Excited Newbie in OBS — A Confident Heart at Proverbs31 Ministries

I am truly looking forward to participating in my first online bible study. Particularly with other women who are committed to fellowship and support in this journey of faith we have embarked on.

This is my first attempt at blogging. I decided to try it since I have found such solace in reflective journal writing, particularly in times of trial. I hope that blogging will be a natural outlet for me and perhaps serve to provide some inspiration, motivation, consolation or encouragement to others as we move forward.

I have struggled most of my life with identifying a true sense of self and purpose. Given some recent life-altering setbacks, I have begun to re-assess my relationship with God and have returned to the comfort of daily prayer and meditation. When I was looking for bible passages to help me with my prayer and meditation, I found Proverbs31 Ministries.

I know that there is much to be gained by listening to and sharing with others. So, after reading the objectives, I signed up for the A Confident Heart study for many reasons, which include seeking:

  • Insight from others who have “been there, done that”
  • Encouragement and strength in the face of adversity — strategies for coping with life-altering setbacks
  • Growth in my relationship with Christ

Through participation in this study, I hope to gain insight on all of the areas that were so eloquently summarized in the description of learning objectives:

  • Exchanging fear for faith
  • Falling forward when life set you back
  • Embracing my God-given purpose, passion, and personality
  • Seeing beyond who I am to who I am becoming in Christ

I can’t wait to get started, and look forward to our time together.

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#IAmNot: The lens of conviction versus condemnation

For this week’s blog post for the A Confident Heart OBS, one of the choices is to “Describe a time when you felt condemned (by yourself or someone else), and answer two key questions: What would the difference have been if you had processed the situation through the filter of conviction instead? and What steps can you take the next time to usher in restoration instead of condemnation?

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have been riding a roller-coaster of emotion and behavior with consequence. I made a mistake in leaving a fairly secure position to take on a title. In the last year alone, I have dealt with the ups and downs associated with caring for a loved one who is undergoing significant medical treatment (open-heart surgery, followed by two major cancer surgeries, and all kinds of follow-up treatments); in addition, I lost a loving cousin and was unable to attend her funeral and grieve with the rest of the family; further, I nursed my beloved pet through toxic shock and surgery, pneumonia, and cancer until her death 4 months ago; and right before her death, we suddenly lost a wonderful friend who had done much in our lives. Finally, I lost my job — and I am really not entirely sure why; but with this latest loss, there was an undercurrent of personal failure, voices of accusers implying that I should be condemned for my actions (or lack thereof). Somehow, it seems that I was entirely at fault that I could not cleanse the toxic environment in which people operated long before I entered, and will likely continue to operate in after my departure.

As a result of all of this, I have felt like I was madly treading the waters (filled with sharks) simply to keep going. I grew to not like myself very much — at least not the me that I had become, wallowing in self-pity, blaming God and others for my misery and condition, and standing mired in the quicksand of my insecurity to the point of being unable to take the steps necessary to move forward.

About two months ago, as my job search seemed to hit a dry spell, I knew that I had to do something — and as I have always done in the past — my first step was try to find my way back to Him. If nothing else — from returning to prayer, reading and reflecting on the Scripture, and joining an OBS — I have begun to take great comfort in the fact that no matter what, there can be redemption — for He loves me! Through research and reflection, I have learned more in the last two months about the precepts of the Church that I was baptized into, along with the depth of my faith and the power of the Divine Truth than I had in the last 55 years. For that, I cannot even begin to express my gratitude!

So to view my situation in the lens of conviction versus condemnation, I sought to understand the difference between condemnation and conviction, and note the following:

Condemnation is not constructive — it is accusatory and critical, and judgmental. It affirms guilt, and perpetuates feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Conviction, on the other hand is constructive and specific in its revelation. Conviction points out sinful actions and attitudes and ways to mitigate negative results and consequences. We have the opportunity to reflect and to change harmful behaviors that impede our relationship with Him and with others.

