Thanksgiving

Each year my family sits around the table discussing for what we are thankful.  I never struggle with the answer, but I always wonder if my answer will change.  For the last three years, the thing I am most thankful for is one word . . . well maybe three words:  God is faithful. 

I am thankful for God’s faithfulness, his ever-constant presence in my life, his faithfulness despite my lack of the same.

Faithful means “loyal, consistent, steadfast.”  It also means “true to the facts or the original.”  What an amazing picture of who God is!

God is ever all of these…loyal, steadfast, true to the truth,  original, and never changing. But life has a way of making you feel like you are walking alone,  like you are the only one going through something.

It makes me think of that poem “Footprints in the Sand.”  You know the one and if not,  google it.  The situation it describes is  when we think we are alone, we are not. We need to be reminded there is only one set of footprints because God is carrying us.  I normally would call this poem “cheesy,”  (please do not be mad at me!)  Lately though, God has reminded me of this truth: when I am feeling unsure, He is sure of who I am.   When I am feeling lonely, He is there.  When I am feeling insecure, He provides security.

When I think I am alone and look to see only one set of footprints, it is because God is the one walking for us both, or better, that God in His steadfastness is always there.

God is faithful despite my lack of faithfulness.

God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:9

Our God is faithful and has called us into fellowship with His Son!  This means that in the midst of this life, I can stand on the truth God is faithful till the end and, in the meantime, He is calling me into fellowship with Christ.

In my insecurities, when I’m unsure and lonely, I am called to walk in God’s faithfulness through a relationship with His son Christ.

So, this year I am again thankful for God’s steadfast faithfulness.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days teaching 6th graders the value of math and science while also displaying the love of Christ, and her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest.

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The Calling of Gentleness

Look in the news, or on popular Christian social media accounts and blogs, or even just just down the pew.  You will find Christians who disagree on everything from politics to social issues, to the interpretation of the book of Revelation.  Sincere Christians don’t agree on everything.  What governs how we respond to other Christians when we don’t agree?  What is our primary purpose?

Ephesians 4:1-3  implores us to:

 . . . walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We are to remember that all Christians are part of one body.  Despite our differences we have one Lord.  What a precious gift!

We can’t endorse a false peace that tells the oppressed to be quiet in the name of unity, but we can work to preserve the unity of the Spirit by being gentle – gentle with the hurts of others; gentle to the friend at church that tells you they were crushed by the way someone you respect treated them; gentle to the single mom who feels condemned by the sermon on marriage; gentle to the friend who feels like their views on social issues are scorned by their fellow Christians; gentle to the spouse who disagrees with you on what living out faith looks like in your household.  Gentle looks like saying, “I see you and your hurts, and I’m going to come along side you and bear your burden with you.”  We can encourage and edify, but it’s probably most important first to empathize.  Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).  Make no mistake.  We can disagree sharply on important issues, but we should never let that disagreement distract us from the fact that we agree on the most important issue:  that we need Jesus and He is our savior. When we are gentle, we communicate our relationship with Jesus Christ and that His mercy triumphs over judgement (James 2:13).

Gentleness does the work of the Lord in relationships in a way our own bravado cannot.  Ask the Lord how you can walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness.

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.

 

His Grace is Sufficient

Do the “what ifs” sometimes overwhelm you? When you let your mind drift to any of the endless list of potential crises that could be a phone call away, do you feel unequipped to handle the grief? Do you look at someone else’s struggle and think, “I can’t even imagine” or “there is no way I can handle that”? That particular feeling struck me recently: I have two young mom friends, sisters in Christ, who have cancer. Both have two children under five. I can’t even imagine.

The possibilities of these scenarios seem crippling. And then, in steps the power of God.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.                         2 Corinthians 12:9

The picture below is of my first baby girl, Elizabeth Alane. I never got to hold her. Eric and I saw her heartbeat at seven weeks, and by nine weeks her heartbeat was no more.

His Grace is Sufficient

After my miscarriage God held me up in so many ways. One way was through the Scripture that comforted and assured me. One of the verses that brought me so much comfort was 2 Corinthians 12:9.  His grace is sufficient. 

