Sunday, September 30, 2012

Conclusion of Proverbs and Psalm Study

Again, I want to thank you so much for participating in the study with me. It was such a honor to be a part of it. I just want to encourage you to continue on with your reading, prayer, and journaling. If you are not sure where to go from here, I'd encourage you to read through the gospels. You can take it as fast or slow as you'd like. Behind seeking wisdom in Proverbs, learning about our Master, Jesus, in the gospels is my favorite reading.

I also wanted to let you know that I'd encourage you to read through Proverbs and Psalms again on your own time. I've been studying them for 6 months now, and just yesterday I read in Proverbs 27 and God gave me a very new and fresh revelation. Just shows that you can learn something new every time!

I will be keeping these blogs on my site indefinitely, so please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested. You can just refer them to my website and the entire study will be located in September of 2012.

Also, if you are interested in using this as a study for your small group please contact me as I have been working on small group questions to go along with the daily readings. (It would be a 4 week study.)

Thank you so much. Please let me know if you have any feed back regarding the study, this was a first for me and if there is anything I can do to improve it, please feel free to let me know. And thank you to all of you who have encouraged me and given me feedback already.

I love you all very much and am honored to have been a small part of your September 2012! :)

Much Love,
Steen




Day 31: The Last Day.

Congratulations! After today, you will have read all of Psalm and Proverbs in one month! This is a big accomplishment and I hope it fuels you to continue on.

On your final day together, I want to pray for you and then leave you to commune with your heavenly father. I want to thank you so much for participating in this study with me. I hope that it impacted you as much as it did me.

Today, on your last day, you will be reading Proverbs chapter 31 and Psalm chapters 146-150.

Abba,

I thank you for this month. I thank you for Psalm and Proverbs and everything you taught us through them. Thank you for fresh revelations, you always use your word to communicate to us what we need in your timing. I thank you for our future and the hope of the future. I pray that we stay diligent in seeking you. I pray that you give us undivided hearts, 100% focused on you and your will for our lives. I ask for clear minds, that we can retain and remember all we have learned and heard over the past month, and discernment to know when it's applicable. I pray for peaceful attitudes, that we look for ways to mend, not tear apart. I pray for compassionate eyes, that we are quick to embrace those around us, not judge. I ask for us all selfless mouths, quick to listen, slow to speak and only speaking your truth. I pray for us productive hands, that we complete the tasks you have for us and the jobs you've laid out for us. And finally, I ask for steady feet, that we remain on your path for our lives, never to stumble or wander.

Thank you for giving us all the tools we need, I pray we make the most of them all. That we understand the importance of communing with you everyday. That we experience all the joy and blessings you have in store for us. We love love love you.

Amen.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 30: Can't go back.

Continuing to give the Holy Spirit room, I'm only going to tell you your chapters and pray for you today.

-Read Proverbs chapter 30 and Psalm chapters 141-145-

Abba,

Everyday in writing this study, you have overwhelmed me. It overwhelms me that you don't hide from us or keep us in the dark. You reveal yourself to us, you let us in on your plans. You include us and use us even when you don't have to. Thank you for including me. Thank you for including those you have 'chosen' to do this study. Thank you for divine timing. If nothing else, I trust your timing. We are honored and privileged that you invite us into a relationship with you. And I'm very sorry that for 29 years, I neglected you. I took your offer of relationship for granted. Never again. Because once I saw what I was missing out on, once I saw what it could be like, living in true community with you, I could never go back. I may have accepted your gift of salvation as a child, but it was 24 years later that I accepted your gift of experiencing heaven on earth.

I pray for each person reading this, that you gently touch them on the shoulder. I pray that you impress upon their hearts the magnitude of your love for them. That you grow them in you, so intertwined that it is impossible to separate one from the other.  Impossible to separate them from you or you from them.

Thank you for loving us. We love you, and desire to honor you in all that we say and do today.

Amen

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 29: Giving room.

In preparing for today's study, I felt a nudge from my friend, the Holy Spirit.

GIVE ME SOME ROOM.

I've said a lot during this month. But if my heart is truly to help facilitate the learning/execution of this discipline (reading the word and prayer time everyday), then it is definitely time I hand the reigns over to you and Him. So I am taking a back seat over the last few days. Because of course, when the Holy Spirit asks for room, you give it! :)

Here is all I suggest, that you continue with the format we've used over the last month. That before you read the scripture, pray and ask God to speak to you and continue to allow yourself to be open. After reading, write down what spoke to you and journal some prayers. As before, feel free to leave some comments if God moves you to do so. That will be where I'll leave any of my thoughts on the day's study.

But before you begin today, I'd like to pray for you.

Abba, I pray that today, you reveal yourself in an incredibly tangible way to your followers. I pray you open their ears and eyes to your voice and your truth. Honor their commitment to learn more about you and your heart by changing their lives the way you have changed mine. Fill in their gaps, give them what they need to complete the mission you have for them. Energize and revive them. Continue to pursue them and give them an insatiable desire to pursue you. We honor you in all we say and do. I LOVE you Abba.

Amen.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 29 and Psalm chapters 136-140. Now go ahead, and do your thing!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 28: Being chosen.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 28 and Psalm chapters 131-135. Ask God to join you and commune with you today.

-Read Scripture-

The Psalms refers to God's chosen people a lot. Israel, God's chosen people. God chose Jacob, etc. There is a ton of weight and pressure when you really think about that. Psalm chapters 131-135 is no different. It is filled with promises to God's chosen people, Israel, and more specifically, David.

In chapter 132 verse 11 the writer refers to the promise God made to David and how he would not go back on that promise. Psalm 135 refers to Israel as God's treasured possession. There are so many beautiful promises of protection, provision, and blessing. But there is also tremendous responsibility and weight, and you feel that in the Psalm as well.

An amazing thing happened after Christ came, you and I and all of his followers are now included with his chosen people. The new testament says: "But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." 1 Peter 2:9-10 The Message.

Talk about weight and responsibility. You are chosen. You have a role to play. You have a job that God has called you to do.

No pressure. :)

But that also means you get to claim all the beautiful promises to the Israelites that you read in the Psalms. What encouragement. Here's my truth: God has made a night-and-day difference in my life. Those of you who have known me any length of time can attest to that. He has turned me from nothing special into something special. And this is me, attempting to fulfill my calling to priestly work and telling others of what God has done for me. I have been chosen. I have been called, and so have you.

Today, I want you to meditate on the fact that you are a chosen one, that your Abba has "embraced you as a prized possession." He has called you to do his work on this Earth. Who has he put in your life to share your story with? Where has he placed you to do his work? Because with this gift, we have a great responsibility. What does your priestly work look like? Ask him to show you, or to confirm what you may already know...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 27: Revel in the Yes!

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 27 and Psalm chapters 126-130. Before we read, ask God to restore you heart, mind, and soul today. Ask him to fill you up with his goodness!

-Read Scriptures-

"For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5 NKJ

We all have different seasons to our life. We have seasons of sorrow and seasons of joy. Times to sow and times to reap. I personally spent the majority of my twenties in a season of "not yet." Looking back, I know that God was preparing and molding me. He was stretching and growing me and I definitely experienced the growing pains along the way.

"Those who walk the fields to sow, casting their seed in tears, will one day tread those same long rows, amazed by what's appeared. Those who weep as they walk and plant with sighs, will return singing with joy, when they bring home the harvest." Psalm 126:5-6 The Voice

It was a difficult and painful season, but I could feel a sense of importance around what was happening. I felt the necessity of it all. Then, my 30th year of being alive, something magical happened. I entered the season of God's Yes. The time of "not yet" turned to "now." And now, living in the season of God's Yes, I understand why those 10 years were so vital. The things I had to go through and learn (still learning), patience and selflessness, has allowed me to appreciate and enjoy and make the most of this time. If I'd not gone through and learned those things, I know I would not be doing what I am today.

"You worked hard and deserve all you've got coming. Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!...Stand in awe of God's Yes! Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!" Psalm 128:2-4 The Message

Now this is NOT a "earning your blessings" or "God's road is easy" verse. This is a reward for being faithful in difficult times. We aren't faithful for the reward, it's just a byproduct. And it is not a yes for things material (although, sometimes he chooses to bless this way,) it's for the things that can't be bought, only given to us by our heavenly Father. Revel in the goodness, stand in awe of God's Yes!

-I revel in his goodness when I see my kids laugh and play.
-I revel in his goodness when I watch my husband in ministry.
-I revel in his goodness when I look around my house.
-I revel in his goodness when I paint.
-I revel in his goodness when I travel.
-I revel in his goodness when I'm enjoying nature.

And I stand in awe of God's Yes to the questions that matter!

Can I have peace? YES.
Will you provide for me? YES.
Do I have a purpose? YES.
Will you protect me? YES.
Will you forgive me? YES.
Do you love me? YES.
Am I special? YES.
Do you accept me? YES. YES!

All of those things you desire, deep in your heart (acceptance, love, forgiveness), God says YES! What Yes do you need to revel in? What do you need to accept from him?

Today, your challenge is to see all the "Yes"s in your life, celebrate them, and revel in them!

Abba, Thank you for telling us Yes, when we are so undeserving. Thank you for the season's of "not yet," of sowing. For it is in those seasons you prepare us to be able to fully receive and make the most of your blessings. (And you knew I needed a lot of preparing!) Had I not learned what I needed to, I would of squandered away what you've blessed me with today.  No matter what season we are in, let us be thankful and hopeful, and revel in your goodness, because you are always good, and stand in awe of your Yes! You have a purpose for everything, and you have a plan. Thank you for using us. We love you, and desire to honor and glorify you in all we do today.

Amen.


My Yes! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 26: A ticking bomb.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 26 and Psalm chapters 120-125. As always, ask God to visit with you today and open your eyes to new wisdom he may have for you.

-Read Scripture-

I love Proverbs 26 because it addresses something we all have to deal with here on this Earth: fools. Fools make poor decisions, they are lazy, untrustworthy, disillusioned, naive, and can be very dangerous at certain times. We have all, at one point or another, been hurt by a fool. (Or been the fool.) That person who refuses to hear the truth and continues to make decisions that hurt themselves and those around them.

"As a dog returns to it's vomit, so fools repeat their folly." Proverbs 26:11 TNIV

The dangerous thing about fools is that their decisions rarely only hurt themselves, it hurts those around them. "Like an archer who shoots at random and injures everyone, so is a person who hires a fool..." Proverbs 26:10 The Voice.  I also think this verse is applicable to those who are friends/family with a fool. You hear about this or experience this yourself all the time. Your friend at work made a horrible decision and your name was attached to theirs so you were involved in the repercussions. Someone you know was in a car with a fool who had too much to drink and suffered the consequences.  Your mom married a fool and your entire family suffered. I could go on and on... If you think about it, it doesn't matter if you are the one who causes the explosion or if you are right next to them.  If you are too close, the shrapnel is just as dangerous.



"Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes." Proverbs 26:4-5 NKJ Now these verses were a little confusing to me at first. He tells us not to answer in one verse, then tell us to answer in the next. Then I realized the truth, the whole point is that it is a lose lose situation. Either you respond to their foolishness and you end up looking foolish, or you don't and they don't see the problem! Lose lose. I don't know about you, but I don't like lose lose situations, and tend to try and avoid them.

Today, I want us to think about our friends and who we spend our time with. Do you have any ticking time bombs in your life? Are you in some lose lose situations? Have you been trying to talk some sense into someone with no results?

Now I don't think we should abandon all the "fools" in our lives, after all we are all "foolish" at times. But there is a difference with someone being foolish and a fool, and there is a way to live at a safe distance. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what that looks like as it is different for every person and situation. For example, you can't escape your family ;) But you should start that dialogue with God about what a it might look like for you and those around you if you constantly find yourself in the company of fools. Just be conscience of who you spend your time with and how close you allow yourself to danger. Most of the time, you never see it until it's too late. That is why it is so important to guard ourselves and our loved ones.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 25: Reader becoming the writer!

Abba, before I read and write today, I pray that you visit with me. Be with me as I read your word and reveal yourself to me. Give me confirmation and affirmation that seeking you and understanding your words is the only way for me to live. Confirm my path and when necessary, redirect me. Allow me to experience your presence today.

Amen

-Read Proverbs 25 and Psalm 119-

This is a very hard day for me to write, because Psalm 119 is SO very important and personal to me. I'm finding it impossible to separate myself (and my past feelings and notes) from this passage in order to write something that everyone could receive something from. 

But isn't that the beauty of scripture and our own personal experiences with it! That we can learn from each other and see things we might of missed in the past. So today, here is what we are going to do. I want to learn from you.  I want to read this scripture through new eyes, and I can't seem to on my own. So I'm going to ask that you write a little something on Psalm 119 and what you hear and feel when you read it. This is not required, but if the point of this study is to stretch ourselves, then I'd go for it! I'm going to write something personal myself and include it as a comment in the section below. Feel free to do the same, or if you'd prefer it stay private, you can email me at steenjones@gmail.com. But I'd encourage everyone to stay public, because you NEVER know who might receive truth and something new from your perspective. God could use you to reveal truths to someone else. 

P.S. I've read this chapter in the TNIV, The Message, and The Voice. I highly recommend it in The Message version if you have access to one. 

I can't wait to hear what y'all get from this wonderful chapter :)




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 24: Taking a Stand.

Today we are reading Proverbs 24 and Psalm 116-118. Before you read, ask God to reveal something new to you today, or perhaps to remind you of something long forgotten.

-Read Scripture-



Injustice. This is a BIG deal to our Father. Proverbs alone mentions justice and injustice 31 times. I would even go so far as to say that behind accepting Christ, loving and worshipping our Father, and spreading the gospel, this is His main job for his followers. Taking a stand for those he has called us to. Who has he called us to stand up for? The oppressed, voice-less, poor, innocent, needy, broken, abused, and helpless.


"It's wrong, very wrong, to go along with injustice. Whoever whitewashes the wicked gets a black mark on the history books, But whoever exposes the wicked will be thanked and rewarded." Proverbs 24:23-25


Whitewashing is ignoring, to coverup. Those who know about injustices and wrong-doing but does nothing about it, or tries to cover it up to save or protect their reputation will face serious consequences.

"Rescue the perishing; don't hesitate to step in and help. If you say, 'Hey, that's none of my business,' will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely you know- Someone not impressed with weak excuses." Proverbs 24:11-12 The Message

The Voice words verse 12, "If you excuse yourself, saying, 'Look, we didn't know anything about this,' doesn't God, who knows what you are really thinking, understand your motives? Isn't your Protector aware of why you aren't protecting the innocent? Will he not repay you in kind?" 

Ouch. Even living in denial is wrong. We are so guilty of this here in America. It is so easy for us to forget the rest of the world. Thankfully, there is a generation of people coming along that values the fight against injustice, but they are unequipped. We are relying on social media and awareness alone and that is not enough! We have to be willing to get involved. We can not be afraid, we have to be bold!

"The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Psalm 118:6 NKJ

We can not live in fear. Yes, chances are if you fight against evil, perversion, and wickedness that you will face opposition. However, we are representing the One that has already overcome this world! We have NOTHING to fear! This is our job, this is what God has called us to do. We have already read enough in Proverbs to know that this is a huge part of God's heart. We must not ignore it. We must stop making excuses. After all, God doesn't buy them!

"But He leaned down when I was in trouble and brought His ear close to me. So as long as I have breath, I will call on him." Psalm 116:2 The Voice

This is their cry for help. This is what the people that we are called to protect and stand up for are doing. They are calling to him when they are in trouble and he is leaning down and bringing his ear close to them.

He has heard them. And he has sent you.

Ask God today what he has for you? What are your passions? What gets you fired up? What breaks your heart? What keeps you up at night unable to sleep? The list of those who need our help is endless. Let's get off the couch, stop watching the heartbreak on the news and get involved ourselves!

Abba, thank you for even desiring to use us! Our prayer is short and simple today, here we are. Send us.

Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 23: Meat and Wine.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 23 and Psalm chapters 111-115. Before we begin, let's clear our minds and hearts of all distractions. Remember that today is a new day. :)

-Read Scriptures-

Today we are going to tackle a difficult subject. Not difficult in it's complexity, but difficult because it can be controversial. Let me begin by say that you may or may not agree with me, but that is okay.

Today we are talking about food, alcohol, and self-control.



I know, right? Who wants to talk about this? (Especially since I picked such a yummy looking picture. Whoops.) Well, the author of this particular proverb did, so we might as well address it too! We are going to talk about 3 different areas today regarding this topic, and those are overall manners, influences, and personal self-control/discipline.

"When you go out to dinner with an influential person, mind your manners: Don't gobble your food, don't talk with your mouth full and don't stuff yourself; bridle your appetite." Proverbs 23:1-3 The Message.

Honestly, can't you tell a lot about a person by how they eat?! I sometimes like to people watch at restaurants, it can be very entertaining! You can tell if someone is bored, passionate, sloppy, disciplined, or even organized by how they eat.  People watch us all the time and form impressions, and we should be mindful of the impression we give portray. Wether we like it or not, public perception plays a large role on our influence over those around us. Speaking of influence...

"Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags." Proverbs 23:19-21 TNIV 

We have to be aware of those who influence us! They impact us and can change the course of our lives in a second. By shear proximity the decision of a family member or friend can effect us greatly. Shrapnel from an explosion can be just as deadly if you are close enough. It does not matter if you are the one that explodes or not. Keep that in mind.

Now, let's move on to the hard stuff: our personal issues and struggles with food and alcohol. Our struggles and issues with self-control. I'm including a large chunk of this proverbs in The Voice translation because I really like the way it words it...

"Who is wallowing in anguish? Who is full of sorrow? Who has conflicts? Who has complaints? Who has bruises and can't remember where they came from? Who has bloodshot eyes? You know who: those who stay up late finishing off the wine, those who can't stop savoring spiced wines. Look away from the enticing beauty of wine, the deep red hue; ignore how it shimmers in the cup and glides down your throat. Eventually, when you least expect it, it strikes like a snake; it stings like viper venom. You vision will blur, and you'll imagine strange things; you will say crazy, hurtful things and regret it later. You will reel and stagger as if caught on a way of seasickness, as a sailor who holds on to a mast for dear life." Proverbs 23:19-34 

I personally do not drink. I know myself, my limitations, and my issues with self-control. I struggle with addictive tendencies and after reading these scriptures, I am sure that things would not end well. Honestly, reading these verses scares the crap out of me!

Now, no where in the bible does it condemn drinking. It only gives extensive warning and commands against being drunk. I have many friends that drink and I'm fine with that. BUT we have to take heed of the bible's warning of it's effects and dangers! If you choose to drink, I implore you to constantly be checking yourself. Check your experiences against this passage and if you can ever relate or experience anything along those lines, step back and re-evaluate. This is an important warning system, "...Be attentive so you can be well informed." Proverbs 23:12. (The Voice) Don't let this problem strike when you least expect it.

We make choices everyday. We surround ourselves with people who's choices impact us everyday. We have to make wise decisions so that we do not lose our impact on those around us. How we treat alcohol and food is a big part of that. No matter where we land on this issue, let's at least agree to run the decisions we make with these scriptures in mind. And to be sensitive to the spirit's prodding if we ever get too close to a dangerous road.



Day 22: TO LIVE ASSURED...

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 22 and Psalm chapters 106-110. Before you begin today, prepare yourself to receive a word from your heavenly father. Because one is coming. :)

-Read Scripture-

Today will be a little different than our normal studies. In my experience, if God steps and and take the reigns, you give them without a fight! :) So today, He's got the floor. I'm going to leave you with some applicable scripture, then into His very capable hands. I'll see you guys tomorrow!

"A humble person who fears the Eternal can expect to receive wealth, honor, and life." Proverbs 22:4 The Voice

"Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, have done it." Psalm 109:27 TNIV

"GOD gave me his word and he won't take it back..." Psalm 110:4 The Message

TO LIVE ASSURED IS ONE OF THE GREATEST GIFTS I GIVE MY FOLLOWERS. IF YOU HAVE FAITH IN ME, YOU SHOULD LIVE WITH CONFIDENCE AND CERTAINTY. I AM YOUR PROVIDER AND YOU WILL NEVER STARVE. I AM YOUR HEALER AND WHILE YOUR BODY MAY FAIL, YOU WILL LIVE ETERNALLY WITH ME. I HAVE SENT MY FRIEND TO BE WITH YOU EVERY STEP OF YOUR JOURNEY, SO YOU SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID. THAT WHICH IS PLAGUING YOU, PLAGUING YOUR MIND, YOUR THOUGHTS, AND YOUR WORRIES, I'VE GOT IT. I'M IN CONTROL AND I'M ALREADY WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES TAKING CARE OF IT.

DO NOT FEAR THIS WORLD, I'VE GOT YOU. YOU ARE PROTECTED BY MY RIGHT HAND. NOW LIVE THAT WAY. LIVE BOLDLY, LIVE CONFIDENT. LIVE ASSURED THAT I AM WHO I SAY I AM. THIS IS ONE OF YOUR GREATEST GIFTS, ONE THAT THOSE OF THIS WORLD DO NOT HAVE. DON'T WASTE IT, USE IT. LET IT FUEL YOU. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I HAVE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU DO.

I LOVE YOU,
ABBA

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 21: Open Hands



Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 21 and Psalm chapters 101-105. Ask God to show himself during your time together today.

-Read Scripture-

According to the all-knowing internet, to be generous means, "showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected." Which is a good definition. I personally like my definition better, "to live with open hands." Not holding onto my stuff, talents, or time.

If you put an object in your hand, let's say a coffee mug, and set it on your open palm, how likely is it that it can be taken from you? Very likely. Now tighten your grip around the handle. It's not going anywhere easily is it? When we grip things and hold onto them tightly, it is more difficult for God to pry it out of our hands to use it. (Obviously not too hard, but I don't think you want God jerking things out of your grip!)

It's an attitude of stewardship, we've already discussed it briefly before. All I have is God's, so my hands should be open for him to use whatever he needs to, to accomplish his goals. Also, if we want to be entrusted with much, we must not be frivolous with what he gives us.

"Those who live to party, who pursue pleasure, will end up penniless; those who enjoy lots of wine and rich food will never have money." Proverbs 21:17 The Voice

If you live spending all your energy and resources on yourself and a good time, God is not going to entrust you with more. God looks for stewards who uses His resources to complete His tasks, His desires, and His agenda, not our own.

God is very clear; "Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, will also cry himself and not be heard." Proverbs 21:13 NKJ Now that is a scary promise. But we can not close our ears to cries of those less fortunate and down trodden. This is a very subtle problem in our society, but a huge one none the less. Not only do we not hear their cries, but we justify ourselves for not listening. Especially in this country. In this culture, we struggle with entitlement. We have worked hard for what we have and it's ours. We have sacrificed, worked long hours, attended a good school, and earned what we have by our blood, sweat, and tears. The problem with this mindset is that it feeds our close fisted nature. Holding onto things because we earned it. And that is very dangerous as it leads to judging others who "haven't worked as hard."

That may or may not be true, and that's fine for the secular world. But as Christ-followers we are called to live open-handed, not earning things but giving things. We should understand that ALL we have comes from our heavenly father and all we have, is his to do with what he pleases. One of my favorite verses is:

"Sinners are always wanting what they don't have; the God-loyal are always giving what they do have." Proverbs 21:26 The Message

It's not about having a lot, it's about doing the most with what you have! Your neighbor's vacuum broke, they can't get a new one. You may not be able to buy them one, but you can let them borrow yours! It's not about giving money, it's about using the things he's blessed you with. It's about stewardship and living open-handed, and keeping and ear out for those around us that may need our help.

Keep your ears open, don't be frivolous with what we have and be willing to give or share what you do.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 20: Your Workplace.

Today we are reading Proverbs 20 and Psalm chapters 96-100. Before starting, ask God to help you apply his word to an area of your life that might need it.

-Read Scripture-

One of the reasons I love Proverbs is because they are general rules of wisdom that can be applied in all aspects of your life. It doesn't matter how old you are, or where you are in your life's journey, they are applicable to everyone.

Today I would like to look at Proverbs 20 through the lens of the workplace. Wether you are a business owner, boss, or employee, most of these proverbs can help you. They can not only help guide you to being a better Christ-follower in the workplace, but can actually help you succeed at your job and at what you do.



1. Proverbs 20:3 We have already addressed picking fights in an earlier study, but now think of it in terms of your workplace. (Side note: there is a difference of avoiding fights and avoiding confrontation; there is a need to address certain tensions, just in a constructive and healthy way.)

2. Proverbs 20:4 Don't procrastinate. (Another one of my personal struggles.) The key I want you to notice in this verse is that there are always consequences for procrastination. Lazy planting, no harvest.

3. Proverbs 20:6 True loyalty is rare, so if you are loyal, you will be valued. Loyalty breads loyalty. If you are loyal to someone, most times they can't help but reciprocate. This makes for a safe and healthy workplace. (I have seen this play out in both scenarios.)

4. Proverbs 20:10 & 23 This is huge because God comes right out and tells us how he feels about this, twice. We are not to take advantage or steal from people, whether they are our boss, employees, or out customers. Always be fair and up front.

5. Proverbs 20:13 This one is dangerous because it feeds into other issues, such as laziness and procrastination. The most important thing here to me is the attitude towards sleep. "Fall in love with sleep," or "be fond of sleep". I used to struggle with this principle big time. I used to love nothing more than sleeping in. We have to use sleep for what it is meant for, recharging your body to function as it is supposed to. Don't rely on it or make it something that it is not.

6. Proverbs 20:14 Don't take advantage of people. This goes along with number 4. Always be fair and up front. It's okay to get good deals and bargains, but let it be on the sellers terms, don't lie or cheat your way to one.

7. Proverbs 20:16 Be careful/wise who you lend to. Other verses in Proverbs encourages you to "give" to those in trouble or in need rather than "loan." I think that is a great principle when it comes to helping a friend or family member out of financial troubles.

8. Proverbs 20:18 Self explanatory and completely necessary. Always seek counsel before making any large decision and always counsel with people you trust and admire.

9. Proverbs 20:24 Rely on God for your path. I do not look at myself as a business owner, I look at myself as a business steward. No matter what work you are in, you can filter your decision making and actions through this verse. We should filter our entire lives through this verse.

Today, ask God to help you implement one or more of these proverbs principles into your job or workplace. And as you go about your day, keep your eyes open to see where these principles are applicable. I know that this is a lot of material, but I truly believe that how we handle our workplaces and how we conduct ourself in our jobs are one of the largest opportunities we have to show Jesus. And proverbs sets us up to win, so let's start applying!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 19: Freestyle.

Today we are reading Proverbs 19 and Psalm chapters 91-95. As you read today, I want you to mark specific scriptures that have and impact on you, the ones that resonate with you.

-Read Scriptures-



Today is going to be a little different. In preparing for writing today's study I got very overwhelmed by the scriptures, especially the Psalms. There was no way I could narrow it down to a specific topic of discussion, then I knew I wasn't supposed to. Today, you are going to have some alone time with God, with no interference from me. :)

I want you to reread some of the scriptures you marked, and use those as inspiration to journal a prayer to your Father. It doesn't have to be long or extensive. I only ask you be genuine. Tell him what overwhelms you about him, what you are most thankful for...What do you find most beautiful about him? Tell him today, in your own words.

Free yourself and allow yourself to be honest. This is a chance to open up your heart to him in a very intimate way. Allow yourself to feel something, don't rush this. Give this moment your FULL attention and you will not regret it.

Abba, thank you for your willingness to listen. Thank you for caring about our hearts. Thank you for wanting and desiring this from us, our honesty. Thank you for wanting a relationship with us. Thank you for wanting more than just our worship, but our love and devotion. And we do love you God. We love you beyond what can be measured. Thank you for our time together today.

Amen.

(If you would like to send me your prayer privately, I was thinking it might be a beautiful blog post at the end of the month to post all the prayers together, (anonymously/no names), as an offer of praise and worship to God. A collection of honest prayers, I can't imagine a more beautiful blog post, or a more moving piece to read. You can email them to me at steenjones@gmail.com or facebook message me if you are interested.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 18: Undivided Heart.

Art by Karenee-art

Today we are reading Proverbs 18 and Psalm chapters 86-90. Before reading, pray that God reveals something new to you today!

-Read Scripture-

We've all heard that David was "a man after God's own heart." But was does that mean? I've grown up my whole life hearing that and wishing I could have that kind of heart, but never understanding how. About a year or so ago, I was reading about David in the message version of the bible and it read "...my servant David who did what I told him and lived from his undivided heart, pleasing me." 1 Kings 14:8. That is when it clicked for me! I want an undivided heart! A heart that is not divided between heaven and earth, but solely focused on God, 100%. That is what is a "man after God's own heart" looks like. Now that is something I understand and can strive for!

Since then, I've received confirmation after confirmation of this idea and principle. Let's look at Psalm 86:11 in ALL different translations.

"Teach me your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth; Unite my heart to fear your name." NKJ

"Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness, give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." TNIV

"Train me, GOD, to walk straight; then I'll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear." The Message

"O Eternal One, guide me along your path so that I will live in your truth. Unite my divided heart so that I will fear Your great name." The Voice

We live divided. My heart is all over the place, divided between my children, husband, family, friends, work, money, and God. It is possible to live with an undivided heart. David did it, even with all the baggage and screw-ups. We just need to take all the things that divide us and look at them through the lens of God. How can I glorify him in all these areas? See the need to seek his guidance in these different areas. Be willing to surrender all of them to him.

I try to pray everyday for God to unite my divided heart, to make it 100% focused on him. The truth is, even though I'm not sure how to accomplish this, he knows how to. And very slowly I'm seeing my focuses change. I'm able to let go of the things that divided me and my attention. I am able now to focus on the things that I know he has called me to. It's been a very rewarding journey thus far.

We all have hundreds of things that divide our hearts. Today, think about how that looks for you. Are there things that need to be cut out? Are there important issues that need to be addressed through God's filter rather than the world's? Is there something you need to surrender? Or perhaps you just need to ask God to help you maintain your life but put him front and center. Whatever this looks like for you, I pray that God gives you the next steps.

Abba, I pray you unite our hearts today. Allow us to see our lives as they truly are, divided between heaven and earth. Thank you for Christ bridging the gap and the Holy Spirit that helps us accomplish what you have for us. Show us how to refocus our hearts and minds so that we can focus on you. 100%. Show us how to work, be in school, and live our lives with you at the center. Unite our hearts with yours so that they may beat together. Make your will our will, your cause our cause, and your desires our desires.
Seriously, I mean it. :)
Amen.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 17: I pity da fool!

Today we are reading Proverbs 17 and Psalm chapters 81-85. Before you read today, ask God to speak to you. Claim Psalm 81:5, "I hear this most gentle whisper from One, I never guessed would speak to me." The Message version.

-Read Scripture-

I don't know about you, but when I read the Proverbs, I tend to pay special attention to the characteristics of the wise. After all, that is the goal right? We are striving to be and learn to be wise. But the truth is, we can learn a lot from the characteristics of the fool. It can be an indication or a red flag that we are on a wrong path. Those proverbs show us our weaknesses and exactly what we need to work on, so we shouldn't glide past them with out taking some time to address them. It's easy to just strive to be wise, we will always be doing that. It's much harder to face your foolishness. And unless we do that, we will not make it very far down wisdom's road.

So I think it's time we face our foolishness and ask ourselves some VERY hard questions. Because once we recognize when and where we tend to be foolish, we can begin to change and replace those tendencies with wisdom.


(I know it's a funny pic, and I couldn't help myself. But, I'd go ahead and get all your laughing out of the way because we's about to get serious!)

Proverbs Top Seven List: 
You might be a fool if...

1. You perk up when you hear gossip. (Proverbs 17:4) Are you ever in a conversation, half paying attention and then your friend mentions your mutual friend who is going through a rough time and you jump back in the conversation full force? Do you "itch" to know what's going on with a situation even though you are not involved? Confession: This is one of my big fool indicators :(

2. You make fun of or tease the less fortunate. (Proverbs 17:5) Do you make fun of your friend's beater car behind their back? Have you ever quit hanging out with someone because you started making more money than them? Do you secretly feel that people who have less are worth less or are inferior?

3. You celebrate another's misfortune. (Proverbs 17:5) This is the one that no one wants to admit, but look within. Do you secretly celebrate when a friend fails? Are you relieved when once, he didn't get that promotion? Or have you ever hoped someone wouldn't be able to achieve something because you couldn't? I am, ashamedly, guilty of this.

4. You repeatedly recall other's past mistakes. (Proverbs 17:9) Do you have trouble letting things go? Even if you don't bring it to that person's attention, do you keep recalling those mistakes in your heart and mind? Do you keep using those past failures to keep your friend/sibling/spouse in check?

5. You pick fights, or enjoy fighting with others. (Proverbs 17:9) This one is harder to see in yourself. Only because when you are fighting with someone, you are right and the other person is wrong! We want to blame the other person for the fight because, after all, they are the wrong one. But if you tend to get in fights often with your family and friends, chances are YOU are the common denominator.

6. You accept bribes or ignore injustice. (Proverbs 17:23) This doesn't have to be the traditional "money under the table" bribe. It could be as simple as looking the other way when you knew something bad was going down. Do you ignore injustices and wrong doing to maintain your status?

7. The glass is always half empty. (Proverbs 17:22) Do you always fear the worst? Do you always see the negative of the situation? Do you bring joy into an environment or do you drain it? Most people wouldn't associate this characteristic with being a fool, but robbing yourself and those around you of joy is most definitely a foolish way to live!

These are some hard questions. If we are honest with ourselves and take a hard look in the mirror, we see where we are a fool. You are foolish, and I am most certainly foolish. But the good news is that once we see it, it becomes easier to recognize and easier to eliminate those tendencies. Once a flaw is exposed, it is hard to ignore!

I've grown a lot this year by learning and recognizing some pretty deep flaws of my own. And I pray that God continues to reveal my weaknesses so I can begin to work on them and grow. So that slowly, I can become more like my master, Jesus.

I pray this for you as well. That we not be content to sit on our flaws and foolish tendencies or accept them as just "the way we are" or "the way we were made." Bull honky. Jesus has called you to be more than that. He has called us to be like him, and that will take us a lifetime. Let's start today by answering these hard questions and taking a hard look in the mirror. Ask God to expose all the foolishness. Then, together, let's ask him to begin to change us!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 16: Pursue your Passions!

Today we are reading Proverbs 16 and Psalm chapters 76-80. Before starting, let's ask God to give us clear minds to receive and remember all that we read today!

-Read Scriptures-

A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend, and she asked me about "God's Will". What did I think that meant, is there just one path or are there many, some better than others, etc. That is a very good question, one that has taken me a very long time (and many different paths) to begin to understand. Notice I said begin... :)

The thought of "God's Will" for our lives can be very overwhelming and subsequently many Christians obsess over finding it. The problem with this is that many men and women sit on their behinds waiting to figure it out, when opportunity after opportunity passes them by. I feel VERY strongly that God gave us free will and the desires of our hearts for a reason!  Pursue your passions and dreams and pursue God and his wisdom in the process.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Whatever you do, do it as service to Him, and He will guarantee your success." The Voice. 

If you seek and use the wisdom God has given you, desire to honor and serve him; then you will be in his "will." Do those things and no matter where you work, where you attend school, where you volunteer, whatever career path you choose, you will be glorifying him. However, I do think that God does have particular paths for people. I just don't think it is necessary to wait for them!

Here is the thing, if you are in his word everyday, listening to him, and seeking wisdom, he will direct you to that path. "The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD." Proverbs 16:1 TNKJ We can make plans all day long, we can day dream and desire things in our hearts, but ultimately what happens is up to God anyway. The Voice translation words it: "People go about making their plans, but the Eternal has the final word." And let me tell you, sometimes he answers and brings you opportunities you didn't even know you desired!

I can't tell you how many times I'll be on a path or in a certain direction and God clearly affirms it or blocks it. That is one of the greatest gifts I've received since daily pursuing him. His affirmation and or redirection has been instrumental in my journey. Remember that God will always provide what you need to complete the tasks he has for you.

"We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it." Proverbs 16:9 The Message If you are submitting and seeking after God, he will guide you and provide for you. He will show up tangibly in ways that will excite you and spur you on!

Today in your prayer time, tell God that you are ready and willing for whatever he may have for you. Tell him the desires of your heart and ask him to use them!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 15: To Revive & Refresh.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 15 and Psalm chapters 71-75. Take a moment and clear your mind and set your heart towards an attitude of praise.

-Read Scripture-

Today is a special day! We are halfway through this journey together. I wanted it to be a special day, one that encouraged and spurred you on to continue with this study. In trying to come up with something "special," God reminded me of the most "simple" way to be refreshed and revived. He took me back to the beginning. Day 1. :)

"Let us begin. The worship of the Eternal One, the one true God, is the first step..." in ANYTHING! (Proverbs 1:7 The Voice).

So today, there is no lesson to learn or concept to apply. We are going to re-energize and refresh our spirits by worshipping our heavenly father. I'm going to share my 3 favorite verses from the reading today in Psalm and then pray for you. Then, I want us to assume our prayer/declaration position from day 12 and simply spend time worshipping.

Read your favorite Psalms to him, journal, pray, or put on your favorite praise album and sing to him. Whatever you choose to do, do it with your whole heart. Take your time and let him fill your cup, encourage and revive you for the rest of the month!

"Your righteousness, God, reaches to the skies, you who have done great things. Who is like you God?" Psalm 71:19 TNIV

"You're all I want in heaven! You're all I want on Earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock firm and faithful." Psalm 73:25 The Message (I can't help but smile when I read this verse!)

"There is no one on earth who can raise up another to grant honor, not from the east or the west, not from the desert. There is no one. God is the only one. God is the only judge. He is the only one who can ruin or redeem a man." Psalm 75:6-7 The Voice

(Please feel free to share with me what Psalms you might of used to worship with today!)



Abba, there is truly no one like you. No one can compare. No one on this Earth can give me what I need. I rely solely on you and your love and grace. I am honored that you chose me, that you choose me everyday. Lord, I choose you! I choose to follow you today. I choose to love you today. I choose to live for you today! Refresh us, revive us, refill us so we may pour you into others. Help us finish this month strong and victorious, all the while knowing YOU completed a great work in us. We love you. We love you. We love you!

Amen

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 14: Shoveling Manure.



Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 14 and Psalm chapters 66-70. Pray that God would reveal his plans for you today.

-Read Scripture-

So in preparing for today's study I had a little trouble. I was torn between two different topics to write about and finally gave in and asked God, "What do you want people to know today?" (Why is it that I always wait to go to him until I'm flustered, when I could have at the beginning and avoided the flusteredness?!)  After a few moments of silence, he answered.

THAT WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT I GIVE YOU, DICTATES WHAT I GIVE YOU IN THE FUTURE.

Huh, stewardship. Well, thanks God but that wasn't either of my options. But of course after re-reading todays scripture through that lens, I noticed the theme. Guess God does know what he's doing and has a plan! :)

Everything we have is from God: finances, provisions, abundance, and hardships. What do we do with what he entrusts to us? Are we wise and generous? Or are we frivolous or stingy? Are we angry with the burdens he places on us, or do we learn, grow, and stretch ourselves?

Psalm 66:10-12 says, "He trained us first, passes us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well watered place." The Message 

(I can not even put into words how much I love these verses and what they mean to me personally.)

How do you handle your test? What tests are you currently going through? What hell are you in? Are you looking to God for sustaining or shaking your fist? The truth is, God tests us for a reason, he needs to prepare us for the work he has for us. It's never an easy process, but it is necessary. (Just a side note from me to you: The hotter your refining fire, the more important work he is preparing you for. So know that it is not for nothing, and let that fact encourage you. That God has something incredible for you when you are ready!)

My test/refining fire are my two beautiful, amazing autistic children. I've been through some dark and hellish years, but God used (and IS using) my children to mold me into who I am. I can honestly say that I would not be doing what I am doing today without that hardscrabble country.

The trouble with hard work is just that, it's hard. "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." Proverbs 14:23 TNIV God wants to know that we are willing to put in the work. It's just like the talents parable, he wants to know we will make the most of what he gives us! And he wants to know you're not afraid to get your hands dirty...

"Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox." Proverbs 14:4 TNKJ  I will tell you this, and I believe it with all I am, if God knows you are willing to shovel the manure, he'll give you the ox you need. It might sound a little silly, but I truly believe that God will give you everything you could ever need, if he knows you will take care of it and make the most of it.

I don't want you to take this as a "works based" thing. I am strictly referring to stewardship, not salvation, grace, or love. That is all free and unconditional, nothing we can do will change that. I just want us to be willing to work for his kingdom. Be willing to be refined, so you can work at your best. Because today, he wants you to know: THAT WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT I GIVE YOU, DICTATES WHAT I WILL GIVE YOU IN THE FUTURE.

Abba, allow this to wash over us and encourage us. You have a purpose for all we go through, you have a plan. You have a job for us to do, and it's up to us to use what you entrusted to us to accomplish it. We are so thankful for your blessings, and your refining fire. You turn us into something better, more valuable than we could ever become on our own. Thank you for seeing the potential in us and bringing out the best in us. We love you and desire to honor you today with ALL you give us, all the good and the difficult.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 13: Keeping up with the Jones


Today we are reading Proverbs 13 and Psalm chapters 61-65. Ask God to open your heart and mind today to receive his truths!

-Read Scripture-



The idea of appearances, image, and reputation play a huge role in our society. We dress, make purchases, and drive cars to impress those around us. We want people around us to think we have it all together. Most people spend finances way beyond their means to "keep up with the Jones". (Must be other Jones! ;) If you look past the car they drive, house they live in, and clothes they wear, their bank account is empty. Even worse, their hearts and minds are full of stress, frustration, and depression.

God invites us into another different life, one without the stress and anxiety that comes with living beyond your means. One of peace and contentment, free of trying to impress your friends, family, or neighbors.

I believe the first thing we need to realize to fully embrace this free way of living is realizing this: That this life, our lives on this Earth is not our finale. It's only Act 1. Everything of this earth is not real, not permanent. It doesn't carry on with us. Psalm 63:9 says, "Human beings disappear like a breath; even people of rank live artificial lives. Their weight is that of a breath in a balance-nothing. Added together, they're still lighter than air." The Voice

I love that this verse says, "even people with rank live artificial lives." Even the people we think have it all, movie stars, sports heros, and politicians live artificial lives. Not lasting, and perhaps, not real.

Secondly, we must let go of appearances. Its funny, we know they mean nothing anyway, we know that things are never what they seem. But we still strive to maintain them! We need to let them go, and only focus on what our heavenly father thinks of us and our lives, not our friends and neighbors. Don't look to the right or left, only up. Two of my favorite verses are:

"A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life." Proverbs 13:7 The Message

"Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food." Proverbs 12: 9 TNIV

Plain and simple.

Plain and simple, huh. I really really like the sound of that. Talk about going against the grain of culture. One of my favorite books is "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. I highly recommend this read. It a book about how a young man from Philadelphia who came to this same conclusion. If you want to learn more about him and The Simple Way, his organization, go to www.thesimpleway.org.

After realizing that the tangible "treasures" of this world won't last and that they don't matter, it is time to focus on the treasures that WILL last, the things we do for eternity. Our service for others, helping others grow in their relationship with Christ, spreading love to the unlovable, giving of our time and resources to support those people doing these things. Being Christ's hands and his feet to his fellow followers and those he is pursuing!

My challenge for us today and for the rest of this month. Let us let go of the desire to impress those around us. Let's choose to serve God with our willingness to give, rather than our friend who just bought a new car. May culture and the world around look at us like we are crazy because of our reckless pursuit of all things ETERNAL!

Abba, give us eternity goggles! Let us see everything through that lens. Today, that is my only prayer for us. Amen!



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 12: Dependable Love.



Today we are reading Proverbs 12 and Psalm chapters 56-60. Before starting, ask God to join you for your study time. Ask him to be present with you while you read his word today.

-Read Scriptures-

I personally feel like one of the greatest gifts we can give God is our submission. We have talked about this concept before, and yesterday we discussed being broken before God, but you don't have to be broken to submit yourself and all you have to him.

Submission is a bit of a dirty word in today's culture (going back to the authority issue.) But for me, submission is an attitude of admission. Admitting God is sovereign. Admitting God is and has all power. Admission that all we have, is his to do with what he pleases. That God is the only one that can save us, protect us, and give us true victory in this life! Not our spouse, our children, or job can give us fulfillment. God alone.

Submission is an attitude of dependence:

"When struck by fear, I let go, depending securely upon you alone. In God-whose word I praise- in God I place my trust. I shall not let fear come in, for what can measly men do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4 The Voice

"For you've been a safe place for me, a good place to hide. Strong God, I'm watching you do it, I can always count on you- God, my dependable love." Psalm 59:16-17 The Message

Submitting to God is also about accepting his will/direction for your life. The road may be different or more difficult than you thought, but acknowledging his sovereignty over your circumstances. Understanding that he sees the whole picture, that he knows what we need, even when we don't. And that when we find ourselves in need, we look up. When we lack a necessity, when we find ourselves in trouble or dispair, we look to our heavenly father before we look to our right or left.

The acknowledgement of dependence is an act of submission. Declaring your dependence and reliance on God is essential. It molds our attitude and posture towards God. It keeps us humble and open handed. And it also makes sense that if everything we have comes from God, then only God can give us victory.

"Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory..." Psalm 60:11-12 TNIV

To help with practicing an attitude and posture of submission, I want you to find a physical postion you can take when you want to express to God your admission of dependence and admitting his sovereignty over all situations. Find a position and rest there, telling God what you need to. This is also an incredible tool for worshiping. Being in a physical position has a definite impact on our mind and heart.

Abba, give us undivided hearts, clear minds, and peaceful attitudes. Give us the things we need to truly live in submission to you. Allow us to live in such a manner that our service and submission to you shines and directs those around us to you. Let us depend on you alone, not on fellow man. We can always depend on you, you are always there, you are indeed our dependable love. We submit ourselves and all we have to you today.

Amen


Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 11: Mess to Masterpiece.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 11 and Psalm chapters 51-55. As every other day, start today with an openness and willingness to listen and learn. Remove all distractions and ask God to prepare you to receive anything he may have for you today.

-Read Scriptures-

Many of these studies focus on the Proverbs portion of the reading, but today I want to focus on Psalm 51. This is the Psalm that David wrote after his affair with Bathsheba was brought to light by Nathan, the prophet of the time.  Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance and seeking after God's grace. We have all been here at some point of our lives. We have all done something wrong, something we regretted. We have all committed sins from which we needed cleansing.

The first step in healing is confession, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge." Psalm 51:4 TNIV 

God alone is our judge and he alone can forgive us. To confess to our God is admitting that we need a savior, that we need saving. Without this admission, this acknowledgement, we can never truly heal.

The second step is repentance. Turning from your sin and asking for forgiveness. "I would surrender my dearest possessions or destroy all that I prize to prove my regret, but you don't take pleasure in sacrifices or burnt offerings. What sacrifice I can offer you is my broken spirit because a broken spirit, O God, a heart that honestly regrets the past, you won't detest." Psalm 51: 16-17 The Voice

I love the way The Voice version words these verses. The unfortunate truth is that the shortest route to God is a broken spirit. But the good news is that in that moment, that moment of honest regret and brokenness, God shows up and does something incredibly beautiful. He creates something new in you...

"God, make a fresh start in me; shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life." Psalm 51:10 The Message

Again, I love the way this version words this. A "Genesis week," the creation story. One of the most beautiful and hopeful stories in the entire bible. God uses the chaos and broken pieces of our lives to make something grand, something big and beautiful. A new life. To me, that is the good news. That through Jesus' sacrifice, God takes our pitiful, broken, sinful lives and turns them into new, beautiful, and worthy piece of art!

The third step is simply to allow God to change you. Because he will! God took the runt of the family, David, and turns him into the one of the greatest Kings in Israel's history. For heaven's sake, Jesus was born from his bloodline. :) God took Solomon, a result of an affair, and made him the wisest man who ever lived. God takes us, broken and unoriginal, and turns us into complete and original children of our King!

Without my God, I am nothing.
With him, I can have everything.

Thank you Abba, for forgiving us when we fail, for forgiving our sins. We are undeserving, but your love is unfailing. Thank you for your judgement, cleansing, and creating us into new beings. We would gladly offer you all we have, but you desire our hearts. So take it, because you can make it into something I could never dream of. All we have and all we are is yours.

Amen.







Day 10: Vow of Silence.

Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 10 and Psalm chapters 46-50. Before you read today, ask God to speak to you through his word, and to open your eyes and ears to see and hear it!

-Read Scripture-



One day several years ago, my friend Tara and I decided to spend a day at a monastery in central Georgia. We wanted to attend the 7am mass, so we woke up at 5am to drive down there. I'll never forget that day. The sound of the monk's singing echoing through the cathedral, the sweet smile a nun gave me when she noticed my pink hair, eating with the monks in silence, sitting outside under the giant oak tree while reading the bible all afternoon. It was so quiet. It was a day full of quiet reverence. (And for those of you who know both Tara and myself, you know that quiet doesn't come naturally to us!) It was a struggle for us to keep quiet and silent, at first. Then it became easier. Then it became enjoyable. It was a beautiful day that I'll remember for a very very long time. But the biggest thing that I learned about myself is that I found relief in the quiet.



(If you want to learn more about the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, visit here http://www.trappist.net/)

Now I've read Proverbs many times at this point, and if someone asked me to boil wisdom down into the most practical steps I could, I would tell them to live a disciplined life and to measure their words. Today, we are going to be focusing on measuring our words. Why this one? Quite frankly, because I struggle with this more than anything, and if it's a huge part of being wise, then I need to figure it out!

Our key verse for today is Proverbs 10:19, and I'm going to include all of the different versions I read through so as to include everyone! Plus, I love the way they are all worded.

"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." NKJ

"Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." TNIV

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips are prudent." ESV

"The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words." The Message

"The more you talk, the more likely you will cross the line and say the wrong thing; but if you are wise, you'll speak less and with restraint." The Voice

There is absolutely nothing I can add to those verses. So I'll measure my words. ;) Words are powerful and they can build or destroy. They should be measured and handled with care. This is where my prayer for a selfless mouth comes into play. And I'm telling you, I struggle with this SO much. I can't tell you how many times I've wished I'd just shut my mouth, how many times I have regretted my words. I know the less I "chatter" the less likely I hurt someone's feelings, or gossip, or lie, or simply miss an opportunity to hear someone else. The less I speak the more I can hear you, the more I can listen to the needs of those around me.

Most of all, the less I speak, the easier it is to hear God. I love Psalm 50 because God speaks to us directly. If the author hadn't taken the time to listen we wouldn't have been able to read those words. We would have missed it.

When we pray to God, WE are talking. Praying is only half the equation. You've got to allow the silence to hear what God has to say. Next time you pray, allow the silence, allow yourself to hear him. Don't just fill the air with "chatter", allow God to fill it, if he so chooses to.

Abba, give us selfless mouths. Quick to listen, slow to speak and only speaking truth in love. Give us clear minds to remember and recall this very important truth in those times we find our mouths out of control. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us with words, help us realize that this is something we ALL struggle with. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who leads, guides, and directs us. May we honor and glorify you in all we say and do today and the rest of the week.

Amen

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 9: Our Epic Battle.

Before we read Proverbs 9 and Psalm chapters 42-45, ask God to open your heart and mind to receive any truth he has for you today.

-Read Scripture-

You know that quintessential scene in your favorite cartoon/show where the little angel is on one shoulder and the little devil is on the other? Or the scene in your favorite movie when an enemy is tempting your protagonist and you are biting your nails, knowing what could hang in the balance...



Why do we get so invested in these stories? They resonate with us because we identify with them. We identify with feeling torn, tempted, and dealing with the choice between good and evil. We live in a constant state of battle. You may not feel like you are living in the middle of "Lord of the Rings", but it is just as epic non the less.

Proverbs 9 tells us of two opposing forces, both vying for our hearts and minds:

Lady Wisdom, "She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point in the city, 'Let all who are simple come to my house!'" Proverbs 9: 3-4 TNIV

Lady Folly, "She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, 'Let all who are simple come to my house!'" Proverbs 9: 14-16 TNIV

Spiritual warfare is very real and it is happening all around you, wether you believe it or not. Wether it scares you or not. Most importantly, wether you are prepared for it or not. The bible is super clear:

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

Everyone falls in one of two categories, you are either being fought for, or fought against. You are either choosing between the two Proverbs Ladies, or if you have already chosen Lady Wisdom, you are being fought against!

We've already established that you never know what hangs in the balance of our decisions, but when you understand that you have an enemy, who's only goal is to destroy you, then you tend to look at things differently. You begin to understand the weight of certain decisions.

The biggest gift/weapon that we have is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when I read Psalms I feel sad for the Old Testament followers who didn't have the spirit. But that didn't stop David from understanding where his power and victory came from, "You are our victory, pushing back the enemy; at the sound of your name, we crush the opposition. I don't trust in my weapons or in my strength to win me victory. " Psalm 44:5-6 The Voice

God is our victory, and he lives IN us. We should never fear the enemy or his attacks, we should live and fight boldly, flying our God colors. :)

Going back to Lord of the Rings, even though Frodo had all the help he needed, if he had not realized he was in the middle of an epic journey/battle, he would not of lasted very long. If he had refused to accept that his life was being threatened, he would not of made it to act 2.

It's time we get our heads in the game and realize what we are in the middle of. It's time to wake up and join the fight! It's time to realize that God needs YOU to accomplish & protect what his enemy is trying to steal and kill. Choose Lady Wisdom, then get ready for the opposition.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 8: The Overflow.



Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 8 and Psalm chapters 36-41. Before you begin, ask God to reveal to you something about yourself today. Either something good that maybe you have never recognized before, or something that you need to work on.

-Read Scriptures-

"I'm ready to meet those who love me, bestow true riches upon them, and fill up their lives until their treasuries overflow." Proverbs 8:21 The Voice

If you get nothing else from this study, I want you to understand this promise. That you can live a life full of true riches. That your life can be in a constant overflow.

I know this to be true because I am living it right now. Ever since I have fully given myself over to God, not holding back, submitting to him, and spending time with him everyday, I have lived in a constant state of overwhelm-ment. (I just made that word up, it's that awesome and intense, it deserves it's own word. :)  In every aspect of my life, I feel overwhelmed. (In a very good way of course). The Holy Spirit's presence and power in my life is overwhelming, people's generosity and capacity for goodness overwhelm me, God's words overwhelm me, my children's growth and progress, financially, blessing upon blessing, etc. Even my business, COLORS, is in a constant state of over-flow, (not as much financially, lol, but being able to watch God work has been SO exciting!)

Everywhere I look, everywhere I go, in everything I seem to do, God shows up. And it is always in a way that is so obviously him, all credit goes to him. That is not to say that things are always easy. That doesn't mean that there aren't moments of sadness, frustration, disappointment, or suffering. But it DOES mean that in those moments of darkness, I NEVER feel alone or hopeless. And even in the hard, tedious work, I know that God will take my efforts and make more of them than I ever could. Truly knowing and believing that God is always working in, with, and through me, gives me peace. Even when I feel I can do nothing right, knowing that he is always in control and can turn my mess into a masterpiece, makes me feel brave and confident. To me, that is true riches! 

Which is why I know that this could be your life too. It has NOTHING to do with me or the individual, just their desire to serve and honor God with their lives. He provides my needs, He gives me my heart's desire, He sends the people into my life, He provides the finances, He provides the words and encouragement I need, etc.

Psalm 37:4-6 in TNIV says: "Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun." 

The "reward" and "treasuries" referred to in both scriptures are not monetary (in my opinion). Money and earthly riches can be taken, stolen, or lost. The overflow that I've experienced can not be taken away.

The tangible presence of God in my life.
My joy.
My confidence.
My peace.

All of these things are available to you. You can live a life full of abundance and overwhelm-ment! God has blessed me beyond measure, and even in the trials and difficult moments, I have found SO much peace and joy knowing that God uses these things to take us where we need to go. That refinement requires fire. And even though the fire can be painful, it's results can be immeasurable and beautiful. When you really thing about it that way, it can be very overwhelming. In a good way. :)

My prayer for you today:

Abba, I pray for every single person doing this study right now, in this very moment. That you fill them so full of your presence that it overflows in tears. That you give them a tangible reminder that you desire to overflow us, with you. That you have a life so FULL ready for us, we can not even comprehend. A life full of blessings and joy. A life full of peace and confidence. A life living every day aware of your presence. A life full of contentment and love. A life full of forgiveness and grace. A life FULL of you. I give mine over to you today, you can do so much more with it than I ever could. I pray the same for my friends.

Give them a glimpse today, let today be the day that they know everything has changed. I pray that every single one of my friends claim these treasures and riches you have for them right now. We are your children, and this is our inheritance. We don't have to wait for it, it's available to us here and now. Thank you for it. Thank you for giving us these things that we don't deserve. Thank you for loving us through all our mistakes and failures. Thank you for loving us through the fire. Thank you for making us into something beautiful. We desire to honor and glorify you in all we say and do today.

Amen.



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 7: Asking for directions...

Today we are reading Proverbs 7 and Psalm chapters 31-35. Ask God to prepare your heart to receive his truth today; because today, he definitely has a truth he wants to share with you. :)

-Read Scriptures-

Before I even opened the bibles and notebooks this morning to begin writing, God gave me a word during my personal journaling time. I pray a ton for my business. I pray for God's favor, wisdom, direction, and guidance.  I want my decisions with COLORS to glorify God and his will, so he gave me some encouragement. It wasn't until I opened my notebooks to write today's study, that I realized it was for you as well!

I love in Proverbs 7 how Solomon gives us a clear picture of how temptation works. Seducing and deceiving. The young man, "had no clue his life was at stake; everything was about to change." Proverbs 7:23 The Voice.  He had no clue. Isn't that the way it usually works. Temptation never announces itself, and that it's intention is to destroy us. There is no warning is there? But there is, and we just got it.

I tend to look at life as a journey, and through this journey we have opportunities to take different roads or paths. When I pray or read the bible, this principle is constantly used. "...and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6 "...narrow the road that leads to life." Matthew 7:14 I could go on and on and translation after translation uses these words to describe life and our decision making.
Therefore when I pray, I tend to use this vernacular: lead, guide, and direct me.



So here is the encouragement that I received this particular morning, and I believe that it's extremely relevant to our study.

"IF YOU KEEP SEEKING AFTER ME, WHOLE-HEARTILY, YOU WILL STAY ON MY COURSE. YOU CAN'T STRAY TOO FAR OFF A PATH IF YOU'RE CHECKING YOUR LOCATION EVERYDAY.  EVERY TIME WE SPEND TIME TOGETHER, IT'S A HEART CHECK, IT'S A CHARACTER CHECK. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO GET LOST IF YOU STOP.  IT'S THE PEOPLE WHO KEEP GOING, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE UNSURE, WHO GET LOST. IF UNSURE, STOP AND ASK FOR GUIDANCE. YOU'LL NEVER REGRET THAT. I PROMISE. I AM HERE FOR YOU ALWAYS." ABBA

He is SO right. I have never regretted stopping and asking for directions. You either realize you are heading the wrong way, or you get confirmation that you were heading in the right direction! And in life, I have never regretted pausing and having a heart check.

What if the young man in Proverbs had stopped and asked someone? If he had more information, would he have made a different decision? Imagine how many less bad decisions we would make if we were checking the status of our heart and character every single day? THAT is why this is so important. God promises us, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." Psalm 32:8 TNIV 

We have all we need to succeed in this life.  Let us not be clueless, like the young man in Proverbs.

Todays application: Simply stop and ask God for directions and see what he reveals to you.



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 6: The List.



Today we are reading Proverbs chapter 6 followed by Psalm chapters 26-30. Before you start reading, (as always), ask God to prepare your heart to receive his truth for you today!

-Read Scriptures-

As followers of Christ, we should always be aiming to become more like Jesus. Our character should always be molding into a more Christ-like character. But sometimes I got frustrated. I mean, why didn't God just give us a list? Wouldn't that make it so much easier?!

Then I came across the "Seven things God hates" list. The following literally came to me as in the comics when a light bulb turns on over one's head. If these 7 things are the things he hates more than anything, then surely the opposite characteristics are the things he loves most! Really profound right?! Lol. Well, it makes perfect sense to me. :)

So here is the list according to the TNIV:

"There are 6 things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies, and a person who stirs up dissension in the community." Proverbs 6: 16-19 

(In case you were wondering, haughty eyes means seeing yourself as superior, being arrogant. I had to look that one up, not ashamed to say. :)

So using that list, I wrote my own "Things God loves" list and started praying to become these things every day. I have been praying this list over myself, my kids, and my husband for over a year! I figure that if I can use this list of characteristics as my guideline, then I will constantly be moving in the direction of becoming more Christ-like (no matter how slow). Now here is what I came up with. (Keep in mind, this is a list I wrote based on what I read, so take it for what it's worth, grain of salt and what not!)

Here are the 6 things God loves, 7 that are honorable to him (according to Steen):

Undivided heart: 100% focused on You, not on this world. (More on this concept later :)
Clear mind: to remember and recall Your truths.
Peaceful attitude: to bring people together, not to separate.
Compassionate eyes: eyes that are quick to embrace, not judge.
Selfless mouth: quick to listen, slow to speak, and speaking only truth.
Productive hands: accomplishing Your work.
Steady feet: following You, never to wander or stumble.

(When I pray it, I work from the head down. Start with the heart, mind, attitude, eyes, mouth, hands, then feet!)

I have found that you can run almost ANYTHING that comes your way through this filter/grid and know how to respond in a more Christ-like manner. Since I have begun praying for these specific traits, I've felt myself change. It's getting a bit easier to make right choices. I still struggle with several of them, (especially the selfless mouth). But slowly, God is molding me to become the person I am asking him to make me.

A prayer I want us to offer up and meditate on today:

"Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I'm fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, But keep in step with you, never missing a beat." Psalm 26:2-3 The Message

My challenge for you: Pray this list over yourself and your loved ones every day for the rest of the month and just see what happens!








Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 5: No matter the stormy sea.



Before we start reading today, ask God to reveal something new about himself to you. We will be reading Proverbs chapter 5 and Psalm chapters 21-25.

-Read Scripture-

A couple of days ago, we talked about why God rebukes, disciplines, and corrects us. Yesterday we looked at our innate desire to rebel against authority and that the only TRUE freedom is found under God's authority.  Today we are going to look at the collateral damage of rebellion, and that no matter what dark place you find yourself in, it's never too late to cry out to God for help.

It's very hard when you watch someone you love rebel. Being the oldest of 3 other siblings and having worked with my husband in student ministry for over 7 years, I have much experience with this. You see the path they are on and the danger ahead, but it is not until they are swimming in their consequences that they call out or want help. Of course, this is applicable for us and the people around us. People see us heading down a road, and we don't want help until the inevitable rock bottom. It's hard to watch. So imagine our heavenly father, having to watch us swim out too deep, knowing at any moment, we could be overcome with irrevocable consequences.

"Mark well that GOD doesn't miss a move you make; he's aware of every step you take. The shadow of your sin will overtake you; you'll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark." Proverbs 5:22-23 The Message

This is why God steps in to course correct, he understands the consequences before we do. This is why we should be grateful when he steps in, because he is most likely saving us from certain drowning.  The biggest, most important thing to get out of today is that it is NEVER too late to call to God. You are never out of his reach, no matter how low you are.

I love King David. He was a shepherd, a King, an adulterer, a murderer, but he was a man after God's own heart. David had experienced almost every high and every low imaginable. In every peak, he praised God, and in every valley, he cried out to him for salvation & rescue. Even after his affair and murder cover-up, God restored David due to his genuine humility and cry of repentance.

Psalm chapter 23 is some of the most famous and recalled scripture of all time. "Yea, through I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me..." Psalm 23:4 NKJ But I want to share with you another version of that passage. Sometimes, when you've heard something your whole life said the same way, you don't really HEAR it anymore. It just bounces through your head and doesn't stick. (At least that is what happens to me.) And I truly want these verses to stick!

"Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because you are with me in those dark moments, near with your protection and guidance, I am comforted." Psalm 23:4 The Voice.

Jesus forgave the thief on the cross dying next to him. We have already established David's rap sheet. It's never too late to ask God for help. He's never out of reach. The power of Christ can light any dark place, he can rescue you from any stormy sea or any dark valley you may find yourself.

Abba,
Thank you for caring about us enough to never leave us. Thank you for your patience with us. Thank you for your redemption. I pray that we accept your tough love in our lives as what it truly is: grace. That you see what we can't, you see the consequences that lay ahead. That we trust you to lead us. Thank you that no matter how far we wander, no matter how dark a place we may find ourselves, you are able and willing to rescue us and set us at your table. That is immeasurable love. Thank you for lifting us up so that we can stand tall and look you straight in the eye. We love you and desire to honor you with our lives today.
Amen