Casting Stones


3 years ago we went through one of the toughest seasons of our life.

I was angry. I was hurt and I was tired.

I turned to Scripture and demanded answers from God. What I got back wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

and it wasn’t,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

These verses, and promises like them were helpful, but when someone shared them, I wanted to physically harm them. I didn’t struggle with why, I struggled with “What do you want from me, Lord?”

What brought me comfort was wisdom from a King, who was also struggling, who wanted answers to unanswerable questions, and found peace in laying it before God and honestly admitting,

“I am small. You are big. The answers aren’t mine. They’re Yours.”

I found hope in these three words…

A time to…

Ecclesiastes 3 introduces this idea –

God in His infinence gives meaning and purpose to every single month, day, hour, and year. I see good days and bad days. God see days that matter. I see storms and I see sunshine. I rue the storms and want to linger in the sunshine. What if God values both?

What if God sees difficult and declares it beautiful?

What if God loves me just as much when I’m shaking my fist, as He does when I’m lavishing Him with praise?

I wanted to know that this season wouldn’t be forever. That bottom of the pit wasn’t every darn day and that held was a real and true promise, not a made up radio song.

I found truth. I found the Savior’s affection. I found my joy again.

For one of the first times in my life I wanted to know who God really was, what He really valued and not the second-hand version I had settled for.

Then, I realized that my trial was a drop in an ocean of earthly trials. We all have them. We all have tears. We all have heartbreak. We all have triumph. We all have uncertainty. We all have times of wrestling. We all have times to build and times to break down.  We all have times to gather together, and times to cast away.

Casting Stones is my invitation to wrestle alongside, to open the Word and find truth in the trial and the triumph, as well as the ordinary day.

It has devotions for five days of study a week, questions for individual growth and discovery, or to discuss as a group, because community around the Word makes every day brighter and less daunting. Let’s cast together, let’s build up together, let’s wrestle together, let’s plant together.

Discover more by ordering through Amazon

Casting Stones Print or Kindle edition

or checking out our expanded resources on the Studies Available page.

Join us for study snippets by catching the archive on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube channel. (Prize opportunities through July 9, 2017!)

Casting Stones… we’re in this life together. Every triumph and joy, every affliction and sorrow, He is right there with us.

Time stewardship v. time management

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Day 4 – Time stewardship v. time management

 
Sometimes life can seem completely and utterly chaotic. We have ventured into my problem with time before in this Bible study.The more I attempt to be on time or really to control time, to manage time, the more I am likely to show up late, spiral into the abyss of anxiety, and trample over someone I didn’t intend to hurt. I’m not suggesting that organization is a negative thing. I am suggesting that the more we try to control, the more God will begin to show us that we are very much not in control.
 
Dave and I came up with a new concept for our lives that we titled “time stewardship.” Maybe because living in the realm of time management never quite fit for us. It sounds so small, but for us, recognizing that time belonged to the Lord and not to us, helped us to put our priorities in the right place, and also to slow down and enjoy the journey. It lifted the burden of guilt when we chose to sit instead of work, when we said no to something that took time away from the family, or when we had a busy season when things started spinning rapidly and we had to pick priorities tighter than normal.
 
Time is a funny thing. I think it challenges us to remember our place within God’s universe. It forces us to see who God is and how little we really are, so what happens? Most people choose to ignore it as a concept. We fill our lives with busyness, with appointments, with fun, with entertainment, with rest, with work, with friendships…whatever will keep us from thinking about the clock that has been set in each one of us. “Time waits for no man” as the saying goes. The clock keeps ticking, with or without us.
 
Time, above all else, means change. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes turn into hours, hours into days, and years, and lifetimes. It will not be held in our tight fist. Change reminds us that we are not in control. In Ecclesiastes 3:14-15, we are reminded that only God lasts for forever.
 
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.”
 
Whatever God does, whatever He touches endures forever. Whatever we do without Him passes away. We have nothing new to add. Nothing that we spend time on will create this eternal significance that we are seeking.
 
The good news about our smallness – it means that God can hold us.
 
When the verse tells us “God has done it”, one thing we can be assured in is that He created time for us, not for Him. This gift is that exact reminder that left us shaking in our boots before. When things change, and time marches on, we stand in the arms of a God who is big. To fear God is to recognize that He is capable. To know Him is to know that He is trustworthy. He is unshakable. He does not change, when the whole world seems to be changing.
 
God seeks that which is driven away” or more literally, “God seeks that which is pursued.” This passage was so confusing for me, so difficult to understand, that I made a chart for myself on a post it note and poked my husband until he hashed it out with me for a good couple of hours.
 
God is a pursuer. He loves us so much that He pursues us on a timeline which is our life. He doesn’t need time. It’s outside of Him. It is for us. He does not change although the world is ever changing around us.
 
I’m writing this during Lent and I keep coming back to the faces of the disciples who were left in confusion after Jesus died and rose. They went back to time, as they understood it. They went back to their boats to fish, their meeting place in the upper room. They didn’t understand it. But God sought them. He walked out of the tomb and appeared to them in the upper room. He found them on the shore as they cast out their nets. God sought them. He seeks us. This doesn’t change with the time or the season or the ticking of the clock as the hands move on by.
 
Let’s end this abstract day by looking up Psalm 136. It’s a good reminder that God’s love is the same yesterday today and forever. With Him we are eternal. He’s got the whole world in His hands. He knows the day and the hour. And He seeks us in every moment.
 

 

 

His steadfast love endures forever.
 
 
Discussion questions: 
How does eternity change life now for both the believer and the unbeliever?
What changes in life have you resisted from God before?
Recite Psalm 136 responsively with your husband or family, or quietly between yourself and God. 

Eternity in my heart and the “also-s” of faith

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Day 3 – Eternity in my heart and the “also-s” of faith

 
Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart…” (Ecc. 3:11)
 
What a beautiful phrase! Today we are going to break this tiny piece of Scripture into three intricate parts. It’s just too beautiful not to spend some time on.
 
First, let’s read this section of Scripture to get a fuller understanding. Feel free to read all of Ecclesiastes 3 again if you have your Bible out. Below I will offer Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 to focus in on:
 
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
 
 
Find our theme segment for the day and highlight it in your Bible.
Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…”
 
Now, to focus in –
 
#1 – Also…
This small adverb stuck out to me. The Bible is a beautifully written book, God-breathed, but also literally just beautiful to behold. The words in the Bible are each there for a reason and the Old Testament especially, holds so much poetic grace. “Also” is a connecting word. God did such and such and also He has done this. “Also” in my head, is an overflowing cup word. The Hebrew word for also here is “gam” and in addition to our translation of also, could be translated as “moreover.” More and over. More than that. Over and above what He has already done. Overflowing my cup.
 
God takes things in our life and makes them beautiful. Also, moreover, on top of that…He has given us eternity. He has set it in our hearts. What “also-s” in life has God given you in this season? When you look around you, what says to you, “My cup overflows…” (Psalm 23:5)? Even if this is a difficult season, we all have something or someone, little things that give us glimpses of a God who is caring for us. It was in our darkest season that I began to recognize the also-s, the little things that God gave in the form of people and tiny treasures of grace. These small also-s kept me going, and some days, was what gave me the strength to get out of bed and face the challenge of the new day.
 
 
#2 – He has put eternity in…
God gave us eternity, as a free gift through Jesus Christ. This is the way we often think of eternity. Ecclesiastes introduces another way to consider eternity for all people, not just believers of Christ Jesus. This insight is huge for our understanding of those around us who do not know the grace of God.
 
God puts eternity in. Grace in Christ is a gift. Eternity, while certainly a gift, is a gift like our arms and legs and eyes, or even our heart, are gifts from God. We were created with eternity, set inside of us by a loving God. It is part of who we are. It is a compass guiding us to Him. When people talk about the God-sized hole inside each of us, we can call that eternity.
 
We are searching, seeking, moving toward eternity. Many of us simply do not have the language for this though. The next time you talk to an unbeliever, ask them what they are searching for, what they feel like they are heading toward in their life. When we are searching for a man to love us, the perfect job, parenting skills to keep our children on a good path, good memories, shared passions, ambitions fulfilled, all of it, we are really looking for eternity.That’s a good thing! Each of these things are also gifts from God to point us to eternity. But on top of just wanting those things and seeking, we all want them to matter, we want to have significance, to know it was all worthwhile. When we speak of eternity, as Christians, we know that we have eternal life now. However, this also goes for the unbeliever sitting across from you. We all have eternity. They have significance that is eternal. Help them find the One their soul is searching for, that their internal eternalcompass is continuously trying to lead them to define and understand and exist in relationship with.
The darker side of this is that we are all accountable. There is life beyond this life on earth. God wants, each and every person around me to identify that Eternity with Him is incomparable to an eternity spent with the Evil One. How can I help the person sitting across from me to understand that also?
 
And oh goodness! We have a God that not only puts things in, but He puts them in our hearts. This just strikes me as extraordinarily beautiful. My heart, which is drawn to any number of things, was made for seeking Him.
 
Please, friend, if you are an unbeliever, let Him embrace you now. He’s been waiting for this.

#3 – “…he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” 
 
We were not meant to know or understand it all. God was. If my thoughts above are #abitmuch and your mind is struggling to grasp it. First, blame it on the author, because as an imperfect person talking about an absolutely perfect God, sometimes I have trouble spitting it all out in an easily understood manner. Then, rest in this phrase: We weren’t meant to get it all. We were intended to seek Him, but not necessarily to always understand Him or what He is doing in our lives. He is holier than that. He does not fit in my box, in my small little mind, even in my heart. He is wider and bigger and outside of little ol’ me, even as He chooses me for His residence. Mind blowing, sisters. That’s our God.
 
1 Corinthians 13:12 says it so well. I return to this verse again and again. It’s a good one for highlighting.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
 
This verse is followed by a famous one and we let’s not forget that they are connected.
1 Corinthians 13:13 –
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
 
The greatest work God does in and through us is love, not knowledge, not even understanding. He brought us to this place and this time to love. To love Him, to love His people, to love who He made us to be. When we look at our past, our present, and our eternity, know that the only thing that will have mattered is that we were loved, and that we were given the chance to love in return. Eternity, set in our hearts.
 
Praise Him today for His love, His eternal lens, and His overflowing abundance.
Discussion questions:
What things or people in your life currently remind you that your cup overflows?
When has the eternal lens been most helpful for you?
What do you see people searching for, when they are really searching for God?