Archive | August 2012

Experience Lasting Confidence, Part 1 of 5 – Develop Eternal Confidence

Remember the feeling that comes when something is new or just starting? Perhaps it was a new diet or exercise program, or maybe it was a new job or relationship. You didn’t care what other people thought, and you felt confident nothing could stop success. You also might have felt that whatever “it” was would finally make you happy.

Unfortunately, feelings tend to fade with time, and eventually enthusiasm wanes.

As Christians, we know that our spiritual lives are not immune to this fading of feelings, and the writer of Hebrews (10:32-39) calls for a return to that original confidence. This portion of scripture encourages us to find that excitement again. What instructions does it hold for regaining our confidence in our faith?

  1. Don’t throw away the confident trust (v. 35). Instead, nurture it through spending time with the Lord and in fellowship with other believers. Realize that the best way to lose this confidence is to do absolutely nothing.
  2. Remember the rewards (v. 36). What are the rewards? Ultimately, eternal life in Heaven with Jesus. This side of heaven, we receive the rewards of His blessings, rewards that are as numerous as the stars in the sky.
  3. Endure with patience (v. 36). Endurance shows that faith is real, and our confidence grows by enduring the struggles of living in an imperfect world.
  4. Continue to do God’s will (v. 36). Even though our feelings may pull us other directions and toward wanting to fulfill our own wills, continuing to focus on His will builds confidence. And as our confidence in Him grows, our fleshly desires weaken.
  5. Live by faith (v. 39). Faith means that we have confidence in that which we cannot tangibly see. It means we trust what the Word of God says, and we trust His working in our lives for good.

While David’s entire life provides a terrific example of confidence in God, let’s look toward the beginning when his life intersects with Goliath’s. (You can read the entire story in 1 Samuel 17.) David was in no way Goliath’s equal, but David played to his strengths as well as to the element of surprise. He let God take care of His weaknesses.

David knew he could defeat Goliath because he had defeated the lion and the bear when caring for his sheep. He remembered what God had done for him in those situations, and he knew He would do it again in this one.

Just like David’s confidence was built by spending time with God, our confidence is built the same way. When we read our Bibles and learn about His long history of faithfulness, redemption, restoration, goodness, mercy and grace, we become increasingly confident that what He did for the people in the Bible, He’ll do for us too.

Confidence, ultimately, is a matter of focus. We can focus on self or others OR on who has been, is and always will be. Have confidence in others where appropriate, but avoid letting anyone but God be your source of confidence.

And remember, that just like with love, confidence cannot be based on a feeling. It will fail you if it is. Confidence must be built and earned, something that our loving God has done tirelessly for thousands of years and continues to do for us still today.

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What’s Your Big “If”?

Anyone who spends any length of time with a child gets the pleasure of answering “What if…?” questions. Ever notice how these “What if…?” scenarios grow increasingly elaborate with age?

When we become adults, these “What if…?” questions turn from imaginative stories to concerns and worries, most of which never happen. We even turn these “What if…?” questions into statements that go beyond worry and concern.

“If I had a better body…”

“If my kids excelled in sports…”

“If I had new clothes…”

“If I had a boyfriend…”

“If I get a bigger house…”

“If I get a new car…”

“If I changed jobs or careers…”

These statements usually then end with some description of how life will improve and happiness increase should this change take place the way we want it to. Earthly pursuits such as the ones listed above are not necessarily wrong, but disappointment is certain if we base our security and happiness in obtaining them.

As adults, “What if…?” questions can easily distract us with worries and concerns that never come to fruition. “If…” statements seem to tie our identity and/or happiness into objects and events that can’t really secure our confidence.

Just like with the Israelites time and time again throughout the Old Testament, we so easily get distracted from the One who can truly secure our confidence. The only sure foundation on which we can place our hope for happiness, find our true identity, and secure our confidence is Christ.

“The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:26)

This devotion ends our Summer Book Club study on Woman’s Secret for Confident Living. Next week, we will begin a series focusing on Experience Lasting Confidence, the topic featured at our Ladies Summer Gathering in early August.

Time for a Status Check

We have all been equipped with unique gifts that God can use to allow us to bless others. There are no exceptions.

Consider the following list of what Karol Ladd in A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living: Becoming Who God Made You to Be calls Paul’s “Parting Ten.” Each sets an example of how our unique gifts can be used to serve Christ.

With whom do you identify the most? Use the questions listed with each individual to perform a personal status check.

  1. TychicusA Portrait of Loyalty & Faithfulness: Am I trustworthy? Do I use my words to build up, strengthen, and encourage others? Do I delight in good juicy stories, or do I delight in sharing God’s truth? Who can I trust as a loyal friend?
  2. OnesimusA Changed Life – Useless to Useful: Has Christ made a difference in my life? Have my old ways changed? Is there evidence of a transformed life? Am I looking to Christ to work powerfully in my life, or am I trying to change on my own power and strength? Do I see hope in others? Do I just look at them as who they used to be, or do I see who God can transform them to be?
  3. Aristarchus Willing to Do the Tough Stuff: How far am I willing to go for Christ? Will I take a stand for Him even when it’s unpopular? Am I willing to suffer persecution or ridicule because I follow Christ? Will I stand by others who take a stand for Him?  Where does my courage come from?
  4. Mark Overcame Rejection & Learned from His Mistakes: How do I handle rejection? Do I idolize acceptance and approval? Am I willing to turn to Christ and trust His plan for my life? Do I learn from my mistakes or only grow discouraged and bitter through them?
  5. Jesus Justus A Comforting Friend: What kind of friend am I? Do I bring healing and comfort through my words and actions? Or am I a constant drain on others by my complaining and whining? Do I have friends who bring refreshment to my soul? Am I trying to live independently of others, or do I encourage connection and comfort through friendships?
  6. Epaphras A Faithful & Devout Prayer Warrior: How devoted am I to the message of the gospel and to sharing it with others? How often do I struggle in prayer for another person? Do I have people in my life whom I consider devout and Christ-centered? Do I share my life and my prayer needs with them?
  7. LukeMultitalented Man of God: What gifts and talents has God given me? Am I open to how God wants to use those gifts for His glory? Who has God placed in my life as a gift to minister to my needs? Have I welcomed them in to my life? Have I thanked them? Are there any talents God is leading me to pursue? Am I willing to work hard using those gifts and talents?
  8. Demas A Sad Story: What things of the world distract me and tug at my heart? In what ways are they keeping me from pursuing Christ? Do I need to make any changes in my life? How can I make Christ the center of my life?
  9. Nympha Hostess with the Mostess: Do I have an open-door attitude when it comes to my home and things? Have I become lukewarm and lost my interest in the Lord? Am I being useful in His hands with what I have in my hands?
  10. Archippus Finish Strong: What has God called me to do? Have I grown weary of it? Do I need to heed Paul’s advice to finish strong? How can I be a cheerleader for others who may have grown weary?

(For more details on each of these individuals, read Chapter 11 in A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living: Becoming Who God Made You to Be by Karol Ladd.)

Hopefully, you were open and honest with yourself as you asked these questions. Now, write down one positive step you will take as a result of this self-evaluation.

DISCUSSION: If you feel comfortable, share the positive step that you wrote down in the comment section. If not, at least share it with someone who will help keep you accountable.

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Book Discussion: For those of you reading A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living: Becoming Who God Made You to Be by Karol Ladd, please go to our Summer Book Club page to participate in a discussion on the book.

The First Conversation of the Day

Eating a healthy breakfast helps you maintain and even lose weight by stimulating metabolism, which essentially helps burn more calories in a day. A good breakfast also helps you to take in all the healthy food you need to be strong.

Having breakfast can also stabilize blood sugar, which contributes to clearer thinking. In addition, a healthy breakfast gives your brain and body the necessary energy needed to carry out the many tasks in your day.

And if you don’t do it for yourself, realize that eating a healthy breakfast sets a great example for your kids. And we all want our kids to be healthy, right?

Just as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so too is the first conversation of the day. Making a conversation with God the first of your day will serve to kick start your day in a mighty and powerful way.

Our spirits are purified when we spend time alone with God, simply enjoying His presence and being close to Him. When we begin the day in conversation with God, we are more likely to carry that spiritually healthy habit into the rest of our day.

What are some ways to make sure the first conversation of your day is with God?

  1. Take a few minutes before crawling out of bed to talk with God. Of course, this only works if you can manage to stay awake.
  2. Slip out of bed and kneel on the floor. Just this change of position and the absence of warm blankets can wake you up enough to create a terrific few minutes of talking with God before starting the day.
  3. Pray in the shower. God is omnipresent, after all, and shower prayers give a good 5-10 minutes of prayer time.
  4. Kneel at the throne. Okay, this one sounds a little tacky if you think about it too much, but stick with me for a few seconds. Shut the bathroom door, and kneel on the floor in prayer for a few minutes. Might be the only way to get that few minutes of non-interrupted quiet time.
  5. Get up before everyone else. Coming from a non-morning person, let me testify that you can do this. It really does get easier over time.

Beginning the day with God gives us spiritual energy to live as a better example for Him throughout our day. It focuses our thoughts on Him, which helps us to base our daily priorities on His will for our lives.

And praying every morning also sets a great example for our kids. Even if they don’t see the private prayer time you have with God, your morning demeanor will be changed. They’ll likely notice that for sure. Take the example further by praying with your kids before they and you head out the door for the day.

Just like excuses for not eating a healthy breakfast every morning are a dime a dozen, so too are “reasons” for not starting the day with prayer. Choose to establish these priorities, and then watch the tremendous difference they will make in your life.

Got any other suggestions for making the first conversation of the day one with God?

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Book Discussion: For those of you reading A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living: Becoming Who God Made You to Be by Karol Ladd, please go to our Summer Book Club page to participate in a discussion on the book.

This entry was posted on August 9, 2012. 2 Comments

A Gentle & Quiet Spirit

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Paul instructs us to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business…” Living such a life, Paul says, sets a good example for non-Christians and results in us “lacking nothing” in our own lives.

As Christians, isn’t setting an example that will draw others to Christ what we really want? Don’t we want others to see that Christ really is enough and that with Him we truly lack nothing?

Peter, speaking specifically to women in 1 Peter 3:3-4, adds to this idea by saying that, “your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

A “gentle and quiet spirit” displays power and strength and draws others to Christ. What’s more is that a woman with such a spirit discovers she holds confidence and unfading beauty that is of great worth in God’s sight.

Isn’t confidence and unfading beauty a desire of all women?

As we continually place our hope in God, we learn to draw from His reservoir of strength. We learn that He truly does provide all that we need to serve with confidence in the place He has sent us, with the gifts He has given us, and in the strength He provides for us.

The root of this hope is obedience and submission, not out of duty or because we are forced, but out of love and because His hope dwells within and richly supplies us with all we need to do everything “as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).

Is your confidence built on your abilities, reputation or beauty, or do you place your confidence in the One who gives you infinite value as a Daughter of the King?

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Book Discussion: For those of you reading A Woman’s Secret for Confident Living: Becoming Who God Made You to Be by Karol Ladd, please go to our Summer Book Club page to participate in a discussion on the book.