Paradise Lost …and Found

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

The world in which Adam and Eve lived would have been perfect in every way—weather, temperature, lush fruits, incredible surroundings, nothing to diminish their enjoyment of knowing God in a most intimate way. And God had companionship directly with them. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.

Of course, we know that didn’t end well. When sin entered the world, our holy God could not be in the presence of sin.

All our sins from merely embellishing the truth to inflicting horrific torture can be traced back to our inheritance of this sinful nature. Left to our own devises unconstrained, we fall back into greed, envy, selfishness, pride, gluttony… All the sins we commit are a manifestation of this sinful nature.

But God had a redeeming plan from the start to restore His cherished fellowship with mankind for those who so choose. When Jesus suffered as our substitute He was sinless, but He assumed our sinful nature long enough to defeat it. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  

This is so well explained in the words of this song:

                  “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. 

                   When [God] looks at me He sees not what I use to be, but He sees Jesus.”

We can have fellowship with God now in the spirit, and can look forward to someday walking with Him in the cool evening breezes.

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The Perfect Plan

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Nellie Bly, a gutsy 19th century journalist, became famous by exposing the neglect and brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Her assignment required that she be admitted undercover feigning insanity. This assignment involved trust—trust that someone from the outside would arrange for her release.

I know that this is a very, very, very weak comparison, but I was thinking about Jesus. About how He left His position in glory, at the right hand of the Father, to come into the world and in all humility to assume His human role as the Son of Man. His mission wasn’t to expose, but to defeat the enemy and eternal death, and replace it with an opportunity for us to have fellowship with the Father and eternal life.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, His physical suffering and agony was real, and He also knew first-hand what being one with the Father was like. But the part that Jesus dreaded even more than the physical torture was that once He shouldered our sin, the Father, who can’t be in the presence of sin, had to turn away from Him. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ’Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

But Jesus’s release from the bowels of the earth was pre-arranged. Sin and death were defeated. Our part, to individually trust and believe in His death, burial and resurrection, seems so insignificant in comparison to the torture, agony and then the ultimate resurrection power necessary to conquer death.

Yet it was the perfect plan. And we can share in the victorious results.

Weed Killer for Seeds of Discontent

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Ps 9:1).

Recently I saw this quote from Germany Kant on an educational site: “…once you begin to take note of things that you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” It seems that every time a word of wisdom speaks to me with a truth, it can also be found in scripture, God’s word, the source of all truth.

In Thessalonians we are told that giving thanks is the will of God. That in itself is a good reason to live life with a grateful heart. Satan does everything in his power to steer us away from God’s will and sowing seeds of discontent is an effective strategy—if we let him.

I saw an internet clip of a woman who took her first independent breath from her newly transplanted lungs. Talk about gratitude! We have so much to be thankful for. God loves to give His children good gifts, and like a loving parent, He knows the ones that will really benefit us.

A grateful heart gets our eyes off ourselves and helps us to focus on the important things in life. God gave each of us special gifts and talents (and things, too) to use to accomplish the unique plan that He has for each of us. Everything that we need.

Do you know what comes as a result of living with thanksgiving? The peace (contentment) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Stumbling Blocks

Get thee behind me, Satan (Matt 16:23).

These are familiar words of Jesus, when Satan tried to tempt Him with a more comfortable path instead of the one that lay ahead at Calvary. But later in Matthew, Jesus was recorded as saying these same words to Peter, His close friend and follower.

Peter was genuinely concerned about Jesus. When Jesus foretold Peter about His upcoming suffering, Peter did not want to hear it—“Far be it from You, Lord.”

Satan uses every trick in the book to lure us away from God’s plan. Jesus called Peter (or Satan using Peter) a stumbling block. How often has a well-meaning friend tried to suggest an easier path for us? How often have we tried to steer a loved one in a less painful direction that in the long run would hinder their growth? Enabling maybe?

Jesus continued, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but merely human concerns.”

Because stumbling blocks aren’t intrinsically bad things, Satan can so easily trick us. Maybe Jesus’s words should be our first prayer when we are trying to discern and decide, “’Get out of the way, Satan’…in the name of Jesus”

Good vs Best

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

I recently read a devotional by Oswald Chambers and, with one word, he really challenged my thinking and fine-tuned my understanding concerning this familiar scripture. He said, “…lean not on your own ‘righteous’ understanding.” Well, we know that worldly thinking is sometimes unscriptural, and we know this applies to carnal perceptions for sure. But have you ever considered that our understanding could be upright and scriptural, but still not be what God had planned at that moment?

This may be a simplistic example, but it helped me to grasp the concept. Once, while preparing for company (you know what that’s like), I asked one of my children to empty the dishwasher. When I came home, the dishwasher was still full, but the house was picked-up. Well, that was a very good and much appreciated help, but my immediate need required full use of the kitchen. Likewise, our service, even if it is righteous and scriptural, may not further God’s plan.

And sometimes the good gets in the way of the best. We may choose a direction to go or a service to do that may be really worthwhile. We may even pray for God to bless our efforts, when in fact, He may have an even better plan. That’s why we’re told to seek His righteousness, and in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths.

Second Chances

In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:21).

These blog entries contain many of my thoughts, but not usually personal narratives; however, this one may be worth sharing and hopefully be encouraging.

A few years ago, I felt led to host a bible study in our home for ladies in our area. I had some people in mind, and the book and the time frame chosen. All systems go! Then all the reasons why I shouldn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t started moving to the forefront. I even made excuses for people without even asking them, not to mention the excuses that I made for myself.

When the time had passed, I knew that I blew it! I experienced a sadness and heaviness that’s hard to explain. I felt that I let so many people down—my neighbors, myself, and especially God. It felt like I was on the dock watching my ship sailing away in the distance, too far to come back for me.

But God is so merciful. He doesn’t write us off when we drop the ball. When I first got the idea of writing a journal into a blog, I had a ton of legitimate excuses. I had never followed one myself, didn’t know anything about formats, or where, or how, or what, or who. All I knew was that I wasn’t going to say, “Don’t send me” again.

It has been challenging, but not concerning content; sometimes I can’t wait to get my thoughts down on paper. The challenges come in my attitude, and it’s funny because they are two opposites—lack of confidence and pride. But that’s a story for another day.

I just pray for the needs of each person who is reading, and pray that they will see the message that God wants them to derive, whether I wrote about it or not (He can do that!) I also pray that when I know that He is nudging me to do something that I will not use my own reasoning, but just say, “Send me.”

One of my friends used to always encourage by saying, “When you stick your neck out, your body just kinda follows.” Or more biblically, if you take the first step, God will show you the next.

 

Diverse

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves (Phil 2:3).

Another spiritual concept that has been compromised and distorted is “diversity.” Not only are we unique, but we are each so very special to the Father that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. Can you imagine?! There are 7.5 billion of us, and I know that my number changes hourly.

Grouping us by any one characteristic makes no sense at all. We are more unique (can I say that?) than a snowflake, the traditional symbol of diversity. Stereotyping, even by positive qualities is wrong because it strips away our individuality. We are all distinct, a minority of one, each differing in looks, talents, motivations, fingerprints, DNA, and each designed by the Father for His one-of-a-kind plan for us.

We work best whenever we work together—whether it be a family, a workplace, a church, or a country. Unity is possible when we learn to value each other. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.

We are all created special, and are a witness to God’s diversity.