Saturday, December 31, 2011

Focus on Jesus {Something to Think About}

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. (Hebrews 12:2 The Message)
As we begin a new year, where is your focus? Remember Peter? He stepped out of the boat, focused on Jesus, and walked on water. When he panicked and took his focus off of Jesus, he sank.

What will 2012 be like if we look to Jesus before anyone or anything else? Will you turn to Jesus for guidance? For strength? For comfort? Will you ask yourself each day, “Where is my focus?


I'm linking up with Fresh Brewed Sunday and Thought Provoking Thursday!

In Christ,
Laura

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Top Ten Scripture Verses of 2011

Every year between Christmas and New Year’s, I see Top Ten lists—some to recap the year and some to start the next year. I’ve never written one before, but decided to give it a try.

Of these ten Scripture verses, some are favorites I turn to often and others are verses that took on new meaning for me throughout 2011. They are all special to me, so they are listed in no particular order, except as they are in Bible. (All verses are from the New Living Translation.)

1) Deuteronomy 31:8
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

2) Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

3) Isaiah 40:31
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

4) Isaiah 43:2
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

5) Jeremiah 17:7-8
But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

6) Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

7) Matthew 11:28
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

8) Matthew 14:31
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

9) Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

10) Hebrews 11:1
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Do you have a special Scripture verse that speaks to you? As you read God’s Word, allow yourself to be open to God’s leading. (<=Tweet this!) He speaks to us through Scripture, and leads us to what we need to hear at the perfect time when we need to hear it. 

In Christ,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:8-15 NLT)

Merry Christmas! Thanks be to God for the greatest gift we could ever receive—Immanuel, God with us!

If you’ve joined me in an online Bible study this year or been a visitor to my blog—I thank you! No matter what your plans may be, I pray you have a blessed Christmas!

I hope you’ll join me again as we start the New Year with a new online study of An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell.

In Christ,
Laura

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God’s Ways Are Not Our Own {5 Minutes for Faith}

I am excited to be at 5 Minutes for Faith today talking about faith and God’s promises. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

I want to have that unwavering confidence that God hears my prayers and keeps His promises. The Bible says I can—through faith.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 NLT

When we look back at how God has kept His promises in the past, we see that He has proven Himself time and time again.

Please stop by 5 Minutes for Faith today to read the rest of my post. If you have a minute, leave a comment so I know you stopped by!

Have a blessed day!

In Christ,
Laura

Rest {Something to Think About}

It’s been a long week and my emotions are getting the better of me. I’m tired—physically, and yes, emotionally. I’ve been searching Scripture for my favorite verses that meet me where I am and pick me up. I keep coming back to one I’ve clung to so many times before.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

Life seems harder when I’m drained. I need the Spiritual and physical rest Jesus gives.

What Scripture verse do you turn to when you need recharged?


I'm linking up today with Fresh Brewed Sunday and Grace Cafe.

In Christ,
Laura

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pray for the Future

Pray for the Future is part three of a three-part series. It was my first series, and because they are so personal, they are three of my favorite posts I've written. I've been excited and honored to be able to share them with Write It, Girl!

In case you've missed the first two...
Part Two—Pray for Strength

Pray that you would accept the situation. Pray for strength to get through the situation. Pray for the future.

To me, it feels like if I accept an unpleasant situation, it’s final. Maybe it’s a doctor’s diagnosis, a rebellious child, an empty marriage, or another situation I never thought I’d be in. If I accept it, is this the way it will be for the rest of my life? Sometimes it feels like it. But is it?

It was God’s will for Jesus to go to the cross for sins that were none of His own. While He didn’t spare Him from the situation, He did send an angel from heaven to strengthen Him. Jesus accepted the situation and was crucified for our sins. But we know that’s not the end of the story. Accepting the situation did not mean it was final.

“But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.’” (Luke 24:1-7 NLT)

Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, just as it was foretold. God had a plan, and His plan came to pass, just as He said it would. God has a plan today—for you and for me. Though He may take us through circumstances we don’t want to be in, He doesn’t just leave us there. He promises to always be with us.

Through prayer, God will help us accept a situation we don’t want to be in. If it’s not His will to take us out of the situation, He will strengthen us to walk through it. And if He allows us to go through it, that doesn’t mean it’s forever, even if it feels like it.

