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.

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The Harlot is Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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 that 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 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, 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 and 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 Moore 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.

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.

Protection Against Discouragement

Like the atomic bomb of an army’s arsenal, I believe discouragement is one of the most Protection Against Discouragementpowerful and decimating of Satan’s weapons against us. Discouragement is often the basis on which we give up on our walk with God and on the mission He has called us to. Once we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, Satan cannot remove us from the family of God. However, if he can manage to discourage us, he can render us useless to the Kingdom of God.

Discouragement can come in many forms, but in my life, it most often comes from those around me disapproving of me, my looks, or my work. I can quickly be shot down by harshly spoken words or a condemning look. It is literally as though someone robs the strength from my body. Satan is an expert at knowing just how best to discourage and defeat us, and when we find our identity and worth in anything or anyone other than Christ, we open the door to Satan’s discouragement.

Maybe you have experienced this as well. If you have, let me encourage you that there is hope! Though Satan’s attacks are strong, we serve a much stronger God who offers us protection against discouragement. What is this protection? I’m so glad you’ve asked! It is the truth of our identity. When we understand the truth that our identity is found fully and completely in Jesus Christ and not in the approval of others, we can stand strong against discouragement.

The story of Nehemiah is an amazing picture of a man who was used mightily by the Lord because he found his identity and affirmation in the Lord and not in what others said about him. As he led in the re-building of the wall around Jerusalem, he was bombarded with rumors about his character, his motives, and his safety (Nehemiah 6). Yet, he recognized them for what they were, attacks from the enemy without a basis in truth. Nehemiah said,

“For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’ Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9

If Nehemiah had found his identity in what was being said about him, he would have jumped off that wall in order to address the rumors. The calling God had placed on his life (re-building the wall) would have never been completed, and the enemy would have had victory. However, Nehemiah faithfully remained on that wall, finding his value and calling in God alone, and recognizing the lies of Satan’s attempt to discourage him.

If you find yourself struggling with the battle of identity, being bombarded by the enemy’s discouragement, I encourage you to claim these facts as truth about who God says you are in Him:

  • You were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27)
  • You were created purposefully (Jeremiah 1:5)
  • You do not have to live in condemnation (Romans 8:1)
  • You are a co-heir with Christ Jesus, a daughter of God (Romans 8:15-17)
  • Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39)
  • Your weakness allows God’s strength to be made known (2 Corinthians 2:9)
  • You have been called to walk in the worth of Christ alone (Ephesians 4:1)

“Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9b).

About the Writer:
Kate has the privilege of serving as the Girls Ministry Director at Frist Baptist Dallas.  She has a heart for helping girls come to know and build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She is also contributor to Lifeway Girls Ministry resources. 

God’s Protection

It took me 3 years to fall for a boy.

It took him 20 seconds to break my heart.

It took my heart 5 seconds to throw up all kinds of walls that ran very deep to “protect” my heart from that pain again.

It took 3 years for me understand true protection from the Lord.

And it took the Lord moments to tear down my walls and replace them with his protection.

Where I went wrong during the above-mentioned years, was trying to protect myself. You see, I am not the girl who thinks she needs protection. However, I am the girl who hates bugs, would prefer not be in scary situations, and will scream if you scream.

So maybe I do need protection.

The truth is bugs, scary situations, and screams I can watch out for. Don’t go outside, avoid haunted houses, and be on guard for people who like to scream in your ear. That seems simple enough, but protection on God’s level is a hiding place, a safe haven, and a guard.

The Lord is my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble. Psalm 32:7

He keeps the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked. Psalm 12:7

He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Proverbs 2:8

What God taught me in those three years was that I didn’t need to protect myself. I did not need to build up walls that kept people out. I did not need to define protection as a negative. I needed to let God define protection for me. I needed to see that God’s protection is more than someone standing in front of me while I coward behind them. And even more important, God’s protection is more than a knight in shining armor riding in to save the day at the very last second.  protection image

God’s protection is a refuge, a fighter for me, a guard from those who are evil. God’s protection is the light that reveals our path, is the safety we need to follow the calling He has placed in our lives, God’s protection is the hiding place we need to run to when our hearts get broken.

God’s protection is not a negative or a sign a weakness, but rather provides the strength we need to accomplish all God has set out for us. God’s protection is a constant in our lives. When I realized that God was the one fighting for me and that all I was doing was pushing people away, I suddenly realized that I had it wrong. When true understanding came, a perspective shift took place and true protection was easy to receive.

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.

Radiance of the Father

When I was in my early 20’s I was plagued with cystic acne. Having always enjoyed pristine skin, I had no reason to anticipate these changes that accompanied my early adult years. At first I tried to cover it, then I tried to fix it, then I felt ashamed of it (taking it quite personally), and then I just endured it and avoided mirrors. Of course, I was never happy about it nor did I fail to notice the constant ache it created as the deep-seated nodules put pressure against my facial bones. Looking back, it seems so insignificant and not even worth recalling — if not for the valuable lessons God showed me during and after those uncomfortable, drawn-out years. Eventually my skin cleared up; but, surprisingly, the change did not make me any happier or more confident as a woman.

We all know that external beauty is only skin-deep; but oh how easy it is to let injuries, childbirth, deformities, cancer, physical decline, sickness and scars maime our sense of self-confidence. Praise God for His unconditional love that considers us beautiful and valuable no matter how we feel about ourselves.

When I think about the times that I feel truly radiant, I notice that it has nothing to do with my physical appearance. It is not because I am pleased with my weight, my hair, my face or my outfit. Instead, such moments of true radiance, when I know beauty, are when I gaze upon beauty — not compete with it.

Psalm 34:1-5
I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the LORD;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.

Continually celebrating and knowing the Lord as the Holy One, the Worthy One, the Magnificent One make the release from any fears or self-consciousness a gracious certainty. As pride seeks to compete for God’s glory, thankfulness and joy come to the ones who turn their eyes to Jesus. Any glory that God has reflected upon us must be turned back to Him. We decrease and He increases (John 3:30). He makes us beautiful because He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 139:14). He makes us radiant because of His glory and calling (2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 5:27). He makes us full because of His fullness (Colossians 2:9-10, John 1:16). He makes us pure because of His precious Son’s blood (1 John 2:12, Revelation 1:5). Having caught His eye, we realize that no greater admiration is equal.

Radiance of the Father

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him…

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.