A week and a day before we found out that the baby no longer had a heartbeat, I broke down sobbing, and I told my husband, Eric, I was scared of losing the baby. I was mess. Eric held me and comforted me, and he prayed that we would put the baby in God’s hands. If you looked at what a mess I was then, you would have thought actually losing the baby would have rendered me a useless waste. But God gave me the grace I needed in the moment I need it. After my miscarriage, I had an undeniable hope despite my loss. I didn’t know how this would work together for good (Romans 8:28). I didn’t understand God’s thoughts and plans in this (Isaiah 55:8-9). But I believed that God’s word was true.  Even though I didn’t understand how He would fulfill the promise of Scripture, I knew that he would. God was extending me the grace I needed.

His grace is sufficient. It is sufficient to meet our every need, day by day as they happen. It is also sufficient to meet our greatest need – for salvation. Let the power of God be your refuge: no matter what lies ahead, He is able to see you through it.

About the Writer:
Caroline M. 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.

Joy in Jesus!

My sweet friends, today I want to talk with you about true joy . . . not “happiness”,  not “contentment,”  not some strange giddy “feeling” . . . but real, living, deep, and soul–penetrating JOY.

Today, many of us around the world are experiencing greater prosperity than has been witnessed in recent history.  Yet with all this, there seems to be little expression and little experience of true joy.  Why is it that we can’t find any real satisfaction?  How can it be that so many of us “still haven’t found what we’re looking for?”  I believe that the answer is shockingly simple and also quite difficult for most of us to accept.

You see, sweet friends, true joy is found only in and through a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.  YES, I said it!  If you want to know true joy, you must know and submit yourself to Christ as LORD:  LORD (Heb. YAHWEH/Gk. – ego eimi – the GREAT I AM) as in GOD Himself; Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Master of your life and of your every moment!  YES friends, Jesus is Savior, Friend, Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counselor, Healer, Helper, and so much more.  But friends, the Incarnate Christ was first, and most importantly revealed to us by the angel Gabriel as JESUS, Savior (Matthew 1:21), Emanuel, GOD with us (Matthew 1:23), Eternal King (Luke 1:32-33), Son of God (Luke 1:32, 33, & 35), and Lord and Master (Luke 1:17).

In Luke 2:11, an angel of the Lord, possibly again the angel Gabriel, announced to the shepherds “there is born to you this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Gk. Kyrios – Master).  Many years later, after Christ had ascended to the Father, Peter preached the first Christian sermon in history and proclaimed to the people, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master) and Christ” (Acts 2:36).  Finally, Paul the apostle, and the first Christian Missionary, explained the truth of the Gospel in this way: “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (Gk. Kyrios – Master), and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  All of this says that Christ is Lord!

My friends, if Christ is Lord and Master, if He is GOD, and GOD with us, if He is the GREAT I AM (John 8:58), how and why do we expect Him to be less to us, and in us, than He is?  We so long to receive His blessing, His peace, His gracious presence, and YES, His JOY; and yet we remain so empty and listless (disinterested, devoid of energy and spirit), because we refuse to get still and KNOW Him as our GOD (Psalm 46:10).  Because we do not wish to have Him meddle in our daily lives, we resist reading His Word daily and spending quality time with Him each day in prayer; and the pain and loneliness we feel grows stronger day by day.

What we fail to recognize is that the One Who created us, made us for fellowship with Him.  As Blaise Pascal (the famous French mathematician and philosopher) explained, “there is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Today I have a dare for you!  I dare you to get still enough, for long enough, to hear His still small voice through daily time in His Word and in prayer.  And, I further dare you, to welcome His Word to you as it is, the sweet revelation of His perfect plan for your life, and to welcome Him, as Who He is, the God of the Universe, the Lord and Great Lover of your soul, and the true JOY GIVER!

In His presence there is fullness of JOY; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

May the Lord BLESS you and KEEP you!  May He make His face to shine upon you and give you His peace, and His JOY, until we meet again! (Numbers 6:24-25)  In JESUS’ precious, and HOLY NAME!  AMEN and AMEN!

About the Writer:
Tiffany is a cross-cultural missionary, Bible teacher, speaker, writer, and worship leader.  More than anything, she desires to be one ‘who like a tree planted by the rivers of water, brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and have whatever she does prosper’(Psalm 1:3). She is committed to abiding continually in Christ, the vine, so that she may bear much fruit in, and for Him (John 15:5).