This is part three of a three-part series.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pray for Strength

I'm excited to be linking up again with Write It, Girl: Round 2! This is a 3-part series. Last week: Part One–Pray for Acceptance Next week: Part Three—Pray for the Future.


Pray that you would accept the situation. Pray for strength to get through the situation.

There are situations in life we simply do not want to experience—illness, unemployment, divorce, and so many others. Often times, God will spare us from these situations. Other times, He will allow us to go through them…but He doesn’t require that we tread through them alone. He promises to walk the road of life with us. After praying to accept the situation, we can pray for strength to get through it. Jesus did.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked God if there was another way, but prayed for God’s will over His own.

“‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:42-43 NLT)

Jesus accepted that the situation was God’s will, but God didn’t let Jesus go through it without help. He sent an angel to strengthen Jesus for what was to come.

I need God’s help to accept a situation I don’t want to go through. I also need His strength. I can’t do it on my own, but trust in God and prayer will give me the strength to face the situation. Like He did for Jesus, God will also strengthen us for what is to come.

A situation I don’t understand and can’t control feels impossible to get through. Some days I am depleted of strength and energy. If I rely on myself, there is none to be found. But God never tires and never grows weak.

One of my favorite passages is found in the book of Isaiah.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. The will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28b-29; 31 NLT)

The strength we need to endure a situation comes not from ourselves, but from the Lord. He has an abundant supply and wants to share it with us. Through our dependence on Him, we are strengthened.

This is a three-part series. Part One – Pray for Acceptance. On Friday…Part Three—Pray for the Future.

In Christ,
Laura

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pray for Acceptance

I'm excited to be linking up Pray for Acceptance for the March 2012 Write It, Girl: Round 2 Part Two—Pray for Strength next week. 


Pray that you would accept the situation.

I recently heard these words in a sermon and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them. Pray that I would accept the situation? Doesn’t whether or not I want to accept the situation depend on the situation? For example, a good health report, a new job or the promotion I wanted, a secure and happy marriage—those are acceptable situations. But cancer, loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one—those situations are harder to accept. I don’t want to accept them.

I decided to look up the definition of the word accept.

accept – to take or receive, to receive with approval, to tolerate or accommodate oneself to. (Dictionary.com)

accept – to receive willingly (NLT Study Bible, Tyndale)

I don’t know if I can willingly accept something I don’t want or something I know will be painful or final. On second thought, I know I can’t. Not on my own. I need God’s help.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked God if there was another way…

“‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’” (Mark 14:36 NLT)

“Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.’” (Matt. 26:42 NLT) 

Each time, Jesus expressed His feelings to God, but God’s will was of most importance to Him. Jesus accepted the situation and did what He had to do.

God will always listen to us. He wants us to express our fears, disappointments, and confusion. Sometimes He will change our circumstances, and sometimes, He will change us instead.
        
Accepting a situation doesn’t mean pretending I’m happy about it, but maybe it frees me from the anger, hurt, and resentment I feel. Especially if I’m feeling this way towards God, accepting it allows me to move on with what I have to do. Accepting it enables me to receive God’s guidance and His help in getting through the situation.

This is Part One in a three-part series. Stop back on Wednesday for Part Two—Pray for Strength.

In Christ,
Laura

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For Such a Time as This {Something to Think About}

“…And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV)

I don’t know many people pondering their royal position, but I do know some, including myself, who wonder “What’s going on here?!?” Why do I have to be involved in this situation? Why is everything around me changing? Why can’t someone else take care of this?

Like Esther, sometimes God leads us to a place we don’t want to be in. We’d rather stay where we are comfortable, doing things our own way. We can resist and drag our heels, or even refuse by continuing on our own path. But what will we miss? What if God wants to use us in His work and we refuse the opportunity? We may never know why or see the outcome of His plan, but what if God is moving us to a place for such a time as this?

I’m linking up today with Fresh Brewed Sundays. Please visit again tomorrow when I begin a three-part series on acceptance. On Monday, I’ll post Part 1—Pray for Acceptance.

In Christ,
Laura

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Woman of God I Want to Be

Welcome! This week we’re in chapter 11 of Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart. Have you thought about the woman you want to be? The woman God wants you to be?

As a woman of God, I want to…

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 10

Welcome! If you've been studying Renee Swope's A Confident Heart with me, I pray you've enjoyed the reading and have seen God at work in your life.

This week we wrap up the study with the last two chapters.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am Thankful for...

With Thanksgiving approaching, I decided I should write about what I’m thankful for. I figured it would be predictable…family, friends, home, job…and don’t get me wrong, I am truly thankful for these.

However, at the end of a long, exhausting week, that ended with an afternoon of disappointment in myself, different thoughts took hold, and a new list emerged.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Confident Heart Online Study - Thanksgiving Week

Welcome! If you’re studying Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart with me, we’re going to take a break in the reading schedule this week for Thanksgiving.

If you have time and need to catch up on the reading, this would be a great week to do so. Also, feel free to read ahead. Next week, we’ll finish the last two chapters of A Confident Heart.

Although it won’t be related to the reading, I still plan to post here on my blog this week. I hope you’ll stop by again!

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Laura


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Know He’s With Me

Sometimes I can’t feel God’s presence…but I know He’s there.

Usually it’s when I’ve hit a feeling of despair…a situation isn’t going well…I’m tired, stressed, or angry…life isn’t going the way I hoped or wanted…and I can’t feel His presence.

But I know He’s there. And sometimes knowing instead of feeling has to be enough.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Give Your Worry to God

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)

Years ago, I read a Christian fiction book titled, Becoming Olivia by Roxanne Henke. In it, the main character, Libby, struggles with anxiety, depression, and worry. Through a group therapy session, she learns a technique to get her worrying under control.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 8

Welcome and thanks for visiting! This week we're studying chapter 9 in A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura


Week 8 – Nov. 6-12, 2011
Monday & Tuesday
  • Read Chapter 9 “When Doubt Whispers ‘I Can’t Stop Worrying.” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to. 
Tuesday
Wednesday & Thursday
  • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
Friday
  • Spend time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
To Go Deeper:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Comparisons

Thank you for visiting my blog today! If you are studying Renee Swope’s book A Confident Heart with me, we are on Chapter 8, “When Doubt Whispers ‘I Don’t Have Anything Special to Offer’” this week.

Comparisons. I hate them, and yet, I can’t stop from making them.

We compare our looks, our skills, our jobs and careers, our families, and what we have or don’t have. They make us unhappy and discontent because something else looks better.

Comparisons lead to feelings of insecurity and depression, and feeling like we have to keep up with someone else to be as good as that person. Comparisons can make us judgmental and jealous, even causing us to not like someone we don’t even know.

Comparisons can be made quickly, often before I even realize I’m doing it, and just as quickly, I lose my focus. Instead of appreciating what God has blessed me with, I focus on what I don’t have.

Recently, I heard a breast cancer survivor speak. When her story had been told, there was not a dry eye in the room. I’m ashamed to admit that I walked away feeling sorry for myself. She described the incredible support she had as she went through her ordeal, and all I could think of was how little support I was convinced I’d have if it was me.

The feeling lasted as I left and drove home. But once home, I was convicted. I realized I was focused on what I thought I didn’t have, in a situation I wasn’t in! Even more ridiculous, was that I had forgotten how blessed I was.

Earlier in the year, I had my annual mammogram and was stunned when I received a call that I needed another one. The x-ray showed an area that could be something, or could be nothing, but a more detailed mammogram was needed to find out. It was scheduled for the following morning and within an hour, it was confirmed that it was nothing.

As I compared myself to the speaker that day, I lost my focus. How could I worry about something that wasn’t happening to me, while forgetting how God had blessed me? Her journey was not the path I was on. God blessed her with a strong support system and survival. God blessed me by not taking me down that road at this time in my life.

Isn’t that what comparisons do? They make us focus on what we don’t have, instead of what we have been blessed with. They make us look at someone else and think that what we have isn’t good enough.

Comparisons…the enemy must love them. In fact, I wonder if he’s behind the comparisons we so easily make. Recognizing that, can we refuse to take the bait? When we start to compare ourselves to someone else, can we see what we’re allowing to happen to our thoughts, and turn our focus back to Jesus and all that we have been blessed with?

I’d love to say that since that day I don’t compare myself to others, but I can’t. It’s a daily struggle to not look at someone else and think…If I had that…If I was like her…If only my situation was different…you get the idea. But that’s not how God wants us to think. He has blessed each of us in different ways—ways only He knows fit into His plans for our lives.

We each have a different journey to take in this life, and yes, some seem much more difficult than others. But in each journey, God has a plan…and it is a plan for good, to give us a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Have a blessed week!

In Christ,
Laura



Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 7

Welcome to week 7 in our online study of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. It's hard to believe we're already more than half way though the study.

So, what has stuck with you so far through this study? A Scripture verse that's become a favorite? Something you've learned about yourself? A person or story from the Bible that has taken on new meaning for you? Please leave a comment sometime this week to share.

This past week I've been guest blogging for Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. I'd love to have you stop by!
When an Injury Changes our Path in Life
Coming Back from Our Mistakes

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 7 – Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2011
Monday & Tuesday
  • Read Chapter 8 “When Doubt Whispers ‘I Don’t Have Anything to Offer.” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to. 
Tuesday
Wednesday & Thursday
  • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
Friday
  • Spend time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
To Go Deeper:


    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Failing Does Not Mean I’m a Failure

    Welcome! This week we’re studying Chapter 7, “When Doubt Whispers ‘I’m Such a Failure’” in A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

    What do we do when we’ve failed, whether it’s through our own doing, or maybe through circumstances caused by another’s actions?

    As author, Renee Swope, points out, Jesus knew his disciple Peter would fail him. But Jesus saw something Peter probably didn’t know about himself—Jesus saw Peter’s faith and his potential. Jesus saw not only who Peter was, but who Peter would become.

    Jesus sees the same in us. He knows we’re going to fail at times. He also knows the times we fail are opportunities for growth, in our faith, and in who we are becoming.

    So, what can we do when we’ve failed? We can ask Him to help us get back up on our feet, to show us what we need learn, and how we can move forward.

    Sometimes I wonder if God sees me as a child who has to learn the lesson for myself. His Word tells me right from wrong, but I do what's wrong anyway. Then I have to face the consequences of my actions, and learn my lesson the hard way. Much like a young child who doesn’t believe when told the stove is hot, but who touches it anyway. I have to find out for myself.

    Satan likes our stubbornness and when we fail. He condemns us and wants us constantly feeling guilty. Like rubbing salt in a wound, he reminds us of our failures, and wants us to believe that we can do no better.

    But that’s a lie. Just as Jesus saw Peter’s potential, He sees ours.

    Jesus loves us so much—He’ll meet us where we are. But He loves us too much to leave us there. He convicts us of our sin, and shows us the way out. He knows our heart and blesses us with His forgiveness.

    When we fail, do we forgive ourselves or do we carry the guilt and shame around like baggage? When God forgives, He chooses to remember our sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:34) When God forgives us, we need to forgive ourselves. If that’s something we struggle with, we need to ask Him for help. Forgiveness draws us closer to God, and allows us to move forward.

    There is a song I want to leave you with today. We sang it in worship service this past weekend and these lyrics have stayed with me.

    “So take me as You find me, All my fears and failures, Fill my life again.” (Mighty to Save, written by Reuben Morgan and Ben Fielding, performed by Hillsong)


    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 6

    Welcome! This week we're on chapter 7 of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart.

    Have a blessed week,
    Laura

    Week 6 – Oct. 23-29, 2011
    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 7 “When Doubt Whispers ‘I’m Such a Failure.’” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to. 
    Tuesday
    Wednesday & Thursday
    • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
    Friday
    • Spend time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
    To Go Deeper:

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Controlling Doubt

    Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and he’ll do anything to get us to believe his lies. He wields his way into our lives, working to separate us from God.

    “Our enemy knows if he can influence the way we think, then our thoughts will determine how we feel, and our feelings will shape how we live.” –Renee Swope, A Confident Heart

    I started thinking about the times when I felt insecurity and self-doubt building and piling up on top of itself. Before I knew it, I was trapped under the heap of negative thoughts and insecurity. It was hard to change my focus and turn to Jesus for the truth.

