A New Definition of Life

The book of Joshua opens with God announcing the death of Moses. The beginning of the first chapter reads like this, “The Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses; ‘Wherever you set your foot, you will be on land I have given you-from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” (NLT)

For many years, Joshua served as Moses’ assistant. He was used to carrying out directions given to him by God through Moses. However, a new time had come for Joshua. All of a sudden, he was no longer receiving instructions from God through an individual; he was receiving instructions directly from God Himself. A change had taken place in the life of Joshua: Moses was dead. When Moses died, so did a whole way life. To put it another way, under the leadership of Moses, Joshua’s perception of life, including that of his personal identity had been specific to his life in that context. He was used to a particular way of living and carrying out tasks as “Moses’ assistant”.

However, the death of Moses brought about a new definition of life for Joshua, a new reality of personal identity, of purpose, even ability and capacity. God created Joshua to lead. It was part of his DNA, included in his life mission, yet it was only in light of the death of Moses that he was fully able to step into who he was, toward  the fulfillment of the plan of God had for him. While I am sure there was a natural period of mourning for Moses, for what life had been under his leadership, there also certainly came a time when Joshua had to move beyond mourning over what was in his past, to embrace what now defined his present. Joshua did not receive the gift of leadership because Moses died; he had always possessed it. The only difference was, the circumstances of his life now presented the opportunity where he could fully step into that leadership.

Many times, when we experience a serious life change,  there is the tendency to stay in a place of mourning, looking back at what life was, rather than seeing forward to what life can become, grieving over who we were, instead of celebrating the individual we are becoming. The plan God has for our lives does not change, even when the circumstances of our lives do. God knows the details of our lives from beginning to end. And the events of our lives, no matter how tumultuous they may be, do not overwhelm or confuse Him. It is God who created you and me. He alone established your purpose and mine. We don’t know everything, but we serve a God who does.

What has died in your life? What is God trying to reveal to you about who you are as a result? When we are forced into a new definition of life as a result of some major life event like separation or divorce, there also comes the opportunity for a deeper realization of identity, of life purpose. You may only know yourself based on your ideal of who you were in the past.  Nonetheless, take some time  this week to re-consider your potential in life, who you are as well as you can become. What new positive, life-filled beliefs can you embrace about yourself, your abilities and what you can accomplish presently that you may not have previously considered?

I am facing divorce. Though this life experience has not been completely easy for me, there are realizations I have come to that continue to change my life. I like to declare, “I can because I am”. I can do all that God has put in my heart, because I am completely the individual He has created me to be. I am beautiful. I am capable. I am talented. I am loved by God. And I am more than able to experience the fullness of His plan for my life because He has wired me for success.

Do something else this week: take some time to celebrate who you are as well as who you are becoming. You are a beautiful, capable, intelligent woman. That is God’s declaration about you, to you.  You are loved exceedingly by God. His plans for you are great, and absolutely no life circumstance can change that.

This week’s readings:

  • Joshua chapters 1-5
  • Jeremiah 29:11
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Our Thoughts Influence Our Faith

     I have often hear Joyce Meyer say, “Think about  what you are thinking about.” That statement is more profound than most people realize because whether we know it or not, it is our thoughts that influence our faith and drive our actions. David said in Psalms 8, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers- the moon and the stars you set in place- what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them..” David was the same individual who took down a giant, who had been trained in battle from his youth. While his fellow Israelite brothers, even King Saul himself ran in fear from Goliath, David trusted God. Until that time, David’s past as a shepherd consisted of years of alone time in worship before God. So when life circumstances presented an opportunity where others were thrown of kilter, David was able to stand his ground in complete trust and confidence regarding the God whom he had spent many years thinking about, loving, worshiping and learning to trust in.  When he came face to face with Goliath, it was the thoughts he had learned to think about God himself, and his situation that ultimately influenced his faith.

     So it was with  Abraham who against all hope believed in hope. He did not consider the decrepitness of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about 100 years old, or the absolute deadness of Sarah’s womb. It goes on to say, that Abraham did not stagger drunkenly at the promise of God. Instead he grew strong in faith because he was convinced that what God had spoken he was truly able to perform. (Romans 4)

     In Hebrews 11, we get a glimpse of Sarah’s thought  process. It says,”Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.(King James Version)

     I love the way the KJV puts it. It says Sarah judged God faithful, fully believing that what he had spoken he was able to bring to pass. Her thoughts influenced her faith. Not her thoughts about herself, her situation, or even Abraham. It was her thoughts about God and his ability to work in her life that became a driving force for the faith she placed in God to accomplish what he had promised even though, humanly speaking, it was absolutely impossible.

      It is so easy to get caught up in our day to day circumstances. And it is even easier to allow the happenings in our everyday life to influence our thoughts, about ourselves, our situation, about others, even about God. But Paul exhorts us in the book of Philippians, ” “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about the things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8,9

    Far too often we struggle more than we should. Not because of our situation but as a result of what we are thinking about our situation. Our thoughts influence our faith. I realized something a few years back: I don’t have anything to lose by thinking positive thoughts, good thoughts, excellent thoughts. End the end, whether my situation changes or not, I am better and more healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. You may have a whirlwind going on around you but if you are genuinely at peace, where your thoughts are focused on who God is and his ability to see you through, there is nothing that can shake you.

     May the God of all peace strengthen you, bless you, and fill you with the assurance of his ever-abiding presence.

Recommended Readings for this week:

Romans chapter 4

Hebrews 11

Psalm 8

Philippians 4:8,9

Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone

     While it is not always easy, throughout Scripture it was often a method God used to accomplish his plans and purposes in the lives of countless individuals. Ruth left her homeland to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. Rahab the prostitute welcomed strangers she knew would one day possess the land in which she, her family and her people resided. Jael helped  defeat a king and a nation in a day when it was not popular for women to participate in Battle.  At a time when one man threatened an entire population with genocide, Queen Esther hearkened to the voice of her uncle Mordecai, who declared, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

     Over and over again throughout Scripture, men and women accomplished great things for God. They lived in different places and at different times in history. They faced different situations and had different challenges, but one thing all of these individuals had in common: at one time or another in their lives, each of these decided to step outside of their comfort zone, outside of the places and spaces of familiarity and comfort.

     When God called Abraham to go to a ‘place where he would show him’, Abraham was used to living near his father’s family and those of his own culture and ethnic group. He grew up with a worldview passed down to him from his father. So when God called Abraham to leave his country and his father’s house, Abraham was leaving all that was familiar to him. Take some time today, this week to consider what God is leading you to do. Is God calling you to step outside of your comfort zone in some way, or embrace a situation where you are already outside of your comfort zone in some area of your life? It may not be leaving a geographical region. It might be embracing a different way to handle finances, or establishing a friendship with someone from a  different ethnic or cultural background. Whatever it is in the end, it is something you will not likely  regret.

     When Abraham stepped outside of his comfort zone God revealed his identity. He said, “You are not longer Abram (high father); you are Abraham (father of a multitude).”(Genesis 17:5) In revealing his identity, God was showing Abraham his purpose. He would become the father of a multitude. Finally, when Abraham stepped out of his comfort zone, God showed him his potential. It was in God’s plan to bless all nations of the earth through the life of this one man and his descendants. It was God’s desire to bless Abraham, to make his name great and to accomplish all he had in store for his life. However, Abraham would have never realized all God had for him if he had refused to leave that which was familiar and comfortable to him.

     When we refuse to leave the places and places that are familiar and comfortable to us ultimately for that reason, we get to experience the world we know, but sadly, we never get to learn from or encounter the world that is. We get to experience the individual we know ourselves to be, but we never get to encounter the individual we can become because we never realize what is actually inside of us. Even more, we get to remain familiar with the way we have always known God, but more tragically, we never get to encounter his love and power in the way he ultimately desires to reveal it to us.

     When it comes to stepping outside of our comfort zone, it is easy to focus on what we  have to lose without ever considering all we have to gain. Again, take some time this week to think deeply about this area in your life. Is God prompting you to do something that is outside of your comfort zone?

My prayer this week is that God would give you strength and wisdom. And that he would fill you with his peace and assurance. Remember, if God is leading you in a certain direction or to a certain destination, not only will he go with you, but he will meet you there.

Be Blessed,

Tanya

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chance of a Lifetime

When you hear someone mention the phrase “The chance of a lifetime”, what kinds of thoughts come to your mind? An actress being offered the role she always dreamed of? A small businessman being presented with an opportunity to sign a million dollar contract? A first generation college student receiving an offer of admission to a top university? An obscure singer  being pursued by a major music company with the offer of a record deal?

