I mentioned in my Captivity entry back in January that we were beginning a Beth Moore bible study called Breaking Free. We completed it this week and I have been thinking ever since about what to share about my experience of this particular study. This study is all about how God can set us free from the various things that keep us captive or “stuck” (my word) and keep us from accessing the life in the Spirit that He has planned for us. As I told you in my earlier entry, the primary text for this study was the book of Isaiah. I never knew that Isaiah was so full of treasures! In fact, the whole study was so rich with wisdom from God’s Word that I am finding it difficult to determine what was most meaningful for me, yet I feel compelled to share some of what I learned (as usual). Here are a few highlights of the study for me.
A good portion of the study was excavating the “ancient ruins” in our life where old wounds may have left scars that are still unhealed. She had us look back in time in order to find the uncovered places that still need healing. We returned repeatedly to Isaiah 61, particularly verses 3 and 4, and were reminded again and again that God wants to bestow on us “a crown of beauty instead of ashes” and a “garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” As I looked back over the pages of my life along with my bible study sisters, I was struck again and again by God’s fingerprints all over it. There were so many places of captivity that I ventured into where I could of been stuck forever, yet He continually set me free each time I allowed Him access. While I did find a few hotspots where I need to allow God to provide more healing, I was struck over and over by the evidences of healing that God has already provided. Looking back provided me the opportunity to see how far God has brought me…allowed me to experience His affirmation that, as long as I cling to Him, I am on the right track and I can continue to trust Him to provide His healing as needed. Access to our old wounds, ugly as they may be, is one of our tickets to freedom. Honesty about our current struggles is another important part of finding our way to the freedom that God has waiting for us.
One of my favorite weeks of the study was entitled “God’s Unfailing Love.” Early in that week, she invited us to list the characteristics of a child who believes that they are loved verses a child who doesn’t believe he or she is loved. Obviously, the example was meant to help us consider whether we 1) truly believe God loves us and 2) actually think and behave like the beloved children scripture clearly says that we are. The author reminded of us what scripture says about how God feels about us and even talked about what she called the sin of unbelief. After a week of considering how our lives are impacted by truly accepting God’s love for us, we were invited to consider the depth of our love for God…not our belief in Him…but our “agape” love for Him.
Here’s what I got personally from the week about love: while I have no doubts intellectually that God loves me, sometimes I act like a child that doesn’t believe she is loved…needy, fearful, attention-seeking, unkind to others. Because I have come to know my Heavenly Father better in recent years, I have trusted His love more and those behaviors have lessened (not yet completely disappeared) as a direct result of my experience of that love. As I have grown in my experience of His love for me, I have fallen head over heels in love with Him! As I come face to face with a deeper understanding of this love between my Holy Father and myself, I am overwhelmed by gratitude. I have a long, long way to go, but I am pretty sure that I have figured out the secret. Just as Jesus told us in Mark 12:28-30, the most important part of our whole struggle to FIND God is just to LOVE God…with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength…and to keep asking Him to help us love Him even more. If we do that, the rest of the stuff…obedience, service, holiness, transformation, peace, joy…will flow naturally out of that love relationship. For me, love is the key to my freedom. Both making a choice to accept His love for me and making my love for Him my first priority. Even when life gets complicated, that simple truth and that daily choice sustains me and sets me free to access the power promised to me through the Holy Spirit.
I have re-written this entry several times. Usually, I just write and go pretty quickly. This one kept getting longer and longer, because there was just so much I wanted to share. I just deleted about 4 paragraphs because it was way too long…suffice it to say, Breaking Free was a wonderful study. But even more than that, God is an awesome God! Once again, He moved powerfully through this group of women and we saw His glory! Remember our definition of how we are each made for His glory…He made Himself recognizable TO us and He made Himself recognizable THROUGH us! There is so much more I could say, but I will close here. We did the study workbook format, but if you are interested in the book form of this study, here is the Amazon link. I haven’t read it yet, but I assume it is great as well.