    However, there have also been times when I was quick to recognize that my thoughts were not of God. I was able to see it, turn to Jesus, and stop the enemy in his tracks before it brought me down that day.

    So, what made the difference? Why was I able to recognize it quickly one day, but not the other?

    As I pondered this, I remembered when my daughter broke her arm a few years ago. We were told to stay on top of the pain. As soon as it started to hurt again, she was to let me know so I could give her pain medicine. If we waited, the pain would get worse, and it would be harder to get control of it.

    The days I’m able to recognize right away that the enemy is working on me are the days I’ve been in constant communication with Jesus. From the moment I wake up, I’m talking to Him.

    Before you think I spend hours on my knees in prayer, that’s not what I mean. Yes, I pray throughout the day, but also talk to Him about anything and everything. Whether I’m asking Him what our plans are for the day, thanking Him for letting me see Him in some way, or confessing that I don’t know what I’m doing and need His guidance, I try to stick close to Him. With Jesus by my side, I’m able to stay on top of the negative thoughts and insecurity.

    But there are days when I forget to include Jesus in my day. Without the constant contact with Jesus, I make myself an easy target for Satan. I’m rushed and busy, and I don’t see the attacks coming. Lies. Self-doubt. Insecurity. It builds up and weighs me down, and before I know it, I’m struggling to get control of it.

    Now, it is never too late to turn to Jesus! However, I find it harder to turn my thoughts when I’m already spiraling down in negativity and self-doubt. But when I’m spending my day with Jesus, my focus is already on Him. I can react quicker, and I can pray God’s promises before the doubt makes itself at home.

    Have a blessed week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 5

    Welcome! If you are visiting for the first time, we are studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. Feel free to join in at any time!

    Have a blessed week!
    In Christ,
    Laura

    Week 5 – Oct. 16-21, 2011
    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 6 “When Doubt Whispers ‘I’m Not Good Enough.’” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to. 
    Tuesday
    • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the weekly post. Will you share your AM and FM thoughts by leaving a comment? (Remember, you can do so anonymously, if you choose.) 
    Wednesday & Thursday
    • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
    Friday
    • Spend time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
    To Go Deeper:

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Letting Doubt Hold Us Back

    Welcome! If you’re new to my blog, I hope you’ll take a look around, stay as long as you like, and come back often. Currently, we are studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

    I really like the story of Gideon—how he had to focus on God and depend on God’s strength, instead of his own. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt that way before, and I’ve prayed…

    Lord, I’m not strong enough to face this situation, I need your strength.
    God, I don’t know how to do this, but you do—I need your guidance.
    Lord, I can’t handle this anymore, I need your energy.

    I’ve found that when I pray, God does indeed provide what I need, maybe for the moment, maybe for longer. When I forge ahead, thinking I can handle it on my own…well, I can’t. Doubt in myself and insecurity creep in and my confidence is gone.

    And therein lies the problem—it’s those times when I’m looking for my confidence in myself that I lose my way. But when I turn to God first and find my strength and confidence in Him, He guides and directs me on the path He wants me to be on.

    In chapter 5 of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, Renee asks, “Have you felt paralyzed by uncertainty and allowed it to keep you from walking forward with God in faith?”

    When I read this I remembered when I first felt God lead me to start an online Bible study. I almost let doubt keep me from stepping forward in faith. Below is a repost from my blog on June 20, 2011, when I wrote about my saying no to God.

    by Laura Rath

    What almost kept me from saying yes to God? I lost my focus.

    Earlier this year, God laid it on my heart to start an online Bible study. I’d been praying for His guidance, asking Him what I should be doing, and He answered. My mind raced with ideas and possibilities! But the excitement soon turned to uneasiness. I didn’t know how to start, and social media was outside of my comfort zone. I wanted confirmation from others, but didn’t want to tell anyone for fear that I would have to follow through. The more I thought about it, the less I could see a way it would work. I started to doubt it came from God at all, but instead my over-active imagination.

    God gave the direction, but I didn’t ask Him how to get there. I quickly grew discouraged and decided I wasn’t going to do it.

