Living Intentionally

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I am learning something quite profound lately, and I thought I’d share it with the world. It’s the secret to a good life. Are you ready? Here it is:

If you want to live a good life, you need to be intentional about it.

That’s it. Simple I know, but, as our pastor so often says: it doesn’t have to be complicated to be profound.  

Want to get into shape? You need to be intentional about fitting exercise into your schedule.

Want to eat healthier and lose weight? You need to be intentional about planning your meals, so you don’t always reach for the unhealthy stuff.

Want to have a healthy relationship with your spouse? You need to be intentional about setting aside time to spend together, and “date”.

Want to have a clean house? You need to have a plan for how and when you are going to do your chores.

You get the point.

I have been thinking about the subject of intentionality as it relates to all areas of life, but it’s spring cleaning time, so the issue of an organized home has been on my mind specifically. If the house is in chaos, this affects the people in the house, their relationships with each other, and this trickles out into other areas of their lives. The home is so important! A desire for my home to be a place of rest, and not stress, for myself and my family, is what is motivating me to be more intentional about how I organize my time.

I don’t know about you, but I am not the kind of person who has to be busy, so I procrastinate, and everything piles up or doesn’t get done. As a result, I am always feeling like I need to catch up. This negatively affects my relationship with the kids because I feel like I don’t have time to play with them. My husband comes home to a cranky wife who just throws children at him, and is snappy. The laundry is piled up and never gets put away. The kitchen is perpetually sticky. Because I am always feeling busy and rushed, I don’t feel like I have time to exercise. All of this weighs on me and makes me feel like a failure, and the cycle continues.

The only way for me to have a life that is sane, is by putting myself on a schedule, and having clear goals. I need a plan. And even though I hate the thought of it, when I make a realistic plan and stick to it, I am always WAY happier. And so is everyone else in my house.


The Plan

I was on a bit of a routine for a while, but when baby number two came along it all went to pot. This week I finally sat down and created a document on my computer which roughly outlines what my days will look like, and updated my weekly chore schedule. This took a bit of time and effort, but now it is done and I won’t have to do it again. Doing this forced me to think through my priorities, and have clarity about how I am going spend my time – roughly when I’ll do the chores, when I’ll play with the kids, when I’ll have time to myself, and when I’ll exercise. It’s not a rigid schedule, just a flexible routine.

Each day I do one or two chores, which I try to get done in the morning. This makes things more manageable, and gives me more free time during the day. For example, on Mondays I dust. On Tuesdays I vacuum, and sanitize the sinks, etc. I have also decided to do laundry every day, so that it doesn’t pile up. I put a load of laundry in first thing in the morning. The amount of time I spend doing laundry now is way less! It’s folded and put away in 5 minutes.

With regards to meal planning, I sit down one day early in the week and plan out what we are going to eat, and make a grocery list based on the menu. My husband will do one grocery run early on and get everything that we need for the week. This takes sitting down for just half an hour to come up with a menu and grocery list, which is not a lot of time if you consider the amount of time you could spend every day trying to figure out what to have for supper. As a result of this planning, we don’t buy extra things that we don’t need, which means less food goes to waste, and we don’t ever have to wonder what we are having for supper. It also saves money!

So that is a bit of what my plan looks like, and I have to say that this week has been going very well. My house is super clean, and I am a lot less stressed! Setting goals or routines can seem intimidating at first, but once you do it, it just becomes part of your life. It makes the days more orderly, and less stressful. It frees up time for the more important things, and makes that time more relaxing because there isn’t an underlying feeling of guilt or anxiety that comes from knowing there is work to be done.

All of our lives look different – some of us are stay at home moms, some of us work full time outside the house, some are students, some work from home. All of these things are going to affect how we prioritize, and what our routine looks like. But being intentional is beneficial no matter who you are or what your situation is; it will just look a bit different for everyone. If you are struggling, I highly recommend you take the time to think through your priorities, and how you can better organize your time. This simple task can be life changing, believe it or not!


“It’s sad if people think that’s (homemaking) a dull existance, [but] you can’t just buy an apartment and furnish it and walk away. It’s the flowers you choose, the music you play, the smile you have waiting. I want it to be gay and cheerful, a haven in this troubled world. I don’t want my husband and children to come home and find a rattled woman. Our era is already rattled enough, isn’t it?”
– Audrey Hepburn


Food for thought: What are some areas in your life where you need to be more intentional? Home life? Family life? Health? Take the time to set some goals! 

In Light of Easter: On Why I Am So Into Jesus.

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Amanda, I think it is fine that you are into religion and things, but I think there is a such thing as being too into it. 

Someone close to me once said this. I don’t remember what I said at the time, but I thought that in light of Easter, I would share a little bit about why I am so “religious”.

I think I would start by saying that contrary to what the above person thought, it’s not really religion that I am into. In fact, I don’t really like religion much. Some of you are thinking: This from a girl who quotes Bible verses on her Facebook page on a regular basis??? Yes. Let me explain.

Religion is about rules; it holds up a standard of morality that we are supposed to live up to. When we live up to this morality, we are good. When we don’t, we are bad. This kind of thinking leads to one of two places. Either we become self-righteous and look down on other people because they are not as good as us, or we despair, because we fail to live up to the standard and end up feeling terrible about ourselves.

Basically, religion is about human beings earning their way to some kind of eternal reward. The way we earn it is by good works. It’s a very heavy burden to carry.

So, if you were to ask me if I am religious, I think I would honestly say no. At least, not if that is what you mean by religion.

OK, so if you are not into religion, what exactly are you into?

The answer is simple: Jesus. And Jesus and religion are not the same. In fact, Jesus didn’t get along with religious people very well. It was the religious people of the time who sought to kill him. Most of Jesus’ followers were people who the religious people would not associate with. They were outcasts and criminals.

My life changed when I found out that I did not need to earn my way to God. In fact, I can’t earn my way to God. All of my efforts would be futile. The gap between me and the divine is far too big. The life altering truth is this:We could never reach him, and so he reached out to us. He came down to our level. This changes everything.

God didn’t come for good people; in fact, the Bible says that there are no good people because all of us fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:10-18). God is perfect, and we are not. To be imperfect means we are flawed. Ultimately it means we love other things more than God. Our priorities are all messed up. This is what the Bible means by the word “sinful”. Because we are sinful, we do sinful things. This is what separates us from God, making it impossible for us to enter his presence. So, God did two things: first, instead of telling us we need to earn our way, He sent Jesus who lived up to God’s perfect standard on our behalf. He did it for us! Secondly, Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross. He lovingly endured the punishment for our sin so that we would not have to.  

Easter Sunday is coming up. It is the day that Christians gather together and celebrate the fact that on the third day, Jesus walked out of the tomb alive. He lives! The Good News is that if we trust in his perfect life and sacrifice, rather than our own efforts, we too will live. So, rather than carrying the burden of trying to earn God’s favour, I can live each day knowing that Jesus earned it. And through Jesus, I am free to come into God’s presence. I can approach him daily, moment by moment, and know that he listens.

It is not about religion. It’s about a relationship with God. It’s about love. God displayed amazing love when he sent his Son for us. That love, when you really get it, changes you forever. It is what changed me, and continues to transform my life. A desire to earn God’s love could never motivate me; it would only crush me.

I don’t remember what I said that day when my friend told me I was too into religion. But what I would say today is that I am not into religion, I am into Jesus. And there is no such thing as being too into Jesus, because if he is who he said he was, being half hearted about him simply isn’t an option.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

– 1 John 4:10

Food for thought/resources:

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is a lie. Here are a couple articles that talk about the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection
http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-reasons-to-believe-in-the-empty-tomb

Here is Bono, from the band, U2, talking about what he thinks about Jesus:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOQClgNRoPc

Helpful book: The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller.

