for just one!  I was disappointed, to say the least.  I WAS NOT MAD AT GOD! I DID NOT TRY TO ARGUE WITH GOD!  But I was definitely disappointed.  I had to come to a point at which I was willing to be content with whatever His plan was for me.  Was this possibly one reason why God delayed answering my prayers?
I didn’t want to be “defined” by childlessness!  I didn’t want to be “the one” who was compared to Sarah, Rachel, or Hannah.  I didn’t want to be the subject of speculation about “whose fault it was” that we didn’t have a child!  I didn’t want pity.  And I didn’t want to talk about it!
Eventually, we decided to pursue adoption.  This process involved a very long wait; we were instructed not to contact the agency after we submitted all the documents and letters of recommendation; they would call us when they were ready to consider our case.  Every day, when I checked the mailbox, I hoped and prayed we would get a letter from the adoption agency—for about TWO YEARS!  Finally, we were invited to a group meeting for prospective parents.  What a great experience that was!  I finally felt comfortable in a setting with other couples who were going through the same disappointments we were, other couples with whom I felt free to talk about the experience we were all sharing.  We were absolutely not alone!!!  And since we were finally reassured that we were “on track,” we felt free to tell all of our family and friends the happy news!  Everyone was thrilled for us and amazed that we had not shared with them sooner.  When we told them we wanted to be sure we were accepted, in case we might be rejected as parents, they all laughed.  From then on, the process sped up exponentially, and, within a few months, we received into our arms, our hearts, and our lives the most beautiful baby boy we had ever seen.  Instantly, we knew that we were his parents and he was in fact our child, loved as much as if he were our own flesh.
Three years later, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl we had ever seen!  And, instantly again, I was in love with her. The prayers that we had lifted up many years before and had almost forgotten, had not been forgotten by God.  In His graciousness, He saw fit to create for us a family both by adoption and by natural birth!  What a great surprise, privilege, and blessing!
You may be struggling with the same or a similar issue. Let me encourage you by sharing some truths I discovered during this process.
  • My trust has to be in the almighty, loving, omniscient, gracious God whose sovereign will is superior to mine and is perfect.    
  • I am never alone. God has promised to be with me always.
  • God’s plans are better than my plans.
  • The time of waiting should be a time of growth, productivity, dependence on God, and gratitude.
  • If the desired answer is not part of God’s plan, that means God’s plan is STILL superior to mine and I must embrace it and anticipate experiencing what He has for me to do.
  • Not everyone has children, gets married, becomes successful, enjoys the love and support of a large family, or lives a trouble-free life. The “best pathway” for one person’s life is not the same as the “best pathway” for everyone else’s.
  • I have value because God considered me valuable enough to give His only Son to redeem me from the curse of sin and to make me His own child. He desires to use me for His glory, and that should be my own desire as well.
  • I already have more blessings in my life than I could possibly enumerate, and God’s grace is sufficient.
  • It was a mistake for me not to share my disappointments with a trusted friend who could have provided loving support during the wait.
  • Sometimes the waiting makes the ultimate answer all the more precious!
  • It is healthy and encouraging to keep busy and to continue to serve the Lord during a time of waiting.

When God answers my prayer, He does it out of His own love and grace.

Remember:
~A prayer answered differently does not equal a prayer unanswered.
~A delayed answer does not equal a prayer unanswered.
~A prayer unanswered does not equal a prayer forgotten.
Don’t be discouraged.  The same amount of time will pass whether you are sad or joyful.  What can you possibly gain by wallowing in sadness and self-pity?  Allow that time to be used for the glory of God!!!  Trust Him to guide you on the path that is best for you!
The comfort and peace which come from trusting God to guide you along the right path can be experienced only if you are TRUSTING GOD!  No one can truly know God’s plan without first being part of God’s family, through putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.  Sin separates all of us from God and His plan for us until we realize we are sinners and need to be forgiven by the One who lovingly and willingly gave His own life, shed His own blood to bring about atonement for our sins, and was raised from the dead to live forevermore.  The gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins is freely given out of the love and grace of God to everyone who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Won’t you make that decision today?
About the writer:
Diana is a former high school teacher, Sunday School teacher, and Women’s Bible Study 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.”