It gives me pause to think that I have been acting in accordance with my free will, with complete disregard of His — but also hope that I can turn it around and use it to create a better me as I move into the next phase of life.

On p. 129 of A Confident Heart, Renee notes that when we feel like a failure, we should ask ourselves some questions:

Did I do something wrong or make a bad decision that led to this failure? YES — I relied on my own free will and ignored His plan and Will — seeking validation of my worth through position and others — I moved without doing due diligence, from a perfectly good job to one in a very volatile environment, simply to attain the next rung up a ladder.

Am I acting independently of God? YES

Is there anything I am not doing to fulfill a commitment I made? YES — this haunts me, as I vowed to do everything within my power to make things better for all around me. I am not sure however, that I could have done more — because as I noted, the toxicity was deep-rooted, the climate not conducive to positive change — and yet, I know from their own lips and actions, that I did make a difference in the lives of some people.

Did I pray about this or just do it because I wanted to? NO, I did not pray about the decision to make the move, and YES I simply did it because I wanted to — I wanted the title.

Was I responsible for the outcome? Given what I know now about the environment — I could make a case that I was not entirely responsible for the outcome, but did play a role in it.

Did I over-commit myself in agreeing to do this? Again, given what I know now — I would have to say YES, because at one point, I had an inflated sense of my capability. In hindsight, I am not sure that anyone could have done much more than I did or have enjoyed a different outcome.

Is God using this to refine my character? YES — I firmly believe that to be the case — it has served as a giant “wake-up call.”

So, in the lens of conviction rather than condemnation, I cite the following conclusions:

I have been seeking validation through all other means than His provisions and promises. I can thus make a conscious decision not to continue to pursue this course of action.

I have pursued positions with wrong motivation. I can thus seek always to fully understand my motivations and if they are not in alignment with His Will — change course accordingly.

While I have soothed some, I have hurt others through my words and actions. I can thus make a commitment to watch my tongue, obey His laws, and act in accordance with His way — treating and serving others as I wish to be treated and served.

The Art of Spiritual Warfare (Pt. 1)

In times of trial, when spiritual battle becomes necessary, the best defense is a great offense. And there is none better than can be found through faith in Him. This is particularly true in times of what seem to be extended adversity when you reach the brink of despair.

Remember always #WhoIAm in Christ and that —

Everything is possible for [her] who believes. (Mark 9:23, NIV)

“Don’t Quit,” Author Unknown

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.

Today’s Verse

Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the LORD your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and He won’t abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, CEB)

Exploration

This verse comes from a passage wherein Moses, in contemplation of his impending death, announces that Joshua has been chosen to see the journey through, and seeks to assure his people of the constant presence of God — to encourage them to continue their journey in faith and hope.

Looking deeper at the meaning of key words:

  • Fearless = courageous, bold, determined and confident; brave
  • Afraid = apprehensive, frightened, or hesitant
  • Scared = full of worry or fear
  • Abandon = renounce you or leave you behind; won’t fail or forsake you

Said another way, the promise is full in its magnitude — the strength, courage, and confidence found in total reliance on Him will dispel your apprehension, hesitance, and fear. You are always assured of a victory.

Stay strong! Be courageous, bold, determined, confident and brave! Don’t be apprehensive, hesitant or frightened, because the LORD your God is marching with me always. He won’t let me down, and He won’t renounce me, won’t forsake me, and won’t fail me.

