A Confident Heart – Week 2

 
I just completed week 2 of the online Bible study of ‘A Confident Heart’ by Renee Swope, hosted by Melissa Taylor. It’s not too late to join if you’re interested. Just click on her website here & sign up.
 
The assignments for week 2 are posted here – http://melissataylor.org/2011/09/24/a-confident-heartweek-2-2/
 
 
The WORD OF THE WEEK is LOVE
 
 
1 John 4:16 (27 kb)
 
 
 
VERSE OF THE WEEK: 1 JOHN 4:16
 
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (her). 1 John 4:16
 
I really enjoyed chapter 2 & there was a lot of good information in it, so I just wanted to post a few highlights that I learned this week. Just a fair warning, it is a little long. 🙂
 
The title of Chapter 2 is called, “Because God’s Love is Perfect, I Don’t Have to Be”.
 
In this chapter she talks about pretending. We “tell people we’re fine even when we’re not, because we want to be fine“, . I love what she says here on page 31, “Although we tell people we’re fine, what we really mean is that we are Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic & Exhausted”. Amen!!
 
Here’s something else she says about pretending on page 32, “Pretending leads to hiding and isolation. What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even when we’re flawed. Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close. So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we’ll convince Him and everyone else that we’re fine“.
 
I know I can relate to the above statement. There are many times in my life where I’ve felt I was better off just hiding my struggles from people because I wasn’t sure how they were going to react. Maybe it’s because I’ve listened to the lies of the enemy for too long. Especially when I was younger & wanted to be accepted by others. So I put myself out there & then I get rejected. So, as a defense mechanism, as I grew older it was easy to put up walls to keep myself hidden from others.
 
She then goes on to talk about Sam aka the Samaritan woman & how it is one of her favorite pictures of God’s pursuit of us. It really is a good example of how God pursues us, if you think about it. John 4:4 tells us that Jesus “had to go through Samaria”. Renee writes, “Jews considered Samaria to be the scum of the earth. Usually if they were near Samaria they would travel around it – but not Jesus. He had to go through Samaria, because He knew Sam would be there.” (page 36) I also loved this statement further down , “Jesus met Sam in one of the loneliest parts of her day. In the same way, He is there waiting for us in the midst of our imperfect lives, when our pain & failures confirm our self doubts.
 
Now, on the previous page (35) she states that “many theologians believe that instead of avoiding the scorching heat of the sun, she went to the well at noon to avoid the scorching pain of others’ rejection and judgement.”
 
I know I can relate to that last statement. There have been many times in my life when I have gone out of my way to avoid others because I may have to deal with either their rejection or judgement.
 
I love this statement on page 37, “If you’ve ever doubted God’s personal pursuit of you, let this truth sink in, my friend: wherever you are, He wants to meet you there. He is waiting for you to stop, come up close, and turn your heart to listen to His. You don’t have to pretend things are fine when they aren’t. He knows what is going on in your thoughts. Nothing could keep Him from wanting to be with you.”
 
That statement is so true. It’s one thing I love about Jesus. I don’t have to pretend with Him. He already knows my pains & struggles. He knows when I’m hurt, upset, worried or fearful. He’s not like others who may reject or judge me. The only thing I have to do is accept His invitation to stop & be willing to meet with Him.
 
Here are a couple of statements from pages 40 & 41 that stuck out to me.
 
On page 40, Renee gives the definition of the word “KNOW”. The greek word is yada, which means a deep emotional experience; a bonding between two people when one truly feels the emotions of the other. Jesus knows your pain, fears, doubts, and disappointments. He understands your dreams and desires. (p. 41)
 
“Although some of us feel uncomfortable that God knows so much about us, it is good to be known, to be listened to and not judged. Jesus is the only One who can meet our deepest needs to be accepted and delighted in simply who we are.”  (p. 41)
 
By offering Sam eterenal life, (see John 4:13-15) Jesus was offering her the gift of His Holy Spirit, who would cleanse her sins. But even more than that, it would lead her into a relationship where she could know the one true God and be known by Him.”
 
Christianity is the only faith that offers a relationship with the living God. We don’t just know about our God; our God wants us to know Him.
 
On page 42, Renee talks about our image of God. She states, “Oftentimes our image of God is shaped by early childhood memories and perceptions, good and bad.” She goes on to talk about how her perception of God was based on her image of her own father. She states that she “perceived God as distant, unavailable and unapproachable.” Which I something I could totally relate to.
 
I was closer to my dad than my mom growing up, maybe because he seemed like the ‘fun’ parent & my mom was more “stern.” Usually if mom said no, I would go to dad & try to pursuade him into saying yes. So, when my parents seperated when I was 18 – 3 years after getting saved – it was heart-breaking & devastating. I went through my “prodigal daughter” phase & tried distancing myself from God. When I did finally come back to God, I felt like I had to “prove” myself worthy of His love and acceptance. Even though I was the one who distanced myself from God, I felt that if I didn’t behave the right way or do the right things, that God would leave me also.
 
