Life in a Different Context

 Today I was thinking about the book of Ruth and the lives of the courageous women for whom it is written. To give a little background in the story, Naomi, the older woman, had moved with her husband and two sons from Bethlehem in Judah to the country of Moab due an outbreak of a famine. While the family resided there, the couple’s two grown sons married women from Moab. The names of these two women were Ruth and Or-pah. At some point during their residency in that place, Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died. Then somewhere around a decade later, both her sons Mahlon and Kilion died also. As a result of this tragic circumstance, Naomi was left alone.

         Some time after that, Naomi heard that the famine had lifted in Judah, so she prepared to leave Moab with her two daughters-in-law, but they could hardly get going before Naomi changed her mind. Now instead of taking these two young ladies with her; she attempted to persuade them to return home to their families, their customs, their traditions and their gods. It took some time, but after a great deal of persuasion, her daughter-in-law Or-pah decided to heed the advice of her mother in-law and reluctantly return home to her family. But not Ruth. Not only would Ruth not budge, the Bible says, “she clung to Naomi.”

         Until that point in her life, Naomi had developed her life-outlook and sense of personal identity based on the immediate context of her life. By that I mean, in the context of marriage and motherhood. And it was life in that context that necessitated the development of the person she had become. After the death of her family however, things were not the same. For Naomi, this new way of life was difficult, uncomfortable and sad. The life in which she had found a sense of belonging,  her feeling of self- worth and usefulness, her value, in fact the very definition of who she was, no longer existed.

          In Ruth 1:11-13, we can see one of the impacts of this major life event in the life of Naomi as she is trying to get her daughters-in-law to see things her way.  She tells them, “Why should you go on with me?” Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters!”

          Something that stood out to me about this passage is the fact that when the context of Naomi’s life changed, when she no longer had all that gave meaning to  who she was, she felt as though she had nothing to offer. In her mind, she had given Ruth and Or-pah all she had to offer when she gave them her sons as husbands. But she had not. While I do not have time for sake of space to go into all the details leading up to both Naomi’s and Ruth’s redemption as a result of their relationship with one another, I will say this: what you and I have been through is not who we are. It is what we have been through. And what we have been through does not determine our self-worth, our value or even what we have to offer this world. God does. Who you are and who I am, our gifting, our talent, our make-up and our respective purpose was established by God. And no external happening in our lives can change that.

        If you were to read the book of Ruth, what you would find is that in the end, Naomi and Ruth did make it back to Bethlehem in Judah. Through Naomi’s wisdom, Ruth found love, peace and joy in the home of another husband, and Naomi became a grandmother. Contrary to her own belief, Naomi did have something to offer. She had wisdom. She found purpose late in her life because of the beautiful relationship she shared with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Given that day and time, in most circumstances, the lives of these women would have all but ended with the death of their husbands, but that did not happen. Instead of allowing the circumstance they were facing destroy them, they grasped the opportunity those situations presented, they rose to the occasion and met it head on. As individuals, they changed, they grew and they developed.

        As stated earlier, adverse circumstances do not define who we are. What we have been through is simply that, what we have been through. It is not an indicator of who we are.  At the same time however, they can and often do reveal aspects of who we are that we may have never known or considered. God was able to work wonders in the lives of both Naomi and Ruth because these two women trusted God within their new contexts of life. When the dynamics of our lives change, it can be at once both scary and exciting. Yet the beauty of stepping into a new context of life is the opportunity it presents in knowing God and yourself more deeply, in addition to living a richer, fuller life as a different aspect of you is revealed in response to life’s changing dynamics.

Suggested Bible Readings: The book of Ruth, Romans 4:18-20 and Hebrew s 11:11

Blessings and Peace,

Tanya

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THERE IS NO DEFEAT IN HIM

An excerpt from the conclusion of, Treasures from the Battle.

     In our lives we do not always understand the battles that we must fight or the valleys that we must walk through, but remember that no battle is ever won without spoils or riches taken after the defeat of an enemy. When God gave me the title, “Treasures from the Battle” I did not feel the title spoke only  about the contents of the book or a specific challenging time in my life, instead, I felt as though the title had more to do with my whole life’s journey. The title Treasures from the Battle has to do with the beautiful qualities God wants to reveal in us; ironically, these qualities are all too often forged in times that are not easy or comfortable. The potential for God to teach us some of our most valuable life lessons often takes place during some of the most difficult times in our lives. I don’t necessarily understand why, but this is just the way God seems to work many times.

    One thing I do know: God never intends for any of us to remain the same person exiting a battle as when the battle began. Hard times are intended to transform each of us, to a greater degree, into the woman God has purposed. Again and again, over the course of our lives, God takes us through challenging times so that we might walk in the fullness of our identity. As the book of Hebrews 5:8 states, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.” He became our faithful High Priest only by walking in our shoes and dying for our sins. Because he walked in our shoes, he has the ability to relate to us and to be sensitive to the struggles are facing. The Bible also tells us he was tempted in all points as we are, only he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He became like us, so that he could relate to us in all our struggles. This included enduring some of life’s most difficult and stressful times.

    One of the ways God accomplishes his purposes in our lives is by drawing us to himself. In times where we face trouble or crisis, the believer will do one of two things; either she will run to God, or she will retreat from God. It is God’s desire that we run to him. All too often, in the  ordinary days of our lives that are filled with obligations of all sorts, it is easy to fail to give attention to God through prayer, mediation or the reading of his word as we should. Yet when we are enshrouded in the midst of darkness due to tumultuous times in our lives, his love, his light and his leading become more obvious. In the times when we do not know what to do or where to turn, we find our hope in God.  It is when we are looking to him alone, that he can begin to reveal to us  the wisdom and knowledge that is unique to each of our life circumstances.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I  will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

    It is the things that we do not know that are going to change our lives forever. And it is these things that the Father longs to reveal to us. Unfortunately, most of time this objective is only reached in the heat of battle. In other words, most of the times, what God wants to use to transform our lives does come easy. But take a moment and imagine God speaking to you. In the deepest part of your heart: hear or feel him speaking these words,”If you will only take my hand, and allow me to walk you through time; allow me to be your support and comfort. Then I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know. If you will keep your eyes focused on me, seeking me with your whole heart, the wisdom, knowledge and peace I give become the treasures that will change your life. Only then will you experience all that you thought was impossible.”

    On the other side of hardship is wisdom, peace and reward. As long we persevere, keeping our eyes on him. God will make us victorious, for there is no defeat in him.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which is exceeds anything we can understand, will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”

Be blessed.

Tanya

Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?

 

 

      One of the songs we sang in church today was Forever, by Brian Johnson and Bethel Music. The chorus of the song goes like this,

“The ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away, His perfect love cannot be overcome, O death where is your sting, our resurrected King, forever has defeated, forever He is glorified,  forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive, He is alive”

     As I stood there worshiping, I began to think about this account recorded in Luke 24. It says, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

     Jesus had been crucified. After he died, his body was taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb. This was not hearsay. They had witnessed it. They had seen it with their own eyes. As hard a truth as is was to swallow, Jesus was dead. Thus, their actions, the purchasing of spices to anoint his body, in preparing it for burial, corresponded with their unfortunate reality, and their expectation.

     Surprisingly, when they arrived, Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. While they were amazed to find the tomb empty, the heavenly beings present there were equally perplexed that they had brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus.  It was no secret to those in the inner circle that Jesus was going to die and rise again. He had communicated this truth on more than one occasion. Still, they arrived early on the first day of the week bringing spices because what had been true, they assumed would remain true. In other words, their anticipation was to see the result of their past reflected in their future.

     But that is not a principle of the Kingdom. God does not determine what will be, based on what has been. Instead, what will be, is determined based on what he has established and set into motion, without respect to that which may have been. That is why he called Abraham, the father of a multitude, while Sarah was still unable to have children. The Apostle Paul echoes this in the book of Romans 4:17 where he writes, “As it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ This is in the presence of him whom he believed: God, who gives life to the dead, and calls those things that are not, as though they were.

     Yet how many times do we limit what can be based on what has been? How many times do we determine God’s ability by our experience? They had seen Jesus crucified, his body taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb. That was their experience. That was their reality. However, based on his word to them, that should not have been their expectation. For this reason, when the angels observed them entering the tomb with spices they had prepared, searching for a body to anoint, they questioned, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?

     Regardless of what you may be facing in your life today or what you may have experienced in your past, it does not dictate God’s ability to bring about all he as purposed for your future. In accordance with this passage, the question to consider this week is, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Hear the Holy Spirit asking, “Why do you look for defeat where I have declared victory? Why do you seek death where I have spoken life? Why do you operate in brokenness where I have declared healing? Why do you settle for mediocrity when I have wired you for excellence? Why do you consider yourself of so little value when  I have created you with such great worth?”

You are a child of the Most High. Therefore, why do you base the potential of your future on the pain of your past?  Expect great things.  For with God, all things are possible. Mark 10:27

May God richly bless you this week, and my his peace be upon you.

Tanya

 

You are Okay

     It is a beautiful winter morning here in West Michigan. I peered out the window to take yet another look at the beautiful ivory snow that now blankets the ground. This morning, I woke up thinking about how many years of my life have been spent wherein the first moments of my day were consumed with thoughts about the things I can do better, what I should be doing, or how far along I should be in a particular aspect of life. And I must admit, they are far too many to count. That contemplation however, lasted only for a moment when all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with a sense of ‘okay-ness’. Now for you Language Arts and English scholars, I do understand that this is not technically a word, but if you would allow me to, I would like to use it only this once. I am emphasizing point. Anyway, it was as though I could hear the Holy Spirit saying,”It’s okay. You are okay. And I want you to be okay with simply being you. You may not be all you want to be. You may not have grown to the degree you would like. But I want you to be okay with your present because I am in control of your process and outcome. You will get there by my power not in your own strength.”

     Zephaniah 3:17 declares, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm your fears. He will rejoice over you with songs.”

      God does not spend his time focusing on countless details because he knows the big picture, and according to his grace, he will bring all things to the fullness of their manifestation in his time. God rejoices over you with singing. He rejoices over me with singing. He is okay with who we are, and in many cases where we are because he knows he has the power to get us where he ultimately wants us to be.

     Life is a process. Learning is a process. Development is a process. My exhortation this week: Commit to a focus that centers on where you are, what you have accomplished, how far you a have come, and the anticipation of where you are headed. Don’t miss experiencing the miracle of who you are because of wallowing in the mediocrity of who you should be. Far too often, these are  expectations we place on ourselves. They are not God’s expectations of us.

    You are okay. And God wants you to be okay with being okay.  There is not one place along the journey of our lives with which God is not fully acquainted or aware. In other words, he knows exactly where we are, he knows where we are going, and he knows what it will take to get us where he, not we, has destined us to be.

     If you are that individual who spends a lot of time focusing on yourself in certain areas of your life, try taking a break this week. Take a bubble bath,  a walk along a beautiful path, have an ice cream cone, watch your favorite movie, and know for certain that you have a heavenly Father who is pleased with you, who loves you, who knows where you are, and is completely capable of getting you where he wants you to be. There is no pressure in this. In the words of Joyce Meyer, “You are okay and you are on your way.”

Have a beautiful day and a blessed week,

Tanya

God’s Faithful Forgiveness: Psalm 139

     Have you ever taken the time to read Psalm 139? If you have not, I seriously advise you take the time to do so, and soon. Today, sitting here in meditation, while preparing for the small group of which I am a part at the church I presently attend, I find myself once again awestruck by the goodness of God, his undying faithfulness and mercy. Today, we are beginning a study in the book by R.T. Kendall,Total Forgiveness. That being said, I have read through the introduction and the first chapter, and I am floored as I consider and reconsider the magnitude of the mercy of God. Psalms 139 opens with these words, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” It goes on to say, “You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I am far away.”

     Reading this Psalm, especially in light of the information in the first chapter of R.T. Kendall’s book, Total Forgiveness, many thoughts and emotions were brought to the forefront of my heart and mind. God knows everything about you and about me. He is completely acquainted with every strand of our DNA. He knows what we will decide to do  even before we make the decision or act on what we have decided. He knows what I will contemplate long before I even become aware. God knows my innermost thoughts, the meditations of my heart. Of the fulness of our being, there is not one atom with which he is not fully and completely unfamiliar. He knows when I have failed unintentionally as well as when I have do so by making a deliberate choice to act contrary to what I know is right. God knows all of this about me and about you. And still he loves us, still he cares for us.  And still, he forgives us.

       The Psalmist also writes, “I can never escape from your Spirit, I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to the heaven, you are there. If I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest side of the oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.” In other words, no matter what I do or where I go, wherever I may find myself, in any given situation God is there.

      In reading Kendall’s book, this is something I began to consider in light of God’s faithfulness to forgive.  Matthew 26: 27-28 says, “And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.” (my paraphrase) We further read in Hebrews 10:16-17, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, ‘says the Lord’: I will put my laws in their hearts and in their minds. Then he says, I will never again remember their sins and their lawless deeds.” God is so committed to forgiving us that he sealed it in stone, in a manner of speaking. He established his commitment through covenant. And it is a covenant to which he will remain forever faithful.

     Talk about forgiving and forgetting! Even though the book by Kendall seems to be written from a slightly different perspective, in that it seems of focus more on the necessity and benefit of forgiving rather than the forgiveness we receive from God. It definitely also touches on the latter. And I expect more so as I continue to read through its pages. Still, these are some to the thoughts that have come to me as I have enjoyed the book thus far.

        As I hope to touch on in next week’s blog, we have the power to forgive others because God has forgiven us. If you have never done so, or haven’t done so in a while, take time to read Psalm 139, and just meditate on the unfathomable depth of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s faithfulness, and God’s willingness to forgive.

Have a blessed and prosperous week,

Tanya

All Scripture references are taken from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible (NLT)

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

An Encounter with God’s Love

The Gospel of John 3:16 says, “ For God so loved loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV

      I cannot tell you how many years during my Christian journey I spent having only a knowledge of God’s love.  As a Bible Teacher, I had many opportunities to share the truth about God’s love. Even so, if I had been honest, I had the knowledge that God loved me, but not the experience. I knew I had eternal life and would one day be with him forever, but that was the extent of salvation as I had both known and experienced it to be. Constant struggle marked the majority of the years of my life as a Christian because in my life God’s love for me was based more on knowledge and information. Looking back, I can only describe these years as one beholding something from a distance. I knew of the reality of the love of God, but I had no deep encounter with it.

      So different was my life then, my knowledge about God and his love, it wasn’t my understanding about God’s love but my ultimate acquaintance with it that has changed my life forever. John 3:16 can be looked at with a two-fold purpose. The first part reveals the remedy for the devastation and brokenness that has plagued mankind since the fall of the first human beings, the second speaks of the eternal benefit of God’s provision, made possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To put it another way, in the first half of this verse we can clearly see that when our Heavenly Father considered what totality of solution could be provided for our injurious and estranged state (estranged not in essence or awareness but in relationship to him) he both knew and decided from eternity past to demonstrate extent of his love in the power and person of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the love of the Father demonstrated in Jesus Christ is the complete remedy for the ailments of mankind due to sin.

“For God loved the world (you and me) so much, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    God gave his only son because his love alone has the power to change our condition. Even though there are countless examples from Scripture, one particular account comes to mind, the Gadarene Demoniac. The Bible states in Mark chapter 5, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain,4for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

    Pain and torment had become the trademark of this man’s life. Driven by forces over which he had little control, self- destructive behavior threatened to end his life completely. No one understood him. And no one could help him.  When I think about this man in today’s society, surely he would find his sole existence in a padded room, heavily medicated. Yet Jesus, on the other side of the river, in a totally different place, was aware of this man’s condition, of his desire, and of his need. Which is why in the previous chapter, speaking in regard to the river, after teaching the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side.”

       The Bible tells us that when this man saw Jesus he ran and worshiped him. In that moment of worship, of embracing who Jesus is,  and the power and ultimate authority Jesus had to work in his life, this man was set free from that which bound him. When he could not come to Jesus, Jesus went to him. Here was a man whose life was  steeped in darkness,  yet Jesus invaded his world. And with the power of his love, he set him free.  This man was a contemporary of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Bible does not tell us whether this man knew about Jesus during this time, the point is however, that Jesus in bodily form did exist in this man’s time but it was not until he had an encounter with Jesus that his life, his family and his region were forever changed. Whether he was aware of the existence of the Messiah or not, simply having knowledge of his existence would have done this man little good. He did not need information. He needed an encounter.

       Know today beloved, that no matter where you are, where you find yourself, what you are facing or going through, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. God is always loving you, always aware, always there, longing and waiting to permeate your life with the  healing and transforming power of his love. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in the book of Romans chapter 8, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love God has for you and me is everlasting, enduring forever. It will never cease. We can resist it, or we can reject it, but we cannot change it.

      In an age of media and ever-advancing technology, in a generation where we have more information about  God’s love (through TV, books, CDs, DVDs and yes, blogs) than at any other point in history, we are more broken, more hurting, more desperate, more depressed and more in need of real answers to real problems. Yes. We know more about God and about his word. We are more informed about the sacrifice of Jesus and about his ability to change our lives. But the potential for God to transform our lives by the power of his love does not come from information alone. If we are ever to be truly made whole, we must have an encounter.

There Is No Defeat In Him

An excerpt from the conclusion of, Treasures from the Battle.

     In our lives we do not always understand the battles that we must fight or the valleys that we must walk through, but remember that no battle is ever won without spoils or riches taken after the defeat of an enemy. When God gave me the title, “Treasures from the Battle” I did not feel the title spoke only  about the contents of the book or a specific challenging time in my life, instead, I felt as though the title had more to do with my whole life’s journey. The title Treasures from the Battle has to do with the beautiful qualities God wants to reveal in us; ironically, these qualities are all too often forged in times that are not easy or comfortable. The potential for God to teach us some of our most valuable life lessons often takes place during some of the most difficult times in our lives. I don’t necessarily understand why, but this is just the way God seems to work many times.

    One thing I do know: God never intends for any of us to remain the same person exiting a battle as when the battle began. Hard times are intended to transform each of us, to a greater degree, into the woman God has purposed. Again and again, over the course of our lives, God takes us through challenging times so that we might walk in the fullness of our identity. As the book of Hebrews 5:8 states, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.” He became our faithful High Priest only by walking in our shoes and dying for our sins. Because he walked in our shoes, he has the ability to relate to us and to be sensitive to the struggles are facing. The Bible also tells us he was tempted in all points as we are, only he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He became like us, so that he could relate to us in all our struggles. This included enduring some of life’s most difficult and stressful times.

    One of the ways God accomplishes his purposes in our lives is by drawing us to himself. In times where we face trouble or crisis, the believer will do one of two things; either she will run to God, or she will retreat from God. It is God’s desire that we run to him. All too often, in the  ordinary days of our lives that are filled with obligations of all sorts, it is easy to fail to give attention to God through prayer, mediation or the reading of his word as we should. Yet when we are enshrouded in the midst of darkness due to tumultuous times in our lives, his love, his light and his leading become more obvious. In the times when we do not know what to do or where to turn, we find our hope in God.  It is when we are looking to him alone, that he can begin to reveal to us  the wisdom and knowledge that is unique to each of our life circumstances.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I  will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

    It is the things that we do not know that are going to change our lives forever. And it is these things that the Father longs to reveal to us. Unfortunately, most of time this objective is only reached in the heat of battle. In other words, most of the times, what God wants to use to transform our lives does come easy. But take a moment and imagine God speaking to you. In the deepest part of your heart: hear or feel him speaking these words,”If you will only take my hand, and allow me to walk you through time; allow me to be your support and comfort. Then I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know. If you will keep your eyes focused on me, seeking me with your whole heart, the wisdom, knowledge and peace I give become the treasures that will change your life. Only then will you experience all that you thought was impossible.”

    On the other side of hardship is wisdom, peace and reward. As long we persevere, keeping our eyes on him. God will make us victorious, for there is no defeat in him.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which is exceeds anything we can understand, will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”

Be blessed.

Tanya

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.

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