Affirmation

There are numerous passages throughout the Scriptures that reinforce this particular promise, some of my particular favorites are included here:

Be strong — (trust his promises)

But now, says the LORD— the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the LORD your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you. I give people in your place, and nations in exchange for your life. Don’t fear, I am with you. From the east I’ll bring your children; from the west I’ll gather you. (Isaiah 43:1-5)

Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Hope in the LORD! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the LORD! (Psalms 27:14)

Fear not — (there is no need to entertain negative emotions or thoughts)

The LORD is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The LORD is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything? (Psalms 27:1)

Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

He will say to them: “Listen, Israel: Right now you are advancing to wage war against your enemies. Don’t be discouraged! Don’t be afraid! Don’t panic! Don’t shake in fear on account of them, (Deuteronomy 20:3)

He will not abandon me or let me fail

because the LORD your God is a compassionate God. He won’t let you go, he won’t destroy you, and he won’t forget the covenant that he swore to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 4:31)

I am the LORD your God, who grasps your strong hand, who says to you, Don’t fear; I will help you. Don’t fear, worm of Jacob, people of Israel! I will help you, says the LORD. The holy one of Israel is your redeemer. Look, I’ve made you into a new threshing tool with sharp teeth. You will thresh mountains and pulverize them; you will reduce hills to straw. When you winnow them, the wind will carry them off; the tempest will scatter them. You will rejoice in the LORD and take pride in the holy one of Israel. The poor and the needy seek water, and there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will respond to them; I, the God of Israel, won’t abandon them. (Isaiah 41:13-17)

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8:39)

Reflection

By placing all of my trust in Him, I can overcome trial and adversity, be strong and confident in any situation, win all battles, and ultimately attain the rewards inherent in His Word.

deuteronomy 31 6

 

#WhoIAm in Him: Toward full Acceptance

Today’s Verse

But those who did welcome Him, those who believed in His name, He authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. (John 1:12-13, CEB)

john-1-vs-12-13

Exploration

This verse is part of John’s discussion of the acceptance of the Word made flesh (Jesus). Not all were accepting of the man-God in his time — in fact, we find in these and preceding passages that He was being shut out by the majority of his people. He was acknowledged by a few, however, and He regenerated them with his own strength and power — and giving them the rights associated with being children of the Father.

I have undertaken a journey to move from relying on temporal things being a determinant of #WhoIAm to relying on God’s promises.  Thus, my expectation is that #WhoIAm will become fully a function of Whose I am — and I am His — a child with full expectations for unconditional love and support, and sharing in the rights and benefits inherent in his promises.

I have His Word, in writing:

I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Affirmation

Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces. (2 Peter 1:4)

God never promised a life without pain,

Laughter without tears; or sun without rain.

But He did promise strength for the day, 

Comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

For those who believe in His Heaven above;

He rewards their faith with His everlasting love. (Author Unknown)

Inherent rewards:

In addition to his uncompromising love and support, as a child of God — I am an heir, with standing to inherit.

Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)

in my temple and courts, I will give them a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give to them an enduring name that won’t be removed. (Isaiah 56:5, CEB)

Reflection

The path and the end-result are the same no matter who we are, what we have done, or where we come from. Through faith and trust in the Divine Truth.

How?: through the Son and the Spirit — You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26); and All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. (Romans 8:14)

galatians3_26-27

 

#MovingForward: From self-serving to serving God

There is a big difference between the expectations and prayers stemming from a temporal and self-serving view of God, and those coming from an evolving spiritual understanding of the power of His love and promises.

psalm 4

Today’s Verses

Many people say, “We can’t find goodness anywhere, the light of your face has left us, LORD! But you have filled my heart with more joy than when their wheat and wine are everywhere! “(Psalms 4:6-7, CEB)

Exploration/Affirmation

The verses above come from King David’s musings on seeking happiness in God’s favor rather than through amassing riches, attaining honors, or reveling in worldly pleasures. Here he notes that while others bemoan the lack of earthly “goodness” — his reward is greater and longer-lasting than the yield or reward of those who are self-serving  rather than leading a life of service to God.

In 1632, Alexander Gross substantiated this, when he noted, “Where Christ reveals himself there is satisfaction in the slenderest portion, and without Christ there is emptiness in the greatest fullness.”

And in Romans 8:6, there is a strong  comparison and contrast of the value and promise of temporal vs. permanent happiness — “The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace (CEB).”

I have a strong desire to move away from what isn’t working (temporal focus) to the promise of what will work (spiritual understanding) — from reliance on my own insight to reliance on His Wisdom, from chasing my own schemes and plans to following His plan and implementing His purpose and ways. This means making a conscious effort to move from serving myself to serving Him.

Inspiration

Thus, on this journey of faith, I seek to keep developing, and to fully embrace a practical understanding of the magnitude of His power and promise. The following are some key truths (reminders) to assist me in moving from a self-centered existence to a God-centered life:

Beginning with His promise of Hope for my future:

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13, CEB)

From my way/will to His way/Will:

There is a path that may seem straight to someone, but in the end it is a path to death. (Proverbs 14:12, CEB)

SO

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, CEB)

From selfish living to godly living:

Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15, CEB)

 [You] shouldn’t trust in what has no worth, for [your] reward will be worthless. (Job 15:13, CEB)

From doubt and insecurity to confidence in God:

When I am feeling weak or inadequate:  He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9, CEB)

When I am consumed by worry about day-to-day living:  “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25, 32-33; CEB)

Strength and fortitude to weather the storms:

He is a refuge and a force — The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalms 9:9, CEB)

If I am afraid and depleted, my strength derives from His — Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. (Isaiah 41:10, CEB)

From despair to hope:

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, CEB)

From inward focus to outward focus:

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. (Philippians 2:3-4, CEB)

 From pride to humility:

And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble. (Peter 5:5b,c; CEB)

From seeking validation through my own accomplishments to seeking validation through what  He can accomplish through me:

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, CEB)

 Romans 8-28

Asking Him for Help: #MovingForward

Today’s Verses

My whole body is completely terrified! But you, LORD! How long will this last? Come back to me, LORD! Deliver me! Save me for the sake of your faithful love! (Psalms 6:3-4, CEB)

Reflection

Being in the midst of  a lengthy period of adversity and trials, this Psalm speaks to my heart and describes some of my feelings. In some of my darkest days, the doubts become so overwhelming that I lose sight of the ways and means to endure and understand why things happen. Reviewing and reflecting on it, helps me refocus my thoughts away from myself and toward the fulfillment of the plan that He has for me, reminding me that things are occurring for very specific reasons, and ultimately that He is there to help me through it.

The verses are part of one of David’s lamentations. Written with the feeling of one who has been humbled and almost broken by an extended time of great troubles — questioning, perhaps whether or not the trials are part of a punishment and when it all may end.  My whole body is completely terrified! But you, LORD! How long will this last?

Moving to a plea for help — Come back to me, LORD! Deliver me! Save me for the sake of your faithful love!

Describing the feelings, emotions, and tolls of the worry prior to seeking intervention:  I’m worn out from groaning. Every night, I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch all the way through. My vision fails because of my grief; it’s weak because of all my distress.  (Psalms 6: 6-7, CEB)

and exhibiting an understanding of the depth of His mercy: Get away from me, all you evildoers, because the LORD has heard me crying! The LORD has listened to my request. The LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and completely terrified; they will be defeated and ashamed instantly. (Psalms 6:8-10, CEB)

Inspiration

In reality, any pleas for Him to come back to me are ill-placed — for He has never left! Yet, it is often difficult for me to remember that He will not lead me to something without reason, nor will He abandon me in its midst —  and ultimately He will lead me through it if I maintain patience, and trust in his faithful love.

Particular verses that come to mind to buoy my trust and patience, include:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, CEB)

Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer. I’ll be with you in troubling times. I’ll save you and glorify you. (Psalms 91:15)

Prayer

LORD, Your love is unfailing! You accept my prayers — always hearing and answering me when I cry out to You. You will always save me, and glorify me. So when I begin to become mired in doubt by relying on my own limited insight into my situation, let me turn my thoughts away from myself and unproductive emotion, and toward absolute trust in You.  In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN