#FINDTHEBEAUTY Challenge: A Fourteen Day Bible Study and Photo Experience

#FINDTHEBEAUTY Challenge: A Fourteen Day Bible Study and Photo Experience

Friends, I am SO thrilled to invite you to a 14 day Bible Study and Photo challenge experience beginning tomorrow, June 20th! A friend and I did this together as sort of an experiment a few weeks ago when God stirred my heart about being intentional every day to find traces of where He had been and it was INCREDIBLE. Moments that touched my heart, encouraged me, refined me, or just took my breath away. What I found was that seeking the beautiful things in the everyday pointed me to Jesus over and over again. Traces of the Gospel and God’s love for me is so present in countless moments throughout the day, and I just felt God prompt me to commit to looking for the evidence of His goodness in the everyday.

I asked my friend Amy to do this with me and she said YES so willingly and guys–I cannot tell you how much it blessed me every day to hear what God was showing her. He used her to refine me and several times what she sent (out of what God showed her) was just what I needed to hear. The accountability we had was instrumental in this experience. There were some days that were really, really hard. And at the end of the day, we had to CHOOSE to find the beauty, because we knew we had committed that to one another. And we knew the other person was waiting for it from us every day! And without this challenge, I guarantee you that I would have went to bed with my heart in the wrong place–sin unchecked because I would not have been in the Word every night like I was when I was committed to this challenge. I am generally consistent about spending time in the morning praying and studying, but there was something so pivotal about this additional time each evening as I reflected about my day. It forced me to lay my heart bare before the Lord, and let the Cross do its work in me through His Word. And a lot of times, it was painful. But it was also FRUITFUL. Every. single. time. Find your tribe and invite them to do this WITH you. It will be much easier to stay accountable with people you actually know and see in person. You won’t regret it!

HERE’S HOW I DID IT: This experience cultivated an awareness throughout my day to keep my eyes open for the goodness of God, and when my heart was stirred I would take a photo of something that symbolized the moment. Sometimes I would take multiple photos throughout my day, and then at night after my kids would go to bed I would choose one to pray though and find the verse that I felt like best represented my experience/feelings/reflections. Sometimes I would google “verses about _______” and go from there. Sometimes I would look up a word in the concordance in the back of my Bible (the YouVersion app has this feature too! So helpful). And sometimes a moment would immediately remind me of a verse that I had written on my heart, or God would bring a certain Scripture to memory.

He uses EVERYTHING to let us know He is here, friends. It’s so evident, yet sometimes we neglect to even notice the miracles He does right in front of us. This has been such a game changer. If you commit to this challenge wholeheartedly, you will not be the same, in the best way. You will: 

–Experience the Word coming ALIVE in your life.

–See God moving MORE in your life, because you are actively LOOKING for His hand.

–Cultivate a lifestyle of INTEGRATING God’s truth into your everyday life.

Reflecting on my first 14 days, this is what I felt like I experienced in my own life:

“18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. ” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV) 

That passage has always sounded a little intimidating to me, even overwhelming at times. But friends, it wasn’t. I was literally doing this every day, God’s word was running in the background of my mind ALL day and it wasn’t draining at all. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t daunting. It was LIFE-GIVING. I want so badly for everyone to give this a shot, because it is SO worth it.

Are you ready to step up your personal Bible study and spiritual growth this summer?! 

Here is the challenge: For 14 days…

  1. Find the beauty in the everyday. Keep your eyes open for God’s goodness, and document it. Take a picture. 
  2. Think about why that was beautiful to you, the meaning behind the evidence. What does this say to you? Why did it get your attention, stir your heart? What does this say about God? Find/share a Bible verse that reflects what you felt/learned/etc. from that moment. 
  3. Upload it to Instagram or Facebook.  BE SURE TO include #FINDTHEBEAUTY at the end of your post and tag me (@rachelsweatt) so I can see what God is teaching you! (There’s a ton of our hashtag already out there, so tagging me helps me not miss your post!)

**Here are some examples from our 14 Day trial! example3Find the Beautyexample 4Find the Beauty

Here are some extras to take this to the next level: 

*Dig deeper into God’s word. In one example below, Amy wanted to dig into different verses that used the word “vast”, because she was inspired by the vast sky one evening and how big God felt to her in that moment. What she learned was so powerful. Take time to ask God to show you NEW things about Him and His Word, and be willing to go the extra mile to find it.

*Take the Scripture you are correlating with your picture, and pray it back to God. Pray it over your circumstances, your relationships, your friends, even your enemies. Praying Scripture is POWERFUL and His word does not return void!

Every person that does this for the entire 14 days will be entered into a drawing for a great giveaway! This is really just a way for me to say thank you for doing this with me. It is so encouraging to me and I do not take your partnership in this ministry for granted!

After our first 14 days, I want to invite you to KEEP your eyes open for the beautiful things of God. Share pictures that represent His goodness in your life. Every month,  I am going to try to do a “BEAUTY ROUNDUP” and share all the photos that people post and tag me for everyone to see and be encouraged by.

Are you ready to invite God to do His thing in your life through His Word?

Let’s do this! If you are IN, let me know in the comments so I can be looking for your pictures!

Advertisements

If you are looking for HOPE today…

If you are reading this and you know that you could use a little more HOPE in your heart these days, THIS is for you. If there is so much weighing you down that you can hardly catch your breath, THIS is for you. If you are looking for an encouraging word of truth today, no matter where you are or what your life looks like right now…THIS is for you.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Friend, I have GOOD news for anyone looking some good news today. The God of HOPE lends us the Spirit, who freely gives us HOPE so that our own hope many ABOUND, limitless. Because of His Spirit, who dwells in us, our very own hope abounds from an endless resource, a well of hope that would never run dry.

I just love that word ABOUND. It feels like a breath of fresh air to my soul, almost like a deep sigh of relief. Anyone out there looking for some ABOUNDING in their life? (raises hand.)

We were created more than just to make it through the day, we were made to ABOUND. Abound in joy, in thankfulness, in love, and in HOPE. I know this because we were made in the image of a God who ABOUNDS, this is part of His character. And because of Jesus, it is part of our DNA. We literally have hope running through our veins. 

Can you feel it?

If you had forgotten for a second, doesn’t it feel good to remember? Oh how the enemy wants us to forget. To forget about our eternal lifeline to hope. How cleverly darkness invites us to live in despair. Don’t be fooled, friends.

The God of hope sends the Spirit who gives hope, so that our own hope may ABOUND. Our hope springs eternal because of the God who gives it.

Looking For Hope

Pep Talk for Life

Pep Talk for Life

I was moved almost to tears by this verse in Psalms the other morning and have wanted to share it here ever since:

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”

Pslam 37:3

It caught me completely off guard, in a beautiful, captivating way. I don’t know why, other than maybe it felt like a tender yet strong call to action from God Himself. Kind of a “Keep on keepin on” pep talk from Jesus. Almost feels like he was reminding my soul what to do, setting the eyes of my heart on my task at hand. If you needed a “keep on keeping on” nudge today, here it is. Keep on, friends. TRUST HIM. Do good. Dwell well. Stand firm in your faith. 💛

 

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

When Your Kids See Your Struggle

As parents, we often only want our kids to see our “best” side. The part of us that is calm, cool, and collected all the time. The part of us that is fun, with an ocean of patience, and speaks only life and encouragement to those around us. This is a good thing to want our kids to see in us. That means you love your children and want only the best for them!

But what happens when they see something other than your best? 

What happens when we lose our patience, or we are heartbroken and they witness our tears? 

Something that I’ve learned as a mom of toddlers is that I am going to be undone more often that I’d like to admit, and my kids are going to get a front row seat. Whether that is from losing my patience or mourning over the consequences of sin in the world.

And I can see that as failure or as a chance to continue doing the one thing God has entrusted me to do with those sweet little image bearers of God: keep pointing them to Jesus.

When my spirit is weaker than my flesh and I give into temptation, handing over control to my emotions or selfishness, I have the hard, holy, privilege of asking my kids for their forgiveness. I get to CHOOSE to say yes I am your mom, but I am not the goal: HE is the goal. He is the prize. I am your mom and I love you more than the stars in the sky, but I will mess up. Because I need Jesus just as much as you do. And even as much as I love you and want the best for you, God’s love for you is greater still.

When tragedies are on display right and left, and the rubble of death is almost too much to take, I have the prime opportunity to show them how I run to God, not away from Him with my questions. When we pray at the end of the day and our family or community is mourning the loss of a friend here on earth, I get to show them how I tell God in prayers that I know He is still good even when we don’t understand, and ask Him to show us He is near.

If you have someone in your life that God has entrusted to you–maybe it’s a child, a friend, a student–you too have the immense privilege to be a flashing light, using every moment, every weakness, and hurt and every opportunity to keep pointing those around you to Jesus. This is your ONE GOAL. By offering these moments as road lights for others, we get the chance to say with our lives that we are desperate for Jesus. 

When Your Kids See Your StruggleEven after all these years.

We still need Him too. 

Paul writes something astoundingly beautiful regarding this in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” THIS IS OUR GOALMay our lives never look like anything but Jesus, even when we do fail or grieve or struggle.

Yes, follow us as we follow Him. When we fail, watch how we run to Him. When we hurt, watch how we run to Him. When we celebrate, watch how He is the first we run to in praise. Our eyes are fixed on no other. Watch us. Then join us.

How do you point to Jesus with your life? Who may be watching you be anything but your best? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comment section, share with us how you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus throughout your day! 

The Unchanging God We Need

The Unchanging God We Need

I am a wife. I am a mother. I am happy. I am tired. (Amen?!) I am all of these things now, but I have not always been these things, and I will not always be all of these things. Sometimes, I work out and decide to eat more salads. Then, sometimes I get home from said gym and eat cookie dough. I am never the same it seems, and apparently I really like change. But there is a very real part of my being that desires consistency, something constant. After following Jesus for several years, I know now that this is because I was made by a God that never changes.

This is a huge concept for me to grasp, and maybe it is for you too. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter how awesome we have been or how much we have messed up, God remains constant in His character. One of my most favorite things to meditate on is that God loves me just as much on my very best day as He does on my very worst day.

In Exodus 3:14, God describes Himself as “I AM.” This Scripture has always intrigued me and until recently, I don’t know that I was able to really grasp the weight that this specific verse carries. In a sermon,  C. Kingsley, M.A. describes it this way:

“Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies are changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be.”*

God is the only one that can claim to be “I AM” because He is the only one that will ever just BE. He is Alpha and Omega, the Begging and the End (Revelation 22:13). He is THE way, truth and the life (John 14:6). Apart from Him there is no other (Isaiah 45:6).

God alone is existential, eternal, and unchangeable. It is a powerful thing to realize that this God, this all knowing, all being, never changing God is not swayed by the things of man or enemies of Christ. And not only that He has this steadfast nature, but that He cares for us. Despite all the things He made, He chooses to love us the most. And chose to allow us alone, sinful and flawed as we are, to bear His image (Genesis 1:27). This is a privilege, friend. I encourage you to boldly walk in the truth that the Great I AM will never change in His love for you today.

Unchanging God

How does knowing that God could not love you any more or any less than He does right this second make you feel? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section!

* http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/kingsley/god_the_great_i_am.htm

When God Calls Us and We Aren’t Ready

When God Calls Us and We Aren’t Ready

Living in the adrenaline rush of the Holy Spirit seems to be a trend in my life lately. Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely wonderful and something I have prayed for years about. I have always wanted to live a life that was so dependent on the Spirit that it seemed He never stopped moving in my life. This was a bold prayer, and I knew it every time I prayed it. I prayed for this because I wanted my faith to abound from experiencing Him so personally there would never be a doubt in my mind that God is real, God is here, and God is good. Well friends, for over the last year He has very clearly made it known to me that He in fact heard my prayers. He has pushed me out of my comfort zone, in ways that felt more like I was being pushed off a cliff. He has challenged what I believe at my core to shake away anything that might hinder me from experiencing and understanding the fullness of the Gospel, stripping away any pride or legalism hiding in my heart. He has asked things of me and my family that make the story of Peter being called out to walk on water extremely relatable. Things that make you ask at the end of the day more often than not, “What on earth just happened, is happening, or could happen?

Daily life has become an adventure, and I love it. However, it has also revealed significant weaknesses in me that make all of these things and all of this personal and spiritual growth very hard. I am finding that my tendency to feel overwhelmed is a major factor that distracts me from keeping my eyes on what Jesus is asking me to do, and I begin to sink in the water I have been called out upon. When I think of all the things God is doing in my life and asking of me my first thought is, “YES! Let’s do this!” My second thought immediately following is, “Wait, what? Does He know who He is talking to? He talks to a lot of people 24/7, maybe he just thought he was talking to someone who is more qualified. Someone who doesn’t have two tiny humans to teach how to be people. Someone who is much more intelligent. Someone who is older and has the wisdom that comes with years of life and experiences.” This sounds silly as I write this, but this is the process my mind goes through almost every time He begins to move in my heart or in my life. 

In the midst of a crazy day just a few weeks ago, God revealed something wonderful and amazing, yet potentially challenging (again) for our family. You see, our family is in vocational ministry and this often leads to big changes in our lives frequently. These challenges can be personal such as struggles to balance family life with work or the things we feel we are being called to do. It could also be spiritual, such as conviction to be more intentional about our own private relationships with Christ, or something else entirely that has more to do with how God is growing and moving our church. I was reading my Bible and came across Romans 9:17. “For this very purpose I have RAISED YOU UP that  I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (emphasis mine)

In that one single moment, it was as if God reached down and chiseled again on my heart, molding it to look a little more like His (this usually happens daily, and is mostly painful, in all honesty). I was reminded that my very weaknesses are exactly why God has asked this of me. We are exactly where God has placed us, and he longs to show up and do big things because honestly, people are going to know it just had to be God because of the vessels he chooses to use as instruments (2 Timothy 2:21).

Calling

I love the instance in the book of Acts when God tells one of His followers that Paul was one of His chosen instruments (Acts 9:15), even though literally a day or two before he was the one murdering believers, simply because they claimed to know Jesus. This is the God we serve. This is His plan for us. To use us despite our sinful flesh and unfaithful hearts, so that HIS NAME might be proclaimed in all the earth. That people may know Him. Let’s be those broken vessels for His glory.

A Lesson From My First Uber Ride

A Lesson From My First Uber Ride

This past weekend, I took an Uber for the first time to a conference in a large city. I am from a small town, so that isn’t common around my area, and I was so excited for this ‘big city’ experience (and that I wouldn’t spend my life savings on a taxi!). What I was unprepared for, however, was the conversation that took place with our driver. I am always praying for opportunities to share the love and hope of Jesus, but as my friend began a conversation with our driver, I realized that this was a conversation God was going to use to speak to me, as well as one that would minister to our new friend.

Our driver was from a distant country, one broken and devastated by a corrupt government. He pursued the opportunity to make his new home here in America to flee the brutal conditions of his homeland. My friend (who is one of the most insightful people I have ever met) began to ask him questions about his perspective, being that he had seen such different extreme ways of life. She was quiet for a moment and then asked him, “If you had an opportunity to speak something the people of the United States, what would you say?” He shook his head silently, and then after a long pause, he answered. “Where I am from, people have nothing. But still, there is great joy because they have one another. In my time here, I have realized that the opportunity for prosperity is great because if you work hard, you can have a place to live and food. But people are so busy that they have no time for one another. There is always more to be done that is given the priority.”

It was as if God whispered straight to my heart. I too, even as a young mom, have encountered the temptation always to have something to do. Something to prepare for. Some deadline to meet. But making time to listen to someone? That’s not always made the list. Giving up those few precious moments in the day that I have to rest or to simply be quiet to pick up the phone instead, to actually CALL someone to ask how they are really doing is not the norm, but the exception. And friends, I LOVE Jesus. I’ve made loving Him my whole life. I love serving others. I love missions and talking with people at church. And yet I sometimes find myself struggling with this. My private life is often guarded by walls built by selfishness. Our entire family serves in ministry, so it is easy to fall into the temptation to “take time for yourself.” And to a degree, there is nothing wrong with that, and it is even healthy to retreat to a time of solitude and prayer for the purpose of restoration. Where we are misled, however, is that if we find ourselves in places where are giving of ourselves often, we are led to believe there is a limit on what can be poured out. There are things to do, goals to achieve, and appearances to be kept.

Lessons from Uber

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Jesus is that everything He did was strategically on task to His mission. As He gained popularity, He was always readily available to be the Good Shepherd, the Teacher, the Healer. When He began to face persecution, even leading up to His sacrifice on the cross, He was obedient to make time for the things that mattered, pouring out Himself completely for us, even before the Cross, and every moment since.

Jesus taught us by word and example that if we are to really follow Him and believe what He says, not a moment of our lives are to be wasted. He promises that when we lay down our lives and our own plans for the future, He gives us life abundant. Likewise, if we choose to live every moment for Christ, even though that means dying daily to our own desires, He tells us that we will never experience the sting of death itself because we will be living in the resurrecting, refining power of the Cross.

I recently read an excerpt by Oswald Chambers that discussed the ‘outpouring’ of someone that follows Jesus. In his book, My Utmost for His Highest he writes this:

“ Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way.”

If we follow Jesus and we truly believe what He says, the decisions we make every day will reflect our choice to live for ourselves or die to ourselves. Dying to ourselves will look a lot like making sacrifices like taking a few more moments before rushing out the door to tell our kids that we are proud of them and who God made them to be. It might look a little like asking how we can pray for the cashier at the store even though we have a billion things to get to. It may take the shape of carving out time in our schedule to meet with someone face to face, someone that we know has been struggling and is longing for a listening ear and an encouraging word.

If we really believe what Jesus says, we are choosing to live with an eternal perspective, rather than day to day survival. We make the choice to invest in what really matters, and trust that God will provide everything we need when we tell Him we are ready to be poured out. It means saying that people and these opportunities we have to tangibly love around us are not mere coincidences in our lives, but divine appointments that will matter for eternity.

Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done, but thanks be to God that He is more than willing—expectant, even, to give us the ability to live out what He has called us to. Sending prayers of grace and peace to you as we work out what it really means to believe what Jesus says and LIVE IT.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

This post was originally submitted by Rachel for publishing on EveryDay Natalie