    For most of us, when we hear the phrase “the chance of a lifetime” these are the types of scenarios that come to mind.  We think of that one big break, a happenstance of being at the right place at the right time, that if not seized with all one’s strength, might likely never come again. This week however, I want to challenge us to think about this expression in a way that is more practical. Today I am giving you a new definition to ponder. Think about the chance of a lifetime as a chance that is continually present with us, occurring everyday of our lives. In other words, it is an opportunity for change that is repeatedly happening over the course of our lives.

    The chance of a lifetime occurs every time we are brought face to face with the opportunity to acknowledge truth in our lives. In addition, acknowledging truth has the potential to produce  lasting change. The Gadarene Demoniac, whose account is recorded in the Gospel of Mark chapter 5, is a wonderful example of someone who was presented with such a moment. In Mark’s account, this man lived among the tombs and was extremely dangerous. There was no level of human restraint that could hold him. Moreover, he wandered throughout the cemetery and countryside wailing and cutting himself with sharp stones. He lived a life engrossed in mental torment and physically self-destructive behavior until the day he encountered the Messiah. the Bible says, “When he saw Jesus, he ran and worshipped Him.” For the Gadarene Demoniac, that was his big break, his “million dollar contract” if you will. Coming face to face with truth, in the person of Jesus Christ, was his chance of a lifetime. He both submitted to truth and embraced it in a single act of worship. When Jesus asked, “What is your name?” He was identifying what had been driving this man to destruction, and would-be death. Because of his response to truth, he was set free, and his life was never the same. In his twisted and dark world, when he could not find his way out of his circumstance, Jesus presented this man with the chance of a lifetime: He brought him face to face with the inside reasons for his outside behavior. This man received all that God had for him when he correctly responded to everything he was presented with.

    By contrast, Adam, Eve and Cain represent different ways of responding to truth. When God inquired “Adam where are you?”,  he was attempting to bring Adam to a place of truth. The question “Where are you?” was for Adam’s benefit, not God’s. He knew very well where Adam was, but Adam needed to know and admit this truth to himself. The same concept was true for Eve. When God asked “What have you done?”, it wasn’t about what God was trying to extract from her, instead it had everything to do with what He was trying to impart to her. The question was for Eve’s sake, not God’s. When God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” he retorted, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Again, God was attempting to reveal truth, not for His benefit but for the benefit of the person to whom He was speaking. In each of these situations where man had done wrong, failed, and made tremendous mistakes, God was not after them to punish them. He was coming for them, to love them, to rescue them, to heal them and to set them free. But instead of accepting and embracing the truth, Adam chose to blame his wife. While Eve did admit to the events as they occurred, she failed to acknowledge her actions as a result of those events. And Cain chose to avoid the issue altogether. Instead his tactic was to divert the issue of truth by asking an all-knowing God a rhetorical question.

    Seriously think about this statement. Everyday of our lives we are presented at one time or another with the chance of a lifetime because everyday we live, we are confronted with the opportunity to face truth in ways that could potentially change our lives forever. On the flip side exists a concurrent option to reject the truth, which can result in a life that is empty and mundane, full of fear, depression, anxiety, anger, bitterness  and unforgiveness (whether against ourselves or others). For some this might mean getting honest with ourselves and God about our part in the breakdown of our family relationships.  

  What might have happened if Adam, Eve and Cain had faced and embraced the truth God was trying to bring about in each of their lives? While none of us know what might have been, we certainly know what was: Adam became enslaved to the ground. He no longer worked in a way where the earth easily produced food for him. For the rest of his life he would  be forced to toil to fulfill his need and the need of his family for food. Eve was brought  forth to be co-ruler on the earth. Positionally, in her relationship to her husband she was brought low. She would be ruled over instead of ruling. Furthermore she would bring forth children in pain and suffering. Both Adam and Eve ended up ‘bringing forth fruit’ in suffering to one degree or another. Adam, the fruit of the ground and Eve, the fruit of the womb. As for Cain, he spent the rest of his life, far more days than you or I could ever imagine, wandering on the earth in an unsettled and restless state. The earth would not produce food for him. And it is very likely, that at least some of these consequences were due to the fact that each of these individuals in one way or another failed to recognize their chance of a lifetime.

This Week’s Readings:

Mark 5

Genesis 3