Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Confident Heart - Week 2

I just completed week 2 of the online Bible study of 'A Confident Heart' by Renee Swope, hosted by Melissa Taylor. It's not too late to join if you're interested. Just click on her website here & sign up.
The assignments for week 2 are posted here -
1 John 4:16 (27 kb)
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (her). 1 John 4:16
I really enjoyed chapter 2 & there was a lot of good information in it, so I just wanted to post a few highlights that I learned this week. Just a fair warning, it is a little long. :)
The title of Chapter 2 is called, "Because God's Love is Perfect, I Don't Have to Be".
In this chapter she talks about pretending. We "tell people we're fine even when we're not, because we want to be fine", . I love what she says here on page 31, "Although we tell people we're fine, what we really mean is that we are Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic & Exhausted". Amen!!
Here's something else she says about pretending on page 32, "Pretending leads to hiding and isolation. What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even when we're flawed. Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close. So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we'll convince Him and everyone else that we're fine".
I know I can relate to the above statement. There are many times in my life where I've felt I was better off just hiding my struggles from people because I wasn't sure how they were going to react. Maybe it's because I've listened to the lies of the enemy for too long. Especially when I was younger & wanted to be accepted by others. So I put myself out there & then I get rejected. So, as a defense mechanism, as I grew older it was easy to put up walls to keep myself hidden from others.
She then goes on to talk about Sam aka the Samaritan woman & how it is one of her favorite pictures of God's pursuit of us. It really is a good example of how God pursues us, if you think about it. John 4:4 tells us that Jesus "had to go through Samaria". Renee writes, "Jews considered Samaria to be the scum of the earth. Usually if they were near Samaria they would travel around it - but not Jesus. He had to go through Samaria, because He knew Sam would be there." (page 36) I also loved this statement further down , "Jesus met Sam in one of the loneliest parts of her day. In the same way, He is there waiting for us in the midst of our imperfect lives, when our pain & failures confirm our self doubts."
Now, on the previous page (35) she states that "many theologians believe that instead of avoiding the scorching heat of the sun, she went to the well at noon to avoid the scorching pain of others' rejection and judgement."
I know I can relate to that last statement. There have been many times in my life when I have gone out of my way to avoid others because I may have to deal with either their rejection or judgement.
I love this statement on page 37, "If you've ever doubted God's personal pursuit of you, let this truth sink in, my friend: wherever you are, He wants to meet you there. He is waiting for you to stop, come up close, and turn your heart to listen to His. You don't have to pretend things are fine when they aren't. He knows what is going on in your thoughts. Nothing could keep Him from wanting to be with you."
That statement is so true. It's one thing I love about Jesus. I don't have to pretend with Him. He already knows my pains & struggles. He knows when I'm hurt, upset, worried or fearful. He's not like others who may reject or judge me. The only thing I have to do is accept His invitation to stop & be willing to meet with Him.
Here are a couple of statements from pages 40 & 41 that stuck out to me.
On page 40, Renee gives the definition of the word "KNOW". The greek word is yada, which means a deep emotional experience; a bonding between two people when one truly feels the emotions of the other. Jesus knows your pain, fears, doubts, and disappointments. He understands your dreams and desires. (p. 41)
"Although some of us feel uncomfortable that God knows so much about us, it is good to be known, to be listened to and not judged. Jesus is the only One who can meet our deepest needs to be accepted and delighted in simply who we are."  (p. 41)
"By offering Sam eterenal life, (see John 4:13-15) Jesus was offering her the gift of His Holy Spirit, who would cleanse her sins. But even more than that, it would lead her into a relationship where she could know the one true God and be known by Him."
"Christianity is the only faith that offers a relationship with the living God. We don't just know about our God; our God wants us to know Him. "
On page 42, Renee talks about our image of God. She states, "Oftentimes our image of God is shaped by early childhood memories and perceptions, good and bad." She goes on to talk about how her perception of God was based on her image of her own father. She states that she "perceived God as distant, unavailable and unapproachable." Which I something I could totally relate to.
I was closer to my dad than my mom growing up, maybe because he seemed like the 'fun' parent & my mom was more "stern." Usually if mom said no, I would go to dad & try to pursuade him into saying yes. So, when my parents seperated when I was 18 - 3 years after getting saved - it was heart-breaking & devastating. I went through my "prodigal daughter" phase & tried distancing myself from God. When I did finally come back to God, I felt like I had to "prove" myself worthy of His love and acceptance. Even though I was the one who distanced myself from God, I felt that if I didn't behave the right way or do the right things, that God would leave me also.
It's taken me several years to finally accept God's love & mercy & not have to try to earn or accept it. It's very freeing & liberating when you can get to that place, knowing you don't have to stay on God's good side for Him to love you. Or ever have to worry that you may do or say the wrong thing that will cause Him to leave or abandon you. His word says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
I love what Renee says on page 43, "A personal relationship with God sets us free to be all we were created to be. As children of God we were designed to find our identity, our significance, and our confidence in Him."
Further down she says, "The only way we'll have a confident heart is if we move beyond knowing about God to knowing and relying on Him - depending on His Word with our whole heart, mind and soul."