66 in 52 Challenge

4 Tips for Reading and Reflecting on God’s Word in 2018

I admit that sometimes I pick up the Bible and get completely overwhelmed. I know, and have experience in my life, that turning to Scripture for wisdom and reflecting on it is helpful, but where do you begin?!?

Here are four things that help me read and/or reflect on Scripture.

1. Find something that works for you!
For some people, they read chapters and chapters at a time. Other people like to sit and reflect on one verse and go deeper. Some people journal, others reflect artistically, musically, or in prayer. Some people use devotions to guide them, while others stick just to God’s Word. We all use different translations of the Bible or even listen to it as an audio book. You might be a morning person or like to read before bed.

I feel like there is a place for all of these things and variety is good. But above all, find something you’ll actually do. The method isn’t what’s important, it’s DOING it!

2. Use some kind of plan!
There are plenty of times when I go to God’s Word because I need some specific encouragement or wisdom for a situation I’m going through. However, what I’ve found is that if that’s all I do, I can get so focused on what I’m dealing with that it leaves little room for God to speak truth about other areas of my life. By finding some kind of system, whether it’s going through a book of the Bible, using a Bible or devotion app, or reading a devotional, having some kind of plan not only helps me get into a habit of connecting with God in this way, but also can open my eyes to Scriptures maybe I’ve never considered before.

3. Share what you learn and apply it in your life!
God calls us to be “doers” of the Word, not just readers. One of the best ways I’ve found to live out what I’m learning is to reflect on it and share it with others. When I tell a friend what God’s been showing me, it adds a level of accountability, excitement, and desire to let the Word impact my every day lives.

4. Connect with God while you read.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Pastor Mike Glenn who often says:
Rarely do we have the privilege of opening a book in the presence of the author. Every time we open Scripture, we have that privilege.”
We don’t have to GUESS what God means by something, we can ask Him to help us. A couple of my favorite short prayers to use before I start reading are:

  • “Father, open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in Your Word today. Amen” (based on Psalm 119:18)
  • “Holy Spirit, bring light to my heart that I can understand the confident hope you have given to us in Your Word. Amen.” (based on Ephesians 1:16-20)
  • “Jesus open my mind to understand the Scripture I read today. Amen” (based on Luke 24:45)

And here are a few for after you read:

  • “Father, make me like a tree planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Amen.” (Based on Psalm 1:3)
  • “Jesus, help me use Your Word as a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Amen.” (Based on Psalm 119:105)
  • “Holy Spirit, help me not only hear Your Word today, but to be a doer also. Amen.” (Based on James 1:22)

 

What has helped you read or reflect on God’s Word? Share in the comments below!

Bekah's Heart

A Blessing for New Year

Author Greg Finke from Dwelling 1:14 recently shared this blessing and I’m praying it over all of us in this new year!

“Remember, you do not need to be afraid. You are not going for Jesus but with Jesus. He is Immanuel… the “with us” God.. and He’s got this thing called 2018.
So, enjoy your new year of adventuring with Jesus… in the name of the Father who has been pleased to give you His Kingdom, in the name of the Son who has risen from the dead and even now is on the loose in your community, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who has given you eyes to see and a heart to respond to the people placed around you. Amen!” ~ Greg Finke

Blessings to you!

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66 in 52 Challenge

Genesis Intro – Week 1 {66 in 52 Challenge}

This is part of the 66 in 52 Bible Journaling Challenge. Over the course of the 52 weeks in 2018, I plan to focus in on one verse from each book of the Bible with many others who have signed up to join me. Each week I will be posting a summary page with some thought about that week’s book(s) of the Bible along with some links that may help our reflection. Click here to sign up if you want to join us at any point along the journey!

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Week 1 - Genesis

The Book in One Sentence:

“The story of God and humanity is about creation, fall, and redemption.” – From NewSpringChurch’s “Everything You Need to Know About Genesis” Post

The Big Picture:

Genesis means “beginning, birth, or origin”. It is a book of beginnings and seems appropriate to start a new year here.  We see not only the start of the world in this book, but also the start of a nation of God’s people, and ultimately the beginning of God’s work to redeem the world. Genesis is a crucial piece of the puzzle when understanding the rest of Scripture. In it we see the beginnings of humanity, marriage and family, brokenness, shame, and more. The Concordia Study bible says it well commenting:

“[Genesis] introduces us to the way in which God initiates and makes covenants with His chosen people, pledging His love and faithfulness to them and calling them to promise theirs to him.”