    I asked God for help, received it, and then told Him no. It’s no wonder I felt like I was no longer hearing from Him. It was not a good place to be in.

    I turned to God in prayer and after pouring out my heart to Him, I felt Him tell me, “Focus on Me.”

    I thought of when Jesus walked on water and Peter walked toward Him. (Matthew 14:22-33) When Peter’s focus was on Jesus, he could walk on water. But as soon as Peter lost his focus, he began to sink.

    It was a clear message that my focus should be on Christ, and not on what was going on around me or what I felt I couldn’t do.

    Later that same day I was led to Deuteronomy 31:8: “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

    I immediately felt is was God’s instruction to me, not only for the online study, but in other areas of my life as well.

    God was guiding and directing me…and still one more incredible thing happened that day.

    God led me to an online Bible study though Proverbs 31 Ministries. The study was to begin in four days. Although I was on the Proverbs 31 Web site often, I had not seen anything about the study until the perfect timing of that day. God led me to the study of a book that was a blessing in my life, and He showed me an example of how an online study could work.

    What almost kept me from saying yes to God? I took my focus off of Jesus and I started to sink.

    Have a blessed week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 4

    Welcome! If you are studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope with us, I pray that you are finding comfort in God’s promises!

    Below is the suggested schedule for this week. Please remember to post comments to share how God is working in your life through this study.

    Have a great week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Week 4 – Oct. 9-15, 2011
    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 5 “Living beyond the Shadow of My Doubts.” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to.
    Tuesday
    • Visit Laura’s blog at www.laurarath.blogspot.com for the weekly post. Leave a comment with your thoughts on the reading, or how you see God working in your life. 
    Wednesday & Thursday
    • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
    Friday
    • Spend some time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
    To Go Deeper:


    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    God Has a Plan for Your Life

    Welcome! This week we’re reading Chapter 4 “God Promises Hope for My Future Despite the Pain of My Past” in Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart.

    “We can trust God’s plans as we realize that His story is being written in ours. His power is perfected in the broken places we consider to be our greatest weaknesses—our most vulnerable emotions we don’t want anyone to know about.
    “What story is God wanting to write in your life? Will you let Him?” (Renee Swope, A Confident Heart)

    How do you feel when you read this on page 76 of A Confident Heart, by Renee Swope? When I read it, I have mixed emotions.

    I feel hopeful and excited. How incredible that God has me in mind! No matter what my past may be or how I’m struggling in the present, He has plans for my future. Some days that is hard for me to fathom. Being human, I can only comprehend what I know, what I’ve experienced, and what I can imagine. So, knowing that there is more to my story than what I’m aware of—that gives me hope for the future, strength for the present, and comfort for the past.

    Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

    God promises each one of us a future and a hope. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see it yet, or even imagine it. Faith and trust in our one true God tells me that I don’t have to be able to see it or understand it. God promises it, and God keeps His promises. That, I can rely on.

    I feel humbled and excited that God can use me in His Kingdom.

    When my daughter was a small child, she wanted to help with whatever I was doing. “Can I help? Can I help?” she would ask. And I would find something she could do to help me.

    Sometimes I feel like that. I want to ask Him, “God, can I help? What can I do?” Of course, God doesn’t need our help, He allows us to help Him. I picture my daughter smiling up at me letting me guide her in the task, and I imagine myself spending time with God doing what He’s asked me to do, following His example.

    When I read what Renee wrote I feel the desire to persevere. Life is far from easy. We face trials and situations we would rather not go through. But I find myself wondering how God will use those trials in His plans for my future.

    We live in a fallen world and we will continue to work our way though struggles and hardships. God doesn’t promise that the road of life will be easy, but He does promise to travel it with us. Through each adversity I believe God refines us, growing us to be more like Him. My trust and faith in God and His promises are strengthened, and I find that the less I struggle against Him, the more I can feel His presence. Knowing that if God brings me to it, He will bring me through it gives me hope for the future and strength to persevere.

