#MovingForward: Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts

MovingForward

This Week’s Truth

He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38, NRSV)

Exploration/Affirmation

When I stumbled on the Proverbs31 Ministries website, I saw the ad for their next online bible study and it spoke directly to my heart. I signed up immediately. Since I have started this study, I have had several very emotional revelations. The biggest of these is that it is likely that everything that has been happening in my life for the last several years is my wake up call to surrender — to Him, once and for all — and that He has been waiting pretty patiently for me to do so.

So — this week we are working through Chapters 4 and 5 of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. As I began to read the material, I was overcome with a range of emotions — pain, anger, resistance, and finally acceptance and willingness to try anything to make myself feel better. All of this just reinforces the fact that I can’t #MoveForward effectively in my everyday life, or in my journey with and to Him, until I open up my heart and begin to work through all of the issues and situations from my past that keep impinging on both my ability to be consistent in my belief and trust in Him and my ability to perform in all areas.

The title of Chapter 5 — Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts, lets me know that once I identify the triggers and responses, I can work daily to heal. The title of Chapter 4 Hope for My Future Despite the Pain of My Past — reassures me that once I begin to heal, in faith, I will be able to reaffirm my trust and listen to what He is trying to tell me. Combining the wisdom and exercises of the two chapters will help me start living a fuller life daily — and hopefully I won’t be the only one to benefit from that.

The context of the verse for the week is in the aftermath of the crucifixion, when Jesus miraculously appears to his disciples. While he is offering them every blessing, he notices their disbelief — they think perhaps they are seeing a ghost. He is disconcerted because He feels that even if they don’t remember the words of the prophets, they should certainly remember what He told them earlier:

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33, NRSV)

BUT,

…they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:34, NRSV)

So he is moved to remind them in this passage:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49, NRSV)

Inspiration

This made me think several thoughts at once — He’s been waiting for me to open my heart, is not pleased that I am suffering and anxious, or that I entertain troubling thoughts about things that shouldn’t be troubling at all.

Some of you know that I have been desperately seeking employment after having been told that my current contract would not be renewed beyond October 31, 2013. (And this DEADLINE seems to loom over my head in red letters). This news comes on the heels of dealing with significant concerns regarding my other half’s health, losing 2 people who were dear to me, and having to put my beloved canine baby to sleep after 13 years.

This week — I have the opportunity to interview for 3 different positions — any of which would be a great opportunity for #MovingForward. This, of course, is great news, and I do feel blessed. HOWEVER — (isn’t there always a HOWEVER); with my confidence at an all-time low, particularly after having already been through a few great interviews over the last few months with no offer, uncertainty has rooted itself in my heart, and doubt is whispering in my ear as I prepare for these interviews. Because this process seems so heavily dependent upon what others think of me and may abilities — I have reverted to seeking my worth other than through Him.

I find some small consolation in the disbelief of the disciples — for it tells me that they, too, were fallible. The passage also reminded me that He has likely told me over and over, in many different ways, how to overcome my doubt and uncertainty.

Just prior to starting this study, I had been trying to work my way back to Him through prayer. I had been praying well-know prayers and I often sought guidance from the Spirit to help me personalize them. In relation to my concern about my abilities and getting through the interviews, the following verses caught my attention:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Psalms 31:14, NRSV)

in God I trust; I am not afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me? (Psalms 56:11, NRSV)

Reflection/Prayer

LORD, let me always remember the sacrifice that You made for my salvation. When insecurity makes me begin to falter in my trust and belief in You, let me understand that Jesus is dismayed since he has repeatedly assured me that He sends upon me what His Father promised. Let me remember that for this, and many other reasons, I need not be afraid of anything that happens nor entertain disquieting thoughts, because mere mortals cannot harm me and I can always rely on You in times of trial. It’s time to move forward, working through the lessons You have for me from the pain of my past in order to live beyond the shadow of my doubts. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN (See: Luke 24:38; 

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How do you determine your worth? (And why does it always come up short?)

I have earned the respect and admiration of others through a variety of accomplishments and in many cases have outperformed both my own and other’s expectations for me, but I keep pushing for more, because it never seems like it’s enough. I have a great family and support system, the members of which I love and I know that they love me, yet often I have expectations that can’t be met and dreams that go unfulfilled. I have a huge closet full of clothes, shoes, and drawers full of accessories; a nice home, two vehicles, and lots of state-of-the art electronics; but they don’t last … in fact, nothing I have, or do, and no one that I know or love has ever offered enough to fill a lingering void, nor salve deep wounds … and I have found myself in some very dark places over the years as a result.

So as Renee Swope (2011) notes, I often feel “that aching emptiness we know when something or someone fails us — that cannot be filled by food, family, shopping, friends, sex, alcohol, or anything else (p. 56),” further, “If [I] am doing well, [I] feel fulfilled. If [I] am not doing well, [I] feel empty and worthless (p. 58).” Of course, the measurements of doing well are worldly standards and determination of my worth thus often rests with what I call the 4 Ps — people, performance, position/power, and possessions. This seems to cause me to repeatedly come up short, and cannot begin to address the need for healing of my long-broken heart.

Today’s Truth

If as Swope posits, “the wells of our hearts were created to be filled by God alone (p. 60),” then I need to move from reliance on the 4 Ps to reliance on the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Spirit).

What better place to start than with the one who knows me best:

Psalm139v13_16

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.  (Psalms 139:13-16, NRSV)

No one can possibly know me the way that He does. He determined my path before I was conceived and formed me in my mother’s womb.