And finally, here is a blog post by one of my favourite authors, Ann Voskamp. She is writing from the point of view of Mary, Jesus’ mother: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/04/when-youre-tired-of-feeling-torn-why-he-came-holy-week-good-friday/

Living Water

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Not too long ago, we lost our water for an afternoon. We were getting ready to have a crowd over for supper, and we had been preparing things all afternoon. We had used a bunch of bowls and knives etc to prepare, and the time had come to get those dishes out of the way to make the kitchen look presentable and get the finishing touches done on dinner. But the water was gone. We couldn’t run the dishwasher. We couldn’t wash anything by hand. There were a few vegetables we needed to clean, but couldn’t. It was a big pain.

On another occasion, I was about to get in the shower and noticed the water wouldn’t come on. I was also trying to do a load of laundry. I found out that the city had turned off our water supply because they were working on some pipes. I was frustrated because I couldn’t get ready for the day, and was behind on my house work.

It’s amazing how much we miss water when it is gone, but how much we take it for granted when it is running. I give my kids a drink of whenever they need one. Bathe them. Wash their hands many times throughout the day. Fill up the kettle numerous times a day. Put in laundry. Run the dishwasher. Get a drink for myself. Take a shower. I do all of these things without even the slightest thought to how precious water is. Until it is gone. Then I feel irritated.

And then I think of the 750 million people around the world without clean water and I am ashamed at my first world problems…

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When there is no clean water, mothers are forced to give their children dirty water to drink, in hopes that it will help and not hurt.

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under five in the world. Around 1.5 million deaths a year, nearly one in five, are caused by diarrhea, which kills more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.

3.4 million people die every year of water related illness (that’s like the entire population of Los Angeles, CA).

65% of people living in rural india do not have access to a toilet, and as a result they have no choice but to defecate out in the open which only worsens the water problem.

Globally, women spend 200 million hours a day collecting water.This is equivalent to building 28 Empire State Buildings each day. Often the water they get is contaminated with waterbourne illnesses, and can even cause death to their families, but they have no other option.

We hear these things all the time. General numbers. Statistics. It’s hard for us to realize that these numbers and facts represent real people just like you and me who really are suffering right now. Real mothers whose children are looking to them for something to drink, and they have nothing to offer them. Real mothers who hold their crying sick children and have no way to help them. These people have no choice but to suffer, or watch their children suffer, often die, simply because they do not have a simple thing that we take for granted every single day.

If you are like me, these facts can be paralyzing. The need in the world is so overwhelming and it is easier to turn a blind eye…because really, what can we do for all of these people?

We can do more than we think.

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March 22 is World Water Day. A day to raise awareness about this global issue. Organizations like Gospel for Asia, have solutions to this problem, but they need our help. GFA digs wells, installs water filters, and builds outdoor toilets in order to combat the water problem. We are some of the most materially blessed people in the world. We may not be able to go physically dig the wells,  or install filters, but we can GIVE so that others can. Every little bit helps.

Gospel for Asia helps all people – no matter who they are or what they believe. However, some people are choosing to follow after Jesus as a result of the kindness they receive through these programs. So, not only are you offering them physical water, you are offering them the one who gives Living Water. Jesus says to the woman at the well: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13,14). And that is the greatest gift of all! 

We may not know on this side of Heaven the impact we can have on others, but THIS is what I believe the Bible is saying when it talks about storing up treasures in Heaven. Investing in human beings for the sake of Jesus is something that will last into eternity.

Click here to find out more about how you can help.

Click here to read a story about how digging a Jesus Well affected this family, and their village.

Sources/information:
http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/
http://unicef.in/Whatwedo/11/Eliminate-Open-Defecation

Live Like You Are Loved. Because You Are.

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Sometimes it feels like in order for something to matter, it has to be recognized by other people. The more people recognize it, the more important it is. If no one knows, then it seems like maybe it doesn’t matter.

Perhaps this is because when people recognize it they acknowledge our talents and abilities, and praise us for it, and this makes us feel like we matter. And so if no one sees it or recognizes it, we can feel insignificant or unappreciated.

This is particularly true in Christian ministry. It is tempting, when thinking of ways to serve others, to think that our ministry only matters if a lot of people know about it. For this reason, we can find ourselves thinking that because our ministry is small, or secret, or isn’t one of the “official” ones being announced every Sunday morning, then it doesn’t matter. We can compare ourselves to the people who stand out with the more public or flashy ministries, and feel insignificant. The whole Christian celebrity phenomenon doesn’t help this.

There are so many things I’d like to do. So many ways I’d like to help. And often it feels like in order for any of it to make a difference, it has to be an official ministry that is recognized by lots of people. But I think God is asking me, “Amanda, can you just be faithful with the small things? Can you be satisfied knowing that I see you, even if no one else does?

To have the praise and approval of people is meaningless – and honestly, are any of us humble enough to handle it? But to have the praise and approval of God far outweighs any compliment or pat on the back we can get from people. And here is the thing: He already approves. And nothing we do can change that.

But where are we looking for significance? It’s the age old question, isn’t it? It’s that thing in us that seeks to be significant because of something in us. Just like Eve sought significance apart from God. Just like the people built cities to “make a name for themselves“. There is a thing in us that wants to matter, but we want the credit for it. We want the glory.

How freeing it would be if we stopped striving after things that we already have in Christ. Significance. Worth. Approval. If we would just quit trying to take the credit, and be content to let him have all of it. We would love others so much better – It wouldn’t matter how many read the blog, or come to the study, or compliment the food – we would just be content to serve knowing that we are showing others a tiny glimpse of His great love.

Let’s stop striving, and just live like we are loved. Because we are.

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

– Zephaniah 3:17

A New Year, A New Perspective

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Happy New Year! It’s 2015! Can you believe it? Where did the year go?

I love the beginning of a New Year. There is something refreshing about taking down the Christmas decorations, cleaning the house, and settling back into a normal routine. I feel a kind of anticipation for the year ahead, and often spend time thinking about things I want to work on in my life. It seems like a good time to consider the year past, learn from it, and start new.

That is where resolutions come in. They can be fun, but honestly, this year I decided not to make any. It’s just silliness, at least when you are me. My resolutions, I have come to realize, are pretty self focused. They are all about ME. How I can improve. How I can change. And why? So I can feel like I am more awesome than I really am. I think at the root, at least for me, there is a lot of pride. I just want to approve of myself more. I place my worth in my ability to do a certain thing (or not do a certain thing), but then when I fail I feel terrible about myself, which reinforces the idea that I can’t really change.

So this year, I am just going to admit it. I can’t change. I have no willpower. I just eat all the cakes and all the chocolate and all the carbs. I just do. I can’t say no. It’s not possible. If there is a chocolate in front of my face, I will eat it. Oh, and I can’t discipline myself in any other area either, by the way. I worry worry worry all the time, and I just can’t focus on prayer. I procrastinate with housework. Every day I say I will do better tomorrow, but I don’t. I am not one of those people who has the willpower to change my habits. I just can’t do it. I can’t change, and so I am not going to make any resolutions because I will fail.

That is how I feel.

And honestly, there is truth to it. Every time I depend on myself in order to change, I fail. And I have believed for a long time that I literally can’t change as a result of this. But I am forgetting something.

The whole point is that I can’t change. I am powerless, but God is able. That is the Gospel. I was powerless in my sin to change, but Jesus came to save me from that powerlessness. He lived that life that I can’t live, and died the death I should have died. THEN he overcame sin and death, and by his power in me, I will too.

What would happen if we applied the Gospel to our “resolutions”?

First of all, I think we would throw half of them out the window.

But as for the ones that in and of themselves are actually good and honouring to God, I think we would see a lot more progress. I think we would end up a lot closer to Jesus. And I think we would see him work in us.

The sins that I need to overcome? There’s a long list, but a few in particular that I have been wanting to change? Gluttony. Worry. Apathy (to God’s Word). Just to name a few.

So my resolution is really to live like I believe God exists. That Jesus really did die for my sin. That Jesus really does live in me. I am just going to stop believing the lie that I can’t change, because Jesus lives in me and will empower me to do the things he has commanded me to do. He will not command me to do anything that he will not help me to accomplish.

I can decide not to overeat (I have been doing it since the 7th!)

I can decide to turn my worries into prayers.

I can decide to read the Word of God every day, and pray hard that he will give me a love for his Word (even the Old Testament ..God help me).

Ultimately, in 2015, I just want to fix my eyes on Jesus, not on myself. I want to stop believing lies. I want to be the person God has created me to be because that is what will give him the most glory, and bring me the most fulfilment. Fixing my eyes on myself will only lead to pride or discouragement, but when I fix my eyes on Jesus I can get over myself and get on with the work he has for me to do.

And here is the thing. I am going to fail. But WHEN I do, I can stop wallowing and just lay that failure down at the feet of Jesus, and start again. Because that is the Good News. He died for our failures. I don’t need to carry the guilt. And I won’t.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

A Treasure in Heaven.

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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6: 19-21

I have never had a difficult time understanding what this passage means by “treasures on earth”; I can easily understand what an earthy treasure might be – really any material possession at all. There are countless possibilities. But if I am honest, my mind would often go blank when I tried to picture a “heavenly” treasure. I mean, I understood the concept, but I don’t think I really “got it”. I didn’t dig in to the Word, though – I would just nod my head and go along with it.

I think this is an issue we all have at least at some point in our lives. Unconsciously, we know we are meant to value God’s Kingdom more than anything else, but deep down we don’t know for sure what that looks like. We kind of just take for granted that we value God’s Kingdom more than anything else, but really….do our lives show that we do?

About a year and a half ago, God started working on me in this area. He started to show me what he means when he talks about treasures in heaven, and I started to understand that my life reflected that I didn’t really value his Kingdom above all. Slowly (very slowly), I am beginning to loosen my grip on the things of this world, but it is very very hard. One of the ways that God has made it a bit “easier” is by breaking my heart for the things that break his.

Our God loves the human beings he has made, and he mourns over the injustice he sees all over the world. He mourns over the thousands who are suffering without food or water, the children orphaned by aids, the countless children sold into sex trafficking every day, the women who are unjustly accused and punished – even killed – simply for being women.

Our God cares about these issues, and he mourns when his sons and daughters don’t care – when we act like it’s not happening. When we are so busy chasing after treasures on earth, that we don’t see the countless treasures we could be storing up in heaven: souls saved for his glory. Isn’t that what the Kingdom of God is made up of? Human souls? Human beings who come to know His love because regular joe’s went out and obeyed God’s command to care for the least of these, and make disciples for His glory. These are treasures that we will take to Heaven with us  – literally. We can invest in material possessions, which will rot when we are gone, or we can invest in souls that will last forever. 

One way to invest in God’s Kingdom is through Gospel for Asia’s “Bridge of Hope” program. Gospel for Asia is an organization that my husband and I recently started supporting, and we are very impressed with it. Through GFA you can sponsor children, or local missionaries. We love GFA firstly because it stands with integrity upon the Word of God – the Gospel is at it’s core. Secondly, financially speaking it is trustworthy and 100% of it’s funds go to the mission field.

Through Gospel for Asia’s Bridge of Hope program, you can provide a child with an education, regular doctor check ups, a daily meal, and clean clothes – all while giving them the opportunity to learn about God’s love for them. Not only will you be telling them of God’s love, but in a tangible way you will be showing them God’s love too. You will receive a picture of your child and regular updates, and have opportunities to write to your child.

Gospel for Asia has a goal to see 2000 children sponsored by Mother’s Day. Will you consider reaching out to one of these little ones in the name of Jesus? Even if you can’t do it by Mother’s Day, perhaps this is something you and your family can consider doing. Click here to find out more.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25: 34-40

 

The Root of the Problem….

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Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. – Genesis 3: 1-8

Recently I started reading through the BIble. I decided that I am going to read it from beginning to end – even if it takes years. Genesis has always been a source of conflict for me. Don’t even get me started on the problem of evil and human freedom!

This time around, I have decided not to focus on all of the questions I have, and instead focus on what I can know and understand from reading Genesis. When I was reading this passage, I was struck by how relevant the story is to me in this season in life.

So, here we have Eve. She is hanging out in a beautiful garden with her hubby – full access to God and every good thing. God had given Adam and Eve authority over everything, and there was nothing they could ever want or need. God had given them only one “restriction”, communicated to Adam earlier:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Genesis 2: 16, 17

They had everything – literally. God had made the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth, the animals, the beautiful plants and trees, the rivers – everything. The king of the universe had made all of this, and then he turned to Adam and Eve and said: “It’s yours”. The command not to eat from that one tree can barely be seen as a restriction; It was a loving command given to them from a loving father, for their good, as is always the case with God’s commands. Why couldn’t they eat from the tree? Because they would die. That is a pretty loving command.

But Satan plants doubt in Eve’s mind. First, he causes her to doubt what God had said in the first place (vs. 1). God had not said that they must not eat of any tree in the garden, he had only said that they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan made God’s command seem more strict than it actually was. Then, he made God out to be a liar (vs. 4), telling Eve that she wouldn’t die. Lastly, he plants doubt in Eve’s mind about God’s motives, saying that God just didn’t want Adam and Eve to be like him (vs. 5). Satan wanted Eve to believe that God was hiding something from her, and that he was not really good.

And Eve falls for it. Having the seeds of doubt planted, she now looks at the tree with lustful eyes. She focuses in on the one thing she can’t have instead of all that she has been given. She sees that it is edible, that it looks good, and she thinks: If I eat this, I will be wise – like God! Instead of trusting in what God had said, she trusts in her own reasoning. And she eats it. And so does her husband.

It’s not about the fruit. It’s about what the fruit represented, and what their eating it said about them. They wanted to be wise – like God. Why? Wasn’t it enough that they got to walk with him intimately? God of the universe was right there any time they needed him and they could ask him anything. He had provided them with everything they needed and more. Why would they need that kind of wisdom if they trusted him? It wasn’t enough. Their identity was tied to God, and they wanted more than that. That fruit represented autonomy from God. They wanted to be “somebody” in and of themselves – not because of their connection with God.

This is human sin. At the root of every sinful act, is this very problem: we want autonomy from God. We want to be “somebody” apart from God. We want to approve of ourselves because of something in us.

I see this in my own life more and more every day. This is something God is uncovering in me  – and it’s painful, and overwhelming. The more he uncovers, the more I see how badly I need him every moment of the day. But at the same time, I see how much I don’t want to depend on him every moment of the day. In other words, I see my total inability to change myself – and how badly I need God to change me. This is, of course, a blessing, because it is only here that I can begin to heal. But it’s hard.

We can go through huge chunks of our lives living this way without realizing it. We can find our identity in: our children, our careers, our ministries, our relationships, our possessions, our reputation, the number of notifications on Facebook, etc. All of these things are fine, but they can easily become idols. The problem is, our hearts are prone to deception and we are usually blind to our idols. Sometimes though, we can identify them when they are threatened.

Maybe your child misbehaves in a way you never expected at school; now all of a sudden you feel like a failure and find yourself being paranoid about what people are thinking, or resentful toward other people whose children are behaving better. Or maybe you find out that someone doesn’t think your heart is in the right place with regard to a ministry you are involved in. Now you find you are filled with self justifying thoughts, and anxiety. It can take on many forms, but all these things show that something else has taken the place of God. These things have become a crutch – a way for us to feel good about ourselves, and to approve of ourselves. And then when something goes wrong, we feel worthless, angry, bitter etc. This is because we have not died to self; we are still concerned with our image more than we are concerned with Gods. We want to be able to approve of ourselves because of something about us. This is what Adam and Eve wanted in the Garden, and what every other human being has wanted ever since.

But it is often harder to see when things are going well. When the ministry is flourishing and people are looking up to you as a godly and generous person, or your children are well behaved, or your boss praises you at work, it’s easy to put your head on the pillow in peace at night. It’s easy to approve of yourself when everyone else approves of you and things seem to be going well. But this is dangerous because even  all of our good works are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). None of the good things that we do – no matter how good – put us in better standing with God. God’s approval of us has nothing to do with anything that we have done. We bring absolutely nothing to the table. This is a freeing truth, but if we are honest, many of us don’t get peace from it in our day to day lives. For me, this is because usually it’s not God’s approval I want. Ultimately, it’s my own.

 

Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

– Psalm 139: 23,24