Today

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.
∼Matthew 6:33-34

Today

Today is my journey.

Today is not a race or a destination.

Today is a journey to be experienced and enjoyed.

Today is a teacher
imparting wisdom for tomorrow’s part of the journey.

Today is a disciplinarian
training me for the next leg of the journey.

Today is a cheerleader
encouraging me on through the rough sections.

Today is a photojournalist
recording the journey to help me remember
where I’ve been,
what I’ve done,
and what I’ve learned.

Today is an opportunity.

Tomorrow is full of possibilities.
Tomorrow is the hope that pushes me through today.

 

I found this little gem in my journal recently and thought it was appropriate in light of all the uncertainty in the world right now.

What journey are you on today?
Who is with you?
Who is waiting to be invited along?
What is there to enjoy today?
What is tomorrow’s possibility?
Have you been learning anything today?
Are there any special memories to be stored up?
Have you taken advantage of any opportunities today?
What hope for tomorrow is pushing you through today? Why?

 

 

 

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Visual Prayer Revisited

It seems to me that this shelter-at-home season is the perfect time to create some visual prayers. Prayer is always needed, but we may feel the need more now that our lives have been disrupted. Being forced to stay home may have also created a chunk of time that is perfect for trying something new. Why not combine the two and spend that extra time creating some visual cues for and reminders of your prayers during this season? Below are some links to the original posts and extras. Enjoy creating something beautiful. When you’re done, we would love to see what you created. You can share photos in the comments below and on Pinterest.

 

When Your Prayer Life is Stuck-Try Something Different

Visual Prayer: A Gift for God’s Fridge

Visual Prayer: Using Art to Enhance your Prayer Life

 

Visual Prayer Starters (download)

 

 

 

 

Visual Prayer Graphic (download)

 

 

 

 

Visual Prayer Samples:

 

If you want to continue studying about prayer, you can check out Project Prayer and the resources we shared during that series.

Project Prayer

Project Prayer Resources

6 S’s of Salvation

 

Summarizing the journey of faith is impossible because we are all so different. Despite those differences there is still only one way to God. (John 14:16) The 6 S’s of Salvation below show how all our different journeys share the same one way. We all begin at the same place…

 

SIN

Sin is doing what God has told us not to do (1 John 3:4) and not doing what He has told us to do (James 4:17). Doing what He told us not to do covers a litany of sins from lying to adultery to using the Lord’s name in vain. Not doing what He has told us to do can be more insidious. It is failing to honor our parents, failing to offer hospitality to others, or failing to love Him with all our hearts. Simply put: sin is disobedience to God. (Check out Defining Sin.)

Sin is the state we find ourselves in when we aren’t 100% devoted to God. Since none of us can claim to be 100% devoted 100% of the time, we all live in a state of sin. (“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23) That state of sin separates us from God.

 

SHAME

Shame is that feeling we have when we realize our sinful situation. Feeling mortified by our actions or attitudes, feeling humiliated by our situation, feeling worthless because of our choices or situation, and feeling powerless to change any of it, all bring intense shame. It is a shame sorrow that should move us to seek forgiveness from a loving God. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

 

SURRENDER

The only solution to our sin and shame situation is to surrender to Jesus – to repent of our sin. God will not force Himself on us. He waits for us to want to change and to want to be with Him. God waits patiently for each one of us to surrender our sin and shame to Him. (1 John 1:9; John 3:16-18) (For a more information, see Define Repentance.)

 

SALVATION

Once we surrender everything to God by repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus as our Savior, we enter His salvation. Laying all our sin and shame at the feet of Jesus and asking Him to be the Lord of our lives, brings forgiveness. (Romans 10:9)

 

 

SANCTIFICATION

Sanctification is the process of becoming holy (set apart) for God. Sanctification (as it refers to salvation) is a one time deal. When you ask God to forgive you and apply Jesus’ sacrifice to your sin, you are forgiven and receive salvation. You are immediately made a part of his holy people. (1 Corinthians 6:11) But salvation is just the beginning of the process of sanctification. It is through that process that we become more and more like Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23; John 17:17)

 

SERVE

Finally, the Christian is expected to serve Christ by serving one another. And not just serving one another, but doing so with love (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10; John 12:26; John 13:35)

 

ONE WAY

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  ∼John 14:6

The only way to God is through Jesus Christ. That path takes us from a place of sin and shame through surrender to salvation and sanctification and is seen through our loving service to others.

 

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

3 Important Questions for Bible Study

It is easy to get stuck in a routine without even realizing it has happened. If you have a routine that includes reading your Bible, has it become just that–routine? Don’t forget that this book is alive and each word was inspired for a reason. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself whenever you read a passage of Scripture. Asking these questions will elevate your study time from routine to challenging. Give it a try!

How does this passage apply to me?

Whenever you study God’s Word, you should ask Him to show you how it applies to your own life. That is your first (and most important) task. I challenge you to not only ask how but to do the work of appling the lessons you learn from studying God’s Word.

How can I use this passage to encourage another believer?

How can you use today’s lessons to encourage a fellow Christian. Did the passage you read today talk about the Jesus who overcame? How can you use that to encourage another believer? Was the passage about worry? Who can you share the lessons with? Take the time to widen your vision to include others.

How can I use this message to introduce someone to Jesus? And who will it be?

Finally, I challenge you to ask God to show you someone who does not know Jesus and to show you how you can share what you learned with them. Use the things you are learning to introduce others to the Jesus they don’t know.

Pray through each question!

Spend some time each day praying that God will reveal how your current study text applies to you, who you can encourage with it’s message, and who you can introduce to Jesus using what you have learned. Then, act on those discoveries.

I’m praying for you!

 

7 Tips to Improve Your Bible Study Time

Do you need some help starting a Bible study journey? Have you been on the journey for a while, but find yourself in a Bible study rut? Are you between Bible study sessions and just need some direction? Wherever you find yourself, here are 7 Tips that will help improve the time you spend in God's Word.

1. Pray

Always begin your time in prayer. Recognize the One who inspired and preserved His Word for you. Ask God to help you understand what you are about to read. Ask Him to help you have a teachable spirit so you will be able to learn and apply what you discover. Thank Him for placing His Word in your hands.

2. Read It Intentionally

Slow down and pay close attention to what you are reading. Try reading it in a version you are not familiar with. Force yourself to slow down and pay attention. Consider hand-copying what you are reading.

3. Read It Straight Through

Read the book (or passage) you are studying from start to finish. Don’t stop. Don’t look at commentaries or other study aids. Just read it.

photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash[/caption]4. Read It Again

When you read it the second time, note any interesting facts, record your personal insights, and jot down any questions you have.

Photograph by Bev Pomering5. Choose a few verses to memorize.

Concentrate on verses that summarize the theme of each passage.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplas6. Seek Answers

Now that you have read through it and written down the interesting facts, personal insights, and questions, seek more information. This is when you can look at the notes in your study Bible, commentary, or Bible study guide. A concordance and lexicon are also great tools for topic and word studies. Pastors and Bible teachers are also valuable resources. Try using resources from various theological viewpoints to challenge yourself to think about what you believe and why.

7. Read It Again

Now what you have answers to questions, and you have thought about what the passage means, read through it again to see if your understanding of the whole passage has deepened.

Tips for Memorizing Scripture

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you....
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
(Psalm 119:11, 15-16)

Knowing God's Word helps us

...when difficult times come,
...when sin threatens to overwhelm us,
...when others question our faith, and
...when we want to share with others.

I am so thankful for the ability to search for scripture on my phone, tablet, or laptop. However, sometimes we lose our phones, have dead batteries in our tablets, and leave our laptops home.

Sometimes we need a verse to use immediately, and even the delay of a minute to look it up may cause the momentary need to pass. I don't want to miss those opportunities.

We should be ready with God's Word when we need it. Although technology helps, it is not always reliable or available. The best way to keep our minds focused on God and to be prepared to use scripture is to commit it to memory.

Start small.
Choose a favorite.
Review some you already know.
Enlist a memory buddy.
Use an app.
Make it a priority.

Want some tips to help you memorize scripture? Download our Memorize Scripture graphic.

 

 

 

When We Finally Decide to Pray

Today we are honored to have my friend, Julie Shirkey, as our guest blogger. Welcome, Julie!

When We Finally Decide to Pray
About Our Problems

When do you reach the point that you fall to your knees and pray?
Is it when you are desperate and everything else has failed?
When all the wisdom from your family or friends has failed you?
When you have no where else to turn?
Is this when you finally pray?

In the book of Jonah we see a man who was disobedient to God and thought he could run from God’s sight. You see, God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn them of His upcoming judgement against their wickedness and the need for the people of Nineveh to repented. What did Jonah do instead? He ran to a boat that was going in the opposite direction from where God wanted him to go.

Did God ignore Jonah?
No, He didn’t.

Jonah faced a great storm on this boat. The crew on the boat asked why such a storm was happening and why Jonah was below deck sleeping! They inquired of Jonah and after casting lots it fell on Jonah to explain. Jonah confessed it was his fault and they should throw him, a prophet of The One True God, into the sea and the storm would end.

Wow! What did the crew do? They tried with all their might to row back to shore, but the storm was too great, the waves too high and the wind too forceful to row against them. They finally relented and threw Jonah overboard. But to everyone’s surprise, especially Jonah’s, a big fish swallowed him whole. Now I believe this not only shocked each person on board but probably Jonah the most! The crew on the boat believed this was the end of Jonah, and the storm ceased.

This might seem the end of the story,
but, alas, it is not.

What I find most fascinating is it took Jonah three days before he prayed while in the belly of this fish. Yuck! But if Jonah wasn’t praying before about where to go, which city, which boat or what direction, I’m sure it never entered his mind to pray about this fish!

How about you?
Do you pray about what you might face today?
Has it entered your mind to pray over any situation you might face?

There are many situations I have faced that I never thought to pray about. Oh, we all say those blanket prayers: for safe travels or like some like to say “for travel mercies.” Or to protect us as we go about our day, “put a hedge around it.” Keep my family safe. These prayers are all good, but when God gives you instructions, it’s best to do those instructions rather than not pray about it and run from God.

Back to Jonah…

can you imagine what might be in the belly of that fish? It’s lunch from that day, digestive fluids, darkness, and the stench? And Jonah waited three days to pray! But that’s what Jonah did. “And he said: ‘I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction. And He answered me.'” (Jonah 2:1-2 NKJV)

Do your circumstances seem like Jonah’s?
Are you in a smelly, messy, dark situation because of your disobedience?

We all have been there, don’t deny it. And some of you are there now, in the stench and mess of disobedience, in a smelly fish belly of your own. But you know what?! God heard Jonah in the belly of that fish! Wow! Isn’t that great!

God heard Jonah,
and that gives us hope that God hears us too.
Even in our mess.

How desperate are you for help? Have you hit the bottom and all you can see is a dark hole?

It doesn’t matter the mistakes you have made,
God will make a way.

What a sight we must be when we emerge from our dark hole. I can see Jonah, vomited up on the beach by this big fish, bleached white from stomach acids, seaweed dripping from his head and shoulders. He must have been quite a sight. “The waters encompassed me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5 NKJV) And yet, God still used Jonah for His purpose. God still sent Jonah to Nineveh. “Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.” (Jonah 2:6 NKJV)

When we pray, we might still be in our mess.
We might look a mess.
We might be a mess,
but when we truly pray and are obedient, we are victorious!
What is keeping you from obedience and praying?
Don’t wait until you are in a great mess to cry out to God.

 

Julie and her husband Steve reside in Jacksonville, IL. They enjoy the outdoors, working on their cars and seeking and sharing Jesus Christ through their ministry. Julie is not only a Christian author, she is also an audio technician, is self taught in the art of stained glass, and enjoys building her own furniture. Steve is an over the road truck driver who he enjoys hunting, fishing, and drag racing. (And helping Julie move her big, heavy, homemade furniture!) Their goal is to reach the world for Christ by sharing their testimonies and God’s Word. Visit julieshirkey.com/ to learn more about Julie’s ministry and to order her book, A Life in Christ: Seeking God’s Will.

Announcing:
ELIJAH is Available on Amazon

 

I am giving away a FREE copy of my new Bible study!

To be entered for the drawing simply comment below by midnight tomorrow
(4/24/19 11:59 pm CST, US addresses only, please.)
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Elijah: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another
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Elijah: Lessons on God and Godly Living from One Flawed Human to Another
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The Struggle

Him [Jesus Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

-Colossians 1:28-29

Serving God may require toil, the kind of hard work that wears us out. Doing God’s work can be a struggle because we are fighting an enemy (Satan) and overcoming obstacles.

Throughout our work for God, throughout the toil and struggle of our labor, we also know that it is God’s energy that keeps us going. He will work through us during our labor in a powerful way.

We must persist in the work of the Lord because others need to know the One who saved us and who is able to save them!

 

 

[Adapted from ELIJAH: Lessons on God and Godly Living From One Flawed Human to Another by Trisha L. Knaul.]

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2016 The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.