Understanding Shame

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My brothers and sisters,

A new post after a long time! To be frank, I had to take a lot of time out, to refocus and ask myself some very hard questions. It has been an uncomfortable season, but it gave me time to reflect, and seek new knowledge on areas for personal growth and to share for others to learn.

Shame Defined

Shame can be defined in more than one way. Here is a list of the common definitions found on the English Oxford Dictionaries website.

A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour;

A loss of respect or esteem; dishonour;

A person, action or situation that brings a loss of respect or honour;

A regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.

The Garden

The scene is set. Adam and Eve had just eaten the fruit from the knowledge of Good and Evil. They had broken a single directive from God. They sinned against Him and themselves, the consequences we are all experiencing today.

The New Living Translation conveys the sudden shift of perspective, and the painful realisation of their actions.

Gen 3: 7 –  At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

This is a direct contrast to the atmosphere before the fall.

Gen 2: 25: Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

One can only imagine such an environment where one can be fully naked, literally and figurately and not have any reason to feel shame in any capacity. It is my prayer that  that as you walk and work in preparation for building a healthy relationship or marriage should you desire it, you take this important principle home:

Sin causes shame, which leads to cover-ups and the death of intimacy. 

It is human nature when facing the reality of shame, there is a rupture of something innocent or held sacred. When such happens, the first point of action, as shown by Adam and Eve is to cover it up.

It is a strong emotion, very uncomfortable and difficult to deal with when a wrong has been committed against God and your fellow man. The consequences are dire, and the intimacy established is long lost, never to be built again, or without its own difficulty.  There is an adage that trust takes time to build, but seconds to destroy.

David had caused some shame to himself, with Uriah’s wife and tried to cover his tracks. The book of Proverbs is riddled with statements and one-liners, sharing the truth of seeking wisdom and insight, making no compromises for the consequences of folly and foolishness.

We have all experienced shame in one way, shape or form. Some we can easily put at the back of our minds, and some plague us every day. But why do emotions like shame occur?

Upsetting God’s Natural Order.
Simply put, there is no excuse. Romans 1: 20 highlights that God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and divine nature have been so clearly seen and being understood. The brother who testified that after meeting Christ, he takes full responsibility and lives a lifestyle of repentance. Testimonies of others who obtained a favourable result in the midst of impossibility. We can see the Hand of God everywhere, and we acknowledge it. To go against it will bring shame to us, and we will have to take responsibility for it.

To Humble Us.
Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 (NIV) makes references to the thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. What is alarming is that this thorn had come from a messenger of Satan to torment him. Now Paul mentions that he plead to God to remove the thorn, but God provides empowering grace (My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness), which motivates Paul to boast in his weaknesses.

This is two-fold. If the thorn had been taken out, there will be no need to operate through humility. Pride will get the better of us, and cause our own destruction. I believe that this thorn had been given to Paul, to ground him and to help him realise that God is the one who is in control and His glory is His glory alone.

The other side is that it shows that Paul is also human, prone to mistakes, imperfect and also unworthy of God. But look how God used him, not only to declare the gospel as an Apostle but to share his testimony on how he persecuted the early church and now is part of the movement of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes a huge level of courage to admit your wrongs.

This can also be seen as evidence of transformation, a renewed mind, for it doesn’t make sense for a person to emphatically state one thing, only for them to switch sides and declare the message that he was once campaigning against. The natural conclusion is that Paul has actually gone mad or that there was merit to what was preached and taught. His testimony about his encounter with Jesus is further evidence of the reality of God which had moved him to repentance and to accept the ministry of sharing His word to the Gentiles.

We don’t know what his thorn is, and I don’t think we will never know. But you know your own thorn, as well as I. This keeps us from being lofty, but to be humble before God and to allow His glory to be shared through us.

To Highlight Our Need for A Saviour
Mankind is inherently flawed. We always want our own way, caring little about the consequences. I’m sure you’ve heard of stories from others about how love was lost, abused, taken for granted, rejected or was favoured over someone else.
We judge on a micro level, whether it is one’s intellect, social standing, money in the bank, dress sense, mannerisms and the like. We associate with like-minded individuals and treat others differently, simply because they are different.

We treat others anyhow, but when the same treatment happens to us, it is always a different story. It’s called human nature/ sin nature. We laugh at others, but we don’t want to be laughed at. We want to be liked by others and will ignore those that appreciate us for those who do, only when it benefits and suits them.

We cannot change the past, and God hasn’t changed anyone’s past but has given his Son and His Word to be able to become free from it. Jesus took the ultimate shame, despising it in the process, and as a result, is now seated at the right hand of the Father (2 Hebrews 12: 2) for us, by taking our sin and offering eternal life to those who place their faith in Him.

No one can be exempt from past shame, and no one can be exempt from future shame. The reality is that we live in a fallen world, and trouble will come. The prince of the power of the air, though defeated, is still on the warpath. There is a greater need to hold onto the faith and to patiently prepare for His return.

Let us not judge one another. The same judgement we pronounce on others will be the same standard used to judge ourselves. We were all lost, once upon a time and we are now found in Him.

For those who are dealing with some level of shame and have to live in fear of open ridicule, please meditate on this scripture.

Psalm 25: 2 (NIV) – I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Isaiah 50: 7 (NIV) – Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Let us remember that one has made it yet. We need God as we continue to grow in character, wisdom, maturity, knowledge and love. Set aside the sins that can cause disgrace and live in obedience to His word. He saved us from the dark. Let us not turn back but let us choose to walk in the light. Amen.

Tunde T. Amao

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Understanding Anxiety : Fear God, Not Man

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My brothers and sisters,

Fear is also one of those things that if left unchecked, will cause one to lead a life of mediocrity.  Fear can be beaten if we know how. These are some of the notes I’ve taken from reading a book listed below, and I encourage all to read it for themselves.

ANXIETY: POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE

There are two types of anxiety; positive and negative. A positive anxiety pushes one to be responsible (eg. repaying a mortgage on time) and a negative one leads to unnecessary worry, which leads to psychological stress. It is also said that the common mental health disorder is anxiety. However, scripture makes it clear that we are not to be anxious.

THE TWO ELEMENTS OF FEAR

The source of fear (the fear object) will have two elements; presence and power. Both will need to be present in order to give strength to the fear, invoking a negative reaction. Over time, if the fear object is reinforced over time, this can lead one down to overthinking, faulty thinking, predictive thinking, day-dreaming resulting into a self-limiting, self-defeating lifestyle driven by fear or worse, cause one to withdraw into the realm of fantasy. What affects the mind, will ultimately affect the body.

THE SNAKE ANALOGY

If you were in your bedroom and were told that the most poisonous snake in the world was in the same room as you. One would understandably feel fearful. Both fear elements of presence (in the same room) and power (most poisonous) are present.

Let’s suggest that the same poisonous snake is not in your bedroom, but was locked in a cage in Australia. Though snake is still potent, its presence is far removed. There is no impending danger in proximity, and one can sigh in relief.

Imagine the same scenario but the snake is not poisonous. If you are afraid of snakes, one would still feel in danger. If not, then the snake can be quickly disposed of. Though its presence is noted, the snake is without power. The position would be the same if you discovered that the snake was actually dead.

To beat fear, either the power and/or the presence must be identified and removed or put in the correct context.

SCARED OF SATAN?

It is important to understand that as we are on this earth, so is Satan.

The bad news is until he is thrown in the lake of fire set aside for him and his angels (see Matt 25:41)  he will use his worldly powers to distract Christians into his submission.

The good news is that he has already been defeated and it is only a matter of time until this is done. For us, we need to know this truth in order to walk victoriously in our lives.

So, should Christians fear Satan? Of course not! Going back to the components of fear, yes, he is present, but he is not powerful. This is why he schemes, through the lens of the world, to get others to believe that he is powerful. Satan is not powerful and he never will be, unless you’re not alert to resist him.*

James 4:7 (ESV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

*For an in-depth Bible study on this topic, please find the following links below:

You vs The World – Part 1
You vs The World – Part 2

THE FEAR OF MAN VS THE FEAR OF GOD

 Should we fear man? Scripture reveals that the fear of man is a snare/trap (Proverbs 29: 25) and if we lived to please man, we would not be deemed servants of God (Galatians 1: 10). This begs the question why we should fear God and what does it look like to fear Him?  Simply put it means a reverent fear, similar to a fear when a child finds out his parents are nowhere to be found. Another aspect is fear in the sense of being scared of the being in question in a healthy way, a call to be responsible.

It can be understood why a fear of man exists; they could harm you physically (presence) or, emotionally, psychology thought an attack on reputation, sharing intimate information, or even blackmail (power). All these horrible experiences can be caused by man.

But what about God? Why should we fear Him compared to Man?

Matthew 10: 28 (ESV) (Emphasis added) And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Man has the ability to destroy the body, but God, who is Omnipotent and Omnipresent (ALL powerful, and ALL present) can destroy the body and the soul.
Know that your soul has eternal value, and mustn’t be lost or given away cheaply. The world didn’t give you our happiness, and it has no right to take it away.

For those who are not Christians, this may seem a bit harsh and cutthroat, but allow me to share the good news; salvation is available to all those who believe in Jesus Christ! Click here to find out how! The Gospel: An Illustration

 HOW TO BEAT FEAR

Here are some helpful tips to help beat fear. I’ve broken it down into two categories; for we cannot ignore sin, and the harmful effects it can have in the future. Unfortunately, there are some consequences we are going to have to live with due to disobedience to God’s word. Nevertheless, God is a forgiving God and will provide grace to empower you to move forward towards freedom, which is found at the end of a disciplined life.

For an in-depth Bible study on this topic relating to the Holy Spirit, please find the link below:
Power, Love, and a Sound Mind

You cannot change your past, but God can allow you to become free from it –  Dr Neil T. Anderson.

Irrational fears:
Identify both fear elements;
Put them before God in prayer and meditate on scriptures, e.g.  Isaiah 41:10 (NIV);
Ask yourself factual questions surrounding both elements and remove one, or both elements;
Reinforce your mind with the truth as revealed in scripture;
Live in freedom and walk in victory.

Legitimate fears:
Identify both fear elements;
Put them before God in prayer;
Ask yourself factual questions;
Seek God’s for forgiveness;
Accept his forgiveness and Repent; Take responsibility for your action and mitigate by seeking help, guidance, accountability and work to on challenge until it is solved;
Produce fruit by keeping with repentance;
Reinforce your identity with the truth as revealed in scripture;
Live in freedom and walk in victory.

Book Recommendation

I recommend this book entitled Freedom From Fear: Overcoming Worry and Anxiety by Dr Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller. I was quite sceptical at first, (total freedom from fear? Really?) but I was blown away at the wisdom shared. It is definitely worth the investment and would go on my personal list as a must read.

Thank you for reading and may God bless you on your journey of spiritual growth.

Tunde T. Amao

Tree of Life – Bible Study

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My brothers and sisters,

I’m excited to share with you what I learned when studying the Bible with a man of God, which inspired the initial Tree of Life post. I’ve added a bit more to it and I pray that it will help you understand how much God loves us and how merciful He is to us.

Where to begin? Of course, in the garden of Eden. (Emphasis Added)

Generally, God created the garden, the animals, the fishes and place the First Ones, Adam and Eve in the garden. God instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and he passed that command onto Eve.

Genesis 1: 29 (ESV): And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Genesis 2: 8-9 (ESV): And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2: 15-17 (ESV): The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man saying, “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

As the event unfolds, Satan deceives Eve and she eats the fruit and gives it to Adam; the start of the Fall. As outlined in Genesis 3: 14-19, God punished the snake by way of a curse, increases Eve’s child pain in childbirth and declares that her desire will be for her husband and declares to Adam the consequences of his disobedience, a cursed ground and the reality of having to work extra hard to eat.

Sidenote: God cursed the snake, not Adam and Eve. God only told them of the reality sin has caused, in the body and in the environment.

God made a declaration in verse 22:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing Good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever-”
and as verse 23-24 states, sent them out of Eden and placed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

Going back, God had told them that they could eat from any tree in the garden, which INCLUDED the Tree of Life. In Genesis 3:22, God provides the nature of fruit from the Tree of Life, to bestow one with life forevermore; everlasting life. As pointed out in an earlier post, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave Adam and Eve the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Can we infer the original purpose and intention of God? I believe so! I learned that if Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life firstand assuming that they had eaten the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil afterwards, they would be like God indeed, with everlasting life and the ability to handle the Knowledge of Good and Evil just like God Himself, not in a relative fashion which is mankind thinking about Good and Evil from his own perspective.

But this was not so, and God had to push Adam and Eve out to protect the Tree of Life. Again, why? Well, I learned that Adam and Eve were hungry and their hunger reflected an issue of the soul caused by the introduction of sin. They had created capacity within themselves, their soul, and needed to fill it.**

However, as we are aware, this was not so. Adam and Eve were in a state of sin, due to their disobedience. If they were able to obtain access to the fruit of the Tree of Life, then a catastrophic would arise; they would have everlasting life, the knowledge of good and evil coupled with unrepentant sin. 

 Adam and Eve repented, shown by the skin garments God covered them with (Gen 3:21; the first animal sacrifice! Where else did God get skins from? May explain the animal sacrifices later spoke about in the Law, and Hebrews 9:22 provides insight: Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.) rather than the loincloths they fashioned out of fig leaves (Gen 3: 7), but there was a problem; Adam carried the human race, and the sin affected them as well. Adam could not repent on behalf of the entire human race, but for his own sin.

Your sin effects other people. Read Romans 5: 12-19 for details. 

This is why God made provision to send Jesus, to die on the cross, to remove the innate sin, and to clothe you with righteousness. You have to believe in Jesus to receive the free gift of salvation and righteousness, then comes the renewing of your mind, the process of unlearning and relearning the word of God in its truth and entirety. Once obtained, you can put on the new man, your new identity and live it out with power and confidence.

1 Corinthians 15: 20-22 (ESV): But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

**The soul yearns for something more. The innate sin causes disruption in the soul. Some seek to fill the void by seeking drugs, sex, pornography, exorbitant spending, excessive television, relationships addictions etc. Capacity is created in the soul and a need to fulfil it grows, hence why addictions and reckless living manifests and takes place. The truth is, these will never satisfy you. They are temporary. Once obtained/consumed/indulged, the “benefit” vanishes. But when one fills their soul with Jesus, you create capacity, and your need for Him grows and grows. That’s why he’s satisfying. He always fills the void. 

Thank you for reading, and may God bless you for your diligence in studying His word.

Tunde T. Amao