Stop Carrying What Does Not Belong to You

  This week’s blog is based on the book of Genesis chapter 3:12. While there are seemingly a multitude of life lessons we could discuss this week from this passage,  there is one that feels especially heavy on my heart, and it will be the focus topic for this week’s blog. To give a little background knowledge, Adam and Eve had just disobeyed God. In the garden they were free to eat from any tree they desired except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had given specific instructions regarding this tree. He said, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (NLT) Adam and Eve found themselves in a mess because they had just violated the sole restriction God placed on them in the garden: they had eaten from the tree of which He told them, “You may not eat.”

    Until this point, mankind had communed  in the garden with God openly and freely. Now something was wrong. The relationship man had with God had been negatively impacted. Fellowship gave way to fear. The Bible says, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ The Lord God asked. ‘Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

     If I could paraphrase what Adam was saying, it might sound something like this, “Yes Lord, I did disobey you, but it was not my fault. This woman whom You put here with me, she was the one who gave me the fruit, and that is why I ate it. Now we are in this big mess; my relationship with you is horribly impacted; I am suffering from a distorted image of myself, and living in fear of punishment from you, and it is all because of this woman you gave me.”

     Although that may sound funny, it is actually very serious. One of the issues that we often deal with in the midst of the breakdown of any significant life relationship is that of guilt, self blame and condemnation. When Adam indicated Eve as the sole reason for why he had eaten the fruit, he was in fact indicating her as the primary reason for all that had transpired. The words he spoke were not only spoken in the presence of God, they were spoken in the presence of Eve. Adam blamed his wife for the mess in which they found themselves. I wonder to what extent Eve blamed herself? Without a doubt this affected every aspect of her life.

       Was there a large level of responsibility that Eve needed to own in this situation? Absolutely, there is no doubt about that. The problem was not that Eve was held partly responsible on the part of Adam. Indeed, she should have been. What was problematic was that Adam held  Eve wholly responsible. And that is the topic of our discussion this week. Far too many women are carrying what is not theirs to own. As a result, we are struggling with depression, self-hatred, guilt, fear and anxiety to name a few. Others may try to hand you the responsibility for their life situation, but you do not have to own it. This is one of the life lessons that God is teaching me.

     At times, I have blamed myself for my own life situation, as well as others, be it previous situations in my marriage or in the lives of my children or something else.  Adam was not in that situation because of Eve. He was in that situation because of himself. Eating the fruit from the tree of which God told him not to eat, was not Eve’s fault. It was his own.  If you are in this place today, God wants to set you free from guilt, self-blame and condemnation. Long-term, these are toxic mindsets and emotions. They are a hindrance to life and well-being. Stop carrying what does not belong to you. It is healthy to take responsibility for the life mistakes you may have made; we all should, but it is not your responsibility to carry what is not yours to own. Take responsibility for your own actions, and allow others to do the same.

May God richly bless you this week. May His peace and love be with you and upon you.

This week’s readings:

  • Genesis chapter 3
  • Psalms 103:12
  • Isaiah 43:25

If you have been encouraged in any way by what you have read, please do not hesitate to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

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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 Importance of Relationship

 

 

      Considering the title of today’s blog, it might seem like an “original thought”, in  saying that relationship is important. Knowing others and being known is important. While we may not always think about it or consider its significance, there is a reason why God created us to function best in the context of relationship. First, as most of us have heard before and probably read in the Scripture, we stem from a Being who is relational in nature. In the book of Genesis, the first chapter, God is speaking, the Spirit is hovering, and through Christ all things were brought into being. This is evidenced by a verse in the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. It says, “God created everything through Him (Christ), and apart from Him, nothing was made that has been made or come into existence. In the 26th verse of the same chapter of Genesis, just prior to the creation of man. God speaks. He says, “Let Us make man in Our image and after Our likeness, and let them have dominion….” Not only were you and I born out of relationship, we were created for it.

     God created the heavens and the earth over the course of six days. At the end of each day, he paused, observed what he had made and said, “It is very good.” During the process of creation, God deemed everything as ‘good’, including man. Imagine God in the creative process. As he creates, he is saying repeatedly, “That’s good. That’s good. That’s good, and that’s good.  Then, all of a sudden, Oh! That’s not good!” The first time we hear any reference in the Scripture as to the state of something ‘not being good,’ is when it is in reference to man existing outside of the context of human to human relationship.

    In the context of community, we are known by others, and we have the opportunity to know those around us. We are loved and cared for, and we have the chance to know and care for others. In the context of community, there is a way in which we come to know ourselves. I am not sure we can ever know ourselves fully outside of authentic community because it is only in this dynamic that the fullest expression of self exists. Meaning, while each of us can be who we are in isolation, the expression of who we are can only be known, received and responded to where we are in relationship with others.

      In community, we get to know our world. According to God’s goodness and his tender mercies, he has created seemingly countless human beings on this earth. There are peoples from backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities that our vastly different from our own. Yet this is a primary way in which we get to know the world. A few months ago, I spoke at a Middle and High School chapel service. The title of the message was, Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone. For the most part, the school and the community can be described as mono-cultural and mono-ethnic. Correspondingly, one of the things I said is, “When we refuse to venture out of the places and spaces that are familiar to us, and it is ultimately for the reason of unfamiliarity. We may be very well acquainted, even comfortable with the world we know, but sadly, arguably tragically, we will never get to know or experience the world that is, the world that exist outside of our established reality. Though few take the time to deeply consider this truth, a world does exist outside of that which we are familiar. It too, is inhabited by individuals whose culture, complexion, cuisine, and language may be different from that where we are most comfortable. But if we refuse to know ‘their world’, we cheat ourselves out of knowing ‘the’ world. When we open ourselves to seeing the world through the eyes of others, we make ourselves vulnerable to experiencing the world as they know it. In the context of community, of relationship with others, we get to know our world.

      It is also in community that we grow in knowing God and becoming like Christ. Have you ever thought about the fact that every human being you encounter is a unique expression of who God that will never be seen again? You and I are created to express God in this world, in the context of community, in a way that is unique to our individual selves, in a dynamic that will grace the cosmos again. It’s as if every person living, is the opportunity for you and me to have a once in a lifetime encounter because that individual is the only one of his or her kind. His or her life, who that individual is created to be, is a unique way in which God has chosen to express himself on earth that will never be seen again.

     In the book of Acts 2:42-47, the Bible describes the community of Believers. First of all, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the word of God through the Apostles. Second, the all met regularly in one place. Third, the shared all they had with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple daily. They met in the homes of one another. Finally, they simply enjoyed being with each other, knowing and getting to know one another, in the context of community.

     There is indeed something to be said about the importance of relationship. We were brought forth out of it, even that of our natural existence, and we were created for it. Last, we are not our best without it. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God is a relational God, one in essence but unique in manifestation. Before being crucified and taken up into heaven, Jesus told his disciples, “It is by your love that men will know you are my disciples.”[1] Relationship is important because it is arguably the greatest manifestation of God’s nature on this earth. It is how we see God, how we know God, and how God fulfills his purpose through us in this world. Some of us avoid it or run from it because we have been hurt by it. But so was God, and he understands. Don’t be afraid to trust again. Relationship in the context of community is important. Invest in it, and allow it to be nurtured in your life. You will find, its benefit is priceless.

Bible Reading: Acts 4

Have a wonderful and blessed week

Tanya

[1] Gospel of John 13:5, my paraphrase of this verse

Forgiveness: A Tool of Empowerment

     I have what I need to not only be who God has called me to be but to carry out his will and purpose for my life because God has enabled me to do so by the power of his Spirit. That is one way to think about the meaning of the word empowered; God has made available to each of us all that we need for life and for godliness. In thinking about the concept of empowered,  have you ever thought of forgiveness as a tool of or precursor to empowerment in your life? This was the topic of discussion in our small group today. While forgiveness as well as its significance is clearly addressed in the Scripture in many instances and on multiple occasions, it does not seem that it is an issue addressed on a regular basis in body of Christ. As a consequence, both its necessity and reality seem to ever live on the periphery of the main message of the church today. But it should not, because even when it is pushed to the side its presence, or absence, greatly impacts our hearts including the quality of our lives.

     First, forgiveness is not something we deserve, but it is something we owe. From Ephesians 4:34 we learn God’s heart for the working of this virtue in our lives. It says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (New Living Translation) Moreover, and in the same version it states, “Make allowance for each other’s faults. And forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”(Colossians 3:13) Still, Romans 5:8 says, ” But God demonstrated his own love for us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” These verses on the forgiving heart and nature of God do not even scratch the surface. God is a forgiving God. It is through forgiveness that we come to know God. We might even think of forgiveness as God’s mission  of love to redeem lost humanity. John 3:16 and 17 tells us that God loved this world so much that he gave his one and only Son. That any who believes in him will not suffer eternal loss but have everlasting life. From the following verse we learn that God did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Think about it. We have all in one way or another rebelled against God, but in the midst of our wrong doing, God did not come after us, he came for us. He came to express the depth of his love, to set us free, to make us whole, to restore each of us back into fellowship and right relationship with himself. He provided forgiveness, even when no one deserved it. And he never asks us to do anything that he has not been willing to do first. I agree that forgiveness is not easy. The person or persons who offended us may not even deserve it. But as believers, it should help, at leas some, to remember that forgiveness is not something any of us deserve, yet because of what Christ has done for you and me, it is something we owe. It is not only something God requires, it is something he commands.

     One of the questions I pondered this week while preparing of our group discussion is, “Why is forgiveness so important?”  These are some of the answers that came to me.

  1. As stated before, forgiveness is God’s mission of love to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and he did not come to condemn us or send us to hell. Instead he came to heal us, to set us free and reconcile us to himself.
  2. It is through forgiveness  that we come to know God and his nature including the act and condition of forgiveness.
  3. It is through our reception to the forgiveness offered by God that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in each of us.
  4. Exercising forgiveness allows God to be fully himself in the recesses of our hearts and in the context of our lives.
  5. Unforgiveness is a state that stands in stark contradiction to the nature, will and purpose of God because it is on the basis of forgiveness, opposite of the afore mentioned, that God has dealt with each one of us.
  6. Unforgiveness creates a dynamic of toxicity in the life of the believer, forgiveness a conditon of peace.
  7. Unforgiveness hinders the process of growing in the image and likeness of Christ, consequently, in some ways, it makes it impossible to live out the fullness of God’s plan in any aspect of our lives.
  8. Jesus is our example. And the mission of Jesus was one of forgiveness.
  9. Forgiveness is something God wants to accomplish in us for the purpose of expressing it through us. Further, he wants to  express it through us for the purpose of accomplishing it in us.
  10. There is a positive correlation between the level of forgiveness in our hearts and our ability to express love in our lives. Jesus said to the Pharisee who criticized him for allowing a sinful woman to anoint his feet, thereby preparing his body for burial,” I tell you, her sins-and they are many-have been forgiven, so that she has shown me much love, but a person who is forgiven little, shows little love. (Luke 7:47) Ironically, there is not an individual who walks the planet that does not need a great deal of forgiveness, the difference between this woman the Pharisee, as with certain individuals today, some realize their great need for God’s forgiving grace while others simply do not.

     When we begin to understand the magnitude and significance of the concept of forgiveness and how God has intended it to work in our hearts, in our minds and in our lives, it will transform our receptivity to it as well as our willingness to extend it to others. Forgiveness promotes the spreading of God’s grace and love in the recesses of our hearts and in manifestation of our daily lives. Forgiveness changes us. It sets us free. It empowers us to be who God has called us to be and to do all that God has called us to do. It is a commandment of God because when it is allowed its proper place in our lives, it becomes a tool of God’s enabling power. He commands it not because he wants to control us, or make life difficult. He commands it because he loves us, and in the end forgiveness results in life, health, freedom, peace, vitality and love.

Have a blessed week,

Tanya