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October 8, 2012

Growing Together

At the end of this summer, I signed up for a community Bible study that I had planned to commit to for the next several months. Just a few days before the meetings were supposed to begin, I received a phone call that the childcare was full and we were being placed on a waiting list for the fall. This was disappointing news as I had already planned exactly what my Tuesday mornings would look like for September through May. However, I have taken this opportunity to delve into some other things that I've been wanting to do for a long time. Let me introduce you to them...

#1 - Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Have you read his book "Crazy Love? I loved that one, and I was also really challenged by this one. Here are a couple of portions that stood out to me:

Perhaps you don't need fire from heaven, but peace. Perhaps what you need is wisdom to know which decision to make. Or courage to do the right thing, even though you might lose your job. Or maybe you need love because you feel alone. Or you want people with a similar vision to journey with and support you along the way. Whatever you need, the point is that God is aware of you and your circumstances, and He knows what you really need. He is able to bring these things, people, and circumstances into your life.
He wants to do more than "help out" a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so much so that people know something supernatural has taken place - life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from Heaven. He wants to imbue us with His wisdom because He is the 'spirit of wisdom and revelation'. Even as the Spirit works in us to make us more like Christ, to transform us, He is also patient. This work will not be complete until His kingdom comes in full, though this does not deter Him from working now.
No matter where you live and what your days look like, you have the choice each day to depend on yourself, to live safely, and to try to control your life. Or you can live as you were created to live - as a temple of the Holy Spirit of God, as a person dependent on Him, desperate for God the Spirit to show up and make a difference. When you begin living a life chracterized by walking with the Spirit, that is when people will begin to look not to you but to our Father in Heaven and give Him the praise.

#2 - Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
This book has been sitting on my shelf for awhile. I have been meaning to read it for a long time, and while it isn't necessarily a Bible Study book, I love some of the stories, Scripture passages, and quotes that she shares. My favorite quote: The ocean is constant and powerful, and like the love of God, whether we're immersed in it, standing on the shore, or a thousand miles away, it remains. These words especially spoke to me, because I read them while staring the ocean right in the face. Don't you just feel so close to the Creator when you're looking at the ocean? What an incredible place to spend time with Him!

#3 - Ruth from The Living Room Series by Kelly Minter
This is a Bible study that I started in January 2011. The icky feelings that go along with the beginning weeks of pregnancy kept me from feeling like attending the final two weeks of this study, and I just this past week got around to completing the lessons in the workbook. Why did I wait so long? What an incredible study!
God drastically changed Ruth's life. Each stage slowly gave way to the next, her faithfulness and loyalty yielding each new promotion and season of life. What an inspiration to keep going knowing that God will give the increase.
How sad it is when people only 'hear' about God's blessing, but never experience it, because they are not in the place where God can bless them...God's providence was all over Ruth's encounters, yet it was her obedience and work that placed her in the way of such providence.
I used to think that my choice to obey in any given situation was a one-time decision, but I now realize that obedience might mean having to make that same choice several times in a week, month, or year.
God is working all around us...even in the seemingly mundane; and we must remember how purposeful He is, how intently He carves our paths, authors each stroke, and weaves our courses in each others' lives.
God's divine hand is active in all my unknowing and confusion, threading together every heartbreak and triumph, never wasting a swatch, working all things together for good in the way that only God can...Times of humbling and hardship prepare us for a wealth of blessing we would have otherwise been unable to handle. God will always be found faithful and good.
What He can do with a willing life surrendered at His feet is more than we can comprehend. I just know I don't want to miss it for whatever I'm clutching in my hands. Lord, help me be willing or willing to be made willing. (I can't get that phrase out of my head!)
Laying down our lives for others, for the sake of Jesus, is never wasted.
I could continue to go on and on sharing great things from this book - including some fun recipes that she includes throughout the workbook! I'm really excited to check out some of her other studies!

My little one took extra-long naps while we were away at the beach last week, so I was able to spend lots of time with my nose in these books as well as in THE Book~
It was so refreshing and very much needed!

Two more things, I don't want to forget to mention:

#4 - Jesus Calling - 365 Day Perpetual Calendar by Sarah Young - Are you familiar with this book? When I was teaching, we would oftentimes read portions of this book together during teacher devotions. What a great way to start the day - It never failed to encourage me in some way and there were days when the truths shared changed the course of my entire morning. I have recently picked up the Daily Calendar:
This calendar includes the entire book - only in calendar form, and I'm planning to put this on my bathroom  sink - to help me start the day off right! Have you read any of her other books? I've seen a couple of others that look great - especially her kid's version of "Jesus Calling" - Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids. Seems like a great guide for family devotions!

#5 - The Husband Project by Kathi Lipp
I've joined up with a few friends, and together, we have committed to "The Husband Project" - using it as a guide for encouraging our husbands and letting God use us to bless our partners in some fun and creative ways. We are all loving this already, and I think it would be a great resource whether you've been married 5 years or 50 years.

Lastly, I just have to encourage you to sign up for some kind of daily devotional that will come through on your phone! Smart phones have enhanced our lives in all kinds of silly ways, but they have also allowed us to literally carry encouragement from the Word in our back pocket (or messy purse - *smile*) at all times. I've recently signed up for a couple of different devotionals that come through daily, and this has provided me with nuggets of Scripture and truth to focus on throughout the day. What a difference that can make in my day.

If you're like me, your intentions to grow in truth are good, but it's so easy to neglect this piece of life. We get busy. We get distracted. We get tired. So, I hope these resources will help you as you seek to be more intentional about growing in your faith - Let's grow together!

What studies have helped you?
What tips do you have for someone who wants to be intentional about focusing on truth, growing in their faith, drawing closer to the Creator?