Icy Reminder

In Texas, we have a saying. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” We laugh when we say it, but it has certainly proven true this past week. The temperatures in North Texas have gone from a wonderful, sunny high 70’s to as low as 19° at our house. Added to the low temperatures has been an ice storm which shut down schools, businesses and even some churches.

As a native Texan, I just don’t like cold weather and especially not icy yards and roads. But this week I have enjoyed seeing the postings on Facebook and the news clips on television showing families playing together. There have been photos of ice skating in the street, sledding in the park, puzzles by the fire and walks to visit friends for dinner.

This ice storm has been the North Texas version of an early white Christmas. It has given us the opportunity to see from the photos and postings something we miss in our everyday lives. We have been able to see LOVE lived out as families took advantage of being iced in and played together, then shared their photos.

LOVE given is the true meaning of Christmas. It was God’s love for us that was expressed through the birth of Jesus on that long ago day in Bethlehem. It is His love that teaches us how to love in an unconditional way. God didn’t place conditions on us when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. We don’t have to be good enough or work harder to earn His love. He gives it to us exactly as we are – no strings attached.

Perhaps we needed an ice storm to be reminded to spend more time with loved ones. Or perhaps you are not one of the families who played together this week. It could be that you don’t have a family nearby or have lost a loved one this year. Many of us struggle with the daily grind in a way that doesn’t give time for play. But that does not mean you are not loved. Jesus LOVES you! He is the gift God gave for all. It is a free gift that you don’t have to work to be good enough to receive. God has given you Jesus out of His great LOVE for you.

As we spend these next few weeks in preparation for Christmas, let’s open our hearts to God’s love in remembrance of the purpose of Christmas; that is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who made a way for us to be with God forever. He is God With Us, Immanuel!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11 NIV

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel’ which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:22-23 NIV

 To Grow Your Faith, click here.

After Thanksgiving Blahs

After Thanksgiving Blahs

“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” Jeremiah 31:25 NAS

With Thanksgiving being late in the month of November this year, there are only three weeks until Christmas. And, while others are already talking about celebrating the joy of Christmas, many women are just trying to catch a breath and recover from Thanksgiving.

In many homes, women worked tirelessly throughout the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend to provide food and fellowship for their families followed by clean-up. And if they were really brave, they participated in Black Friday shopping. Then possibly, the Christmas tree and decorations were done on Saturday. The result for many women was sheer exhaustion on the Monday morning following the holiday. But, we as women do it because we love being with family and satisfying their hunger with traditional foods. It is in our nature to nurture.

This morning as I prepared to write this week’s blog, my eyes were drawn to Jeremiah 31:25 that was written on a card on my desk. It was like a personal reminder that when we are weary, God refreshes our spirits so we can move on to the next thing. In this verse, the promise from God is to refresh everyone who languishes. Some definitions of ‘languish’ are “to be weak, to live in a state of depression with decreasing vitality and to become dispirited.”

Exhaustion can lead to “languishing” if we are not careful. December is a high depression month for many. Loss and imperfect family dynamics cause many to dread Christmas. But I also think a reason we get depressed in December is because we are so busy trying to fit everything into our schedule that we are not as consistent in Spiritual Disciplines as at other times during the year. It is so very important during the rush of the season to take care of ourselves physically and spiritually so we can remain emotionally strong throughout this month of celebration. As we write to do lists, shopping lists and fill calendars with activities, we need to remember two very important things:

  • Jesus is the reason for the celebration. Give thanks for life in Him every day. Without Him, there would be no Christmas.
  • Pray daily. Among all your lists for the month, make time for your prayer list.

God satisfies those who are weary and depressed, and He does it through our prayers and constant awareness of His presence in our lives. Rather than allowing ourselves to become dispirited, be open to His Spirit guiding us through each day that our hearts will be filled with the love and joy of Jesus. He refreshes those who are weary as we turn our hearts toward Him.

To grow your faith on understanding how God satisfies and refreshes, click here.

Seeing True Thanksgiving

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16 NIV

 

Last week I saw what it truly looks like to give thanks in all circumstances. We visited my niece in the physical rehab facility where she has been for many weeks following an extensive hospital stay. Her legs will not hold up her body and she was continuing to get weaker and weaker. The doctors finally diagnosed her with Gillian Barre Disease. It is a rare and unusual disease causing weakness and paralysis.

As we visited, I was amazed at her sweet and positive attitude. Just before we left, I prayed for her. Immediately following the Amen, she said; “Can I tell you something. The way I am able to cope with this is by being thankful. I just tell the Lord all day long how thankful I am for everything that happens, and I know this experience will simply strengthen my testimony for ministry.”

I was speechless. This is a young woman in her 30’s, married with three children. She has a busy life and certainly doesn’t have time for this illness. She lives in West Texas and was brought to a Dallas hospital, then transferred to Fort Worth closer to her Mother. She has been away from her young family for at least two months and is unable to walk. But she is thankful. What a testimony of faith to others she already has, beginning with her Aunt Virginia in that humble moment of sharing.

And I was not only speechless, but deeply humbled to realize how much complaining I have done in my life. I learned a very important lesson in seeing the scripture lived out in my sweet niece. When God said to be thankful in all circumstances, He knew it was not an impossibility. He did not give a task we would not be able to accomplish. Audrae is living proof of it.

Today I want to wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with an attitude of gratitude. May we all be thankful in all circumstances for that is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

And if you would please remember Audrae in your prayers and give thanks for her testimony of faith as God does His work of healing in her life, I know she would appreciate it. I am thankful for you. Have a blessed weekend.

Virginia

For Faith and Freedom

In 1620, the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts after a difficult voyage from England. Following a winter filled with hardships, the native Indians helped the pilgrims learn how to plant corn and produce crops. At the first harvest, in November 1621, pilgrims and native Indians joined together for a meal to give thanks for the harvest. And so, we in America have followed this tradition of our forefathers in celebration each year on the day that was designated as Thanksgiving.

But have we lost sight of what we are celebrating? Do we look at it as just another holiday when we don’t have to work? The pilgrims sacrificed lives and property in order to come to this new land to have the freedom to worship and practice their Christian faith. Thanksgiving was the day to give thanks to God for His freedom and provision. This faith was passed from generation to generation, but somewhere along the way, the Christian faith has lost national momentum.

In Second Timothy, as Paul gave thanks to God for Timothy, he was thankful for the faith of that young man. He stated it was a faith that had been passed down for two generations that Paul was aware of. This faith was lived out by Timothy’s mother and grandmother before him. Paul’s personal purpose in writing the letter to Timothy was to give him encouragement for carrying on the ministry in Paul’s absence. Apparently Timothy was timid in doing so, therefore, Paul’s words were given to empower him to overcome his fear. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1:7) He was thankful for Timothy. His prayer of thanksgiving was personal, powerful and affirming. Paul was pouring into the life of the next generation for the purpose of growing others in faith for generations to come.

As we approach our designated national day of Thanksgiving next week, let us remember the purpose of our forefathers’ arrival in this land. Let us be thankful for the sacrifice they made for a country of freedom and for our current day military serving to keep our country safe and free. Let us not forget the purpose of this holiday. And then, may we make our thanksgiving personal, giving thanks and encouragement for those close to us who need an extra boost of affirmation for their life’s work and calling of God as we pass along the faith of those who have gone before us. Pour into the next generation the faith made possible for us by the sacrifice of Jesus. Pour into the next generation the history of our country and the true meaning of Thanksgiving that the momentum of the Christian faith may be revived in America.

“Thank you O Lord for the freedom we have in Christ. Thank you for those who have gone before us as a testimony of faith and freedom. Amen”

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did,

with a clear conscience, as night and day

I constantly remember you in my prayers.”

II Timothy 1:3 NIV

Beyond the Pain

It has often been said that hurting people hurt people. Perhaps not intentionally, but it happens anyway. That is why it is so important for those in any kind of leadership to be healed from their own personal pain; so we don’t keep hurting others and so we have a testimony of healing for the purpose of giving hope to those who hurt.

As we have worked with hurting people through our ministry, it seems that most negative emotions can be traced back to unresolved past painful experiences. Those experiences may be carried over as far back as childhood. It is that pain I am addressing today, pain which has been buried and hidden for a very long time. I am addressing it, not from the standpoint of a person’s public exposure, but rather to encourage personal exposure between the one wounded and God for the purpose of healing. Because unless we allow God to expose the reason for the negative emotions to us personally, we will just keep on simmering on the inside without understanding why those emotions control our lives. We will continue to ride the merry-go-round of negativity, too afraid to jump off and too wounded to keep going – stuck in the sameness of emotions we can’t seem to shake.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my life on that merry-go-round. I would rather ride the playground swing higher and higher to a deeper relationship with my Lord Jesus knowing He is the great physician who can take away the pain. He can and will heal us as we take our pain to Him in prayer, confession and forgiveness toward the one who inflicted the pain.

The best Biblical example of this response is Joseph. Out of jealously, his brothers threw him in a pit and left him to die. Then, at the objection of one brother, they took him from the pit and sold him into slavery. He was a slave in Egypt for at least 20 years before he saw his brothers again. The story takes place from Genesis 37 to 50.

After all those years, when Joseph’s brothers  went to Egypt for famine relief and realized the one who saved them was Joseph, they threw themselves down before him and committed to be his slaves. But here is the best part of the story. “Joseph said to them, ‘don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV)

What an amazing response! Can you imagine the pain experienced by that 17 year old boy when he was abandoned by his siblings and taken away from his parents for 20 plus years? And yet, through those years, Joseph maintained his relationship with God in a way that enabled him to forgive the very ones who had hurt him. Not only did he forgive them, but from his position of power, he saved them from starvation and promised to provide for them in the future.

Joseph was a leader who did not harbor negative emotions toward those who had caused his pain, but allowed the painful circumstances of his past to be used as a testimony of the goodness of God. What a great example of response to pain inflicted upon us by others.

To Grow Your Faith,  CLICK ON Live Beyond the Pain

All of You

November has arrived with a chill in the air and turning back the clocks one hour. It feels like we have gone from one extreme to another related to seasons and weather. And while we are to be thankful each day of the year for the goodness of God, November is known as the month of Thanksgiving in America.

As I was reading my Bible this morning, the study notes reminded me that the Apostle Paul is credited with writing 13 letters (or books) of the 27 in the Bible’s New Testament. In every one of those books, with the exception of Galatians, Paul began his letter with thanksgiving to God.

In the first chapter of Romans, verse 8, Paul said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Who was Paul thanking God for – all of you!

As you begin your November, think about who is the “all of you” in your life. Who are you thankful for and why? Paul was thankful for those in Rome whose faith was so strong as to be known all over the world. Do you know anyone with a faith that strong? If so, pray for them and give thanks to God for their testimony of faith.

As I thought about this question, the names that came to my mind are Mike and Laura Fechner. Their story is truly a testimony of a faith known around the world. We have known Mike and Laura since they were 25 years old and today they have young adult children and a daughter-in-law. Mike and his sweet family are the “all of you” I am thankful for today. Please take a moment to read their amazing story in A Step of Faith and say a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

Be challenged and encouraged this week to be thankful for the “all of you” that have influenced your life and made an impact for Christ in the world.

 

To Grow Your Faith, click on All of You and print.

The Voice

There is a Monday night television show titled “The Voice”. Amateur talent sings to stay on the show through the season until the final contestant is chosen as “the voice”. I admit that I do enjoy some of the contestants and their music, but I know something many of them may not know. There is only one voice that matters, only one voice to lead the way for our lives and it is not one of the four judges on the show.

In John Chapter 10 of the Bible, Jesus told a story about sheep. He said that when the shepherd entered the gate of the sheep pen, the sheep listen to the voice and know their shepherd. The shepherd calls them by name and leads them out. They follow him because they know his voice. It is interesting that a voice is often referred to as a musical instrument, in which case, the voice of the shepherd is like music to the ears of the sheep.

There are many voices clambering for our attention today. It is difficult at times to know who or what to listen to. Whose voice are you listening to in your daily life? Is it the voice of discouragement, the voice of deceit, or some other negative voice?

Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd. Those who know Him are of His flock. Those who follow Him know His voice and it is like music to their ears. There is no competition for “the voice”. Jesus was the winner long before the television program was conceived. His voice will lead you to the work of the day. His voice will lead you to provisions for the day. Follow His voice above all others. Let Him be your guide and He will carry the burdens of your heart leading you to greener pastures of provision and safety.

You may ask, how does He speak? He speaks through the Bible which is the word of God, through prayer, by His Spirit, through circumstances and godly leaders. If the voice you are hearing does not line up with the word of God, run the other way. Follow the Good Shepherd who is Jesus.

To Grow Your Faith further, click the title  The Voice of the Shepherd

Does Wishing Make It So?

If you have ever shopped online at amazon.com or any other online shopping store, you’ve probably seen a space called the WISH List in addition to the shopping cart. The wish list is where you place the items you wish you had but for whatever reason, you are not getting today.

What is a wish? The dictionary tells us it is “a hope or desire for something”. You can wish for things present as well as in the past. I don’t know about you, but wishing for something to be so does not make it come to pass for me. And you can wish all day long, but anything you wish about the past will never be so. Wishing for something in the past is simply not realistic. We can’t change the past. But we can learn from it for today and the future.

There was a rhyme we recited as children when we saw the first star at night. It went something like this:

WishStar light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight

Obviously wishing upon a star will not make it so either. So let me ask you a question. What do you wish for? The good news is, there is a wish list you can have today.

1. WISDOM. What is wisdom? Vines Dictionary of New Testament words defines it as, “understanding, prudence, and right use of the mind.” If we think about wisdom in action as being the right use of the mind, it changes the way we think and speak. It can also change the way we ask God for wisdom. “Father, provide the thoughts for me today to use my mind in the right way for your purposes.” Make a note of this promise from God in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given.” God will give you all the wisdom you can handle and He will give it when you ask.

2. IDENTITY – We live in a modern culture where identity is often questioned and skewed. But Ephesians 2:10 is clear in telling us that we are God’s workmanship. That means we are works of art and a masterpiece to God. The next phrase says, “Created in Christ Jesus.” This is your identity. If you are a believer in Jesus, you are identified with Him as His creation. It is by faith this occurs as God pours His grace on you through Christ.

3. Security – This is a big one in your wish list I am sure. We all want to feel secure don’t we? We want to know that we are loved by our husband and family. We want to know that the bills can be paid, we want to know there is hope for the future; in fact, we want to know what the future holds for us and our family, and that the future is secure. The root of insecurity is fear. There were two verses God used to teach me not to fear but to trust Him. The first is Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” What things? The prior verses list food, drink and clothing. God gives reassurance that those things will be provided as we seek Him and live in a right relationship with Him. And then verse 34 sums it up by talking about the future. It says, don’t worry about tomorrow. Do what needs to be done today and trust God for tomorrow to give you the courage to face whatever the future holds. The second verse that made a difference in my life and helped me to overcome fear is 2 Timothy 1:7. “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind.” (self-control) If fear is not from God, what can you learn from this? Your future is secure with Him. You do not need to fear for the future, God is already there.

4. HOPE – And the last thing on our wish list that we can have today is HOPE. In proverbs 24:13-14, it tells us that wisdom is like honey to our soul. It is like something sweet and nourishing to us. Then it goes on to tell us that, “if you find it, then there will be a future and your hope will not be cut off.” That means destroyed.

Hope is the confident expectation of something good. But when we are not applying wisdom to our thinking, that hope can be destroyed. How? By believing lies about God, about ourselves, about our circumstances. These lies cause doubt and questions that weaken our faith and trust in God. And so begins a downward spiral of fear and despair. When we find ourselves in that condition, it is important to capture those negative thoughts by taking them to Christ in prayer. Lay the discouragement at His feet and trust Him to lift us up once again in hope. Ask Him to take control of our thoughts and fill us with His wisdom. Because the wisdom of God is sweetness to your soul, and you can follow it to a secure future.

Wisdom, Identity, Security, Hope – the wish list you can have today as you seek the Lord and trust Him for your future.

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Measuring Hand (not cup)

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?” Isaiah 40:12 ESV

If you have ever baked anything, you have measured water for a recipe; a cup here, a half a cup there. But I imagine you have not measured all the water in your home in the palm of your hand. Yet, we are told from Isaiah in the Bible that God has measured ALL the waters of the earth in the palm of His hand. Can you even imagine how huge that hand must be or how enormous is our God!

We have just returned from vacation on the West coast and have seen the vastness of the ocean in that one area of the earth. If I were to dip my hand in it and lift out a handful of water, it would not have left a ripple. And so, as I read this verse, I realized my concept of God’s greatness is not even close to the reality of who He really is and the magnitude of His being. It is a very humbling realization.

Because we are able to have a relationship with God through Christ Jesus, we may tend to think of Him as people size. This verse and chapter of the Bible prove otherwise. Not only has He held the waters in His hand, but He has held the dust of the earth in a basket! (Isaiah 40:12 NIV) That requires a pretty big basket and arm to hold it! But even more than the size of the basket is the strength needed to lift it. These verses prove that God really does have the whole world in His hands.

If He is that big and that strong, He has more than enough strength to pass on to you, and He does. What would seem like a powerful surge of strength to us is but a blip on God’s radar screen. What a blessing it is to be the recipient of such mighty strength and power. I am humbled, and I am speechless…

To GROW YOUR FAITH, click here, print the lesson titled “How Big is God?”

How Big is God? (a deeper look at the Measuring Hand blog)

Print Version

“Behold the LORD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him…” Isaiah 40:10a ESV

Begin by reading Isaiah 40:9-31 and answer the following questions.

1. Where were the people of Jerusalem to go and what announcement were they to shout to the cities of Judah? Verse 9

2.To stand boldly on a high public place shouting the name of the LORD takes great courage. What encouragement was given just before they were told to shout “Behold your God”? See also Isaiah 35:4

3.Read Isaiah 35:1-2. What promise was made to the people?

It is the hope given in these verses that inspires the strength and courage of God’s weak people. God is committed to His people and to the faithfulness of His promise for His return and their return. Therefore, they are to have faith without fear in what was promised. The same is true related to Isaiah 40:9. They are to ‘fear not’ as they shout to the cities, “Behold your God”. They are to speak boldly by faith without fear.

4. How can this truth be applied to your life today? See Matthew 5:14-16 for additional insight.

5. Going back to Isaiah 40, in verses 10-11 God is revealed as both powerful and gentle. How does this speak to you personally?

6. Verses 12-29 describe the greatness of God. Write down any words or phrases that give you an indication of size.

7. What are the people of the earth compared to in size? Verse 22. Again, what does this tell you about God as it relates to you? Is God big enough to take care of all the peoples of the earth? Is He big enough to take care of your needs and weaknesses?

8. The promises given in verses 29-31 are for you and me just as they were for the people of Judah at the time given. How is your strength renewed according to verse 31?

Our human weakness gives way to God’s strength as we look with expectation to Him in every aspect of our lives. Our faith grows as we trust Him with our lives without fear of the future, or fear that He cannot or will not provide for our needs.

God is so big, we cannot even begin to fathom what that really means, yet He cares for you and me as a shepherd holding his sheep to his bosom. What a mighty and majestic God we serve. Again I say, I am humbled, I am speechless…

Close your study time in prayer praising God for who He is and for the splendor of His creation.