He Did It Twice

And the women said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:2-5  ESV

Satan’s original sin was the desire to be – God.  He was already beautiful, had a prominent place in heaven, but wasn’t content.  His power and influence were corrupted by his unholy appetite.  He could have organized a rebellion alone, but most likely, he didn’t want to.  He persuaded 1/3rd of all the angels to rebel with him.  Because of it, he, and they, lost everything and were expelled from heaven.

What a mutiny.  His persuasive powers had to be effective enough to get angels, created beings who had only ever worshipped God, to defect with him. 

Isn’t it interesting that Satan tempted Eve with the exact same sin.  “Eat this – and you will be like God!”  Satan had looked out for himself in heaven.  Eve was now invited to do the same on earth.  She was intoxicated with the same desire.  She convinced Adam to partake, and he did.  What similar fates they, and Satan, would face.  Satan ~ expelled from heaven. Adam and Eve ~ expelled from Eden.

Why did they listen to Your enemy?  Why do I?  If I love You, then Your enemy should be my enemy.  If You call him a liar, then I should not trust one thing that comes out of his mouth.  I align my allegiance to You in iron.  Amen

The Word ‘Actually’

He (Satan) said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  Genesis 3:1  ESV

Kids who want to break the rules at home look for excuses to do so.  They review what a parent said to see if they can find a tiny loophole.  They say to themselves, “Did they actually say I had to be home by dark?”   The word ‘actually’ encourages rebellion. 

Eve had never felt anything but the desire to worship her Creator.  She’d never rolled her eyes at Him, never entertained finding a loophole to God’s one forbidden rule.  Satan knew that if he came to Eve with an overt suggestion of mutiny, (“You should ignore God’s words.  How about rebelling?”)  she’d never buy it.  Instead, he knew he must appeal to her pride and ego.  Subtlety shaped his speech.

Discrediting God, with subtlety, is still his priority.  He knows God well but can’t be trusted to represent Him truthfully because he is a liar.  Satan’s native language is lies so he speaks them by default.  He (the devil) does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Jn 8:44   If he can get me to believe that God is ‘actually’ not what He says He is, then my desire to trust Him will be compromised.  Intimacy will disappear as I wonder whether He is ‘actually’ loving, faithful, and trustworthy. 

Expect arrows from your enemy that defame God’s character.  Be prepared to defend and protect your heart at all costs.

  • “Yes, God forgives.  But do you feel forgiven?  Because he didn’t forgive you for that!”
  • “If God really loved you, he’d have rescued you by now.”
  • “You aren’t very good at this job!  Sally is, though.  He must love her more.”
  • “Your son isn’t going to change.  God doesn’t care about him!  Look how long you’ve prayed.”

Whispers of lies.  No two sound the same because no two people are the same.  No two stories are the same.  Satan watches our lives like a hawk, sees what causes us to lose faith, and then crafts His comments to target our points of despair.   Each arrow is crafted with a language that sounds like us and feels natural and convincing. His arguments suggest stepping back from a faithful Father.  We must rise, be aggressive against His lies, speak scriptures about who God says He is and what He’s promised to do, and then defend the One who has not done one thing that is not for our good.

I will be listening for lies.  I won’t be passive when I hear them.  I will deflect each one with the shield of faith.  Amen

Literal or Allegorical

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. Genesis 3:1a  ESV

The Bible is full of stories that challenge my faith.  If I approach the scriptures scientifically, needing proof to believe, then I will reduce God to someone who only does and says what I think is possible.

I’m about to encounter a snake that can talk.  Is that feasible?  It’s out of the realm of my experience in the animal kingdom.  Surely this must be an allegory.  Also, Genesis doesn’t say that the snake was Satan.  Another reason to believe that this account is an allegory, the stuff of myths and fairytales.  I can be led into all kinds of errors if I don’t know my Bible and take into account the whole context of scripture.

John confirmed that the snake was Satan. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan…  Rev. 12:9

Paul confirmed it, too.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Cor. 11:3        

And what about a talking snake?  I don’t hear my animals talk to me.

However, I do have a wild and imaginative side.  So, I’m going to give you a snapshot of the Wyrtzen dinner table when our kids were small.  Picture a family of four around a table.  Two golden retrievers and a cat are positioned at various chairs, pawing the legs of whomever they hope might give them a piece of chicken.  When I wanted to have fun, I bent down, cocked my ear toward the mouth of a pet, and asked, “What’s that you say?  You believe the kids should eat more green beans?  Or, “What’s that you say?  Ryan should bring everyone breakfast in bed tomorrow?”  We laughed so much with this game. All kinds of convenient things came out of the mouth of our cat or dog.

I love it, that in scripture, Genesis 3 is not the only instance where an animal speaks.  God gave a voice to a donkey, too. (Numbers 22)  Peter confirmed it.  A speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.  2 Peter 2:16   If I reject the account of the fall, I am questioning the inspiration of scriptures.

Randy Alcorn, in his book called HEAVEN, poses the question whether animals will talk in heaven.  Since there was ‘animal talk’ in the Garden, perhaps there will be ‘further talk’ when God creates a new heaven and a new earth.  Interesting to think about.

I celebrate You.  You are so powerful to make anyone and anything do the unthinkable.  Even the stones will praise You.  Amen

Discipleship and Family Tension

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Gen. 2:24  ESV

It’s easy for parents to feel that their children will always be under some measure of their authority.  The control they once held is not released easily.  No wonder leaving and cleaving is such an issue for newlyweds.  Jesus also modeled leaving and cleaving to show us how it’s done.  He didn’t leave his parents to cleave to a wife but He did leave his family to cleave to His Father, a higher authority.  This emotional clash was, at times, stressful for his parents.

In John 2, Mary presumed upon Jesus’ divinity at the wedding feast but Jesus exalts his sonship to His heavenly Father above his sonship to his mother.  He had a radical allegiance to God’s will above his mother’s will.  He also felt a burden to make clear, not only to his mother and his brothers and sisters but to all the rest of us, that no physical relationship on earth controlled him.  His mother and his physical family would have no special advantage to guide his ministry or even receive His salvation.  His miracle that day in Cana, the one of water turning to wine, was at his mother’s bidding.

Jesus had to work against the assumption of his day that his physical family had an inside track.  I recall the time in Luke 11 that a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus.  ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’  But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

Jesus said, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and his wife and children and his brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’  Luke 14:26 Hate in this context doesn’t mean emotional hatred.  Hate means preference, deferring to the one who takes priority.  As adults, we are to leave the ways of our parents if what they expect of us conflicts with the voice of our Father.  Leave and cleave.  This is not an easy way to live but necessary for all disciples.  When we struggle with the tension it often brings in relationships, we are comforted that Jesus knows what it’s like and He’s walked this road before us.

Oh, the pressure to keep peace with family.  Teach me, Jesus, how to live!  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Holding On To Two Worlds

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  Gen. 2:24  ESV

To pledge myself completely in marriage is to forsake former allegiances.  I vow to make my spouse’s welfare my priority after my relationship with God.  Parents of newlyweds will feel the shift.  Mothers will feel a sense of loss over sons who have pledged themselves to a bride.  If the relationship was close, the sense of leaving and replacement will be profound.

Fathers will feel a lump in their throat as they walk their daughter down the aisle to give her to another.  He knows she is on the cusp of leaving – and then cleaving to someone new.  She will dwell under the umbrella and shade of a new man.  Her quest for wisdom, protection and encouragement will all fall on her groom.

I remember the morning after our daughter’s marriage ten years ago.  Her bedroom was strangely empty.  I knew in my gut that she wasn’t away at college or on a weekend trip out of town.  She wouldn’t be back to sleep in her twin bed again.  Our house was no longer her primary home.  I felt the ache and it was magnified by an unfortunate case of pneumonia.  That just intensified my emotions.

When a groom doesn’t leave his parents emotionally, he can’t cleave.  When he’s consumed with bowing to his parent’s wishes and feels the pressure of them breathing down his neck, he will be too intimidated to take a stand when his bride needs to know she comes first.  Feeling threatened, she will ask him to choose in a thousand different ways and if he is not strong enough to know God’s ways in his new marriage, he will cause his wife to feel he can’t be trusted with her heart.

When a wife can’t leave home, she can’t cleave either.  Her security still rests with her father, or mother, and pleasing them takes priority over her husband’s wishes.  Feeling threatened, he feels his leadership has eroded.  He feels disrespected, betrayed, and rejected.  If she cannot cut the apron strings, he will feel he can never earn her respect.  He is not allowed to be a man.  He will feel like a child, her parent’s child.

Leaving and cleaving are found throughout scripture, and it expands beyond the boundaries of marriage.  I am to leave and forsake the kingdom of darkness and cleave to Christ.  I am to dwell under His umbrella and live under the protection of His household.  I bear His name and my identity is forever changed.  I am to let Him lead me no matter how different His ways seem than the ways of my former life.  He loves me enough to lay down His life for me and I love Him enough to respond wholeheartedly with my unwavering allegiance.

Strengthen marriages today.  Teach husbands and wives how to navigate new boundary lines with wisdom.  Amen

Can Imagination Be Trusted?

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Genesis 2:19  ESV

It is far too easy to starve our God-given imaginative gifts, believing that sacred dreaming is reckless.  A few might believe that it even borders on witchcraft.  Does it?  I draw in my breath at the mere suggestion.

God formed the dust of the ground and made cows, cats, dogs, monkeys, and antelope.  Then he nudged each one to go to Adam so they could be named.  I love how Genesis describes this part of history.  “God brought them to the man to see what he would call them.”   God enjoyed watching as Adam tapped into his creativity. “What shall I call something soft, furry, with a tail?” 

I am made in the image of God.  He, the one who imagined the earth before He made it, infused me (and everyone else) with the same desire to dream and create.  How can I know if my imagination is safe to use?  I take Isaiah’s advice.  “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?”  Isaiah 40:26  If my imagination is brought captive to prayer and scripture, then it is a gift.  A Spirit-filled life is a canvas just waiting for vibrant paint colors.

I believe one of the reasons our prayer meetings and personal prayer times are so dull is that we fail to use our imagination in prayer.  What happens when we take a scriptural principle and develop how it might look in the desert of human need?  The possibilities are endless.

  • Perhaps God would kiss a heart of stone and transform it into a heart of flesh when I pray Ezekiel 36:26 creatively.
  • Perhaps God would turn my speech into sharp arrows of truth as I ask Him to give me words like Jesus, from the prophetic words of Isaiah 49.
  • Perhaps God would stand on the waves of my personal storm and say, “Peace!  Be still!” as I pray from Mark 4:39

Just as God brought the animals to Adam to name, he brings opportunities my way to engage my mind in ways that more resemble play than work.  Adam wasn’t a child when he thought up names yet I picture him having the time of his life as each animal came into view.  He pointed, perhaps laughed, and then exclaimed in amazement over God’s creativity before imagining a name for each one.  I’ve lived long enough to know a sense of his joy because many days, writing in the morning is like playtime.

Because Adam walked with you, his imagination was holy.  Help me use my creative gifts with more confidence.  Amen