5 Undeniable Reasons To Start Bible Journaling

5 Undeniable Reasons To Start Bible Journaling
Reading the Bible shouldn’t be a fad diet we quit in 2 weeks. Nor should it be another box on my to-do list. It’s about relationship and personal growth. No time table or deadlines; one day at a time, moment by moment I’m learning to walk God’s joy-lined path.
Through journaling I can take my tangled-up thoughts, feelings, and realities and realign them on the page according to God’s truth. Journaling is the ability to take scripture and make it meaningful and relevant in your life. It’s great if I hear people say that the Word is living and active, but without application I’ll never personally know that for myself. In my journal I can literally write TO God. Ask Him questions, argue with him, argue with myself, be silly, stupid, cranky, spoiled and selfish. No matter how it goes, He’s still God and I’m on my knees.
Everyone learns and responds to scripture differently. I prefer to write down my thoughts in the large plain Moleskine notebooks for my journaling. The plain pages give me the freedom to doodle and write however I want. Bible decorating is another thing that is getting tons of attention lately. In the same way that adult coloring books have been all the rage for relaxation, you can ponder the scriptures while decorating it to your heart’s content. Go ahead, give yourself an excuse to go shopping for some new art supplies. 😃 Just look what people are creating.
Have you ever tried journaling through the Bible? I think everyone ought to give it a try at least once. But if you’re still not convinced, here are 5 undeniable reasons to start journaling:
  1. Journaling helps information stick. Ever notice how a new idea tends to “pop up” everywhere? When you engage with scripture, your mind will naturally recognize what you are learning in everyday situations. Better decisions come from an informed conscience.  Be a doer of the Word not just a hearer(James 1:22)
  2. Journaling allows us to discover for ourselves. Don’t just take someone else’s word for it. As well meaning as pastors and bloggers are, we are human! Don’t be a victim of bad theology – make sure you know what you believe. Journaling will help you to look closely at the source and know what you believe. (Acts 11:17)
  3. Journaling helps us apply God’s word. The word is living and active and meant to change us from the inside out.Of what use will the Bible be if you read but immediately forget what it says? (James 1:23) Make the connection by writing it down and owning it.
  4. Journaling is better than cramming. Studies show that we learn best in little spurts. A little bit of journaling (studying) will go a long way. Remember, there’s no heavenly scantron to look forward to. This is real life and the fruit of our discoveries is relevant right now. Inaccurate recall of the scriptures can cause us to operate under false wisdom and may even lead others astray. (Galatians 5:7-12) Not good.
  5. Journaling can be whatever you need it to be. Maybe you want to study a specific verse or even a whole book of the bible. Write your thoughts and prayers as your go verse-by-verse. Had a hard day and need to vent? Write about it and listen for God’s response in the scripture. Need to forgive someone but it’s too hard? Look up verses related to “forgiveness” and ponder them in writing. There is no wrong way to journal. It’s a perfectly wonderful way to invite God into your “here and now”.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Have I sufficiently inspired you to try  journaling for yourself?

Want to see more? Let me know on the Tea & Testimony Facebook page and share what you have created!

Thanks for reading, Molly

 

Faith as Fuel

Faith as Fuel

Let’s say you are working in a job that you can’t stand, or have duties/responsibilities that feel more like drudgery than blessing. Some of us have sick elderly parents to tend, or needy friends who constantly take and never give. You don’t feel that the paycheck of your 9-5 job is worth the stress you take home at the end of every shift. What do you do? To which thing or person do you go? What do you tell yourself? For me, it’s Netflix.

First, we should call it what it is. Ok so it’s not turning to the bottle or the needle. I’m not a traditional addict, but instead have chosen a much more “acceptable” way of dealing. I binge watch TV shows. It just wastes time and takes me into another world where problems are solved in 30 minutes. It’s not that bad right? Except that it is just another way of numbing the pain of an underwhelmed soul. There’s no public shame associated with distracting yourself from something you wish would change. Therefore it remains an untouched subject in my heart.

Second, remember that God blesses us in unexpected ways, places, and opportunities. Like I mentioned in my last post, I was enormously depressed because my first job out of college was “beneath my dignity” as a new graduate. Even so, I received many comforts and assurances from God that summer, through my coworkers and managers. (Not to mention a paycheck that got the job done) Then a few months later my favorite aunt invited me to live with her in Maui and work for her company. A job. In Hawaii. With a boss who is invested in my wellbeing. And all the people said AMEN.

What if I had gone straight into a brand new job after college and missed this opportunity? To be sure there are plenty of what-ifs, but this is a big one for me. God’s will for me in this season was the protection and love of family at this time. What might be just around the bend for you?

Third, consult the Lord. He has a plan and a future for you. Can I say it again? He’s on your side. If there’s a chance to make a change, jump for it. Some seasons are inescapable though, no matter how much you pray and try to change it. When we are hurting in this way the last thing we want to hear is an ignorant but well meant “It’s a blessing in disguise”. Let’s skip over those clichés and go straight to the truth.

  1. Pray for strengthened faith

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’” (James 2:17-18 NLT)

We believe in God’s sovereignty and that his purposes get worked out in his time and specific ways. So consider this trial an opportunity to tending our garden in a special way. (James 1:2-4) When we keep working in the face of trials, our faith is proven and strengthened. Faith is the trust that God will do what he promised. Use your faith as fuel to keep on going and god will direct your path.

  1. Pray for patience

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Read this verse over a few times. Do you notice anything interesting? It says that the Lord is patient toward you, not the other way around. He’s not up on his heavenly throne chatting with the Seraphim going, “Yeah, Molly is really getting impatient with this new plan I’m working on for her. I better finish up quickly so she can get on with it!” Ha! On the contrary, who am I to believe my plans and timing as better than the Lord’s? Let’s not forget either – our ultimate purpose is to love God and love each other. THAT is the calling with multiple expressions. So in this season, if I am stuck with no way out, I can still fulfill my purpose while I wait for something better.

Now all that truth sounds really good and all, but let’s be honest. It’s easier said than done. Just because I believe in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean I like it all the time. The hard part for me is sucking it up and accepting the fact that I am not the master of my own life. Galatians 2:20 says “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. This is something that each person who follows Jesus must work on accepting but thankfully we don’t have to do it alone.

What do you think? Journal your thoughts as the spirit leads on the verses mentioned above:

  • James 1:2-4
  • James 2:17-18
  • 2 Peter 3:9
  • Galatians 2:20

Thanks for reading this month’s series on Work and Purpose, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to share how the Spirit moved you on the Tea & Testimony facebook page . As a thank you I have created free printables. Print and hang these words of truth where you will see them the most.

The Flawed Theology of Meaningful Work

The Flawed Theology of Meaningful Work

We all naturally want to do work that is meaningful. But what if your work isn’t? Some people have amazing jobs where it seems that the thing that they do for money is also the thing that makes their soul sing. That is awesome and enviable…and sadly not the reality for 99% of the world. If you’re like me, your job leaves you more stressed than satisfied at the end of the week, and you find yourself wishing it could be different. You have an overwhelming sense of dread that you will never be able to find what you are “meant” to do, and face the possibility of dying having only worked for something you don’t care about.

However it would be a mistake to equate your soul’s purpose with personal fulfillment you get from your job. Many people don’t take the time to reflect on what they functionally believe versus what they say they believe. As long as I am living I am liable to take God’s words and twist them into something incorrect. I discovered that I created my own god when I began to operate under the assumption that all my experiences and talents were only created for one job. I was getting depressed because I thought that if miss that one calling I am much wasted as a person. After graduating from college with my B.A. there were no jobs to be found in Santa Barbara. I was forced to take the only thing I could: a receptionist position at a company that fixed copy machines. This was deeply disturbing to me. “Is this why I just went $80,000 into debt?” I thought, “My time is so much more valuable than this.”

Pausing right here, I see a few things in my past self. First, the enormous sense of entitlement and pride of which I need to repent, but also the fact that I’m focusing on that mirage of “the perfect job” rather than seeing God’s purpose for me right then and there. My manager was a devout Christian and ran his office like one. He was always inviting me to his church and praising the Lord right there in the office. (Which I’m sure was more than a little uncomfortable to all who worked there.) I had some really deep conversations about God with my cubicle mate, and of course there was the fact that I had found a job at all in that climate. God was providing for me in droves but I would go home pouting because I thought there was only one dream job available to me and I had failed in procuring it.

When your functional belief is not the same as your actual beliefs, you end up with flawed theology on your hands. Flawed theology is dangerous because we base our thoughts motivations and actions on our personal theologies. If your theology is incorrect you are putting words in God’s mouth. And that has never ended well, just ask Satan!

Watch “One calling Multiple expressions” by Annie Downs. Aside from being one of my very favorite authors, she talks about how our vocations are expressed in so many unique ways throughout our lives. She says “You are not too old to find your calling, and you are not too young that you have not already experienced multiple expressions of it”. I have watched this particular talk probably more than 5 times since I discovered it a few years ago, and trust me friends, when I say it is full of gems. I can’t recommend that you take a few minutes to watch it yourself. And so we find that a shift in perspective is needed.

What do you think? Take some time to journal as the Spirit leads and hear how God is directing your thoughts on this topic

Work & Purpose

Work & Purpose

If you’re like me, your job feels oppressive and pointless – like a necessary evil to get to payday. I think back to my childhood days when that’s how it felt anytime my parents asked me to do something. “Chores are torture!” I would tell my dad. It must have made him think, “Girl, just you wait and see!” I spend 40+ hours per week moping at my desk and working half-heartedly because I don’t care about the work I’m doing.

We live in an individualistic society where we are focusing ourselves more than ever before. Everything is supposed to fulfill you, make you happy, feel good, or else we naturally want to avoid it. In his book Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller talks about this social “disease” of individualism which has caused our sense of community to die in popular culture. Today it’s easier than ever to not have to leave the house and go outside. People don’t rely on each other. Next door neighbors have never even met. It’s common to hear someone say in a jokey way, “I wanted to go out, but didn’t want to put on pants”. It’s funny on the surface, but deeply disturbing when we realize that these “harmless” ways of life are only symptoms of underlying sin. Put simply, when we only want to do what feels good to us and avoid work and responsibilities we are walking by our natural reasoning which the Bible says leads to death.

In contrast, we walk by the Spirit when we consider God’s will and purpose for ourselves to be better. Did you know that God assigned Adam his work before the fall, not after? I was surprised to find that in God’s eyes work is not a punishment, but a special privilege. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15 NLT). God had just finished creating the whole world from nothing. The Garden of Eden was beautiful but not complete until he gave it into Adam’s care and protection.

We have our own little gardens of Eden to tend and fortunately for me, gardening know-how is not required! It’s our choice whether we water and prune wisdom and fruit of the spirit. When we choose to operate outside of God’s will and purpose for ourselves, we suffer the consequences. Our wisdom withers away and the fruit of the spirit rots on the vine when we do not watch and carefully tend our little plots. But when we work hard at growing our characters within God’s will, we see results. Assurance, blessing, and hope in Jesus are only a few examples of the abundance of God’s garden. These are eternal things which never perish. Jesus tells us that we must labor for the “food” which endures, which can only come from him (John 6:27 ESV). How will we grow our virtues if we only spend time concerned about perishable things?

What do you think? Don’t take my word for it -Spend some time in the word and journal as the Spirit leads on these verses in their specific context:

  • Genesis 2:15
  • John 6:27

 

 

Discovering your heart’s design

Discovering your heart’s design

Facing your own heart is hard and even painful. But the precious ridges and valleys of our hearts were all designed by a loving God on purpose. He is the master builder of our natural talents dreams and personalities. Do you know what your heart was meant to do?

Some lucky people have known since day one. Shortly after I got married, we took my engagement ring to be appraised for insurance. As the appraiser peered at my ring through her microscope, carefully turning it over and inspecting it, she told us her story of how she became a gemologist. She said she had known since she was old enough to appreciate the lovely glints off her grandmother’s shiny dress jewelry. For 18 years she was obsessed with gemstones, geology, and jewelry. When it was time to choose a college, there was no contest – she was off to the gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, CA. She had known her whole life the goal to which she was pointed. And what’s even better than knowing what you absolutely want to do with your life, is actually getting to do it. For money.

Sadly, we don’t all get that kind of conviction. Some of us just have to mine a bit, but once you start to unearth raw diamonds, you will find that you always knew all along. It just takes an honest look, and a willingness to separate your original heart-design from the world-facing facade.

What does your heart design look like? Here are some questions to help you get started:

1. Can you remember a time when you felt most “alive”? What were you doing? Where? With whom?
2. How do you prefer to “recharge”? In the safe company of friends, or alone?
3. Name 5 things that inspire you: (rolling green hills, an unexplored island, an ancient library…)
4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
5. What would you want to be now, if money and education was no issue?

My heart feels most in its element when I write.
I prefer to ponder and take in beauty alone, in a meditative way. I need alone time to recharge. If i don’t get time to myself every few days I become cranky and dissatisfied.
My inspiration comes from art, historic buildings and artifacts, ancient sacred music, a private space to write, and a brand new notebook.
When I was a kid I always told my dad I was going to be a writer and an artist. (I could never decide between the two so I said I wanted to write books and draw the pictures.)
Now that I’m a grownup, I want to be a writer and an artist. I still can’t decide so I’ll just have to do both.
I am content to stay still for long periods of time. I’m a total homebody and very patient. (I think!)

I have played violin for 21 years, but only just this year discovered the secret skill of resetting the bridge. The bridge is the thin wooden stint on which each of the 4 strings rest before being stretched down the long black finger board to be wound around the pegs at the top of the instrument.

For years I have hated to practice because my sound was so flat and clangy. Not pleasant to my ears, and assuming even less pleasant to those around me. I was recently browsing the internet to see how much it might cost to buy a new one. (After all a pro with 21 years of experience like me could surely substantiate the purchase of a second violin…)
One video on bridge alignment caught my eye and I was shocked to discover that not only was my bridge in the complete wrong position, it was on BACKWARDS. I, the “pro”, had not been working with a bad instrument, but an incorrect alignment.

I loosened the pegs, causing the strings to naturally try to recoil, freeing the bridge from the tension and falling into my lap. I set the bridge up exactly between the center of the F holes with the tall side on the left. I then re-tuned my violin and plucked a string. Instead of the tinny flat sound I had been struggling with for so many years, a beautiful rich ring sounded in my ears. I played a few notes with my bow – like butter. I excitedly found my husband, made him stop what he was doing and listen to the incredible pure sound I had just discovered. Not being a violinist, he didn’t really notice the difference. But I did so much that I couldn’t even be offended that he didn’t appreciate it. It was so beautiful to me that other opinions and comparisons became blurry and unimportant.

I was already working with everything I needed to create beauty, I just needed to rearrange some things. And I don’t think it is by accident that my heart beats faster when it gets to indulge in all of the above. When it hears the beautiful sacred music, when it stands in the same spot that a historical figure once stood, something in my heart-design recognizes its counterpart and rings clearly and brightly.

Seeking God: Reaching out

Seeking God: Reaching out

Reading: Psalm 9:9-20, Isaiah 53:5-6

Christ: You are valuable to Me in My kingdom. I was pierced through for the transgressions of all so that there may be no road block for you to come to me in faith and live with Me in Heaven forever.

 

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Think: It’s important for us to meditate not only on the comforting and Godly power of Jesus, but also on his crucified human form as well. Realize that from the cross He has already forgiven every transgression anyone has ever and will ever make. Nothing that I have done may ever prevent me from saying Yes to Him.

Pray: Dear Lord, help me to stay aware of my sin and conscientiously seek to take control of my urges and habits. Jesus reaches out His pierced hand to us, offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Now let me also reach out and take hold of it to be led each day by Him.

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Seeking God: Keep a soft heart

Reading: Psalm 95:1-7, Isaiah 40:11

Christ: Remember that I am your place of rest and your shelter of comfort. The cares of the world are stressful and not at all aligned with the original purpose for which you were made. The symptom of a hardened heart appears when you try to make a shelter of safety for yourself. I cannot do my work or you if your heart is hardened against me.

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Think: “The seed sown on the rock never brought any fruit to perfection” – Matthew Henry. When I lie, cheat, steal, I am hardening my heart against God’s heart for me. I may justify my choice, or ignore it altogether but it is still sin.

Pray: Dear Lord, let us keep the ground of our hearts as fertile soil which grows the seed of faith to perfection in the dew of your grace. Help me to notice the moment my heart refuses to receive your wisdom. Holy Spirit, make clear to me the state of my heart so that I may never miss out on the gentle leading of Jesus.


 

Why I’m dreading Lent this year

Why I’m dreading Lent this year

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Lent is this Wednesday. I know. “What? Already?” I believe my exact reaction was, “AGAIN?”

Every year it’s the same. I spend all kinds of time sitting at Starbucks with my laptop trying to decide whether it’s coffee or chocolate that will get the boot. “Hmm…maybe I should just give up Facebook,” I think to myself, washing down a bite of chocolate-chocolate-chip muffin with a swig of mocha latte.

Lent is like the Christian version of New Years Resolutions. You make up your mind to give something up or start doing something good, only to let yourself slide until you have completely forgotten about the funny promise you made to God 40 days prior. (Chocolate bunny, anyone?)

If you’re not familiar with Lent, it is what Christians call that stretch of time between Mardi Gras and Easter. It is a time set out in the church when believers usually focus on growing closer to God through Prayer, Fasting, and Giving. It’s actually a great opportunity to rekindle the dryness that periodically creeps into our faith-lives. Everyday life and responsibilities cause so much noise in our heads that we forget to focus on the One who is the only source of wisdom, comfort, and salvation. This is why I’m such a huge believer in the practice of Lent. We learn to slow down and establish a structure of prayer that is oftentimes missing from our lives. So why am I dreading it?

Over the past 2 months I my article-writing engines have been on overdrive and I have loved every stressful minute of it. I’m writing for and with God for you good people spread across the Interwebs and all the while, I hear my heart beating in step with each piece. It’s buzzing with excitement: you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. I have SO many ideas for how to glorify God with my writing and my blog.

However, Lent means I have to slow down. It means that I actually have to stop trying, pull it back a bit, and slow down so that I can commune with God. As much as I don’t want to slow my mad productive pace, my soul hangs in the balance if I do not. I’m like a toddler running out the front door and down the driveway before my mom has time to put a diaper on me — I tend to run way ahead of God’s plans before I’m ready.

But this relationship with the master of the universe is vastly more important than anything I post, write, plan to write. I’m hearing his still, small voice in my heart saying, Be still, Molly. Quit trying to prove to me how awesome you are.

I want to be intentional about this year’s season of Lent so I won’t be posting every single day, but only as the spirit leads. I will be listening for God’s voice and striving toward closeness with Him.

Won’t you join with me in search for an intentional Lent? Whether this is your first Lent season or 100th, let’s take Lent seriously together this year. Let’s both commit to being companions of Jesus, instead of competitors. ☩


I want to know how will you be celebrating Lent this year! Leave me a comment below and share what you will be reading/doing. Thanks for reading!
Your sister in Christ,
Molly

Want to read Proverbs with us?

Want to read Proverbs with us?

Dear friends,

The beginning of the year can really feel like a drag sometimes. To me January feels like the Monday of months.  No more parties, no more presents, no more excuses to double on christmas cookies. It’s back to reality and it’s oh-so-bleak.

That’s why we wanted to do something extra special for our readers, to encourage and equip each other in the power of God’s Word.

So throughout the month of January, we will be reading a chapter a day in the book of Proverbs, together as a community.

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Read 1 chapter a day starting on January 1
  2. Select 1 verse that stands out to you
  3. Post that verse on Puredisciple’s Facebook page

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Now I know what you’re thinking… Allow me to explain why your participation will not only be worth the time, you might actually see yourself transformed in the process.

Reasons you should join us

  1. It’s easy. Only 1 chapter a day. So what if you miss a day? You can return to it any time.
  2. It’s good for you. We need God’s Word like we need oxygen (Mat 4:4).
  3. We’re all in it together. As the body of Christ we are meant to build each other up (1 Thess 5:11). There will be fellowship!
  4. By the end of the month, you’ll have read an entire book written by the wisest man who ever lived. How’s that for a conversation starter?

All are welcome and we can’t wait to see what God has in store for us this January!

Love,

The Pure Disciple Team

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

What to do when a sermon tests your faith

 

On my way home last night I decided to listen to a Christian radio channel. They usually air sermons which I like to listen to while driving. Some of my most profound thinking time happens in the driver’s seat.

However, last night I was surprised to encounter a message focusing on Nazis, Syrians, the wrath of God, and hellfire. Where was the story of brokenness, forgiveness and redemptive love? I still am wondering about the context of that message.

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I’m not advocating that we should never focus on the reality of God’s justice and wrath which will come swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35). A gospel of feel-goodery is just as incorrect.

However it saddens me to think that someone somewhere might have flipped on that channel, and presumed misunderstand the meaning of that message, further spreading ignorance and incorrect beliefs.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 NIV

 

That’s why I draw such encouragement from the Bereans. They are a perfect example of how we as Christians are to receive something we don’t understand. Paul would later exhort the Thessalonians to take the same attitude:

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 MSG

So, how do we respond when a message leaves us with more questions than answers?

  1. We must be humbleDon’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
  2. We must be open-mindedDo not despise prophecies. You don’t know if this is a message from the Lord or not.
  3. We must be cautious: Check out everything and hold to what is good. If the message you hear doesn’t immediately agree with the basic truths of Christianity, suspend judgement and seek help.

This is where being plugged into a local church community helps. Make an appointment with a trusted elder or pastor. Ask them to pray with you and help your understanding. There’s an old Russian saying that goes “There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.”