It’s taken me several years to finally accept God’s love & mercy & not have to try to earn or accept it. It’s very freeing & liberating when you can get to that place, knowing you don’t have to stay on God’s good side for Him to love you. Or ever have to worry that you may do or say the wrong thing that will cause Him to leave or abandon you. His word says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
 
I love what Renee says on page 43, “A personal relationship with God sets us free to be all we were created to be. As children of God we were designed to find our identity, our significance, and our confidence in Him.”
 
Further down she says, “The only way we’ll have a confident heart is if we move beyond knowing about God to knowing and relying on Him – depending on His Word with our whole heart, mind and soul.”
 
 
 

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope – online bible study

Hey everyone! It’s been several months since I’ve posted but I decided to take a break for a while. But now I’m back & hoping to start posting at least once a week. Not promising anything, so we’ll see how it goes! 🙂

The main reason for this post is that I just started an online bible study for the book, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope & it is being hosted by Melissa Taylor of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Our assignment for this week was to read chapter 1 & answer the reflection questions at the end. So, for this 1st post, I just wanted to briefly share what I learned from this 1st chapter.

Renee describes how she was wrestling with self doubt regarding an event that she was going to be speaking a the next day as she was putting on her mascara in the bathroom. She also talks about how this wasn’t the first time she’s struggled with self doubt & described several incidents that happened when she was younger.
She then stated that as she turned around in the bathroom to put away her mascara in her makeup bag, she noticed a huge 9 foot shadow that was so much bigger than her 5 foot 2 inch frame. Then as she bent down to put her mascara in the bag, she sensed God whispering to her heart, You can only see the shadow because you have turned away from the light. Turn back toward the light (page 22). As she stood up & turned back toward the light above the mirror she realized that she was no longer standing in the shadow. She says that was the day she discovered the shadow of her doubts.

The rest of this chapter goes on to talk about what it’s like when we decide to listen to doubt’s whispers.

I really like this quote on page 22

Self-doubt blocks the promise of God’s power and truth to change us from the inside out so that we can live with a confident heart.

She goes on to tell us that it’s not supposed to be this way & that

God doesn’t want us stuck in a cycle of fear or living in the shadows of doubt. (page 23)

So, the 1st thing we’ll do in this study is the “spend time digging deep in the heart & character of God so we ccan learn to depend on His heart for us” Then “we’ll identifly the triggers of our self doubt and the destrictive effects they have on our lives & relationships.” (page 24)

It’s not too late to join in this online study. We are currently doing one chapter a week, so you can jump in at anytime. All you need is the book, which you can purchase online or any major retailer & a computer. If you click on the word “assignment” above, it will take you to Melissa’s website & the 1st weeks assignment post. You can also comment on her post to let her know you are joining in. I know she’ll be happy to have you join us. 🙂

It’s No Secret – Week 1

I’m doing this online bible study hosted by Melissa Taylor & the name of the book is called “It’s No Secret” written by Rachel Olsen. Both ladies are a part of Proverbs 31 Ministries. **On a side note, if this post intrigues or inspires you in some way, it’s not too late to join.**

**********

I wanted to share some things that I’ve learned this week & some of my answers to the Bible study questions at the end of each chapter.

Chapter 1: Always RSVP: Revealing the secret to responding to God.

I RSVPed to God’s call in 1989. Then about 3 years later I decided to take a trip into the “far country” (see Luke 15:13). I finally returned to God in 2004 (you can read some background story at this link).

In the 1st Bible study question, Rachel asks us to read the parable about the man throwing a feast (Luke 14:15-24) and we are to list the excuses that people made for not being prepared to attend. Then, she asked what excuses we have made for not responding to Christ, or not being “dressed and ready”.

Well as I mentioned above, I did respond to Christ in 1989 & again in 2004 after 15 years of back-slidding. But that is not all that He asks of us. Once we are saved, we must continue on in our walk with Jesus in order to be ready for his return. Sometimes that is easier said than done. In Matthew 26:40, Jesus states that the “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And, I can confirm from my own experiences that this statement is so true. As much as I want to read my bible & spend quiet time with God each day, the concerns & worries of this world seem to have taken dominance in my life. I also become self-absorbed at times in my hurts, feelings, & wants instead of focusing on God & what He wants of me.

Question 2 asks what Revelation 19:6-10 says about the bride (church) and her wedding dress? The NKJV says in verse 8 that, “…to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” My pastor has stated many times that when Jesus returns, he is looking for a church that is “without spot or wrinkle”. He’s also said that if no one wants to see a bride that looks like she’s been drug through the mud, then how much more true should it be for the bride of Christ. (I’m paraphrasing there because I can’t remember the exact quote). We need to be “dressed & ready” for His return & the only way we can do that is by the saving grace of Jesus. It’s through His shed blood that we are redeemed (Ephesians 1:17)

Chapter 2 – Know When to Pay Retail. Revealing the Secret Cost of Following Christ.

This was a powerful chapter in that it talks about the cost of following Christ.

THE TREASURE

She gave an example of the parables of the Hidden Treasure & the Pearl (Matthew 13:44-46)

In Verse 44 Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. The man hid it again & sold everything he owned to get the treasure. Then, in verses 45-46, Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven to “a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (NLT)

Here’s a couple quotes that really stood out to me of what Rachel had to say about both of these two parables.

