Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Way Back to Eden: A Passion Week Devotion

Once upon a time, in the beginning of life on this earth, a cunning enemy deceived mankind into believing that there could be life and blessing outside of God's plan and provision. He made them believe that God would actually try to keep something good from them. They began to doubt and mistrust God, and ultimately they stole from Him what was His gift to give at the proper time...


Just as soon as this happened, they realized that this enemy had sold them a counterfeit promise - that pursuing passion, position and possession outside of God's will leads only to shame. They tried to remedy this by covering their bodies with fig leaves...

These coverings that Adam and Eve made came from the work of their hands. They tended the garden. They used what they grew. In other words, they tried to use their work to cover their shame. But it only hindered the intimacy and openness they had in their relationship to one another.

Despite their efforts, to God, all their efforts to fix or hide their own sinful state were inadequate. They couldn't hide what had happened, and they couldn't fix it. There was a cost for breaking God's law. But thankfully, there was also a grace-filled remedy.

They key to understanding the remedy, though, is in looking closely at the curse.

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman
between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
To the woman He said
"I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."
//genesis 3//

Here begins a generational feud that continues even today: the serpent's "seed" - those who, like him, go on their bellies living by counterfeit truth, driven by their appetites that cannot satisfy - verses the "seed" of Eve - those who desire to be in the image of God and have fellowship with Him.

In these cryptic words, God is revealing the future and great hope of mankind. It seems counter-intuitive, but think about it: God could have said, "You know what Eve...you really messed up. I’m done. I’m gonna take another rib from Adam and start over." But He didn’t. Despite her failure, He offered grace and a new opportunity in motherhood. See? Grace is in the Old Testament.

Now Eve, imperfect as she was, would become the emblem of the coming deliverance. She would be the carrier of life, and the painful birth process would be a picture of the divine deliverance of mankind. Rebirth is absolutely a picture of what God is trying to achieve – a motif we see throughout scripture, even used by Jesus. It reminds us that just like labor, being separated from our God is painful. But in the end, there will be a deliverance, new life, hope and joy. Just like Eve, you and I contain the promise of great hope and life within us. Instead of a baby, we call Him Messiah. Instead of our wombs, we carry Him in our hearts.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you saying,
"you shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return." 
//genesis 3//

For man, life would never again be easy. Sin brings pain. Isolation. Discord. Every day would be filled with trials and work. And would ultimately end. But again, if you look carefully at the curse, you find there is hope. If you stop and compare it to the Passion Story, you will find some uncanny connections:

• Jesus embraced the crown of thorns upon his head, a sign that He would willingly bear the curse of the ground to free it.

• Jesus sat in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweat fell from His brow as though it were drops of blood - He labored by the sweat of his face on our behalf.

• Jesus allowed His body to be crushed, beaten and cut off from life. He lived a life of pressure and scrutiny. He endured a violent death. All to become the bread that feeds and fill us fully.

In Him, we can rest from our toil and experience freedom from the curse. He is the only one who could end what began in that garden.

Just like us, Adam and Eve waited for a Savior. For a way back to the garden, into the presence of their God.

He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. 
//genesis 3//

Interestingly, the cherubim are also connected to the Passion Story. Cherubim are the guardians of God’s glory, the protectors of His throne. In scripture these spiritual beings indicate the presence of God:

• they are found above the mercy seat in the tabernacle
• they are embroidered on the veil of the temple
• they are found in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s throne

Where you see cherubim in the Bible, you see God’s presence nearby.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom…
Matthew 27:49-50

In the Tabernacle building instructions, God specifically commanded that this veil have cherubim embroidered on it. So when the veil of the temple was torn, the cherubim, guarding the way to God's presence in the holy of holies, fell away. This was a divine sign that Jesus’ death had indeed made a way back to the presence of God, to reunite what had been separated by the sin.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but by me."
John 14:6

Jesus, Yeshua, is the total restoration of what was broken in the garden - He is the key to returning to the place of fellowship and intimacy with God - back to Eden. Without Him, there is no other way. Without His sacrifice, His bearing the punishment, there is no hope.

No matter how far you find yourself from that garden, or from God...remember that He loves you so much that enduring death and suffering in innocence were a better choice for Him than to live without you. He gave up everything He had...because He didn't want to give up on you.

As we celebrate our victorious Messiah this week, I pray this inspires and touches your heart. I hope it reminds you of the perfect timing of God, the perfect love of Jesus, the precious mercy of the Father and the wonderful opportunity we have to be a part of that plan.

Trust Him as your Messiah...and come back to the abundant life that was always intended for you...

Blessings to my friends around this world this week - He is risen indeed!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In the Beginning: A Study of Genesis 1

So much can be learned from this very first chapter of the Bible, and it's one of my absolute favorites! So, I want to take a closer look at the story we've heard since childhood - and give you a few new, grown-up insights to the beauty of God's word!

