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3 ways to focus and flourish this year

Goal setting is motivation to achieve great things this year, but it is important to set goals that help us receive true victory, give us margin for rest, and focus on others, not just ourselves. When we focus on these three things, we will truly flourish this year. Read more about how to set goals that will give you an undivided heart this year and receive a free goal-planning worksheet in today's post. 

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Back Porch Wednesdays: {rest}

You and I are co-heirs to our Fathers kingdom. We have been given an inheritance; an abundant life full of His mercy, grace, and love. As you scurry through your day, I ask you to lift your head from your work and soak in this gift that has been given to you. I know you are busy and your to-do list is a mile long. You are a hard worker and others are counting on you. I admire your responsibility and dedication to work. But, just as there is a time for work, there is also a time for restoration. Enter into My rest. Here, you will live completely with Me and be away from your own rest that is still full of distractions.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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7 Ways to Learn Hunger for God's Word {even if you have no appetite}

If studying the Bible feels like a drag, an “ought to,” and far from a passion, this post is for you.

I’ve been there, I come back there, I’ll probably go there again. Our flesh doesn’t believe that a soak in pure Truth can refresh more than mindless television, or inspire more than moving films.

Our flesh is foolish.

Let me guess… you enjoy Christian books, music, sermons, and Bible studies. But the Bible itself? Eh… not so much. Spiritual warfare is real. We replace God’s Word for entertaining commentaries ABOUT God’s Word. We turn what is meant to supplement into a substitute.

When I was in your shoes, (and I’ll be there again no doubt,) several things helped ignite my passion for the Bible. Maybe some of these ideas will work for you. We need Truth. Don’t give up until your stomach growls for it more than physical food!

SEVEN Ways to Become Hungry for the Word

  1. Admit to God that you have no appetite. Often. I say, “God, I haven’t been in deep Bible study in days, (or weeks/months/years/ever), and worse yet, I don’t care. I am cold to You! Help me! Make me LONG for You and Your Truth!”
  2. Use a Bible reading plan. It’s paralyzing to stare at a thick Bible, unsure where to begin. Reading plans cure that ailment. I love the method I blogged about here because it has "failure" built in. Isn't that the main reason we quit reading plans? Because we miss days and give up? Try this method instead, which let's you fall down and get back up. (Whatever you do, use a plan. You can look for whole-Bible plans, topical plans, etc. Google it.)
  3. Take notes. By writing down the insights you gain as you read scripture, you cement lessons in your mind. I keep dated notebooks from my quiet times. They eventually become sentimental reference books used for personal reflection, or for creating Sunday school lessons and talks.
  4. Read even when you don’t want to. Tell God, “Okay, You say You Satisfy. I am opening my Bible now. I am digging into this chapter and trusting that You will soften my heart and make me LOVE what I find. Help me taste and see that the Lord is good!” Don’t read so you can mark it off your to-do list. Read because you trust that through reading, God will whet your appetite for more of Him and Truth. Time and time again, God causes me to love my time in Scripture. Before long, I am praying, “God, PLEASE give me MORE time with you!”
  5. Read Psalms 119. Transcribe it. It's about loving God’s Word. I transcribed half of Psalms 119 in a Journible on our way to Uganda. Truth must have traveled up my pen and transfused itself into the veins in my arm; after Uganda, my affection for Scripture exploded. (If you don’t know what a Journible is, get ready to swoon: Click here.)
  6. Listen to the Bible. I try to listen to Scripture on my iPhone as I drive or clean. This is invariably interrupted by my girls' pulling on my leg or a phone call. I can't fully concentrate on what I hear. That's okay. This doesn’t replace reading Scripture to yourself. It serves to keep the Word on your mind. All of the interruptions will make you hungry for sit-down and dig-deep quiet time.
  7. Never use "too busy" as an excuse. Sure, you feel too busy. So do I. When the "busy" lie takes over, I pray, "God, I think I'm too busy to spend time with you. The truth is that if I really believed you satisfy, I'd drop everything and run to you. The truth is that I think I am juggling my life, when You hold it. The truth is that I think I am too important to rest, when really I am small and You are big and in control. So I can stop. The truth is that when I do choose to stop, I enjoy a million other interests that are temporal and could never satisfy like you do. Draw me to You. Satisfy me above all else! Make it impossible for me to find joy in anything more than You."

Have you ever felt unable to dig deep in God's Word? What keeps you from enjoying the Bible? What helps draw you to Scripture?

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A Confident Heart: Week 11

Y'all, I can't believe that another study has come to an end here on our little part of the Internet.  Have you enjoyed A Confident Heart as much as I have?  There are so many parts that I want to sit back down to read; especially on the days that I feel doubtful about who I am and who I was created to be.  Today, as we conclude with this book, we will be talking about The Woman I Want to Be.

Have you taken time to ask yourself that question?  Are you brave enough to go after the answer? 

I have been struggling a lot lately with who I want to be and how I will get there.  Through this time of thoughtful questioning, I can't help but think about all the stages of life I've already been through.  I've graduated from high school and college, married my best friend, joined corporate America, left corporate America, been pregnant, became a mother of twins, and now we are in the process of selling our first home.

Last weekend, when we were at the beach, there were tons of college students enjoying their spring break.  I couldn't help but stare at the packs of young people: tan, carefree, driving cute little cars with their sorority stickers proudly displayed, and think that I felt old.  I have been out of college longer than I was at college.  I don't necessarily miss being 20 years old but some days I can't help but wonder if I've made the right decisions in life.  I think I have but I'm still not the woman who I want to be.  I still have so many strongholds that I need to let go of.  I have doubts, fears, and anxious thoughts about my life.  I question if I will ever get to that place of being who I expected to be.  Or, will I daily die to self?

I'm finally at a place where I can look back at my past to help me see my future.  When I begin to question who I am, I have to remember that God has remained the same through all of these years.  He has been faithful, trustworthy, and loving.  Instead of dying to self, I have to humbly sacrifice my own selfish pursuits for living in his righteousness.  As Renee says in Chapter 11, I have to live in the promise of my inheritance as a daughter of the King.  *I have to believe that I am chosen, redeemed, loved, remembered, secure, able, and called.  In order for me to become the woman I want to be, I have to stop wanting and start living life with God being "enough" for me.  That is the only way I will find confidence through my questions.

Have you asked yourself this simple question?  Is God enough? 

Some days, that answer for me is honestly no.  I'm ashamed to admit it but it is true.  I struggle with God being enough when I see the new spring collection of shoes at Target.  It is hard for God to be enough when we spent half of our spending money on a babysitter just so we could go to the movies or out to eat at a nice restaurant.  God isn't enough when my child is bent over screaming from a sick stomach. I get frustrated at God and defiantly ask if this is as good as it gets.  I get mad about my current circumstances and want change.  I question my future, doubt my gifts, and compare myself to others.  It is hard for God to be enough when life is just down right not how I thought it would be.

But, then I remember words that are planted deep into my heart:

Trust in the Lord, with all your heart and all your mind.  Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths - Proverbs 3:5-7

I am the way, the truth, and the life. - John 14:6

If I care for the birds in the sky, you must know that I will care for you more.  I will give you everything you need. -Matthew 6:26 (my version)

Do not worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough worry of its own. - Matthew 6:34

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father - Matthew 5:16

Brushing away the grim from this life, I have to believe in these truths.  God is enough...God is enough. 

Friends, as we end this study, might we go forth believing this simple truth?  May we live life with confident hearts in Christ and know that His word is true?  Are we able to move forward and become the women that we want to be by giving all of ourselves to a relationship with Jesus?  That we open our hearts and our minds to his love, truth, and guidance?  At the beginning of this chapter, Renee shares a quote from Beth Moore: Your past has not come full circle to its complete redemption until you allow Christ to not only defuse it, but also to use it.

May God use your past to make you believe that YOU are a woman with a confident heart.

Till next time, let your light shine,

Blessings, christen

*pgs. 209-210, A Confident Heart. Swope, Renee.

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A Confident Heart: Week 10

Photo credit: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/814619/stressed-out-mom-try-changing-your-attitude-1

In the beginning of Chapter Ten, Renee shares a story about how she blew up at her husband and called him a "mule" in front of her kids.  She was running late, frazzled, and mad that she hadn't finished her notes for her upcoming speaking conference.  Her mother heard her call him a "***" and said, "And you call yourself a Christian speaker?"

Renee shares that she felt horrible the rest of the night.  Guilt and shame overcame her and she didn't feel qualified to speak at the event.  When she told the event coordinator that she needed to step down the coordinator responded, *"Renee, if you don't need this message as much as the women attending, then you are not qualified to teach it.  But because you need it as much as we do, you are qualified.  You have been appointed and you are anointed to do this."

I couldn't help but feel for Renee.  Several weeks ago, I was exactly in her boat.  I was trying to make an outfit for the girls to wear during Spring.  It was still cold outside, but I knew if I didn't finish it that weekend, I might not be able to make it in time for them to wear.  I started on Friday night and was really having fun with my new pattern.  Saturday morning I woke up and worked on the outfit while the girls were playing with Raleigh.  The instructions called for me to try a new technique and I didn't really get it at first.  It took way too much time and I began to panic that I wouldn't finish the first outfit in time to make the second one.  Sunday afternoon I spent more time trying to finish the final part of the outfit which was attaching ruffles.  My ruffler was acting funny and kept breaking my needle.  The girls were playing in the office and Raleigh was working on the computer so I kept getting distracted.  I began to be mean to my machine (whom I refer to as Lady Lock).  Lady Lock and I were just not seeing eye-to-eye on these ruffles.  After three broken needles and no ruffles, the screaming began.  Raleigh told me to calm down.  I did not want to calm down.  Anxiety filled my chest because I JUST WANTED TO FINISH THESE RUFFLES before the weekend ended.  The girls kept trying to play with me and I am ashamed to say that I ignored them.  Exasperated, I shouted out that nobody wanted me to finish this outfit and I just wanted to be left alone.  My needle broke again.  I yelled a bleep word so fast that I didn't even know I said it until I saw Raleigh's stunned look on his face.  How could I call myself a Christian and yell stuff like that in front of my children?

My doubt and shame set in.  I felt like I had not only let my husband and children down, but I also let God down.  Why did I let my frustrations get the best of me?

Some days, it is hard to follow God consistently.  Renee says:

Whether we allow others' negative attitudes to affect us, break our promises to God, fight with our husband, don't spend enough time (or any time) praying and reading the Bible, or stop going to church, we feel that way.  Or when we yell at our kids, overeat, let the stress and strain of everyday life bump God to the bottom of our priority list, hold grudges, act prideful, or do anything we think or know a Christian shouldn't do - we doubt our ability to follow God consistently.  It's one of our biggest struggles.

She goes on to tell us that, "I want you to know we all blow it, but God offers grace to cover our guilt (pgs. 186-187)."

Have you ever blown it and felt like God was ready to give up on you?  Do you sometimes doubt God's grace and patience with you?

*Remember, God is not looking for a woman who is perfect.  He is looking for a woman who wants to walk with Jesus and find her confidence through her daily dependence on Him.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

*pg. 201, A Confident Heart. Swope, Renee.

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