The difference between these two parables is that in the first, the man simply stumbled upon the treasure… He’s an everday guy who happened upon the treasure and realized its worth.” (p. 46)

The field buyer’s story tears down my tendency to think living sold out for God is only expected of monks, scribes, nuns, pastors or missionaries. Nope, this sold-0ut living – and the treasures it brings – is for any and every Yahweh Sister. It’s for each gal willing to pay the price in her daily life to follow Christ.” – Since I’m an just your average sister in Christ, I must be willing to pay the price in my daily life to follow Christ. “The pearl merchant, unlike the field buyer, actively searched for his treasure.” – I must be actively searching Him & his will. “Both of these characters recognized the worth of the treasures they encountered and literally dropped everything to obtain them.” (p. 47) – Since I know the true worth of what Jesus did for me, I must also be willing to drop everything to follow Him.

THE COST

“…there is a great price to pay to lay full hold of the treasures of God’s kingdom. I consider it the price of abandon.” (p.47)

He wants to disciple us and show us the way to the treasure, but that requires some focus and a surrendered commitment on our end. In other words, we must abandon ourselves to Him and sell out to the one true thing worth selling out to.” (p. 48) Wow. I love that statement. Jesus paid the ulimate price for my sins on the cross and, do I believe that is definitely worth selling out to. Absolutely. So, I need to make it my goal to daily abandon myself to go ‘all out for Jesus & not be wishy-washy about it. Because I’m either in or I’m out.” (Another paraphrase from my pastor)

Another parable she discusses is the one about the rich, young ruler (Luke 18:18-23).

Jesus essentially says to him, If you really want to enter into true life, sell out to Me with careless abandon. Give up your allegiance to all your stuff and your power, and content yourself in walking daily with Me.” … “Only he didn’t recognize it. He didn’t have the eyes to see it’s worth. He misjudged the value of the kingdom of God and settled for his stuff – a counterfielt pearl.” (p. 50)

In Luke 18:24-27, “Jesus points out that weath provides a sense of security, comfort, and pride that can cloud our spiritual vision, causing us to miss the worth of the kingdom of God.” (p. 50-51) Rachel then goes on to say that, “This shakes me to my core when I get honest about how much time I spend pursuing creature conforts instead of the treasure of Christ.” – Wow. I could totally relate to that statement. Since l know that I can’t take my “stuff” with me when I die, why do spend so much time trying to accumulate things that don’t last. When I think about all the times I’ve wasted sitting in front of the TV watching re-runs of shows & movies I’ve seen a 1000 times, instead of spending that time pursing God in His word & through prayer. I feel bad.

But I love what Jesus says next. After the disciples & witneses wondered aloud who could be saved if this rich, young ruler couldn’t be, “Jesus assured that salvation will always be impossible for man to earn, but God will give it to those who yeild it to Him…. then Jesus let the disciples know that even more will be given to those who not only yield, but wholeheartedly sell out to Him with abandon.” (p. 51)

In Luke 18:28-30, Jesus promises that whomever has given up everything to follow him will be repaid many times over in this life as well as receiving eternal life… I love it, because that is a wonderful promise to hang on to. Anything that I have to give up to follow him will be worth it.

Rachel states next that, “This motivates me to examine my heart and see if I’m barely yielding, or really abandoning myself to God. Am I the pearl merchant, or the rich, young ruler?” – This were 2 great questions that I also need to ask myself as well.

Through these parables, Jesus reveals the paramount worth of the kingdom of God, and the secret reality that anything we give or lose as a result of following Him is more than a bargain for what we’ll receive in return.” (p. 52) – I’ll say “Amen” to that!

I’m a die-hard bargain shopper, but Jesus has taught me that one thing is worth my all, worth paying retail for: the kingdom of God and its King, Jesus” (p. 53) – I’m also a bargain shopper as well & prefer to buy most stuff when it’s on sale. But I agree that the kingdom of God & it’s King, Jesus are DEFINITELY worth paying retail price.

The 1st question that Rachel asks in the Bible study is, “What character do you identify with most: the stumbling field-buyer, the searching pearl merchant, or the rich, young ruler?”

If I’m honest, I think I’m a mix of the searching pearl merchant & the rich, young ruler. On the one hand, I want to live completely sold out for Jesus and live my life with total abandon. However, because of a prideful & selfish spirit, there are still areas that I’m struggling to leave at the altar. I guess you could say that I’m sort of a control-freak when it comes to certain things and because people I were close to have let me down in the past, I have a difficult time trusting God with those same things. It’s really hard, but I’m slowly starting to trust God and know that He truly does have my best interests at heart.

**********
Well, I could probably go on, but it’s getting late and I know this post is LONG enough. So, in closing, I wanted to share a video I found on YouTube. The song is, ironically called, Souled Out and it’s by Hezekiah Walker. We sing this song in church & I started singing it to myself while reading this chapter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

My favorite part of the song goes:

My heart is fixed, my mind’s made up
No room, no vacancies, I’m all filled up
His Spirit lives in me
– and that’s the reason – I’m Souled Out!