Exploration/Affirmation

Because I am one of His creations, I am “wonderfully made.” I was also, as Renee Swope (2011) noted, “made for love that isn’t measured by our last accomplishment but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62)”

Proverbs 19 22

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7)

No one can protect and defend me like He can. Nothing can possibly satisfy my needs and desires as He can. And no one else can begin to help me heal my heart like He can.

So, I took some time to refute the 4 Ps, and affirm the 3 Gs as my next step toward gaining #AConfidentHeart:

As to measuring my worth by the 4 Ps standards and measures:

  • Relying on the opinion of others has been disappointing, to say the least — Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. (Jeremiah 7:8, NRSV) ; no matter how hard I have tried to please or how many accolades I have obtained — the response is often hollow, and sometimes false; thus, It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals. (Psalms 118:8)
  • As for the clothing, the property, the vehicles, and the “toys,” they quickly lose value and must be replaced, not to mention they are of no value when I die — Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal (Matthew 6:19);  but the promises made by God are invaluable thus, I should store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)
  • The pursuit of position/power yielded little of value when I pursued it with a self-centered intent, for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, (Luke 18:14b); and I did learn from this behavior, adopting a desire to serve — thus (albeit unwittingly) I reaped the benefits of Commit[ting] [my] work to the Lord, and [my] plans [were] established. (Proverbs 16:3) — as, all who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:14c) though regrettably only for a short time.

So, as I turn to the 3 Gs, I affirm that:

  • Relying on the Father, means relying on someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me — For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • To live in the Word and attain all of the promises He made in recognition of the fulfillment of His Father’s will  — I long to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [I]may be filled with all the fullness of God.
  • Those who trust in their own wits are fools; but those who walk in wisdom come through safely. (Proverbs 28:26) Thus, I seek the Spirit’s counsel in understanding the Divine Truth and finding the words to express myself in properly-motivated prayer.

Inspiration

My goal, then, is to learn to rely on His promises and to seek His mercy and grace daily:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Reflection/Prayer

From Paul’s epistle:

LORD, I pray that, according to the riches of [Your] glory, [You] may grant that [I] may be strengthened in [my] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [my] heart through faith, as [I] am being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that [I] may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

#AConfidentHeart: The difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ

Today’s Truth

Eph 3 - 17,19

Exploration

Today’s truth comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. This particular verse is embedded in his prayer for spiritual blessings.

One of the questions that arose in the course of my current bible study is: “What is the difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ (Swope, p. 64)?”

Because I often struggle with my journey toward satisfaction — I decided to explore this further for this post today, and in brief, some of the conclusions I reached were:

Renee’s statement on p. 61, “Salvation is a one-time decision, but finding satisfaction in Christ and living in the security of his promises is a daily process,” resonated deeply with me.

Very simply put, salvation in Christ is the Father’s ultimate promise, and only required that I be baptized in order to benefit by it; while satisfaction in Christ requires me to commit daily to living my life in accordance with His Will, in compliance with His Word, and in the arms of His love.

Affirmation

The affirmation of my very simple conclusion above comes from my reflection on the Word:

Salvation

  • Salvation is a gift that comes through His grace, and not through anything that I or anyone else do/does; For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)
  • the sign of this gift was the passion of Christ; But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NRSV)
  • this sacrifice represents the unfathomable depth of His love and magnitude of His promise; For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16, NRSV)
  • and He has guaranteed that I cannot lose this gift; I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NRSV)
  • The acceptance of this gift requires the one-time decision Renee talks about – a declaration of faith and true contrition for my sins; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NRSV). This was done for me through Baptism, which I have affirmed.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction in Christ requires a commitment on my part to demonstrate my gratitude for the gift of salvation. It is carried out daily in actively seeking to develop a fuller understanding of the full dimensions of His love: to become “rooted and grounded” in His love, to trust in His promises, and to live according to His Word (Ephesians 3:17-19).

In practice, this is far more difficult, but I am starting to develop a framework to keep me on track – some of the steps I take include:

  • (1) remembering the “Why?” and the “Who?”– Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)
  • (2) taking Paul’s prayer for spiritual blessings seriously and seeking guidance from the Spirit on the “How?” – I ask for the gift of the seven graces (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear) so that I may
    • act daily in accordance with His will; Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NRSV);
    • and have the ability to deal with trials and adversity as they come with the knowledge that nothing can compromise His love for me; For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV);
    • and the assurance that He will see me through anything: I will be with [her] in trouble, I will deliver [her], and honor [her]. (Psalms 91:15).
  • (3) always reminding myself that even when I falter, I can move forward – because he will never let me fail completely; though [she] stumbles, [she] shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds [her] by the hand. (Psalms 37:24, NRSV)

Inspiration

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Prayer

Lord, even when I stumble, You never let me fall headlong; rather You are always with me, always deliver me, and always honor me. Please know that knowing this truth gives me confidence and a desire to seek my full satisfaction in You. Almighty Father, I am grateful for the gift of my salvation, which I recognize as an expression of the unfathomable depth of Your love for me. Let me always remember that this gift was afforded through Your grace and the ultimate sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. Let me remain cognizant of its enormous promise – that of eternal life. Let me reaffirm my acceptance of, and gratitude for this gift daily – by allowing Christ to dwell in my heart through faith; through seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit to further my knowledge and understanding of the Divine Truth; and by striving to comprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ – knowing that nothing will be able to separate me from Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN