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.

Advertisements

A Woman Who Fears the Lord

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Recently, I was part of a group of women “of a certain age” waiting to have our pictures taken for a brochure. The Texas sun was almost directly overhead as we gathered outside, searching for the most flattering angles and backgrounds. A couple of us opted to wear our sunglasses for the photos, a technique every woman knows can erase at least 5, if not 10 years. Much to our dismay, the sunglasses were nixed and we stood bare-eyed in all our middle-aged glory, squinting and smiling for posterity. The fact that the purpose for the photo shoot was a BIBLE study brochure didn’t lessen one bit our concern with how we would appear on those glossy 5 by 7 pages. After all, God reminds us that while He looks on the heart, men (and especially women getting their pictures taken) look on the outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Hebrew word “beauty” in Proverbs 31:30 literally means “a breath, or vapor”. Just as quickly as our makeup evaporated under the hot midday sun, so fades the “beauty” of what the world considers important. Those of us who have seen more than three decades know how literally we are outwardly “wasting away”. Yet, hopefully, we are inwardly being renewed day by day…IF we are fearing the Lord instead of fearing growing older. (2 Corinthians 4:16) For, truly, this is vanity: the preoccupation with our outward appearance, which is destined to be left behind once we step into the timelessness of eternity anyway.

The gods of this world: money, prestige, power, lots of social media followers, fame, physical beauty, and looking forever young are constantly vying for our worship and calling us to “fear” them, to be in awe of the created instead of in awe of the Creator. Psalm 1:1 tells us that we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s a good idea to check from where we are allowing our hearts to be most influenced. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her devotional “Keep a Quiet Heart”: “Be cautious when the advice given makes you feel comfortable when you know you’re really wrong.” But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised”  . . .  and she “smiles at the future (v.25) . . . laugh lines and all!”

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

Noble Wife

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  Proverbs 31:10

Have you ever wished that King Lemuel would’ve just run out of ink at verse 9? Me too. On the surface, the Proverbs 31 woman seems like this perfect specimen that we, mere mortal women, are supposed to aspire to be, a goal which seems impossible.  Here’s the thing about “impossible”: God LOVES it! God is just waiting for you to allow Him the opportunity to perform the impossible in you. Now, does that mean that your kids are going to get up in the morning calling you “blessed”? That’s the impossible in them, not in you!  Herein lies the REAL challenge: you are trying to become this Noble Woman whether or not your family is trying to become the Noble Family.  I don’t know about you, but I was NOT trying to be the Noble Daughter when I was growing up (my poor mother!) so why would I set that level of expectation on someone else? Now I am trying to be worthy of God’s blessing and live the purpose He has for me. Why? Because my mother was striving to be Noble! I think she succeeded! Perfect? No way! But always striving, she set the example for me, so now it’s my turn to do that for my family. While we are striving, and seem to be getting nowhere, God is there, working things out for good the whole time, and not for just our good, but of those who see our efforts as well. So even if you’ve never considered a field and bought it, and then planted a vineyard, that doesn’t mean you won’t someday. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever known a 23-year-old that I would consider Noble, (Proverbs 31:28-31) but I do know quite a few of 50-year- old women that I would put in that category. This is all process. God spoke all creation into existence but the Bible tells us that He formed man and then placed him in the garden. He fashioned the woman and then brought her to the man. I interpret that to mean that He took His time and used His hands, focusing on the details that make a human a scientific marvel. He brought it all about then as He does now: the impossible through God is just done! So don’t fret that you haven’t achieved nobility because there is a big, fat “yet” at the end of that sentence. Keep on striving, sisters!

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Promises, Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

It’s interesting how we overlook things that are commonplace until they somehow collide with our experience.

One day, not too many years ago, I literally stumbled across this sign in a favorite shop in Savannah, Georgia. My heart was heavy, and more precisely, I was afraid. I found myself in a circumstance that threatened to overwhelm my ability to keep my emotions in check. During the daylight, I could derail the scary feelings, but at night, they would loom large in my dreams and thoughts. I knew that God was with me, that He loved me, and would give me only good things. Even if He allowed bad things to happen, I clung tightly to His promise that He would work even those for my good. (Romans 8:28) But I was still afraid. Never in my life had I known the sheer, white-hot panic that taunted my normally logical thoughts. Logic led my thoughts of the future to an even scarier place, and I prayed and cried and quoted Scripture and . . . . still the fear nibbled at the edges of my consciousness, taking larger bites of my confidence for a favorable resolution.

Meditating on Scripture, the very God-breathed Word that gives life and hope, helped to calm the biggest waves of anxiety. But still, those relentless poundings of “What if?” beat against the peace that just wouldn’t seem to stay. I sought counsel from people wiser than I, read stories about conquering impossible odds, and tried to practice everything I had encouraged others to do. I walked miles at the park, praying and begging God to deliver me from the fear that threatened my health.

Finally, in absolute desperation, I cried out loud, “Lord, what am I missing?!” “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10a NKJV) was the thought that came, straight from the Bible. “ I can be still, even if I can’t still my pounding heart or the anxious thoughts,” I told myself as I sat perfectly still. “Be not afraid,” was the next thought. (Isaiah 41:10)  – another Scripture I knew. “But HOW do I not be afraid, Lord, I don’t know how to DO it!” Joshua 1:9 began to part the mist of confusion: “for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” At last the peace came as I reached like a drowning swimmer reaching for a life preserver. When you’re drowning, you simply take the preserver and put . . . it . . . on. The presence of the preserver is designed to rescue only when the perishing person simply rests inside the buoyancy provided by the preserver. The reality that God is with me reached from my head to my heart. The anxious feelings still came, but now they were met with faith in the presence of my Heavenly Father. I floated above the waves of fear, secure in the nearness of the everlasting arms.

