This year I’m Not Studying the Bible

“Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
Psalm 30:5

Like that title?  Yep, you read it right.  This year I’m not going to do devotionals or bible study.  I had planned on reading through the bible in a year but I am tired of reading through passages of scripture superficially.  I no longer want to just read my devotional each day and forget what I read after I close my bible so this year I’m going to do something a little bit different.  Each year in January we all make resolutions, choose words, make goals.  Last year my goal was to keep a bible journal for one year.  It’s one of the few resolutions I made that I actually kept and it changed the way I studied the bible. It forced me to reflect on the words I was reading.  This year I’m going to do something else and I’m asking you to join me if you like.

Late in December I was thinking about words, one word specifically, I was trying to think of a word I would use for 2015.  The holidays are always crazy and when you are a homeschooling mom trying to run a small business sometimes life feels like absolute chaos.  So, after a month of craziness I decided that it was necessary to slow down and see what God wanted for me in 2015.  After trying to think of something profound like all the other people I follow in the social media scene I decided that I would forfeit my own self righteousness and pride and just pray, read my bible, and see what the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart.  After lots of thought the word I came up with was listen, real profound right?  It’s something I’m terrible at, really good at talking, not so good at listening.  This year I’ve decided to commit my time to really listen to God and His Word.  Then last week I was listening to Janet Pope on Revive our Hearts with Nancy Leigh Demoss, find the programs here (I highly recommend listening to all three).  I was sitting in the car running errands, like a chicken with my head cut off per the usual, and I was stopped dead in my tracks by these words:

Janet: Well, if I might share this story. I want to share it in the most loving way that I possibly can. Recently, I was teaching a conference to a small group of women, a group of friends. They actually call themselves “The Bible Girls.” I’ve been speaking to them for the last three years.

On the final night of the conference, one of the girls said in front of the group, “My problem is, I’m just not disciplined.”

And I said, “Penny, can I say this to you in the most loving way? And I mean it with all my heart. What if I said to you, ‘You’re so disciplined in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. You rarely miss a day.'”

Nancy: Most of us could say that.

Janet: But you would say, “No, it’s not discipline. I’m hungry.” And so I would say to you, it’s not that you are lacking discipline. It’s that you are not hungry.

And in that moment God gave her a teachable heart, and she said, “You’re right. Thank you.” And so what we all decided as a group was that our prayer would not be “God make me disciplined,” it would be “God make me hungry. Make me so hungry for God’s Word that discipline is not the issue.” 

-Courtesy of Revive Our Hearts

That was me, not undisciplined, just not hungry.  So I decided that I was going to change that.  For the last few weeks I’ve had a verse from James running through my head.  I’m not sure why but it just kept popping into my head;

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  -James 1:22

So I read through the book of James and it resonated with my heart so deeply I decided this was it.  This was what I was going to do this year.  I’m going to let scripture permeate my life and memorize a whole book of the bible!  I’ve done chapters and verses but I have yet to do anything like this and at first It was daunting and then I broke it down.  There are one hundred and eight verses in the book of James if I started today and memorized one verse a day I could have the whole book memorized by May 5th.  Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen.  It might take longer (it probably will) but if I want to live out God’s word in my life what better way than to fill my heart with His words.  Not the voices of great christian authors (even though I like those) but the real words of the living God.  His truth.

So far I’ve memorized the first 8 verses.  It has been a challenge but a blessing.  What has worked for me is as soon as I wake up I either look up the verse on my phone or in my bible then I write it in my bible journal.  Writing things down always seems to help impress it in my mind.  Then I just repeat that verse throughout the day, alone and in context with the other verses I’ve memorized.  Whatever I’m doing whether it brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, driving around, it only takes a minute to repeat a couple words and if I don’t remember I just check my journal.  01ac071d9ca01b40f3bc9cf844d34aa22d1eee3313

This practice over the last week has really changed my heart.  Instead of just spending 10,15, or even 30 minutes in God’s word each day I am thinking about it all day.  I would love to have a group of people come alongside and memorize with me so at the bottom of this post is a downloadable .pdf with instructions and a checklist of verses.  So you can keep track of your progress.  There are two tracks on the sheet.  The fast track is one verse a day for those of us who really want to just focus on memorizing James but if you would like to continue your normal bible study routine and memorize you can do one verse every three days.  This way the memorization doesn’t interfere with your studying.  I can’t wait for you to join in this journey with me!

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Giving Tuesday

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This year in an attempt to fight the tide of mass materialism that unfortunately comes with this time of year someone had the idea to name today Giving Tuesday and use it to focus on donating our hard earned money to people and organizations who need it. After all we have Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday so why not have a day designed to make us think about what we can give instead of what we can get. I personally think it’s brilliant.

To help you in your search for credible organizations you can donate to I’ve made a list to make it easy! Now I realize there are a lot of us who won’t be able to make a large donation today. I’ve been there, behind on the bills, not knowing where your next check will come from, $800 overdrawn, little bitty mouths to feed, no savings, and it feels like your suffocating. But something I’ve learned in the lean moments of life is that even if I have nothing financially to give there are almost always other ways to give. Giving doesn’t necessarily have to be money. It can be so much more. As Americans we almost always give out of our abundance. Which isn’t bad. God has blessed us so much. But we shouldn’t only give when we have. Sometimes like the Widow in Luke 21 we give out of our poverty. We give when we feel like we don’t have anything to give because that’s how Jesus gave. When our schedules are full and we have no extra time but we give it anyway. When we just bought something we really wanted and we see someone who actually needs it. When we are depressed, grieving, heart broken and encourage others even when we feel broken and weary. This, sacrificial giving, this is what true giving is.

So even if you can’t give money to one of the organizations on this list give something today.

“Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
-Matthew 25:40b

Organizations:

Samaritans Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/donation-items/where-most-needed/

Show Hope
http://showhope.org/give-hope/donate/#donate

Bible League International
http://www.bibleleague.org/

Women’s Rights without Frontiers
http://www.womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org/

Compassion International
http://www.compassion.com/

Voice of the Martyrs
https://secure.persecution.com/projects_feature.aspx?categoryID=72&source=WEB

Upendo Home Kenya
igg.me/at/upendohomekenya

EKUBO Ministries
http://compassinmyheart.blogspot.com/

Businesses Where Your Purchase Gives:

Noonday Collection
http://www.noondaycollection.com/

Beautiful and Beloved
http://www.beautifulandbeloved.com/

Project Hazina
http://www.projecthazina.com/

Go Shout Love
http://www.goshoutlove.com/

She Does Justice
http://www.shedoesjustice.com/

Better Life Bags
http://www.betterlifebags.com/

And of course us! 50% of each purchase goes to the ministry listed here!

Abiding Day 16

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I was struck by the truth yesterday that abiding in love is abiding in God because God is love.  So I wish I would have thought of this earlier in the month but there will be days (like today) that I simply have a verse.  Something to meditate on because meditating on God’s truth is part of daily abiding.

Today’s verse is from 1 Peter.

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren,
fervently love one another from the heart.”
1 Peter 1:22

So spend some time with your Savior today.  Dig deep into scripture and find out what it means to purify your soul and be obedient to the truth.

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Love and Fear

Last week I wrote that this 31 day challenge was harder than I thought.  I never imagined just writing once a day for 31 days could be so difficult.  It has stretched me in a lot of ways and the last four days have been especially difficult. I spent a wonderful weekend out of state with my family and unfortunately got sick.  I’m just beginning to get over it and with quite a few orders and homeschooling I’ve been swamped to say the least.  I made the decision when starting this small business that my family would always be my first priority.  This week has tested that and I’ve tried to focus on getting well and taking care of things on the home front.  But that has meant the blog was pushed aside for a few days.  So, here I am again attempting to finish well.

For the last few weeks Ebola has been in the headlines.  The news today of the latest patient, a nurse, has really hit home because where she traveled in Ohio was not to far from my family.  A virus can be a terrifying thing.  It isn’t something we can cure or control.  It’s easy to let the fear immobilize us.  So today I chose to focus on truth.  The truth that we serve a Heavenly Father who cares for us.  That He is in control of all things and this did not take Him by surprise.  He loves my family more than I do and I can trust Him with not only my life but also my husband’s and the lives of our children.  He is good in every circumstance and He has a plan.

When I meditate on what is true it helps put that fear into perspective.  This month my focus is on abiding in love.  1 John 4 talks about abiding, love, and fear.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another,
God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us,
because He has given us of His Spirit.

14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God,
God abides in him, and he in God.

16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.
God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment;
because as He is, so also are we in this world.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

1 John 4:11-18

We have nothing to fear.  We are His and He “abides” in us.  The very thought of this gives me chills.  The God of the universe abides in me.  And I do not have to be afraid.  Instead of focusing on the fear of this so called “oubreak” maybe we should focus on what this means for us as believers who abide with the Heavenly Father, because abiding in love means abiding with Him.

As believers this virus should be a wake up call for us.  No one lives forever and all being diagnosed with a terminal illness does is take away the illusion that we control our lives, we don’t, no one does.  Eventually everyone will die and face judgement.  Thankfully as believers we can have “confidence in the day of judgement.”  There are many others however who don’t have that confidence.  In light of this epidemic I pray that we would not cower in fear but instead stand up as witnesses of real love and hope because we were sent to “testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”  Through Him they can have confidence.  There is no more noble or loving thing to do for someone than to show them a means to salvation.

So don’t be afraid any longer.  I believe fear is a tool of our enemy.  Instead be reminded of what the Lord told Joshua, 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

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Love in the Church

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John‬ ‭13‬:‭34-35‬

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Jesus said that people we know the church by their love for one another. Over the last several days I’ve talked about how real love is supernatural. That only through God, who IS love, is it possible to love deeply and unconditionally. You would think because He is love His church would be marked by love. People should notice a stark difference between the church and the rest of the world. We have the power to love like no one else and the world should be amazed by the way we live one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This however is not the reality in the church I see today, at least not the American church. There is so much materialism, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, self-righteousness, pride, insecurity, hypocrisy, and numerous other sinful behaviors that lead us to either leave the church altogether or end up divided into cliques of people that look very similar to much of our culture. Today while listening to one of my favorite podcast (In the Market with Janet Parshall) I was struck by this quote.

“And what’s powerful about this is the kind of love we are talking about is not the kind of love you share with people who are just like you. Sometimes people want to say ‘hey, I get together with my friends and we have a good time. We talk about spiritual things and that’s my church.” I love the way one theologian put it. He said basically ‘If you are just loving people who are like you that’s nothing more than self love spread over a slightly wider area.’ Now what’s supernatural is when you begin to love people from different class backgrounds, racial backgrounds, people who are coming out of different lifestyles, when people who otherwise have nothing in common except for Christ are loving each other deeply.”

 

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This is harder than I thought…

So it’s day 9 of the #write31days journey and I’m beginning to rethink my decision to join.  Wow, is it hard to write on a single topic for 31 days.  I spent two hours today writing a beautiful post and then realized while making dinner for my family that I was not ready to post it.  It may pop up on the blog later but today was not that day so for the last half hour I’ve been racking my brain for what to write on abiding in love.  I decided I’d be honest. I’m not even halfway through and I’m struggling.  Not just to post but even to think of ways to show people love every day.  It’s really hard.  Part of the reason I decided to do this was because I knew I wasn’t good at it.  I knew it would be hard to do.  So far planning meals for the month is easy peasy loving on people however… not so much.  It’s sad when the most important things we are commanded to do as Christians, Jesus called them the greatest commandments, to love the father with all your heart and to love others more than yourself (Matt. 22:36-40), seem nearly impossible to accomplish.

I believe that honesty and transparency amazing ways to love someone.  To be honest for their good.  C.S. Lewis said “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved persons ultimate good.”  When we are transparent with people not only about their lives but about our own it makes them feel comfortable to be honest with us.  It creates a relationship where both parties feel safe to be themselves and fosters opportunities to grow.  So this is me trying to be open with you.  I’ve said before love is hard but by God’s grace I can be better.  I hope you continue to walk with me through the rest of October I hope we can grow together.

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Keeping it Simple

I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what to write today so when I was considering a topic I thought to myself  “It’s going to be short and sweet.”  Love can be a deep and complex topic.  It can be super complicated to love someone.  In fact people refer to their relationships as “complicated” quite frequently.  Love is not always simple, but it can be.  We don’t always have to make grand gestures to show people we love them.  Loving someone can be as simple as praying for them.  It can mean forgiving someone who really doesn’t deserve it, spending time with a friend, or just listening.  There don’t have to be gifts or sonnets and the best part is when we simplify love it makes it easier for us to show love.

So today don’t try to think of hard ways to give love.  Think of simple, straightforward, tangible things you can do.  This way, today, we can show more than just one person that they are loved.

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Grace in Love

So yesterday I did not post. I failed the challenge. I didn’t forget. I had one of those “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” kind of day. You know the kind of day that nothing seems to go the way you plan. Pretty much everything went wrong most of the day and when I finally had a chance to sit and write a post which was at about 11:15 last night I decided to sleep instead. It’s amazing though, because while on the surface the day appeared bad God broke through, as He usually does, and revealed His boundless grace.

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I try to keep my feed positive and mostly work related but today has been a battle. Homeschooling was ridiculous this morning and I experienced possibly one of the worst grocery shopping trips of my life this afternoon… After changing back into sweatpants when I got home (I had basically given up at this point) I went to pour myself coffee and noticed my mug from the lovely @pnzdesigns . Grace, that was exactly what I needed. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9‬ ESV) #grace #HisGraceIsSufficient #bestmugever

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I was reminded yesterday, in the midst of everything, on my fifth cup of coffee, of grace. The definition of grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.” (Oxford Dictionaries, Bing) I remembered how short I had been with my daughter when we were doing her school that morning. I thought about how I had pushed and pushed when I was trying to get things done that afternoon and how defeated and angry I had been at the grocery store. My poor kids. I had been complaining and storing up these self-centered emotions completely absorbed with what was happening to me.

In those moments God reminded me of my weakness. This month I am writing on love and yesterday I neglected to show love to the little people that mean the most to me. I wasn’t hateful but I definitely wasn’t loving. I forgot about grace. I forgot that as a parent my kids see Christ in me. I’m shaping their view of love! One of the most beautiful aspects of God’s love is that it is undeserved. It doesn’t matter what my kids did yesterday. Showing God’s love in the midst of disobedience is so important. I wasn’t calm by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t think through my words and my actions. I was controlled by my circumstances and not by the Spirit. In my brokenness God always shows me grace and I was unwilling to do that with my children.

I love 2 Corinthians 2:9:

“But He said to me,
‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.’
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I’m incredibly thankful that God can use my weakness for His glory. Today if I can encourage you in anything show grace. People need to know that our love is not contingent on the things they do. We are Christ followers and that means by His grace we can love like no one else and through that love we can lead others into a relationship that will literally change their lives forever.

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Resting in Love

Sundays are typically a day to recover from the week for our family. Monday through Saturday can sometimes seem a like a endless struggle. We are constantly going, trying to be better, do more, and get just a little more out of our frazzled schedules. But Sundays, they are our days of sweet rest. We normally have the kids rest in their rooms for an hour or two so my husband and I have time to reconnect and normally veg out on the couch me with my coffee and he with his tea. I can’t tell you how much I need Sundays. After a week of homeschooling , running a small business, and trying to keep my house together they are a necessity. There is nothing like just laying on the couch in my husbands arms resting. The last few days I’ve talked about how to love others. Yesterday I touched on the fact that we can’t love like Jesus unless we know Him. Without experiencing the deep, rich, boundless love of Jesus we can’t hope to even begin to share that love with others.

Today I want to urge you if you don’t know what it is to be loved unconditionally, to be loved just as you are, to look to Jesus. And if you’ve already accepted His grace and mercy to rest in His love. After all “we love because He first Loved us” (1 John 4:19)

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Learning How to Love

Love is something we so often take for granted. Something most of us assume comes naturally, and sometimes it does, but more often than not love is not our natural reaction. Is it natural to wake up in the morning and immediately think of someone else? Is it natural to show kindness to someone who insults you, or worse, your family? No, love is not natural. In fact it is contrary to our nature.

My natural reaction when someone hurts me is to make him or her feel the way he or she made me feel. To hurt him or her as deeply as they have hurt me and to let as many people know as possible what a jerk that person is. But God doesn’t command us to do what is natural. He commands us to Love.

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So the question is, how has He loved us? Well, according to John 3:16 He loved the world so much He gave the life of his only son. He came into a world that hates Him and willingly gave Himself up. Died for a people that weren’t only indifferent toward Him, it wasn’t just like they didn’t care or didn’t notice Him, they mocked Him and spit on Him, they beat Him, and ultimately murdered Him. After all this as He hung on the cross dying He said “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Say what? Forgive them? Really, why? Because God IS love. Love isn’t just something He does it’s who He is.

As a believer I am supposed to be an imitator of Christ and when it comes to love that is a tall order. I have a hard enough time loving my kids and my husband like I’m supposed to and when I think of showing love to other people it seems like too much sometimes. Intentionally showing love means going out of our way for the good of someone else. It means doing something for someone or being there for someone even if the kids are screaming and you just want to take them home and have naps. It means being generous even when you can barely pay the bills. It means reserving precious time that could be spent doing something “productive” to just sit and listen with someone who needs to talk.

Love is something that has to be learned. One of my favorite new bands is Colony House. A couple years ago I got one of their first ep’s. On it (and on their new album “When I was younger”) is a song called “Learning how to love.” I resonated so much with it because it talks about how unnatural love is. We spend the majority of our childhood learning. We are forced to learn reading, writing, math, science, history, and geography. But how many of us are taught how to love. Some of us have never even seen real love acted out. We expect people to love us when we don’t fully understand how to love them.

The best way to learn something is to practice. Normally no one is good at something immediately. Practicing love habitually is the best way to become loving. If you do something enough it can become second nature. Love is no exception.

We also have to realize that in our own power loving someone like Christ loved us is impossible.   We will never be able to do it on our own. We need Him, because He is love.

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