Although this book is primarily written for women as a bible study material, as I reviewed it, I felt a gentle nudging in my heart too, to experience a deeper satisfaction in God's fountain of love. My heart leaped for joy in knowing, experiencing God's love. As I savored the Lord's feast, served through this book, I can't help, but conclude that this book, although originally written for women, is also a book for men too. After all, we as humans, collectively known as the Church, is the bride of Christ longing for the love of the Bridegroom.
As the name suggests, this book is not to be read through quickly, but it is a bible study book, to be enjoyed, to be savored slowly.
Basically, week 1 starts off with knowing and experiencing the truth that we are the object of God's love. He longs to capture our hearts. He wants us to know that we are His beloved.
As Simon Tugwell said:
"So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about it - He is looking for us."
Week 2 deals with the hindrances that block us from reaching the intimate relationship with God. Rita gently helps us to dissect through the dark layers of our hearts; helping us to allow ourselves to expose our everything to God. As mentioned in the book, at times, we ourselves are our own enemy. We are unable to forgive ourselves, thereby block the flow of God's love. God wants us to enter into that complete freedom that He has prepared for us.
If Week 2 is about our past guilts and hurts that hinder us from reaching out to God's love, Week 3 is about us seeking approval from others, performing to impress and please others.
As David Benner said:
"There is no true life apart from relationship with God. Therefore, there can be no true self apart from this relationship. The foundation of our identity resides in our life-giving relationship with the Source of life. Any identity that exists apart from this relationship is an illusion."
And as Rita, the author, points out, though it is not wrong to receive affirmation from others, it is when our desire for approval from others rules us, when our pride erects an image or when we demand recognition which is really an empty cistern from which no water is available (Jer 2:13).
Week 4 is about voices and noises. Often times, there are so many noises and voices competing for our attention that we can totally miss out the still small voice of God. We need to be silent before Him. Be still to hear His voice. As Week 4 is about noises, Week 5 is about attention. Too often, many things caught our attention, and we can become easily distracted by things that never truly satisfy. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus.
Week 6 is about being satisfied. Often when we come to realize that nothing else truly satisfies, it dawns upon us that He is our True Living Water. We return to the Fountain of Life as often as we desire.
Week 7 is about being held. Being held by the Love that refuse to let us go. As we "hold on" to Him, we realize that it is He who is holding on to us. We, therefore, need to constantly create that awareness that Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise.
Week 8, the final week in this study, is about being betrothed. It is about living as the Beloved. It is about being loved, more than we can ever imagine.
As Henri Nouwen said:
"Everytime you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you've touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper."
In summary, I am convinced that, except for the fact that the almost all the illustrations used in this book are stories of women, this book is definitely for men too. Men who are aware of their thirst for the Savior and Lord.
Some of the points that I have penned down from the Bible Study book An Undivided Heart by Rita J. Platt:
An Undivided Heart
(An 8-Week Bible Study for Today's Woman)
- by Rita J. Platt
Week 1 To Know Him is To Love Him
Rita started off with a question for us to ponder:
How would you describe your heart today?
What type of symbol would you use?
- Waters that seem tranquil until stirred up
- A puzzle with a few pieces missing or out of place
- A clouded mirror
- A scuba diver exploring the depths of the sea
- A thirsty runner panting for a break
Jesus came in pursuit of our whole heart. He didn't wait for you to come looking for Him. He wants you to belong to Him, to give your hand to Him, to embark on an eternal love relationship.
"So long as we imagine it is we who have to look for God, we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about it - He is looking for us." - Simon Tugwell.
Verses to study:
1 Cor 10:4
No one ever cared for me like Jesus
There's no other friend so kind as he
No one else could take the sin and darkness from me
Oh how much he cares for me.
O Living Flame of Love..........
How gently and how lovingly
Thou wakest in my bosom,
Where alone thou secretly dwellest;
And in Thy sweet breathing
Full of grace and glory
How tenderly Thou fillest me with thy love.
- John of the Cross
Week 2 Complete Freedom
Study Mark 5:25-34
At times, we ourselves can be our worst enemy. We may block forward momentum by subjecting ourselves to peronal condemnation.
"One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive forgiveness. There is something in us humans that keeps us clinging to our sins and prevents us from letting God erase our past and offer us a completely new beginning.....receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and to all the healing, restoring and renewing."
- Henri Nouwen
Study Mark 5:25-34
Week 3 Shaped By Perfect Love
Rita started off Chapter 3 with the illustration of an except from The Velveteen Rabbit:
"What is real?" asked the toy Rabbit, one day......"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made,"said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with REALLY loves you, then you become REAL"
Many of us live with unnecessary disability, living for the approval of others.
We perform to impress, and when it seems that we have succeeded in doing so, we go away ashamed and empty.
We spend a lot time and effort trying to keep everyone around us happy.
As a result we may experience fear of displeasing others. We fear of being:
- made insignificant
We know it so well, we've embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God. God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day--our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life--fear of death, fear of judgment--is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love--love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
(1Jn 4:16-19 MSG)
"Like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable , mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (which we assume to be unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing. We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we even come to forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like." - Simon Tugwell
"There is no true life apart from relationship with God. Therefore, there can be no true self apart from this relationship. The foundation of our identity resides in our life-giving relationship with the Source of life. Any identity that exists apart from this relationship is an illusion." - David Benner
Even in times when we've lost sight of our true self, the Lord sees us and can help us see who we are in Him (Rom 8:1-2, 2Cor 5:17-21, Eph 1:3, 4, 5-6, 7, 11, 13, 2:6, 2:10, 3:12).
As Rita points out, though it is not wrong to receive affirmation from others, it is when our desire for approval from others rules us, when our pride erects an image or when we demand recognition which is really an empty cistern from which no water is available (Jer 2:13).
Some of the masks we tend to wear:
- pain free
- no needs
"Grace to you and peace are my gifts to you and all my children. You have been seeking grace from people, believing it will bring peace. It never does. Only entering more and more deeply into the reality of my grace will bring genuine peace of heart you are dying for.
I already died for it.
And I rose so you would know it's true.
And I have the power to make it true for you.
Learn to rest in the peace of my grace." - Sandra Wilson
Week 4 Awaken To His Voice
Pivotal times of decision making might not characterize our typical day. There is constant competition for our attention. It is challenging to wake up to a silent place where we can hear our Beloved speak. It is as if we must continually fends off a multitude of voices trying to embed themselves in our hearts like secret agents of distortion. We fight the noise that threatens to lure us away or to block out the voice of Jesus.
Life seems to rush past and swirl around us.
We need to be silent before Him.
We need to allow ourselves to be interrupted.
But as Dallas Willard said:
"Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life"
Week 5 Adoring Gaze
Where do you focus your eyes when life gets challenging?
What happens to your energy level, your heart, and your mind when your eyes drift? What helps you to fix your eyes on Jesus?
"Jesus, the very thought of thee, With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far thy face to see, And in thy presence rest."
- John B. Dykes, Jesus the Very Thought of Thee, 1823-1876
Week 6 Wholly Satisfied
Sometimes we fear being alone.
So we work our way to control our surroundings, and others' opinions of us.
We desire to make everything OK all the time, so that we will never need to fear abandonment.
But those desires are misplaced.
"If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come, and you will be filled." - Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing The Depths of Jesus Christ
Enjoy the following life feast of scripture bites
John 6:35, 48-51
Philippians 4:12-13, 19
1 Tim 1:14
Week 7: Hold on Tight
In our spiritual walk, we are to hold on tight to the Lord and rest in Him.
The word "hold fast" - dabaq, carries the meaning of "to cling to, to stick, to stay close, to stick to, to follow closely"
See also Psalm 63:8
Study Matthew 14:22-33
Try imagining you are in the situation.
Draw a graph tracing the disciples' emotions from the time Jesus told them to get in the boat until He joined them and they worshipped Him. Draw a graph depicting Peter's emotions.
Matthew 8:3, 15, 17:7
Luke 13:10-13; 15:4-6
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
(From: Breastplate of St. Patrick)
Week 8: Living As Beloved
Life is a gift and living it out is also a gift, each day pulling up lies and becoming more rooted in truth, resting in our place as the beloved. Using Psalm 86, as a guide, ask the Lord to deal with the hollow and deceptive philosophies that threaten you.
"We are so preciously loved by God that we cannot even comprehent it. No created being can ever know how much and how sweetly and tenderly God loves them. It is only with the help of his grace that we are able to persevere in spiritual contemplation with endless wonder at his high, surpassing, immeasurably love which our Lord in his goodness has for us." - Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
Song of Songs 2:4
I am [insert your name], the beloved of Jesus
Repeat it over and over.
Shout it with delight from rooftops. Journal it any ways you can.
"Everytime you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within yourself a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply. It is like discovering a well in the desert. Once you've touched wet ground, you want to dig deeper." - Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved.
Matt 3:17, 17:5
2 Peter 1:17