About the Writer:
Nan is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

Broken Promises

I have been married three times. Unfortunately, I know the deep pain of broken
promises and breaking promises. Broken vows come with devastating consequences. Some memories take years to heal, and I still occasionaly struggle with the tidal wave of grief and loss for those earthly relationships and covenants that were never created to be shattered.

God holds us accountable for our words. In Matthew 5:37, when talking about promises Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” And finally, Matthew 15:11 “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

 Jesus had much to say about words in general, but vows carry an even heavier weight. In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, there is an interesting account of the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel by creating a heart-tugging story that wasn’t true so that the people of Israel would not destroy them as they had all the neighboring tribes in their conquest to take the Promised Land the Lord had set apart for them. The Gibeonites convinced Joshua that they were foreigners and begged for peace between the two groups of people. Joshua and the leaders made an agreement with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord. Within a few days the truth was discovered, but, alas, it was too late. The treaty was binding in the eyes of the Lord, and they dared not break it lest the Lord be angry with them for breaking their word—even though the Lord’s initial command had been to destroy all the nearby cities and peoples.

 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.’ The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ Joshua 9:19-21a

 Many of us have made promises or commitments only to talk ourselves out of them by our own logic. But for anyone who has done so or even just said a careless, hurtful word, there is hope: God sent His own Son Jesus Christ to suffer greatly, die, and conquer death and sin itself to remove that sinful stain from our hearts, minds, and spirits. In the process, God also teaches us to value our words and promises, even when doing so is uncomfortable or disquieting, as it was for Joshua and the Israelites. What a gracious God we serve to give us new opportunities to follow through on our promises.

 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Isaiah 44:22-23a

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 loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

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.

Press On

Have you ever run in a race only to be frustrated to find you were not in or even near one of the top groups to finish? I can still remember participating in high school athletic track meets. The coaches thought I should be good in the shorter races, but I failed miserably and was in middle or near the last of the pack. In reflection, I cannot imagine why anyone thought I could win, as I was much less than enthusiastic about track and had never practiced, or even participated, until the last week before a competition.

Running the Righteous Life

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul reflected on the whole course of his life, which by worldly standards would have been considered to be quite a success. He was born into the right tribe, from the nation of Israel, a Pharisee (which meant he knew and followed the Jewish law), a persecutor of the church, and outwardly righteous. However, he counted all this as rubbish (Phil 3:8), as he had been practicing works-righteousness, and not faith-righteousness, which is only from God through faith in Him. Yet after his salvation experience, Paul had a totally different outlook, and encouraged the churches with his writings.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

In these verses, Paul was comparing our walk with Christ to the Greek Olympian games. He made clear that he had not “arrived” or attained the goal of being Christlike, but was still very much in the race of the Christian life. Nor has he become “perfect” or mature in his walk. He still had more spiritual heights to climb. Yet he was still actively pressing on toward Christlikeness.

I cannot count the times in my spiritual life that I have failed to meet the high standard of righteousness, and I cringe at the thought. But Paul tells us to continue on, to pursue Christlikeness with the following:

  • Enthusiasm- acting with maturity, yet vigorously and with zeal
  • Persistence- keeping on trying, pressing on daily
  • Purpose- remembering the goal, Christlikeness, because one day we will meet Him face to face
  • Concentration- forgetting the past failures that might overwhelm, or the successes that might bring complacency. Rather we are to keep looking ahead, always focusing on the prize. As Charles Stanley says, don’t waste time looking back.

My prayer is that I may never become stale in my walk with Christ, that I remain steadfast in my faith, serving Him with humility, yet with great joy and enthusiasm, remembering that one day I will be with Him for eternity. This earth is not my home; so I press on.

About the writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

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.

Watch the Lamb

Thank the Lord for my Sunday School Class (REAL Talk)! I started attending this class when my internal world was spiraling out of control because I didn’t know how to process the chaos of circumstances or others’ emotions and actions. I didn’t know how to be at peace, or the light Christ calls us to be (Philippians 2:14-15), when the relational world around me was not. Three years later, I am in a much different place; but still learning and blessed to serve with this group of ladies. All of us, to some extent, are touched by people who, for many reasons, can be difficult. Employers, family, friends, spouses, random strangers struggling through their own battles, etc.—there are many fellow hurt humans walking around perpetrating the same hurt on others.

 When I start to feel my own spiritual, emotional, mental, or even physical calm being influenced by another; I have to step back for a moment to stop myself from getting swept up in someone else’s drama, or from stoking the conflict with my own plentiful fuel. In moments like those, I like to turn on praise music and remember Scriptures as well as the tried and true biblical principles He’s taught me in the past. Oftentimes, the Holy Spirit will give me a thought in the midst of those disciplines that is so simple, yet revolutionary to my current situation. When words sting or attitudes and actions add a crushing pressure, Christ keeps shinning rays of hope through His example.

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

 Watch the LambOne of the songs on my worship playlist is the 1986 classic from Ray Boltz, “Watch the Lamb.” When I remember how much Christ suffered for those He deeply loved yet whom had no regard for Him, it enables me to feel emotionally safe, accepted and loved. Instead of feeling confused or hurt when people press in against me or don’t hear or understand my needs, I’m learning more and more to release the rights I think are universally due all humans (Philippians 1:29-30). I’m learning how to be like Christ—to be obedient and love the person in front of me, trusting that the Sovereign Lord and Great Shepherd will tend to all my bruises and tears. Any other way starts to feel foolish.

 As I focus on God’s sacrificial love, and lift others up in prayer, I trust God to change THEM. In some unexplainable way, I also experience Him changing ME. It covers my brokenness, not just theirs.

 Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil. Proverbs 16:6  

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

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 loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.