I once heard a teacher say, "If you have a spare key to your house, I would be willing to bet that you hid it under the doormat. In the same way, God put the key to understanding the whole Bible, and His whole plan, right at the beginning, at the first word, and the first letter - at the doorway." So let's look at the doorway:
The first letter, the large one on the right, is a bet. Every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is also a picture (kind of like Egyptian hieroglyphics) – and Bet is a picture of a house. You may see that as coincidence, but I think it's because through His Word and His plan, God is building a house, a family,  and He's doing it “for, by and in” the beginning.

In Hebrew, this word, pronounced “Bereisheet,” is the very first word in the Bible, and it is translated in your Bible as “IN THE BEGINNING.” However, since Hebrew words often have more than one meaning, it can also be translated “FOR” the beginning/head/leader or “BY” the beginning/head/leader. That is significant because "the beginning" is more than a reference to the start of time – it is also a PERSON:

Here are a few verses that give us a key:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:16

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

Colossians 1:18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

John 1:1-3

All of these verses are in reference to Jesus Christ – He is the head, the beginning, the one who was with God when it all began. So, from that first word in the Bible, we can see:

Our Heavenly Father is building a house for His son JESUS, so that He can take a bride. That’s you! That was always His plan. That’s why Jesus says “Abide in my love” and “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice has created a home, a family, safety and refuge for you. 


The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

The italicized word "was" is pronounced “haita” and it means “became, to fall out, to pass” – so really it became formless and void, it wasn’t created that way. How do I know?

For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited)

Isaiah 45:18

Somehow, the earth that was created to be inhabited BECAME formless (without order, chaos, confusion, useless) and void (empty, a wasteland). I don’t know exactly how that happened…or what is between verse one and two - But if you’re just dying of curiosity, here’s what I think: Jeremiah also uses that expression, formless and void – and the immediately preceding verse seems to hold the key to why it became that way:

For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know.
Jeremiah 4:22

What I take from that is that rebellion and distance from God, embracing evil leads to chaos, desolation, and death. Darkness is the physical embodiment of that death and separation.
So here in the beginning, something that was good fell away from its God-intended state, and became what it was not designed to be. But even in that chaos, in darkness, God’s spirit is hovering, and moving.
Let's think about that for a minute - isn't that so encouraging? We are NEVER so far away from God's plan as to escape His presence. He is always right there with us. What a comfort it is to me that we can’t mess up so much that He leaves us all alone. And the even better news is that He will never leave us in the darkness – there is always hope, because He wants so much to bring us in to the warmth of His divine light...

Day One

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Now, I'm betting you just imagined daylight, sunlight, a light bulb snapping on. But let’s look at some other places in scripture where this word is used and what it means there:

Job 3:16, 20: light is life
Job 28: light is awareness
Psalm 38:10 – light is the ability to see, vision, understanding
Psalm 119:105: God’s word is light
Proverbs 6:23: God’s commandments and teaching are light, illuminating
1 John 1:5: God is light, his presence is light
John 8:12 (Jesus): I am the Light of the World

This is not light in the physical sense - Instead, this is a spiritual light, life, awareness, and it comes with being close to HIM! God brought forth a consciousness, enlightenment and life, a piece of Himself, into the physical world.  

The proof of this is in Revelation, where we are told that when Jesus returns and establishes His king on earth, HIS presence will be our very light once again:

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them…

Revelation 22:5


So here we see spiritual light and darkness separated. He doesn’t say that darkness is good – why? Because death is not a part of His nature or plan - life is! So here light is purposed to be associated with life, and darkness is purposed to be associated with death.

Since these things are opposites, according to God's divine order, they cannot dwell together. This is a principle we will continue to see in Scripture. God separates things that are not of the same nature – He doesn’t like mixtures (old wine skins, cloth, fabrics, you see tons of examples in scripture). Jesus Himself says “I came not to bring peace, but a sword.” The sword of the Spirit divides things, truth from lies, physical from spiritual, right from wrong.

…for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Corinthians 6:14

Genesis 1 contains a “TYPE”  – maybe you have begun to pick up that there is a pattern here that applies even to even YOUR life! Let’s recap:

1. God has created something good, with potential and purpose.
2. Somehow it falls away from that purpose into chaos, into darkness, into death.
3. In His mercy, God calls forth light and life through His Word, giving the created thing a piece of Himself, and begins to redeem it for His purpose once again.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds A LOT like my testimony. Maybe in the middle of a sermon, through a friend, in a desperate hour of darkness like me or in a moment of triumph –  suddenly you too realized that God is very real - and so is the difference between good and evil.

God redeems in the same way all the time – In Genesis 1, what you are seeing is a type – a picture of REDEMPTION.

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night....

This word, “call” means to be purposed. The light was not named day, it was given a purpose and a place.

God has a purpose and a plan for YOUR life, work for you to do – that’s why you have the interests, appearance, friends, family and life circumstances that you do – it is to achieve everything that He created you to achieve. You can’t possibly find your purpose outside of God, who created you.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2:1

Day two

On day two, the waters are separated – notice that this is the only day God does not call the activity GOOD.

Why do you think that is?

Here’s my theory on the spiritual implication of this – I remember when I first came to know the Lord – I picked up His Word for the first time, and began to read the definition of holiness. I read that I was supposed to love, to behave myself, to put the needs of others first. I was told that I needed to read and seek to understand and apply the whole Bible, which was intimidating and overwhelming.

I knew when God called to me that He had bigger and better things for me, but those things seemed so far from what I found myself to be – and THAT is what I believe this big space between the waters above and the waters below is all about.

Things that are alike are not supposed to be separated. It’s not good! With awareness of God comes the awareness that we are not where or what we should be – we recognize our spiritual poverty, as well as our potential - and we desire for that space between who we are and what God wants us to be to go away. We feel conviction, shame, and suddenly we long to be united with our heavenly father and our heavenly family (our brothers and sisters in Christ) – to become the best version of ourselves - for our soul, spirit and body to be united in obedience to their maker.

Day 3...let dry land appear...Let the earth sprout vegetation.

The spiritual implication behind this day is about acting on the desire to close the gap that we experience. Do you see how the land rises up out of the water – it was once in the darkness, below the surface of the water, far beneath the depths, drowned, a picture of death – and we see it powerfully and triumphantly rises up out of the water, new life blooming all over it.

What do rising up out of the water and new life make you think of?

Baptism! We are, after all, made up of dust (see genesis 2). And when we are baptized it is a symbol that our past sin and self are buried and washed away, but we are now walking in the newness of life, committed to God’s plan and the lordship of Christ. And that heart change makes new life, eternal life, accessible to us!

Day 4

Only once we submit to God’s authority in our lives, can we begin to see and understand heavenly things. (The sun, moon and stars are kind of a picture of the heavenly realm in the Bible, a picture of heavenly governance). We can see that everything has a purpose and intended design, and that God is always speaking to us, instructing and guiding us.

This made me remember the moment that Jesus was baptized - right as He came out of the water, there came a sign from heaven - the Spirit descended as a dove - a heavenly affirmation of His beautiful obedience.

Day 5

The first four days were all about separating things – in the beginning of our journey with God, a lot of things have to be divided away from us – negative an sinful behaviors, influences, relationships – and as we mature and are obedient to seek first the Kingdom of God, He begins to add things in.

When we first saw life blooming on day 3, it was on the surface of the land – but what we see here is that life is bursting forth at the heights and the depths – This is a picture of growth. A great example of this is in reading scripture – as we grow spiritually, things that seemed dull and meaningless and hard to understand become full of light and meaning and excitement.

Day 6

Ah, here is the day that God creates animals and man -

I never noticed it before, but I believe a distinction is being subtly made – we have a choice before us – we can be like those wild animals, living according to our appetites and instincts – or we can obey God and let Him make us into the Image of His Son.

The more we grow and walk with Him, the more like Him we should become in our outward appearance. In His Image simply means that we have His characteristics and attributes, that through our action we become an accurate reflection of Him – this is a picture of spiritual maturity and also a reminder of the ministry we can have to those we encounter.

As His ambassadors, it is our job to protect life, and cultivate it wherever we go. And as we are faithful with that, more will be given to us.

Day 7

All our lives we should be moving toward maturity – Paul calls it perfection. The number 7 is the number for completion, perfection. We should always be growing and working on His behalf. Until He returns, the work is never done!

However, the fact that God’s design calls for rest – a Sabbath – is important. Because of His design, we get to experience rest from our work to try to earn salvation – and it also serves as a reminder to us that we look forward to His kingdom on earth, where there will be no more struggle with sin and death, the ultimate believer’s rest.

And because we have submitted to His plan and trust in His return, observing His weekly Sabbath shows the world that we live by His design and trust His plan. It’s a ministry to the world to show that you have rest and live by God’s order for your life. It shows that there is perfection and completion and wholeness in this life, but only HE can give it to us.

Closing thoughts...

I want to emphasize that while these things LITERALLY did happen, they possess a deeper symbol and picture of His overall plan, and that’s what this lesson is all about. But a closer look reveals that, beneath the surface truth, there is a spiritual principle: He is, and always was, building a house for the family - and He knew you and I would come to abide, and to forever rest, in the house built with love through the sacrificial life of Jesus, our Savior and our God. 

Every new beginning we experience can remind us of His ultimate plan of salvation, can remind us to make sure we are in tune with His plan and not just our own – because that is the plan that leads to life and prosperity. All other plans lead to separation, chaos, and death. We must have order in our lives, that means separating from some things. What needs to be separated from your life right now? Do you need a new beginning? As long as there is breath, sweet friends, there is H O P E...


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