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    A Confident Heart Online Study - Week 3

    Welcome to week 3 of our online study of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

    As you've been reading, how have you seen God working in your life? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

    Have a blessed week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Week 3 – Oct. 2-8, 2011
    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 4 “God Promises Hope for My Future Despite the Pain of My Past.” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to.
     Tuesday
    Wednesday & Thursday
    • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter.
    Friday
    • Spend some time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading.
    To Go Deeper:

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    When-Then Statements

    In Chapter 3 of A Confident Heart, author Renee Swope writes about when-then statements as a way to recognize when we’re looking to other people and things for our worth, instead of looking to God. 
    Earlier this week, I said I’d share a couple of the when-then statements I wrote.  

    When I first read about them I didn’t know where to start or what to write about. It was when I didn’t have the book in front of me and I was feeling anxious and unsettled that I decided to try it. I acknowledged and wrote in my journal how I was feeling (when) and remembered and claimed God’s promises for me (then). I found the Scripture verses I was thinking of and wrote them in my journal too.  

    Each time I did this I felt God’s calming presence, and my focus shifted from my emotions and the situation back to Him. 

    Once I tried it, writing when-then statements came more naturally. Here are a couple I’d like to share.


    When I feel like my world is spinning out of control, then I will thank God that He doesn’t change.

    “I am the Lord, and I do not change.” – Malachi 3:6a NLT 

    “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” – James 1:17 NLT


    When I begin to feel that a situation is hopeless, then I will thank God that with Him, nothing is impossible. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. 

    “Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.’” – Matthew 19:26 NLT 

    “For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37 NLT


    Did you write a statement? Please leave a comment to share.

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Where is Your Treasure?

    Welcome! This week we are in Chapter 3 “Finding Love that Won’t Fail Even When I Do” of our online study of Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart.

    “When we worship something or someone, we give them great worth in our lives and oftentimes we find our worth in them. We also set our focus on them and eventually they become the very thing we look toward to fill us.” (Renee Swope, A Confident Heart)

    For days I’ve been coming back to this thought and each time I think of Matthew 6:21. I like both of these versions…

    “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” (NLT)

    “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (The Message)

    How often do we try to fill our lives with the treasures of this world? Whether we’re looking to people, positions, or things, they can make us happy for a time, but they can’t fill us or bring us everlasting joy like only Christ can.

    Knowing this doesn’t always mean it’s easy. In the world today there are so many temptations. We long for the approval of others. We feel the need to keep up with those around us. There’re always newer and more advanced things coming out to spend money on. It’s easy to get caught up in the ways of the world.

    I don’t believe God says we can’t have these things and enjoy them, but when they take our focus off of Him, we can be headed down a path that leads us away from Him. Renee writes “…so many times we look to the gifts instead of the Giver to fill us and fulfill us with lasting security and significance.”

    Maybe you can relate to this like I can. My attention can be so centered on something or someone other than Christ that I’ve shifted my focus off of Him. When that happens, I start looking to other people or things to fill me. When they can’t fill me, I feel lost and empty.

    The shift in focus to the gifts instead of the Giver can happen quickly—often before I even realize it. So, every day I need to make a conscious effort to find my treasure in Him, and there I will find my security.

    Have you written any when-then statements that Renee Swope explains on page 60? Come back later this week when I’ll share one or two that I’ve written, and I hope you’ll share yours by leaving a comment. I agree with Renee—they do help!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    A Confident Heart Study - Week 2

    Welcome!

    If you are studying A Confident Heart by Renee Swope with me, we start slowing it down this week with only one chapter per week. At the end of each week's schedule I'm noting ways to go deeper into the study, if you choose. Melissa Taylor, author and speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries, is also doing a study on A Confident Heart. Although we are one chapter ahead of her study, I still recommend visiting her blog, if you haven't already.

    Just a note...I'm now on Twitter, and working on Facebook.

    I pray that you are seeing God's work in your life as we read A Confident Heart! Have a great week!

    In Christ,
    Laura

    Week 2 – Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2011
    Monday & Tuesday
    • Read Chapter 3 “Finding Love That Won’t Fail Even When I Do.” Remember to underline or take notes on anything you want to remember and go back to. 
    Tuesday
     Wednesday & Thursday
    • Reflect on, and answer, the Discussion Questions at the end of the chapter. 
    Friday
    • Spend some time in prayer and reflecting on this week’s reading. 
    To Go Deeper: