What Are My Strongholds?

I began a new study this past week. Bible Studies at our church are so unpredictable. You think they are gonna be great. Last time I had one person sign up and 10 people showed up. For this study I had one person show up so I wasn’t worried and that person showed up. Just unpredictable. But I’m glad I look at it like whoever needs it is the one who shows up. So, we are changing rooms and my child care provider is this girl’s sister in law. So I am excited to see what the next 6 weeks holds. I’ve taught a lot of Thursday morning Bible Studies in my day. My day of being shaken by one person showing up has long past. Like I said I’m convinced that the one’s that show up are the one’s that are meant to get a message from the lessons. And one of those is me. So, I am ready. And we don’t really start lesson 1 until this coming Thursday so there’s still time for some new girls to come.

I started the week’s homework today. We are doing Beth Moore’s Living Free. It’s an older study. But it’s a strong one. Today’s lesson discussed the definition of a stronghold – anything that exalts itself above the power of God in our life. Just stopping to think off the top of my head I think of fear, worry and selfishness as immediate examples of strongholds in our lives today. Those were just the ones right off the top of my head.

Another lesson taught in today’s lesson was an introduction about praying God’s Word.

  1. Restate God’s truth, affirming your faith: Father, thank you that you are always good and that your love endures forever (I Chron. 16:34)
  2. Talk to God about passages you don’t understand: Faith Your word says, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (I John 2:6) I know that I do not live up to that standard. Please help me understand and walk like Christ.
  3. Ask God for what you need: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief?” (Mark 9:24)
  4. Confess sin and ask God to change your life: Father, I know that You hate pride and arrogance (Prov. 8:13); yet I see the ugly face of pride in my life. Teacher me today to be compassionate and humble (I Pet. 3:8)
  5. Praise God with your paraphrase of the words of Scripture: I know, Lord, that You are indescribably great. You are great than all the gods of this world. (Ps. 135:5)

This study is gonna be a good one! See you next round!

 

 

 

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Face It Head On

In my last Bible Study series post based on Beth Moore’s study So Long, Insecurity I covered The Magic Method to Overcoming Insecurity. That “magic method” was basically to lean on the strength the Lord gives you as a Christian and work on changing the way your think. When a negative thought comes to mind immediately replace it with a promise of God. This week we will address when Satan uses friends or family members to prey on us and lead us further down a path of negativity and insecurity.

Let’s begin this week with a simple question to make you stop and think. What kind of people do you have around you? How would you characterize your closest friends/family? Are they encouragers? Do you feel uplifted after spending time with them? Or do you find yourself feeling negative – not necessarily about yourself – but just more negative in general? Do you often find that you are expending more energy (positive or negative) on their issues every time you are together so that there seems to be very little support for you and your issues? Does your relationship feel one sided and it’s not really in your favor? Be honest – are you feeling used? Is there a lot of give on your part but you walk away with very little take? Now does that make you feel more secure or less secure? When you are away from that person and really get a chance to think about your relationship with them do you ever get that little nudge that something just feels “off”? Perhaps when you are apart from them you (or your spouse) notices that you seem negative, consumed with worrying about someone else’s problems, not plugged into your life/family, depressed or just “not yourself”.

What does all of that sound like? It sounds like a person who is being controlled by another person. It sounds like your friend/family member is consuming all of your mental and emotional energy so that you have none left for your family. In chapter 13 of So Long Insecurity Beth Moore refers to these people as “emotional predators”. It’s easy to see how an emotional predator could control another person in a marriage. But if you identify with any of the questions in the previous paragraph you can see that it’s also easy to understand how a friend or other family member could easily control us as well. Sometimes it’s possible to be one of the members in this type of relationship without even knowing it. But many times a person with a controlling personality will seek out a “weaker” personality that is easily controlled and will draw them in like a spider to a web. I have been in this type of friendship. This friend was very good at manipulation. So good that it was as if I was a puppet and she was the puppet master. There were so many other unhealthy tentacles in this relationship that we could be here all night if I tried to cover it all. Let’s just say that when the “friendship” ended it did not end well. I paid the price with my heart in a million little pieces and my self esteem shot to smithereens. As I look back now I can see everything so clearly. I can see the game she played. I can see how easily I fell right into her hands. When it all came to light I surrounded myself with POSITIVE people. I buried myself into the Word of God. I refused to let satan win the battle at the hands of a heartless two faced “friend”. I recognized that she was wrong. The things she said about me were wrong. I was a good person. I refused to believe the things she tried to get me to believe about myself.

You see what I did there? I changed my surroundings. I made sure that I filled my mind with the truth. I chose to believe the truth instead of the lie. I chose to find my strength and security in Christ and no longer in a “friendship” based on lies and deceit. I truly found Christ is strong in our weakness as II Corinthians 12 says. I replaced all that negativity with truth and I climbed out of that pit. I am stronger now because of it. I am more secure in certain areas of my life because of my response to that whole experience. I would hate to see where I would be now if I had not clung to the truth. The secret to overcoming insecurity is in how your respond to it. It takes a very concentrated effort to stand up to our insecurity and face it head on and refuse to allow it any more power over you.

The Magic Method to Overcoming Insecurity

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to write in my So Long Insecurity series. The last entry was The Roots of Insecurity on October 11. I apologize for leaving you hanging. It’s an ongoing battle to get my hands on a computer around here. In my last entry I talked about the most likely causes of the insecurities so many of us battle on a daily basis. Today is a much happier topic. Today we will discuss how we can overcome those causes and change the way we think so that we can recognize who God has created us to be, a wholy secure and strong woman of God who deserves respect. Praise the Lord!

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

Proverbs 31:25

One thing we can be sure of, if we constantly allow ourselves to give into our insecurities and not challenge them but let them control us, they will overtake our confidence and our interactions with those around us. We may think we have them well hidden so noone will ever know the pain we have deep inside. But the longer we push them down the more we have to walk on egg shells as if we are trying to avoid landmines. There are triggers all around us, seemingly innocent occurences, that threaten to reveal our true selves at any time. Here is a list that Beth included in her book. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Out of the corner of your eye you notice your man looking at another woman or you notice another woman looking at your man.
  • Your mom or mother-in-law gets that disapproving look on her face over how you parent your child.
  • The guy you used to date walks into the room with a gorgeous girl.
  • You poured out your heart to someone and they didn’t get it. You think you shared too much.
  • You finally reconcile with a friend after a hurtful disagreement. You can tell within thirty seconds that she doesn’t feel the same as she did before.
  • You get a new haircut and it doesn’t come out like you wanted it to.
  • You met someone you really admire and you say something stupid.

What are you supposed to do with triggers like that? How are you supposed to overcome your insecurities when seemingly every day things like that happen and unearths the hurt and pain you thought you had successfully hidden?

The key to overcoming those insecurities lies in the verse listed above from Proverbs 31. Overcoming them is not something we can do ourselves. Our insecurities are like giant anaconda snakes (I chose that snake because I believe it is the biggest snake there is). When those things get ahold of you do you think you can fight it off on your own? Of course not! You don’t have the strength for that. You need help from someone much stronger – preferably with a big gun (AND VERY GOOD AIM PLEASE!). Proverbs 31:25 tells us that God has dressed us with strength. Think about that for a minute. He hasn’t only dressed us with our own strength but as a child of his he has also dressed us with HIS strength. Ephesians 6:11 says Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Well, if these lies we tell ourselves aren’t a strategy of the devil then I don’t know what is. But as a Christian we are given/clothes with the Armor of God.

Now it’s one thing to know that but it’s something else entirely to claim. But that is the key to fighting those retched insecurities off. When you mind starts telling you that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough or WHATEVER enough remind yourself that you are created by a perfect being and are clothed with the strength and the armor of God – you possess the divine strength of your heavenly father. After so many times of replacing those negatives thoughts with the affirming thoughts of truth you will notice something different about yourself. In all actuality you are just doing what God tells us to do in Ephesians 4:23 – Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. That even applies to the thoughts and attitudes we have about ourselves.

I can hear you now saying “That’s it? That’s all there is to it? I’ve been eaten up by these insecurities all these years and all I’ve needed to do is tell myself they are lies and I am clothed in the strength of the Lord?” Uh YEP! That’s it! When I read this chapter I was reading between the lines for the hidden formula too. But THAT IS the magic formula. The hard part is remembering to do it before we get so overcome with the negative self talk. I know what it’s like to get to that point but I’m working on this magic method of combating insecurity. Let’s work this plan together. I have it from a pretty good source that this works – the Apostle Paul in Ephesians AND Beth Moore in So Long, Insecurity.

 

The Journey to the River

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)

What does that passage tell you about a secure person? I see that their hope and confidence is going to be found in the Lord and that their roots are buried deep in the fresh nourishing earth untouched by the elements. Oh if only we could all be like that all the time. Sometimes I find myself far from the riverbank, far from the source of refreshing water, beaten down by the sun, dry as a bone with little hope and no confidence in anything. When I stop long enough in my life journey to look around me I see faces of others who seem to be in the same position. And honestly if I can even see the river from the dry desert I am wandering in I don’t see many people near the refreshing life giving water. That’s because we are all being affected by the murmurings and lies being fed to us from every direction and in turn making us feel insecure.

No one, man or woman, escapes the trap of insecurity. Because I am leading a women’s Bible study though I will be addressing women here on my blog. Keep in mind though that there are plenty of men who feel inadequate and pressured every day to measure up to some unseen measuring stick that leads them on a path of helpless insecurity as well.

Think about this just for a moment, what makes you feel the most insecure? Is it your looks, your weight, your financial situation, a relationship with a friend, your childhood or your husband. The list could go on and on. I will be honest with you and say that one area (and this is just ONE of them) that I am most insecure in is my physical appearance. I worry that my hair isn’t the right color, that my makeup looks poorly applied, that my stomach isn’t flat enough and that my legs look too fat in my jeans. If it has ANYTHING to do with my physical appearance I can guarantee you that I’m insecure about it. I’m pretty sure that I feel that way because of the TV shows that I watch and the magazines that I look at. All of the women on the shows and in the magazines look perfect and even if they have a few extras pounds on them I still think they look better than me. Now I ask you – why do I give these perfect strangers so much power over me? Why do I let them determine how I feel about myself today, September 20, 2012, in my own life in Nashville Tennessee? They don’t know who I am. They don’t care who I am. So why do I give them that power?

The kind of security we all need doesn’t come from a mirror, a bottle or another person. The kind of security we need can only come from God. What we really need is someone to love us when we are so distraught with disdain for ourselves. We condemn ourselves in our own minds so much that even if we had a positive thought I’m not sure we could hear it among all of the negative talk. We were created to need God to fulfill all of our needs. He hears all of those things we say to ourselves. He sees how much power we let the world have in determining our self-esteem. He knows the degree of the wounds to our spirit. And he is waiting right there – right in front of us – waiting for us to look up and see him and ask for his help. He knows what Satan’s scheme is. He knows how Satan works. But he also knows how to triumph over Satan. Satan is our enemy. Every lie that enters our mind is straight from him. But for every lie of Satan there is a victorious truth waiting in the open hands of Christ. Listen to HIM! Accept HIS truth!

What waits for us is that hope and confidence rooted deep into the refreshing waters Jeremiah wrote about. Join me on the journey to the river! We’ll go together as secure sisters!

Say Goodbye to Insecurity

As you are reading this I am beginning a new Bible Study at my church, The Donelson Fellowship. It’s based on Beth Moore’s book So Long, Insecurity. The book came out in 2010. I actually preordered it before it was printed. Does that give you any idea where I stand with insecurity in my life? About a year later Lifeway released a Bible Study workbook to accompany the book. And that is the study I am now leading on Thursday mornings at our church.

All of us have some area of our life that we are insecure about. We may keep it well hidden or it may be laying open for all to see. Some of us don’t have to say a word because you can see insecurity written all over our face. Others of us hide our insecurities behind a big personality that fools others into believing we are full of confidence and self assurance.

The world spends a lot of money and a lot of time telling women how they should look, what they should say and what they are doing wrong. It tells us what our hair should look like, what color our complexion should be, what size our waist should be, what the number on the tag in our dress should say, how much money should be in our bank account for us to be worth anything, how many children to have, what age we should get married, what brand purse to carry, what color hair to have, where we should send our children to school and what size house we need to live in by the time we are 30. Those are just a few expectations you might get in one day. There are thousands more that I am not listing. It sounds really sad when you read it, doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why we fall for that?

In the grand scheme of things none of that matters. Jeremiah 17:7 says “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.” That one little sentence sure makes that whole previous paragraph sound silly, doesn’t it? This study is about how to change the focus from that paragraph above to the sentence of Jeremiah 17:7. It’s all about searching for security in the hope and confidence that comes from God instead of the false security the world tries to sell us.

I plan to share bits and pieces of what I learn each week here. I hope that you will come by as we learn together how to say So Long, Insecurity!

What Does Faith Have To Do With Healing?

Today’s blog post I am gonna write about something I know nothing about – which really isn’t all that unusual for me. But I wanted to just let you know up front because I know a lot of you will have questions. I have questions but no concrete answers. Who knows maybe YOU will have the answers to my questions – in which case I should be letting YOU write this post.

As many of you know I am doing Beth Moore’s study on the book of James.

James is a very convicting book – well ALL of the Bible is convicting but you know what I mean. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells it just like it is. It’s not hard to grasp the meaning of what he is saying. Even the passage I am gonna discuss today seems very straightforward and easy to understand, yet I don’t get it. Here is the passage for today – James 5:13-15a:

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.

I have been raised in church all my life and have seen the elders of a church pray over someone and anoint them with oil. I have been anointed and prayed over a few times in my life. Yet here I am day in and day out for 18 1/2 years still suffering with Fibromyalgia. So I don’t get it. Is my faith lacking? That is a very real possibility. Has the faith of those who prayed over me and anointed me been lacking? Also a possibility. So my question is how can I change that. And honestly if I have the faith of Abraham when he stood before that altar ready to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac, would that make a difference?

I was very apprehensive about reading what Beth had to say about this passage throughout the entire study. Last night was the night that the study homework covered this passage. I couldn’t even answer the questions asked in the homework. All I could manage to do was read her commentary. My heart was pounding and it felt like an elephant sitting on my chest.

What I believe is the answer to my dilemma is that God has another purpose in my illness. Beth put it this way –

“When we’re sick, we pray like made for healing and summon leaders to pray likewise over us and, yes, anoint us with oil. If we remain ill after diligent, enduring, faith-filled prayer, particularly upon the part of our intercessors, what do we do? We entrust ourselves to the hands of our faithful God and His sovereign plan, abiding voraciously in His love.” – James: Mercy Triumphs page 179

No one can explain really why some people receive their healing on this earth and why others must wait. After giving it some heartfelt thought and prayer and discussion today at Bible Study I’m not sure if my lack of belief that he will heal me really has anything to do with whether or not I receive my healing here or in Heaven. I believe it all boils down to what God’s purpose is behind my illness. I will be honest, because that’s what this blog is all about, I think if I could make a “deal” with God to carry out the purpose without having to suffer I would do that. I believe I know the purpose for my suffering. I think I know why he has given me this burden to bear. And I think I am fulfilling that purpose. But I’d like the chance to do that work without having to suffer.

I also think part of the reason for my suffering is a lesson in expanding my faith. While the Bible tells me that God is able I don’t understand then why he doesn’t! Sometimes I get angry with God. And I know he expects that. He’s a big boy – he can handle it. And he is patient enough to walk with me and continue teaching me how to trust him – how to believe him – how to have faith in him. My question is – will I learn this lesson before I actually get to Heaven and get my ultimate healing? Now THERE is a challenge.

James: Mercy Triumphs – What Belief System Are You Living?

I did not make it to Bible Study yesterday. But I just downloaded the second video session from the Lifeway website. Beth did not disappoint and the Holy Spirit was not silent. This study is gonna be a good one. I plan to be a changed person by the end of the 8 week study.

If you don’t know – we are doing Beth Moore’s latest study, James: Mercy Triumphs. During the homework sessions over the last week we discovered who James was from the brief things we are shown in scripture. James was the half-brother of Jesus. James entered the scene as an unbeliever and became a leader/follower in the New Testament Church. The Book of James is written by him. In James 1:1 he identifies himself as ” a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. So at some point in his life he figured out that his big brother was the Messiah. He loved his people, the Jews, and wrote with the hope that they would come to know Jesus as the Messiah. That’s a big transformation.

It’s very likely that the Book of James was the first book written for the New Testament. That would mean that James, the once nonbeliever of the Messiah, is the one who broke the 400 year silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He had to have come a LONG way in his belief system to be the first book of the New Testament. I’m sure that Jesus spent many a prayer praying for his brother to believe. And at some point James’ heart softened and he heard what Jesus was saying and believed. Boy that is encouraging to me to know that if James could come around then I shouldn’t stop praying and stop believing it possible that someone I love that doesn’t believe can be reached.

The Book of James was written based on first hand experiences he saw from his big brother’s ministry on earth. He knew what it meant to struggle with unbelief, fight the conviction of the Spirit and wrestle with the Pharisees. He also learned what life was truly about. The message of his book can be summed up in two words: LIVE IT! It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. No matter what our belief system (whether it is the Truth of Christ or the Lies of Satan) we are living it every day.

So as we begin digging into the actual book of James I want to be sure that my heart is right and my belief system is based on the truths of Christ. I do not want to believe any of the lies the devil feeds my mind and spirit. I do not want to live a life of worry and doubt. I do not want others to see judgment in my actions. I do not want to succumb to fear. I do not want selfishness to control my actions. As Beth said at the end of today’s video session – Joy is our birthright in Christ. Noone has the right to take it. That is what I want to live. That is what I want to learn from this study. I want to learn to let Christ adjust my sails and reveal a belief system based on Christ.

What about you? Do you want to learn how to Live the belief system of Christ? Join me here as I share what I learn from James for the next few weeks.