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.

Find a Treasure

Looking for an excuse to get out of the house and walk off some of that candy you scored last week? Well, consider going on a treasure hunt. Who doesn’t love a good puzzle and treasure hunt? I can guarantee your kids do for sure. So use this as an excuse to get out there and do a geocache with your family. If you’ve never done a geocache, it’s a great way to open up some God conversation with your kids.

All over the country, people have hidden containers filled with little trinkets. They post the GPS coordinates and some clues, then hikers using a GPS unit go on a treasure hunt to find what’s hidden.

You’ll discover things like erasers, pens, key chains and other trinkets in weather proof containers hidden along trails all over the country. When you find the cache, you put a treasure in, and take one out, then sign the “I found it” log and read what others have written. We’ve cached all over the country, from Mt Rushmore to an island off the Florida keys. It’s always fun. Here is a picture of Uncle Gene and Grandma finding a cache in North Carolina.

Here are a few websites if you need some help getting started

https://www.geocaching.com/guide/
https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/gps-geocaching.html

I encourage you to try it out with your kids and use some of these questions to start conversation along the way:

  • Was finding the cache easy or difficult? – Did you feel like giving up? – Why/When?
  • Did you notice there weren’t a lot of people out here looking for the treasure? – It’s like that with God too. Why do you think not many people look for him?
  • Do you know other Christians at school?
  • Do others know you are a Christian?- Why or why not?

Here are some verses to think about too:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

Psalm 34:4-5

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Get out there, find a treasure!  The real treasure is connecting with your kid and opening real conversation about the God who is so easy to find.

Don’t Overlook this Weed

If you have ever taken a hike in a park, or just wandered through the woods, you have likely passed one of my favorite flowers. It’s not flashy, you never see them in a bouquet, but these happy little orange slipper-shaped flowers are a quiet unassuming messenger from the creator who loves you.

It’s called Jewel Weed, or Impatiens Cenesis. They grow about waist high where the shadowy woods gives way to the light of an open area. When you ask the experts why it’s called Jewel Weed you get a variety of answers.

First if you take a leaf and immerse it in water, you’ll find it turns a silver color.  A second reason it may be called Jewel Weed is that when water from rain or dew sits on the leaves the water beads up and looks like thousand shining diamonds in the sun.  But my personal favorite reason it may be called Jewel Weed is found in the best part of the plant, the way it re-seeds itself.

Jewel Weed develops long pods that contain tiny seeds, and in the fall months the seeds ripen and turn brown. When that happens, the pods become highly sensitive, and a light brushing against a ripe pod will cause it to explode and throw seeds far and wide. This is why it is sometimes called a “Touch-Me-Not”.  As a kid (and I admit still as an adult) I loved touching the pods and watching them scatter their seeds.  When your out next time, give it a try, just find a pod like you see here and put your fingers on the top and bottom.  If its ripe enough you won’t even have to squeeze!

Jewelweed flowers, ripe seed pod, exploded seed pod, ripe seed and peeled ripe seeds

Now, to the jewel.  The ripe seeds are very small and brown, but if you carefully peel back that top layer and look beneath it, you find a lovely turquois nut at the center. I’m told this is the only place the color turquois occurs in any plant.

God has packed many lessons in this little flower if we pause and take the time to think about it.

The leaves turning silver when immersed.

When we allow ourselves to be immersed in Christ, completely saturated with His Spirit, we are transformed into something priceless. God no longer sees the way we’ve messed up, or our faults, he sees Jesus. Paul says it like this

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ

Galatians 3:27

Raindrops

You may have heard it said that in every life a little rain must fall. Trying times can be a difficult thing in life, but when we follow Jesus those difficulties don’t beat us down, or make us lose heart.  Instead they can sit on our lives like the beads of water on a leaf, and when the light hits our momentary troubles, they can shine like diamonds for the glory of God. Because we know that life doesn’t end here. We rest in the confidence of something better waiting for us.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

Why?

Many of us feel like we don’t have much to offer. We view our lives like the Jewel Weed’s seeds… small….brown…. unremarkable. But God knows differently. He knows that hidden just below the surface is a beauty that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside YOU! And he wants you to brush up against the lives of others around you:

  • so they can see how  you are as valuable as silver when you are immersed in Jesus
  • so they can learn how troubles don’t defeat you but shine like diamonds in your life

And when you do engage with others around you, you will scatter the seeds of God’s Good News to a world that needs it desperately.  You will say like David:

Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.

Psalm 66:16

The next time you go past this happy little flower…. pause….. make one of the seed pods explode and let your heart remember who you are.

A Rock In Your Pocket

I don’t know about you, but in my life with Christ, I have to be taught some things over and over. My heart is slow to learn and life has taught me that when something seems too good to be true, then it usually is too good to be true.

One of my favorite hiking lessons fits into this category. Something I have to be taught over and over. Ever since I shared this lesson to a group of kids at wilderness camp one year, I repeat the exercise periodically. Maybe someday I’ll finally believe the news that’s “too good to be true”.

Try this exercise with your kids or your friends, and let your heart hear what the scripture says.

Hit the trail. Make sure you wear something with pockets or take a day pack. Tell your kids that periodically you’re going to call out “ROCK” and when you do, they’re to stop and pick up a rock that reminds them of one of one of their sins. They’ll put it into their pack or pocket, and keep it as they continue to hike along.

When making your rock selection, choose one that reminds you of a sin in your life. It might be dark in color, because your sin is dark, or perhaps it is a big rock, like your sin.

Repeat this, every 10 minutes or so. Eventually you’ll have quite a collection, and if it’s getting heavy, then that will be a better lesson in the end. After a while, find a nice place to take a break. Drink some water, have a snack and talk. Have a real conversation about what a big burden it is when we hold on to our sin and how heavy guilt can be. Use some of these suggestions to help your conversation along.

Pull out one of your rocks and share how it reminds you of your sin (no need to share every detail). You short change your kids if you try to keep up a front of perfection. They already know you’re not perfect, so if you don’t help them understand how the forgiveness of Christ sets you free from guilt, your kids only see someone who wears a false mask of purity. So share real things, and how God has helped you overcome you sin and the shame that goes with it.

Let them take a turn and share observations about how their rocks reminds them of their own sins. Conversations like this will help to teach your children the benefit of speaking the truth. They learn grace and the unconditional love that is found in Christ.

Make this point: when Christ paid the price for our sin on the cross, he took all our rocks, and his sacrifice lets us throw away the guilt. – now take those rocks and if you are somewhere that will allow, throw them as far away as possible.

Next, a lesson for you. The saddest part of the “good news” about forgiveness is how often many of us now go out, pick our rocks back up, and then go back to our life full of guilt. But hear what the heart of God says to you in His word:

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1:

The news that is too good to be true is that when Jesus throws away my sin… his arm is so much better than mine….

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us

Psalm 103:12

So take a hike, throw a rock, lay down your guilt, and believe what is too good to be true.

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.™

Take a Hike

IMG_0647

This time of year in Ohio is spectacular. The air starts to cool down, the trees start to put on their colorful clothes, and I feel the pull to get out of the house and onto the trails. I love to hit the parks, fields and other places to just get away and connect with God.

The God we serve is a very interactive God. He put his fingerprints all over creation, and calls to us to come and find Him. Everything in nature tells us about who He is, and what He's like. God knows we need the opportunity to search for him, and he promises that when we search, we will find him.

It reminds me of how kids play hide and seek. You know what I mean, they sit in the middle of the room, giggling away under a blanket. When we go looking for God, there He is in the middle of everything, plainly visible to anyone looking. That's exactly how he designed it. He wants us to see him and talk about him, especially with our kids.

I'd love for you to go with me on a couple walks, metaphorically of course. So pack up your water bottle, and grab your kids. Let's take a hike and explore what we can learn about God. Because you see, we are called to talk about Him, to discuss his principles while we do life. Deuteronomy 11:18-91 says it like this:

 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So come with me as we walk along life's road and talk about the God who loves us so much.

Over the next couple weeks we'll explore simple lessons you can learn along the trail. Things that can teach lessons to your kids and maybe you will gain some insight too.

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.