Broken Pieces

The evening had finally arrived for me to walk across my high school gymnasium to receive my diploma. As the speakers began to reminisce over the 1985 graduating seniors, my mind was flooded by countless memories. Yet, as I sat with my classmates on that Friday evening, I could have never imagined the paths I would one day travel, nor the heartache, tragedy and loss that would occur.

Moving forward years later, instead of pondering fond memories, I would find myself at the end of a course, sobbing uncontrollably. I had blown it in the most horrific way. With my life in shambles, the mere thought of God ever wanting me again seemed unattainable. I would quickly learn, however, that God’s love for me was not dependent on me. My Shepherd came to rescue, redeem and restore. (Luke 15:3-7)

I soon came to experience firsthand that God never despises a broken person nor does He turn His back. He took the shattered pieces of my life and began to put them back together again, all for His glory. 

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:2-3)

Point to Ponder: A person never has to remain in the same shape brought on by sin he or she is in because Jesus came to redeem sinners!

At times, when an individual gets off course, the enemy will immediately whisper, “That’s it, you have out-sinned God’s ability to forgive.” Yet we must remember that God’s Word always trumps the enemy’s whispers. We must align our thinking according to God’s truth.

 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Whatever we may envision as the end, God sees a new beginning. While we may see only the pain, God sees the purpose. He will turn a trial into a blessing and a mess into a message. Although His rescue plan may include voyages we never envisioned, we can know with certainty He will never leave broken pieces unassembled. He loves us too much.

Prayer: Lord thank you for Your willingness to restore and rebuild shattered lives. Thank you for sending Jesus to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds.

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.

The Harlot is Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.

The Secret of Contentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is in the Waiting

Have you ever been in a season of hardcore waiting? I’m talking about emotions all over the place, ugly crying, digging deep into the Word to try to find some answers, kind of waiting. Just me? Ok, cool.

I know we all have different ways of dealing with stress and seasons of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not the most patient person. If you’ve ridden in the car with me at any point, you know. I’m a work in progress; it’s fine.

When I read the story of Ruth in the Bible, the major theme that jumps out at me is the word “wait”.  We read within the first few verses that Ruth’s husband has passed away, as has her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband. These deaths have left their mother-in-law, Naomi, childless and widowed.

We don’t have much of a background about Ruth; we don’t know how old she is or what her story is before now. We just pick up at the point in her life where she has just gone through a very hard loss. Being a single girl myself, I know it’s hard sometimes to do life alone. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a sassy, independent person who actually enjoys being able to go and do without having to be responsible for anyone but myself during this season, but I am also constantly reminded that I’m often alone in the going and doing.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that waiting is part of the process while God is preparing something about which we have absolutely no clue. Ruth 3:18 is a good reminder when I’m stuck in a tantrum of sorts about the hardship of the wait: “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.”

Waiting can oftentimes include grief, as in Ruth’s case with the death of her husband. It can also include a season of loneliness and heartache because we get tired of waiting for what WE think would be best. But God is always preparing us for the thing which will not only benefit us, but most importantly, glorify HIM. He exceeds Ruth’s expectations by bringing Boaz into her life when she least expects it.

Your story may look completely different in that you are not single like me, but you could be waiting on God to answer your prayers about being unable to start a family; you could be circling back with God for the tenth time this week about that dream job you would really love; or maybe you’re waiting on God to mend a relationship that to you looks broken beyond repair. My sweet sister, don’t give up hope. If God has placed a dream, desire, or request in your heart for something that would help you bring glory to Him, He WILL bring that hope to fruition. It may look different from what you had pictured, but I can promise you it will be better.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

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

 

Lost and Found

Growing up a pastor’s daughter meant many things for me during the course of my spiritual life. This meant I had the important job of riding my tricycle around the church as my Dad locked up, bedtime consisted of my Dad explaining different religions as I fell asleep, and the majority of sleepovers included drawing a timeline of Revelation. Just the normal childhood, right?

Somewhere a long the way I decided I was tired of playing by God’s rules. Other options looked more apt to meet my most pressing needs and wants. I knew God’s commands. But I decided God would understand if I just needed a break from Him for a while. I had no idea how that decision would cause me to end up further from God than I ever imagined. Through what I call “the lost years” of my life, God relentlessly pursued me and never left me.

I have learned through my years as a counselor that I’m not the only one who fears coming back to God. The shame of sin keeps many people out of church and fellowship with God. Many times we rely on what other people think about us to conclude what God must think of us. Since we are human, and only know other humans, we have the propensity to attribute human characteristics to God. We conclude things such as, “If my Christian friends didn’t accept me because of what I’m struggling with, then that must mean God won’t accept me either.”

The great news is God is unlike anyone you or I have ever known! Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s thoughts and ways are beyond our comprehension. His plan for us is big enough to include our mess-ups. God is not confined by time, place, or our decisions. His heart and desire is for us to come back to Him regardless of what we have done. We can become discouraged when we focus on our sin instead of God’s power. But the hope of the gospel is God loves to redeem people, in fact, He specializes in it!

lost and foundMy favorite story in the Bible is The Prodigal Son (Luke 15). The most powerful verse is Luke 15:22, “So he got up and came to his father. ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” When we desire to come back to the Father, God runs to embrace us. If you’re wondering if God wants you back, He does! God is not mad at you. God desperately wants a relationship with you. I never could have imagined how God could redeem my life after my “lost years”. I can say with confidence He wants to do the same in your life. Will you come back to the Father who loves you?

About the Writer:
Julia is a counselor at Meier Clinics where she specializes in treating teenagers and women struggling with eating disorders, depression, anxiety & self-harm. She is the Teaching and Creative Consultant for the Student Ministry at First Baptist Dallas and a professional youth speaker for Just Say Yes. Julia has served in student ministry alongside her husband for the past 7 years. Julia has a heart to see people experience the same freedom through Christ that she has experienced!

Gracious Justice

What is justice?

Where does it come from?

Who decides if something is just or unjust?

I remember my senior year of high school like it was 10 years ago…because it was. But I remember one night, it was late, and I was trying to get home from a band concert (please do not judge me. It was cool, I promise). I could not find my phone anywhere, I knew my parents would not be happy that I lost it and I had one more place to look…the band hall. I put my car in what I thought was reverse and hit the gas. Only to discover that what I thought was reverse was really drive. It only took seconds for this to become known. BAM!!!! I hit a pole. The front of my car was so banged up it was not funny. I found myself a little lost. You see my phone was still lost, and now I wrecked my car.justiceofgod

My parents had a moment to decide how to handle this situation. I called them from my friend’s phone and told them the story, probably through tears. That was how I operated in high school. Justice would have been for them to yell and make me drive that wrecked car for weeks till I could pay for it (and with my $10 a week it actually probably would have taken years to fix it).

Instead, my parents picked love and grace. They chose to calmly respond, and in their time, which was quite quickly, they fixed my car. When I found my phone they where happy. Life moved on.

At the time I saw this as a moment where my parents where “cool.” Now thinking about it, I see it as a moment where my parents could have found justice in making me live with the consequence of my actions and instead chose their own form of justice (which I was totally grateful for and still am learning all the moment had to teach me).

God’s justice is a lot like this moment. Truth is, I should have had to drive that car around and explain to everyone what happened. Live in my shame of wrecking a great car. The bigger truth is I deserve hell; I deserve to die for my sin. Yet God sent his son to die in my place and pay for sins he did not commit, so that one day I could spend eternity with him in heaven.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. John 3:16-19

What is the justice?

This justice is love greater than we can think through. This justice is grace that knows no ends. This justice is patience that we will never be able to give; yet God so graciously gives it to us.

I love how verse 19 puts it, “This is the verdict.” It is simple from this point on, live in the justice that God has so graciously given to us in his Son Jesus.

About the Writer:
Liz, just a girl who spends her days in seminary classes, spends her afternoons interning with First Baptist Dallas Women’s, spends her evenings with her friends laughing and challenging the definition of community to be something much deeper. If you need her you can probably find her watching Dancing with the Stars while on Pinterest, challenging the worldly norm of a 28 year old.