Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Confident Heart {Week 6}: When I Fail

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8

Grace.  It may be the sweetest word I know besides the Word, Jesus.

My daughter's middle name is Grace.  When we were naming her, people would ask if she was named after anyone.  She is named after the Lord's grace. 

We fail.  We mess up.  We blow it big time at times!  I am so thankful for God's grace which covers our failures and gives us room to grow.

This week, we read Chapter 10 in A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, "When Doubt Whispers, 'I Can't Follow God Consistently.'"

I used to be terrified of what others thought of me.  I was afraid they would realize I wasn't perfect and then not like me. I use to think I had to pretend I didn't mess up or hide it when I did.

The truth is... we all fall short.  So, why all the pretense?

"'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' 

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest of me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake.  for when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I am not as spiritual as Paul.  I cannot say I take pleasure in my weaknesses.  Although, I should take pleasure in them because it is through these weaknesses that I realize my need for Jesus. 

Paul said he would rather boast in his weaknesses.  He wasn't afraid of what people thought.  He knew God would be glorified when people saw his humanness and God's POWER at work in him for overcome his weaknesses.  God's strength shines through our weaknesses.

However, Renee points out most prudently that grace is NOT a license to sin. 

"Some people ask if grace is a license to sin.  A confident woman knows that it's not.  Instead, she realized grace is the security of knowing God's love is guaranteed for her because she trusts in Christ.  Really understanding His sacrificial gift accomplishes the opposite of granting a license to sin.  When we grasp what Jesus did for us, we want to return the gift of His life by offering ours to Him, even if our offering isn't perfect or even perfectly consistent."  pg. 187-188.

God knows we are not perfect.  He sees us as who He created us to be, not as who we are.  He sees the potential in us.  If we will allow Him to work in our lives, He will mold us to become all He designed for us to be before the foundations of the world! 

Renee uses Gideon in the Bible to demonstrate an example of God's grace in taking someone from weak in themselves to strong and confident in Him.  For length sake I won't write the story here, but you can read about Gideon in Judges 6:12 through Judges 7: 25.

"God is not looking for a woman who is perfect.  He is looking for a woman who wants to walk with Jesus and find her confidence through her daily dependence on Him."  pg. 201

Reflection and Discussion Questions (pgs 201-202):

1.  Have you ever blown it and felt like God was ready to give up on you?  Do you sometimes doubt God's grace and patience with you?  If so, describe what happens and how doubt perpetuates more doubt and distance from God?

2.  Sometimes life's hardships make it hard to follow God consistently.  Do you ever ask God why life has to be so hard?  What did you learn from Gideon's story?  How can his experiences about asking why and trusting God's promises help you as you take the next step He may have for you?

3.  Have you ever prayed for God to change your circumstances and instead He changed you through your circumstances?  If so, describe what happened and how it helped you grow closer to Him.

4.  What did you learn about the importance of knowing God intimately and experiencing aspects of His character to build your trust in Him?

5.  Describe an area of your life, or role you have, where you feel like a wimp and you want God to make you a warrior.  Through dependence on Him, what would it look like for you to be "more than a conqueror through Him who loves you."  (Rom. 8:37) in that area or role?

I would love for you to share your thoughts on any or all of these questions in comments. 



 



Monday, September 24, 2012

Seventy Times Seven

Is there someone in your life who is difficult to love? Or perhaps you love this person, but do not necessarily like them?

Is there anyone in your life who offends you on a regular basis?  Does it seem that just when you have prayed it through and forgiven them for their offense, another one comes to take its place... and the whole process continues. 

I have such a person in my life.  (For you curious types out there--No, it is not my husband.) {smile}

I was driving in the car last week talking to God about this person.

"God, you know this person keeps on doing the same things over and over again!"

And then I asked a question to which I already knew the answer, but I really needed to ask the question . It is the same question the disciples asked Jesus.  The answer is the same as it was two thousand years ago.

"This is really hard.  Do I really have to keep forgiving this person?"  

Immediately, God answered me.  "Seventy times seven"   


"Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?'

Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'"  Matt 18:21-22

It says in my Bible commentary that of course this is not a mathematical equation, Jesus means limitless forgiveness.  

I have forgiven this person and I am sure I will have to seek the Lord to forgive them again soon.  However, Jesus helps us forgive.  

We have to forgive, and not just because the Lord says we need to forgive (although that would be reason enough). We also need to forgive for the sake of those who offend, and for ourselves.  Unforgiveness is like a poison in our souls.  It festers bitterness that can spread to taint our hearts and affect every part of our lives. 

Unforgiveness causes your prayers to be hindered.  If we do not forgive, God does not forgive us. (Matt 18:25, Matt 6:14-15)

I need forgiveness.  Don't you?

"Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But, if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Mark 11:25-26

I cannot afford to allow anything to hinder my prayers.  The cost of unforgiveness is too high for me to pay.

When we won't forgive, it is synonymous with declaring that the price Jesus paid was not enough.  His sacrifice is the reason forgiveness is monumental.   

Jesus paid the price for not only our sins, but for the sins of those who offend us.   Who are we to not forgive when Jesus went to the cross for them?

Even as Jesus hung dying on the cross, He prayed for those who crucified Him.

"Then, Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'"  Luke 23:34

Those who offend you often do not know what they are doing.  However, whether it is intentional or not makes no difference, we are to forgive regardless of intent.

Think of all Jesus Christ has forgiven you for.  Do you deserve His grace, mercy and forgiveness?

None of us deserve it.  How could we not forgive when we have been forgiven of so much.

When it is hard to forgive, ask God to help you.  He will.

Pray for the person who offended you.  It is difficult to be angry at someone when you are praying for them.  
Let's forgive even if we have to forgive seventy times seven in a day.  

Suggested reading:  Matthew 18: 21-35



 







Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Confident Heart {Week 5}: A Worried Heart


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  Phillipians 4:6-7

This past week was week five for the online Bible study.  We are reading A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This book has been life changing for me personally.  The truths taught in this book are from God's Word.  The Word of God has overtime transformed my heart into the confident heart God intended.  

This week we read Chapter Nine:  "When Doubt Whispers 'I Can't Stop Worrying'"  

Renee sums up this chapter well in this paragraph:

 "When you feel worried, talk to Jesus instead of talking to yourself.  Instead of bossing others around, boss your hearts around by reminding it to remember who God is--and how good He is at being God.  Remember that more than simply serving Him, God wants you to seek Him.  He wants you to sit with Him so He can give you His perspective and fill your heart with confidence in His presence each day."  pg.  178  

Also, if you do talk to yourself, only speak God's Word to yourself. 

God's Word fuels the fire of belief and confidence.  

"Sit with God" and let His peace rest on you.  Doesn't that sound wonderful and refreshing?

 *Sign*...sitting with the Lord.  A quiet moment of just being with Him.  No talking. Just being.  

He wraps His loving arms around you while He quiets you with His love and peace.   

Go to Him with a heart willing to be still and just listen.  

"He will quiet you with His love." Zephaniah 3:17

The other day, I was beginning to feel a little anxious about an event coming up and the Lord led me to John 14:27  

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."   

His peace is with us...all we have to do is trust Him and His Word.  

If you have the book, please feel free to comment on anything from this week that stood out for you or helped  you.  

If you don't have the book, I would still love to hear from you.  Do you worry?  What do you worry about?  What is a promise from God's Word that would help you next time you are tempted to worry?   





Monday, September 17, 2012

Cut It Off

It was a beautiful Saturday for watching football...or at least our little five year old cheerleader.  Sarah was cheering for a little seven year old football team this past weekend.  I have to admit, I don't completely understand the game of football, but I love watching my little girl cheer! 

Our boys, however, don't particularly care to watch football or cheerleaders (thankfully, not yet--that would call for a whole new post!) 

All they want to do during games is stay glued to their electronic gaming toys or DS.  Joe would once in a while look up to watch Sarah, but mostly we could only see the tops of their heads looking down into a small rectangular screen.

During the game, the boys began fighting over something to do with the DS.  I think Joe had taken Luke's to "fix" it or something.  This was not the first time our boys have been known to fight over these electronic toys.  Actually, the only times our boys ever fight seems to be centered around some kind of electronic game.  Hmmm.

They lose their games quite frequently for this reason.  One would think they would get a clue and learn to not fight.  

Well, this past Saturday, I had had enough!  We had a conversation that went something like this....

"When you fight, you are getting into strife.  Fighting and strife are sin.  It is sin and it is NOT ok. 
Because you cannot seem to keep from fighting when you play your DS, you will not be able to play DS again for quite awhile.

God says in His Word that if something causes you to sin, you should cut it off.  So, we are going to cut off your DS."

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It if better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into a fire that shall never be quenched."  Mark 9:44-45  (emphasis added)

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire--" Mark 9:47

Now of course, we do not literally cut off someone's hand or pluck out someone's eye.  I read a good article about this written by my friend Dustin Largent as a Yahoo contributor. You can click on his name to read the article.  

Basically, a DS isn't good or bad.  However, if it is causing one of my boys to sin, it is then bad and needs to be cut off.
 
The same is true with anything in our lives. 

T.V isn't bad, however, if we watch inappropriate movies or sitcoms, then it is causing sin and needs to be cut off. 

A computer isn't bad unless it is misused to look at images unfit for vessels of the Lord. 

Facebook isn't bad unless it is a main source of affirmation or it takes up too much of our time. Then, it can become an idol.  

Like I said, it is true with anything.  If a relationship is causing you to sin (unless it is your husband), you may need to cut it off. 

Is there anything in your life that you feel the Lord wants you to cut off?  Is there anything in your life that causes you or tempts you to sin?  

Have high expectations and standards for your family and yourself.  You will never live higher than your expectations.  You are a vessel of the Holy Spirit!  He lives inside of you. 

We need to live in such a way that we glorify God.  My kids were not glorifying God when they were in strife over the gaming toy.  There will not be DS in our home for a while.  We cut it off. 

Pray and ask God if there is anything you need to cut off from your life today.






 










Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Confident Heart {Week 4}: A Failure and Nothing Special

I was surprised by something I heard my ten year old son say last week.  He said, "I don't want to try because if I never try that means I will never fail." 

Oh, how I cringed at that statement, that mindset!  Where did it come from?  Where did he get that losing mentality?  Not from me!  Not from my husband!

He didn't have to get it from anywhere.  That mindset is nothing more than a lie from the enemy.  A lie we quickly displaced with truth.  

This week, we read Chapter 7 and 8 in A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.
These two chapters revealed two lies doubt tries to whisper:

The two lies are:
1.  I'm such a failure.
2.  I  don't have anything special to offer.

This week, we expose those lies with God's truth!

I used to be afraid of failure.  I would run from responsibility in fear that I would fail and be exposed as a phony incapable of accomplishment. 

I have failed and I still fail, often.  Every time I fall short of the glory of God...I fail.  However, I have learned as Renee pointed out on page 121 that "I didn't have to let my failure define me." 

Who you are is not defined by what you do.  Who you are is defined by what HE DID. 

He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  Col 1:21-22

We are free from accusation.  We are free from guilt.

I love what Renee said about condemnation versus conviction on page 127. 

She said that condemnation comes from the enemy and he uses generalized statements such as You are a failure.  You can't do that.  You never do anything right. You are so irresponsible. 

Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and is very specific.  He deals with us about a specific action and then reveals what is the right thing to do.

Conviction is done lovingly.  Condemnation brings shame and guilt. 

We learn through conviction.  God will use our failures if we let Him to show us how to be more like Him.

The second lie to expose is "I don't have anything special to offer."  This lie could be a cousin to the first.

God designed each and every one of us with natural gifts, talents, and abilities.  Then, when we become saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, we receive spiritual gifts.  God gave us these gifts to use for His glory! 

If you don't know what your natural and spiritual gifts are, I want to encourage you to pray and ask God to show you.  He will.  Do a spiritual gift test and personality test to find out your strengths. 

Praise the Lord for how you are unique and wonderfully made (Ps.  139:14).  He gave you your personality to fulfill the specific assignment He has for you!  You do have something special to offer! 

For Discussion and Reflection:  (pg 134, 154)
Ch. 7
1.  On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being "very little" and 10 being "a whole lot"), how often do you hear doubt whisper, You're such a failure?  Do you ever hear accusing internal dialogue saying things like, You always do that; You keep saying your sorry, but you'll never change; or You're constantly disappointing someone?

3.  Jesus knew Peter would fail Him, yet He still saw beyond who Peter was to who he could become.  How does it make you feel to know that same is true in your life?  Write down an area where you are feeling like a failure or are afraid you might fail and ask Jesus to help you fail forward if you have a setback. 

4.  Have you ever felt like you fell into Satan's traps?  How will you let his accusations lead you to Jesus in the future?

Ch 8:

3.  "Just as a target is designed to narrow the aim of an arrow, God uses the desires of our hearts to narrow the focus of where He wants our lives to make a mark for eternity" (pg. 144).  Do you believe God created you with unique desires and dreams?  If you know what they are, list them.

4.  What are some of your abilities?  If that is hard to answer, list things others have said you do well. 

5.  How did the servant with the least amount of talents perceive his master?  Have you ever felt like God didn't give you as much talent or ability as He's given to others?   Have you ever buried your abilities because you didn't think you mattered?  Has not using your God-given abilities impacted your sense of purpose or your relationship with God?  If so, how?

I hope you are enjoying this study on having A Confident Heart.  Join us back here next Thursday.  We will be discussing Chapter 9:  When Doubt Whispers:  "I Can't Stop Worrying."













Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Coke and a Smile

We had a great vacation last week, but I really have missed you.  It is nice to be back.  I have a few posts swirling around in my head right now.   This one is a Luke story...no, not the Luke of the Bible, my seven year old Luke.

There are many Luke stories.  A couple of stories include the time Luke put underwear on his head at school (oh yes he did), and the time Luke ran out of the bathroom at school buck-naked (thankfully no one saw but his teacher).

He just dances to the beat of a different drum with a carefree spirit.  We know and believe God has a great plan for Him. 

God has used Luke to teach me volumes about grace and patience. {smile} 

So, the Luke story today starts with a Coke and a smile.

Knowing our son, we really shouldn't have let him have the Coke.  We were at a wedding in Michigan a couple weeks ago.  My husband's brother was getting married.  It was an outdoor wedding and they were serving drinks before the ceremony. 

An outdoor wedding lends itself to different allowances than more formal church weddings.  One allowance was many of the guests brought their drinks to the ceremony.  It was hot outside and it seemed acceptable to have drinks at the ceremony. 

Chris eyed me with the look indicative with "Is it a good idea for him to have that Coke?"  Caffeine and Luke are not a good combination.  I answered back, "It is fine.  Worst thing that could happen is he spills it on his shirt, right?" 

Yes, you guessed it.   Luke did spill the brown soda down his white collared shirt. 

Then... within seconds, he cut his finger on the can's opening.  Blood started oozing from his finger and tears streamed down his cheeks as he lamented in pain.

We finally got wise and took the Coke can away so it could do no more harm.  Everything was well while we enjoyed the beautiful ceremony.

Then, at the end of the ceremony, I gave him back his Coke.  Yes, you are right...nothing good could come of this. 

