Return of the Ring

 Once there was a 12-year old girl who had a cute freckled-faced, redheaded boyfriend. He delivered newspapers and she twirled a baton. Each day as he delivered the paper to her house, she would be in the yard twirling. They would talk for a while every day.

One day, he gave her a ring. She didn’t recognize the ring for what it was. It was a high school senior ring. All she knew was the 12-year old boy liked her enough to give her a ring. She couldn’t wait to show it to her girlfriends the next day.

The problem was, she had two brothers who were in high school. One saw the ring and looked closely at it to see the initials of the owner. Not only did he know who it belonged to, but the owner played football with the other brother. So, he told her Daddy. He called the owner who came to pick up the ring. The girl was shy and embarrassed and hiding in her room, but her Daddy told her to go and give the ring back herself.

With her head hanging and her face red, she walked into the room, but what she saw on the young ring owner’s face was not anger. She saw compassion. As she handed him the ring, he reached in his back pocket, took out his wallet and handed her a $20 bill. That high school senior bought back something that already belonged to him… something that had been stolen.

That young girl was me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized God had given me a beautiful real-life picture of what redemption looks like. The innocence of humanity that was stolen in the Garden of Eden has been bought back through Jesus. He is our Redeemer and paid the price in order to buy us back for God.

How could I know then the value of what God was teaching in those moments in a 12-year old life. What a great hope we have in our Savior who knows all things and uses the situations in life to remind us of His great love, mercy and grace. In His compassion, He paid the price for our sin that we can be drawn into the presence of God as clean as Adam and Eve before sin entered in.

That’s what took place on what we now call, Good Friday. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross to pay the price once for all to redeem us. Then, on Easter morning, He arose! Praise the Lord, Christ arose!

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NIV

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

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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

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.