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: