31 May 2014

Turning Worry into Worship

It's the last day for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge. It was such an encouraging experience to see everyone's devotion who participated with #lampandlight. For me, I learned so much more using the SOAP method then I did when I used to just read the Bible. Now, I have a deep desire for Scripture. They came alive to me this past month. 

I've learned so much studying Proverbs and just the same, Proverbs 31 left me inspired and hopeful. Verses 25-26 read:
"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue."

Verse 25 always felt overused to me, I never really understood the "big deal" about it. That was until I studied the Scripture. My favorite part is when it says, "She laughs without fear of the future." It isn't a careless attitude but it is a confidence given by Jesus. I realized all the things that I once worried about turned out to be blessings. All the things I tried to hold onto meant nothing compared to following His will.

This verse applies to me now in this season more than ever. I just finished my first week of Nursing School (in an accelerated program) and I've never had so much joy, laughter, and peace. I've only experienced the beginning of long-lasting friendships and I never would've had this opportunity if I decided to follow my own plans instead of His. Yes, I'm going to experience hard times and probably even some tears through this journey but I can always come back to this verse and be reminded that my worries can be subdued with some worship. I trust that He didn't bring me to this journey to just leave me behind. He will give me strength through the tears and the laughter. I am turning my worry into worship.

I hope you enjoyed this scripture challenge with Kristin Schmucker as much as I did. Don't let it end here! Make studying scripture something you desire and not just something you can check off your list.
It will change you!


22 May 2014

Eyes Marked by Generosity

If you're just now joining in the 31 Day Scripture Challenge, click here to read more, it's not too late!

Proverbs 22:9
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

I loved this verse! There are so many opportunities to meet needs all around us. Maybe it's a stranger in front of you at the check-out line or maybe it's your best friend. You can be used in His plan to meet a simple need. What may be insignificant to me, God sees as a key part in His plan. 

Bountiful eyes see in the peripheral. With the help of wisdom, they see a broken heart. A spirit heavied by depression. Tears of a wounded friendship. Hurt from a divided home life. It is seeing that there is a need and working to meet that need with the help of God. A bountiful eye isn't selfish. Our motives behind our generosity should bring glory to God, not ourselves. Building strong foundations starts with compassion and compassion starts with caring for the needs of others. You never know whose life you may touch. 

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Be available and sincere to the needs of others and see the blessings of your generosity.

I desire to have eyes of Jesus, bountiful eyes, for those around me. Lord, give me discernment for those hurting and speak through me. I want to be a vessel that you can work through.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

19 May 2014

The beauty of God wrecking my plans

It's Day 19 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge but it is NOT too late to join in! If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

I cannot tell you how many times in my life this verse has applied to me. It's pretty much a daily thing. I'm a very schedule-oriented gal so I normally have a list of things to do. Let me tell you, God definitely likes to throw my schedule out the window and keep my life interesting. I want to share a story with you:

I had the same plan throughout high school. I was going to go to the community college, get accepted into their nursing program and graduate as an RN. Those were my plans that quickly got turned down. It may not seem like a big deal but that was HUGE to me. That was my life. I was being forced into an uncomfortable place of not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do. Did I stop to ask God to lead me in my decisions and give me wisdom over it? Honestly, not as much as I should have. Instead I ended up with a lot of stress and heartache over where I was heading in life because my plans didn't work out like I thought they should have. In my desperation, I prayed...and I prayed...and I prayed. Funny how it sometimes has to come to us being at our lowest point to desperately pursue God.

I quickly found out that the Lord's plans will always stand. Instead, I graduated with my Associates and He led me to a better university, got me accepted into the BSN Accelerated Nursing Program, and is starting this journey with me at the end of the month. 

When I look back over the past couple of years I can understand why some of the doors I wanted to be opened, were closed. I can understand why the plans I had weren't nearly as good as the ones He had planned. 

You may have many plans (like I did!) and it may be hard for you to walk into the unknown for a season (like it was for me!) but I'm here to tell you that through all that, He never left me. I may have been scared, stressed, and in tears but through prayer I was given a peace that surpassed my understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Seek the Lord during decisions - big and small - and pray for wisdom and discernment. Give your dreams over to God and He will make them better than your mind could ever comprehend. He wants to share in the desires of your heart!

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

16 May 2014

Arising beyond the Imperfection

Proverbs 16:2-3
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

I was reading through 1 Samuel 16 today and the beginnings of David chosen to be king. I love when I read Bible stories and the people that God used show their "human side". It reminds me that what I see as worthless, God sees as a treasure for His glory. Sometimes we think the ones God used in His Kingdom were perfect, but that's far from true.

In chapter 16, the Lord told Samuel to stop mourning for Saul because there was going to be a new king in place of Saul. The Lord sent him to Jesse's house to see which one of his sons was chosen to be king. What I loved about this story was that Samuel only saw through his own human eyes at the physical appearance of the brothers and he thought obviously the anointed one was in front of him (v 6). God had bigger plans for David. The shepherd of sheep was about to become a shepherd of people. 

As all of the brothers were before him, the Lord said to Samuel, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (v 7).

After asking Jesse if that was all of his sons, David was brought to him. He was the youngest of all the brothers yet the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he." I love that! God literally chose David out of EVERYONE for this. Was there someone better? Probably. Someone wiser? Maybe. But nobody could do it like David. So Samuel anointed David in the midst of all his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day on (v 12-13).

David was never perfect. In fact, through his time as king, he committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel chapters 10-20). He was still anointed by God. We make mistakes and see our faults so magnified that we believe God would never use us for His kingdom. The truth is, those are the exact people He wants to use. He wants the sinners saved by grace, the bruised, the afflicted, the broken, the mistake makers with a repentant heart. What we see as filth, He sees broken vessels made beautiful. He wants you to come as you are!

What kind of story would a perfect person have anyway? Perfect people wouldn't need to experience forgiveness, or the love from a Savior after a broken heart, or the mercy God gives after a mistake, or feel the happiness after a repentant prayer. How would that feel? To never know extreme love because you never felt the pain of rejection. To never feel true happiness because you never experienced a time of sadness. Life would feel pretty empty to me. That's why there's beauty in a testimony. The Lord sees what's in our heart and knows what we can be compared to what man sees.

Our testimony is formed through those moments. Let the words spoken about David be encouragement for you -- Arise...for this is he -- He uses imperfect people to do big things.

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

12 May 2014

The Cares of my Heart are Many

It's Day 12 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge and I can't even begin to describe the encouragement I received from this scripture today!

Proverbs 12:25
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: But a good word maketh it glad.

There are moments I struggle with doubt. Moments of discouragement. Moments of stress. Moments of an overwhelming, anxious heart. Sometimes I lack confidence in my decisions. There have been many times I wanted to give up.

In the midst of all the things I feel that I lack, He reminds me that I am complete in Him. 

When I can't muster up enough strength to lift my head, He strengthens me. When I'm overcome by stress, He lifts my heavy burdens. He supplies me with comfort and peace. He showers me in love and forgiveness. His Word encourages me with hope.

Psalm 94:19
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

There is so much joy in that verse! He makes my heart glad and cheers my soul. If you begin to struggle with something that tries to drown out the truth, chase after God and pursue His word! He will carry you. If someone you know is struggling, give them an encouraging word, life them up in prayer, and let them know they are not alone. 

When the cares of your heart are many, find rest in its Maker.

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

07 May 2014

Bound by Cords of Love

Day 7 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge has surpassed all of my expectations. Proverbs continually convicts, changes, and refreshes me. If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.

Reading through Proverbs 7, the chapter was headlined (in ESV) as a "Warning Against the Adulteress." I sat there and wondered how this could relate to me. What was I going to gain from this? Then I came toward the end to verse 23.

Proverbs 7:23
"...as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life."

I was drawn to that verse. I know it was for the purposes of referencing the man and the adulteress here but I began to visit other verses, other chapters like this that ultimately convicted me. A snare is defined as "a trap for catching birds or animals, typically one having a noose of wire or cord." The cord catches the bird unawares. It comes out of nowhere. Isn't that much like sin and temptation for us?

Proverbs 1:17-18
"For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives."

Proverbs 5:22
"The iniquities [sins] of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin."

When we give in to sin, we fall, we become trapped. Your trap may not be murder or adultery, maybe it's bad thoughts, lying, bitterness, jealousy, feet that are swift to run to evil (Day 6 in Proverbs 6:16-19), and so on. It could be things we do without even knowing it or things that are hidden in our hearts. That's one reason Proverbs has been drilling into our heads to seek after wisdom and discernment so we have the strength and knowledge to steer away from these sins. When we don't, we create a trap for ourselves that can "cost us our lives." I don't want to be caught unaware by things that could've been prevented, hurts that I didn't have to experience, stress I didn't need to go through had I sought for the knowledge of God.

But wait, the best part is that we have a greater alternative from our cords of sin! Hosea 11:4 discusses God's compassion towards Israel and their journey from Egypt. "I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them." Our alternative is God's cords of love!

Even if you know that right now you are bound by sin, don't give up! His cords of love never run out! Here is a quick prayer for temptation that my Youth Pastor gave us awhile back: Jesus, this thought/action didn't come from You. I put it in subjection to You. I put it under Your blood. I turn it over to You. Amen. Whenever you feel that sin begin to entrap you again or that temptation begins to rise up, turn it over to Him!

God's forgiveness is endless. Be bound by His cords of love.

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

04 May 2014

When My Gaze Falls

Day 4 of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge has given me quite the heart check. If you're new to this, click here to read more about this challenge.

Proverbs 4:25-27
25 Let thine eyes look right on, And let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
26 Ponder the path of thy feet, And let all thy ways be established.
27 Turn not the right hand nor to the left: Remove thy foot from evil.

Verse 25 says "let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee" which basically means set your gaze forward. I'm reminded of the Israelites journeying out of Egypt and into the place God called them to. All he asked was that they loved Him, served Him, followed Him, and set their gaze forward to the land that was more perfect than they could've imagined. He wanted greater things for them!

Why was that so hard for them to do?

The Israelites lost sight of what was ahead of them. All they could see was their surroundings. They complained about having to walk through that wilderness, they complained about a lack of water and manna, they worshiped idols, and the list goes on. It was a never-ending cycle of complaints! When they should've been killed from their sin, unfaithfulness, and no ounce of wisdom in their body, God showed them mercy through the pleas of Moses and His relentless love.

We do the same. We get caught up in our surroundings. We wonder how our provision has become so scarce. We wonder how we went from a beautiful city to wandering through this awful wilderness day after day. We lose sight of our prize and the one who is leading us through those living and dry places in our life.

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 says "You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess." When we follow God and seek wisdom and discernment, we gain a better understanding of situations so it's easier to set our gaze forward, not on what's behind us or what's around us.

This journey through Proverbs has given me a whole new realization on the things I'm missing out on and situations that could've been made easier had I sought after wisdom with an undying desire. Day 3's post on Instagram said these words from Proverbs 3:15, "She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her." Nothing can compare to having wisdom, knowledge from the Lord.

Psalm 119:34 

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Isaiah 26:7 
The way of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous.

Lord, help me to set my gaze on the things of You and your Kingdom. I pray I have more faith than the Israelites when my surroundings are scarce. I don't want to get caught up in the chaos, but allow my gaze to be set on where you've called me. 

It's never too late to receive the consuming forgiveness Jesus gives. He is for us, not against us. He never stops chasing after His children. Repent (sincerely tell Jesus you are sorry for all your sins) and ask for forgiveness, He's always listening.

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge.

01 May 2014

Beginning of Knowledge

Day One of the 31 Day Scripture Challenge for me begins in Proverbs. I was hesitant to choose this book at first. I thought, "Is this too easy?" "Are there more in-depth books in the Bible?" "Shouldn't I do something more profound?" I prayed for direction and I kept coming back to Proverbs. I read through a few chapters and realized this would be more for me than anyone else who may join this challenge. Those negative thoughts were a way to rob me of the journey I was about to embark on. 

I've always heard that it's good to read through Proverbs every month, one chapter a day, because it holds such great reminders that seem to fade under our schedules. So for the next 31 days days I will be posting (either on the blog or instagram) scripture that stuck out to me, a lesson learned or re-learned, a highlight in a chapter, etc. Today begins in Proverbs chapter 1.
This verse is the main theme for the book of Proverbs. Fear of the Lord is a loving reverence for God that involves submission to Him and His word. An even simpler version I was taught was just being in awe of Him. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. What we're going to learn throughout Proverbs is that getting wisdom involves a great measure of humility.

On the other hand the scripture describes those who despise wisdom and instruction as fools. Seems kind of harsh when you hear that word but it's pretty accurate: "fools" are those who hate knowledge (v. 22) and correction of any kind, who are fast to argue (20:3) and make no effort to abstain from arguments (29:11) , those who are complacent (v. 32), who trust in themselves (28:26) rather than God.
Lord I desire:
Wisdom for decisions
Wisdom for understanding
Wisdom for discretion

I want to make it my top priority to pray for wisdom on a daily basis. All wisdom and knowledge comes from Him (Ecclesiastes 2:26) and He knows what's best for me. He will not leave me empty-handed for fear of the Lord comes with a great reward! I pray that I always trust in the Lord, never become complacent, abstain from arguments and anger, seek knowledge, and receive instruction and correction with a humble heart.

Proverbs is going to be a wonderful journey! Sometimes it's the easiest things to understand that we have a hard time living and demonstrating with our actions. I crave to not only read these verses but I want to live them and apply them to my life. 

This post is a link up with Kristin Schmucker for the 31 Day Scripture Challenge. To read more about this challenge, click here.