Some Key Events/Themes in Genesis:

  • Creation of the World (1-2)
  • Sin enters the picture (3)
  • The Flood covers the earth (6)
  • The Tower of Babel/spread of nations (11)
  • The Life of Abraham (11-25)
  • Jacob and Isaac (25-36)
  • The Life of Joseph (37-50)

A Few Key Verses and Possible Reflection Questions/Prayers:

Some of us are planning to read through the whole book each week, while others are just focusing in on one verse. This section of the weekly intro post might help you narrow down a verse to reflect on for the week, but you do not have to choose one of these verses, pick any section of Genesis you want! These are just some ideas.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
    Jesus, what do you want to create new in me this year?
  • Genesis 1:27 –So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
    What does it mean to you to be created in God’s image?
    How might you be able to reflect God’s image in the world this week?
  • Genesis 16:13 – “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'”
    What are your reactions to this name for God: “the God who sees me”?
  • Genesis 50:20 –You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.
    Where have you seen God turn a bad situation for good?
    Where do you need God to bring good out of a bad situation right now?

God’s Grace in Genesis:

All the way back to the very beginning, God’s grace is present in the way God created the world in all it’s abundance, and gave us, humankind, freewill. But God’s grace didn’t stop when we chose rebellion and were deceived toward evil.  No, our gracious God went pursuing Adam and Eve calling out “Where are you?”. He sought them out and offered grace, providing clothes to cover the shame they experienced, sacrificing an animal instead of them. He promised that one day He would come and crush the deceptive serpent, reminding them that it will often look like Satan has won in this life, but it’s not true! I’ve read the end of the story: God wins! One of the biggest pictures of God’s grace in Genesis at first glance looks like punishment… banishing Adam and Eve from the garden. But really He was protecting them. If they would eat from the Tree of Life after eating from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would “live” forever separate from Him. But if He could keep them from that tree until He could enact His salvation plan, He knew there would come a day that they, and we, would be able to freely enjoy again the Tree of Life forever. As you journal in Genesis, watch for God’s grace… it’s EVERYWHERE!

Some Other Resources:

The Challenge:

So now it’s your turn! Pick a verse from Genesis and settle in this week, or read through the whole book. Either way, I’m excited to have you join me as we start this new year in the book of beginnings! If you post any picture or blogs on social media, tag them with #66in52challenge so we can all share in this journey together!