We got in line to congratulate the bride and groom.

I hugged the bride.

Luke hugged the bride (while holding his Coke can).

It was like it was in slow motion.  The moment I saw the Coke can I began reaching for it, saying "Noooo Luuuukkkeee".  I was too late.  His Coke had also hugged the lovely bride and left a nice caramel colored trail on her pristine white dress to prove it. 

Immediately, my heart sank as I apologized to the bride.  Her dress!  You know, THE DRESS!

However, she handled it with the grace of a princess, she smiled and said "It happens all the time.  No worries.  I have a stain stick that will get it right out.  Don't worry about it."
 
Luke and I were both relieved.  It happens all the time, really?  How gracious.  She could have gotten upset.  After all, this was her day and this is the dress she envisioned herself wearing probably since childhood.

However...she knew it was an accident.  She knew Luke didn't intend to spill Coke on her dream dress.  She gave him grace, the greatest gift one can give another.  

Grace.  We all blunder.  We all make silly mistakes.  What if we all gave each other the same grace the bride gave my son that day?  What if we let love wipe each mishap away like the stain stick wiped away the Coke stain? 

A man's wisdom gives him patience.  It is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Col 4:6

The world needs to see God's loving grace through His people.  It is only by grace that we, the bride of the Bridegroom, can overlook an offense and smile. 











Monday, September 10, 2012

Abandonment {Guest Host: Stephanie Clayton}

I am very excited to introduce a friend to you!  I met Stephanie Clayton at Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference in July.  Immediately I felt a connection with this kindred spirit.  Her love for the Lord shines through her!  I know you will be blessed by her post today.  Thank you Stephanie!!! 


Abandonment…

No one likes to feel abandoned. Loneliness can take your breath away…especially when someone leaves and we don’t know why. A void is left.

It doesn’t have to be voluntary. Sometimes we feel abandoned even when someone didn’t leave by choice. Regardless of how they went, there is a hole left to fill. A place they filled for you, and a place you gave to them. Emptiness all over accompanies abandonment. Perhaps that’s why it seems so traumatic. We get in a panic to fill back up…but sometimes the whole gapes a little longer than we want it to.

Love and abandonment are tied very closely. Many times we wonder if we were unlovable…or if we didn’t love enough? Or maybe we “should” have loved differently…or better yet…never loved in the first place…

“The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

It’s been a while since I have felt the sting of earthly abandonment, but I concern myself with spiritual abandonment daily.

God, if I do not meet your expectations, will you leave me?

God, do I feel depraved because you have finally deemed me unloveable?

God…will you stay with me no matter what?

I know the answers to these questions…yet I doubt…and I catch my heart wondering…looking for love in other places…like FB comments…or texts from friends…

And yet He reminds me…that His love endures forever. That the God shaped hole in my heart will never be left empty and gaping. That there is no wound He cannot bandage and no thirst He cannot quench. He will not abandon me…and I…in all my messy-ness…am a work of HIS hands!

Dear sister, I know the sting of abandonment…it’s a very tricky emotion that leads to wall building. If you have been abandoned, instead of building a wall, open up the well, and let Jesus fill it with living water. The water that does not run dry…the Words of the Savior. He says you’re loveable…and worthy…and His princess…and He speaks the truth. He can’t get over you…He’s smitten with His daughter…the work of His hands.


Stephanie Clayton is a writer, speaker, and counselor with a passion for integrating Bible teaching with professional counseling. She has a Master’s Degree in counseling and a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology. Stephanie uses practical application and insight to help women find freedom from their past, embrace forgiveness, and move forward towards wholeness in Christ. Stephanie is the wife of a police officer and mother of two. She loves JESUS!!!! and a good skinny vanilla latte, bright colors, and fabulous shoes! You can find out more about Stephanie at: www.stephanieclayton.org






 
Designed by Sweet Peas Designs