Christmas Traditions That Point to Jesus

Many Christian moms strive to make sure the Christmas season doesn’t get swept away in commercialism, but is truly a time of joy. What an opportunity we have to celebrate with our family the greatest miracle the world has even known!  God coming to earth as a baby named Jesus to rescue us from the curse of this world is worthy of jubilant celebration. Christian moms know this and desire this for our families, but cutting through the expectations of the season and getting to the heart of Christmas can be difficult. What’s the solution?

There is no formula. What works best for one family doesn’t create a mandate for others to do the same. Some mothers excel at and relish in Pinterest-worthy advent projects.  Others find doing simple things like reading stories that point to Jesus’ coming in the Old Testament best for their family. I humbly share a few things our family does with our young children to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps one of these strikes a chord with you or gives you an idea all your own.

  1. Our girls love playing the “Star from Afar” game. My husband and I move the star every night, and the girls wake up each morning to search for the star. Upon locating it, they move the wise men under the star as they follow it on their path to meet the new King! When my girls wake up Christmas morning the star is over the manger and they along with the wise men find the Savior!
  2. We host an annual Happy Birthday Jesus party, normally on Christmas Eve. It’s small and simple. We have a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. We sing a few Christmas songs and read the Christmas story from Luke 2. The children put on a play of the Christmas story using things we have around the house like sheets, sticks, and blankets as costumes.
  3. We snuggle on the couch and watch a YouTube video of Joy Williams song “Here with Us” set to scenes from The Nativity Story.

Children thrive on rhythms and routine. Having a few traditions in your family that clearly point to the wonder and awe of Jesus’ birth will seal in the lives of your children the miracle of Christmas. Celebrate and rejoice!

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.

Just a Little Bit More

Have you ever gone to the mall shopping for the one thing you really needed, and come back with 4-6 other things just because they were such a great deal?  Or, have you ever shopped for a new pair shoes for that special event; and returned home with more than one pair?  The other two you purchased were just “such a great deal.”  Not too long ago, I read the average American woman has over 30 pairs of shoes in her closet.  I could not believe that, and went to count mine.  Lo, and behold, I was embarrassed to confess the number was quite accurate.  (Do flipflops really count as shoes?)  How many pairs of shoes can a girl have?  Just a little bit more.

How on earth did we get this disease of discontentment?  We can go all the way back in the Old Testament to Genesis, Adam and Eve.  Eve knew they weren’t to take of the tree of life, but she did anyway, for just a little bit more knowledge.  More is a thief that robs us of every good thing and the joy we have in the present.  It can make us anxious, cause us to compare ourselves with others, and make unwise decisions.  I would venture to say it happens to all of us at one time or another.

Paul encouraged us with his words:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  Philippians 4:11

Since Paul tells us he “learned” to be content, he implies that we can overcome and learn how to be content.  We do have hope!  In his book, “Clutter-Free Christianity,” Dr. Robert Jeffress, gives us these steps to follow to learn contentment.

  1. Regularly express gratitude to God- we are all blessed in numerous ways; make a list of just a few to use daily.
  2. Recognize the Oasis Illusion – the true joy of life is the trip itself, not the illusions we have of “when I get out of college, or when I am retired.”
  3. Adapt a purpose bigger than yourself.

 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:7-8

So what is Paul really telling us in the verse above?  True contentment is gaining, and knowing Christ Jesus.  Real contentment takes discipline, surrender, and a praying heart.  May we all be bathed in His love and have contentment in Him alone.  I encourage you to count your shoes, and refrain from getting “just a little bit more.”

About the writer:

Beverly is a retired educator, mother, and grandmother, who loves sharing the insight of God with others.  She and her husband serve as Marriage Mentors and Prayer Partners at FBC Dallas.