Bekah's Heart

‭17 Lessons from 2017

As I skimmed back through my journal from 2017, I started making a list of common themes and lessons God taught me. Some of these lessons I’ve had to learn again and again and some of them were new or went deeper this year. As I look forward to a new year, I can’t wait to see all the things God teaches me in the year ahead! Post in the comments something you learned in 2017.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. Focus on what you DO know.
There are a lot of uncertainties in life, centering my attention on them just gets overwhelming, but dwelling on what is true and re-centering my attention on the things I do know, especially about God, keeps me going.
  • “He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” – John‬ ‭9:25‬‬
  • “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬‬
2. Wait Well!
It’s so funny that this has been one of my prayers these past few weeks and as I look back through my journal of this year it was one of my prayers all the way back in January in a completely different context.
  • “Waiting is inevitable… waiting with hope and courage is optional.” – Renee Swope
  • “Waiting well looks forward to the future while staying present in the present. Waiting well means I remain open to God and allow Him to move me toward the future He has planned, in His time. … Waiting well teaches us to trust His delays rather than doubt His ways.” – Wendy Pope (in Wait and See)
  • “The wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.” – Wendy Pope
  • “Take courage my soul… He’s in the Waiting” – song by Bethel Music
  • “Her wait didn’t end because she prayed, but her resolve strengthened, helping her to face each day.” – Wendy Pope
3. Put your whole effort into what you’re doing.
  • “Go where you are sent. Stay where you are put. Give what you’ve got until He moves you on. All the way home.” – Jill Briscoe
  • This quote I heard back in February has come up many times as an encouragement to keep moving forward even when I didn’t see results or aren’t sure why I was in a situation. It was encouragement to finish the year strong with my foreign exchange daughter. It pushed me through to see some ministry related prayers that have been 6-7 years in the making finally come to fruition. It is so easy to give up too quick or just move on. God has reminded me many times to stay put and trust that He will make it clear when my attention can shift elsewhere.
4. “This I know: God is for me!” – Psalm 56:9
Not much explanation needed here. I’m thinking I might need to write this somewhere to see it every day in 2018. What a great reminder and so much easier to face each day with joy and courage and excitement when this truth is ingrained in my brain!
2017-12-30 12.14.055. Be light.
  • During the season of Lent, I kept a journal page of all the hard, hurtful, painful, sinful, overwhelming, and evil things I saw around me (or in me) each day. Rather than being overwhelming me, it led me convincingly to two conclusions: we need a savior, and I need to be light. This world is so dark. Because of Jesus in me, I can do my part to shine a little bit of His light in the midst of all the darkness.
6. “To not take rest stops on the journey is dangerous.” – Pastor Chuck
In a lot of different ways God called me back to celebrating Sabbath rest and seeking rest for my soul this year. Reminding me that it is one of my greatest needs in life. I need a day each week to, as Ann Voskamp put it, “step away from the things that just won’t step away from us.” … a day to remember who I am after six days of the world telling me who I should be.
  • “… enjoy the trees…” – Judah Smith “[Genesis 2:8-9 tell us] the original home of the soul had great looking trees and awesome food. That gives us a little perspective doesn’t it? Maybe what we are here for is not to be so important, successful, awesome, and busy that we don’t even have time to eat. Let’s enjoy God and his creation. … take time to laugh about life and consider the goodness of God. … enjoy the trees!”
  • Get this straight: the rest of God, the rest God gladly gives so that we may discover the part of God we’re missing–is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done. It’s sheer gift. It’s a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack dab in the middle of them without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.” – Mark Buchanan
  • “Sometimes it is an act of obedience to just sit and receive what Jesus has already done for us.” – Christy Nockels
7. Emotions aren’t bad.
It seems like this is something God re-teaches me every year. This year, some great reminders came from the book “The Cry of the Soul” by Allender and Longman
  • “If we view difficult emotions as problems to be solved, we end up looking for answers that will work rather than pursuing our relationship with God. … Encounter with God not only changes our emotions; more importantly, it has the potential to change our hearts.”
  • “Emotions are like the messengers from the front lines of the battle zone. Our tendency is to kill the messenger. But if we listen carefully we will learn how to fight the war successfully.”
  • “Wrestle with doubt until it gives way to the first rays of hope.”
  • “Rather than focusing on trying to change our emotions, we are wiser first to listen to them.”
8. Cultivate Clarity
This learning centered around relationships of all kinds… dating relationships, teammates, family, etc. Rather than trying to define things or set things straight or force answers, I’m learning to cultivate clarity… motivating people in ways that show you respect them and offer them a chance to lead toward a healthier, more clearly defined relationship. Relationships take two people and if I try to define and manage it from just my perspective, or allow them to do it solely from their own, someone will be disappointed. But if we can work together to cultivate an environment where clarity about expectations and desires happens, we both win and there is less chance of hurting each other.
9. Take some risks. It won’t be perfect but it will be good.
There were a few situations this year where God challenges me to step out and take some risks, to go beyond my comfort zone without any promise of success or a favorable outcome. Some of those situations turned out great; others were less than perfect. However, because I took them with my eyes centered on Jesus, they all turned out good because God is good. (And I’m thankful that God is able to redeem even the downright mistakes I made when he WASN’T calling me to take a risk).
10. Give people grace! (This includes you!)
We all get a lot of law in our lives … all of us could use a little more grace. Grace is constantly needed in relationships, because relationships are made between two imperfect people. Grace for the other person… Grace for yourself… grace to take risks because risk is a necessary part of love. We see that all the way back in creation when God risked giving us free will so that we could freely love Him.
11. “I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King…” – Broken Things by Matthew West
Wow more than any other year I think so far, God has humbled me with an awareness of how sinful and broken I really am. Thankfully he follows that up with an abundance of His grace reminding me, I may just be a beggar in the presence of a King, but that King loves me with a faithful love and joyfully invites me to feast as His table! Also, God loves to use us beggars to welcome others in.
  • “More and more I believe when we hear ‘not enough’ (from Satan), God is screaming: ‘You are EXACTLY the right one and I am ready to do mighty things through you!” – Michael Harvey

12. Refuse to Gossip

God has shown me again and again this year that gossip never helps anything. This goes back to the learning about cultivating clarity: Gossip only brings confusion to a situation. It does not help anything. If clarity and unity and healing are the goal, I must refuse to gossip even when those around me don’t have the same resolve.

Also… complaining, even just to God leads to the same results as gossip. Prayer. Prayer is what can help. Prayer reminds me what is true, gives me God’s eyes to see the other person, brings me to a place of humility, and in all of that shows me a better way to respond instead of just reacting.

13. “Because I knew you would.”
I’m not exactly sure how to phrase this learning as it’s one that still a few months later I totally “get” in my heart but I’m not sure my mind has caught up yet. I was reading the book Daring to Hope by Katie Davis and this quote resonated in my soul:

  • “… I asked God why? again and again. What could all this suffering accomplish? Why would He allow us to love people so deeply? A dear friend suggested, ‘Maybe because He knew you would.’”

At the time I first read this, I found myself asking similar questions to Katie… why would God let things turn out this way? What were the people around me suffering so much? Why did I love this one person so much only to receive manipulation, pain, and lies in return? I’m not sure if this really is the answer for those “whys”, but it sure made sense in my heart that maybe… it’s because God knew I would love that person despite all that. And one step more, maybe that’s exactly what that person needed even if I can’t see the results of it now.

14. Take Brain Breaks
While I learned about the physical benefits of “brain breaks” at a conference this fall (taking a minute or two every 20-30 minutes throughout the day to do a different task to give your brain a break), I’ve also been learning about it in a general sense. I need time to step away, to rest, to laugh and just enjoy life, to not think about anything. Yes, it helps my productivity and my focus. But more so, I’m finding it help my soul!

15. LAUGH! A lot.
That’s it… just laugh 🙂

16. “You can’t choose your season, but you can choose your song.” – Carl Lentz
I’m not even sure were I heard this quote this fall, but it captures a lot of learnings this year about not being able to change my circumstances but being able, by Christ’s strength to choose how I respond. Will I respond with gossip or grace? Will I complain or focus on gratitude in the midst of challenges? Will I drown in despair or take hold of the courage and hope God provides? What will the song be that comes out of my mouth?

17. I need community.
This is nothing new but I saw time and time again this year the value of being surrounded by people to support, strengthen, and sharpen me.

  • “Everyone who serves the Lord lives an abundant life full of ups and downs and we need community.” – Michael Harvey

This has been a year of plenty of ups and plenty of downs as I’m sure every single one of us in the world could say… that’s life. Because of Christ, both have led to an abundant life. Also true: I am so thankful for the incredible community I’ve had all along the way to remind me I’m not alone in the lows and to celebrate with me in the highs… to snap my focus back to Christ when it had wandered and to simply listen and show me I am valuable.

And, a  bonus 18th Learning to Lead us into 2018:
Nothing can separate me from God’s love. NOTHING.

At the end of a year on the brink of a new one, it is so good to come back to this truth. Nothing that happened in 2017 was able to keep me from God’s love. Nothing in 2018 will be able to either…. nothing I do… nothing I don’t do…nothing that’s done to me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love! Amen!

 

2017-12-30 12.27.55

Devotional

The Work of Christmas

I was reminded today of this poem I read a few months ago.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins,

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

~ Howard Thurman

Some good stuff to think about as many of us plan and dream for 2018.

Let the work of Christmas begin!

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Books

Favorite Books of 2017

Many of my friends have been posting about their favorite books they read in 2017. Following suite, here were some of my top reads. My goal for 2018 is to read at least 3 books from genres/topics I normally wouldn’t pick up. Seeing some of my friends’ lists is helping me find some, but if you have some suggestions, send them my way! 
Here are some short reviews and/or favorite quotes from some of my top reads from 2017 in no particular order:
Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors – a timely reminder at the time I read it to hope in the midst of hard things. “No, He didn’t make the pain easy. But He made it beautiful. He held me close and whispered secrets to me and revealed things about Himself that I had not yet known. He scooped me into His big loving arms and held me in tenderness unlike any I had ever experienced. … I did not find all the answers to my questions. In fact, I might have more questions now than I did before. But I have found deep intimacy with the One who formed me and knows my heart. He has taught me His secrets in the darkness. He has taught me true and unwavering hope in Him.”

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Glad I finally got around to this one after many had suggested it for a while.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – some great reminders for this perfectionist’s heart (highly recommend the audiobook version for this one!). “This is the first lie that perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn’t perfect. … You will not be perfect, but do you know what’s even more important than perfection? Do you know what will serve you for longer than perfectionism ever could? Moving forward imperfectly. Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed. That’s just not true. You get to try again.”

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller – such good stuff here, glad I finally finished after starting it a couple years ago and forgetting about it. – “Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11: 28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.” “When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again.”

A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner – short, practical, and to the point; best work-related book I read this year – “Think about the orange traffic cones used to direct cars at a big concert or event. Imagine what would happen if someone just scattered the cones randomly across the parking lot. More than likely, it would create a traffic jam and cars would not be able to move anywhere. But when the cones are arranged strategically, they have the potential to move hundreds of vehicles exactly where they need to go. Now imagine that your church’s weekly programs, annual events, kid’s groups, and age-specific curriculums are like traffic cones. How you arrange them to work together is important. They are either strategic or random.”

How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith – the title says a lot about why I liked this book 🙂 “But the more I read the Bible and the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that life–even with all its quirks and turns and tragedies–is meant to be amazing. Not because circumstances are always perfect, but because our souls have found their home in God. Fulfillment comes from having a healthy soul, and… our souls stay healthy when they regularly return home. … Maybe the reason we feel restless on the inside is because we haven’t been home in a long time. … Our souls are home when they return to God.”

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp – Two favorite quotes: “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken” and “Don’t ever be afraid of the broken things, because Christ is redeeming everything.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Fascinating insights into Islam culture and religion; learned so much

The Cure & Parents by Bill Thrall – While I picked it up to review and see if it would be helpful for the parents in our ministry, I found it a great book about real family life (in all its messiness) and trust in relationships. – “The motivation of grace will always bear greater fruit than the coercion of demand. … Many of us were taught by well-intended teachers and parents that it almost doesn’t matter what means you use to get someone to do good, as long as you can get them to do good. But good done for the wrong reason–convincing me that I, at my core, am not much good–that’s one of the worst forms of wrong.”  “The degree to which your children trust you is the degree to which they will let you love them. … We may have great intentions to pass on values, beliefs, wisdom, and truths. We may faithfully love, protect, and direct our children. But if they don’t trust us, nothing is really happening.”

66 in 52 Challenge

A Challenge for 2018

God’s Word is alive and active. It has power in our lives to comfort, convict, lead, challenge, speak truth, and most importantly help us connect with Jesus! I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to sometimes go back again and again to the same verses, chapters, or books when studying God’s Word. I am thankful for verses that have become treasured to me, but I also want to explore the depth and width of the entire Scriptures.

One way I thought I might do this was to center in on one verse or passage from each book of the Bible during the 52 weeks of 2018.  Bible journaling, whether simply written words or more artistic journaling, is a way I can slow down and let God’s Word get inside me. My goal is to find one verse or passage from each book of the Bible to hide away in my heart and let direct my life this year. My prayer is that I will know my Savior more.

I want to invite you to join the journey!

THE CHALLENGE IS SIMPLE:

  • Journal (written journaling or artistic Bible journaling) about one verse from each book of the Bible (66 in total) in 2018!

BONUS OPTIONAL CHALLENGE: Read (or listen) through the whole Bible in 2018. Perhaps you can listen to a reading of the book while you journal each week.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE IF YOU JOIN THE CHALLENGE:

  • A 52-week plan to reflect on and journal about one verse from each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of 2018. (You pick the verse; ideas of key verses suggested for each book at the beginning of the week)
  • Summaries for each book of the Bible sent out with key verses each Sunday
  • Ideas, tips, techniques, and supply suggestions throughout the year including some guest blog posts from other Bible journalers
  • A community to share what God is teaching you through His Word in 2018
  • Prizes for each person who completes the 66 in 52 challenge: a set of 100 personalized Bible verses cards with your name, one entry into a grand prize drawing for some Bible Journaling supplies
  • BONUS: An optional reading/listening plan to read through the Bible in 2018.

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN! Click the graphic below to sign-up!

Whether you choose to join me in this challenge or not, I pray you make 2018 a year to get into God’s Word so it can get into you!

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