When Did Life Change For You?

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of 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.  Genesis 2:16-17  ESV

I remember my first encounter with death as a child.  My grandmother died when I was 13.  One minute she was there, the next minute, she was gone.  The kitchen was quiet, and when we walked in the door, the aromas of her Swedish baking were absent.  Her two Siamese cats no longer greeted us.  The change from her existing to not existing was a physical and emotional ‘thud’ to my gut.

I felt this shift again when my mother died.  I was thirty.  Yes, I knew she was dying; she had terminal cancer.  But even as she grew weaker, the understanding of death could not be fully digested.  I could still bring her flowers, make her coffee, sit on the edge of her bed and talk with her.  But one day while visiting, she breathed her last and I looked death in the face.  The shift was swift and radical.  One moment she was with me.  The next, she was not. She would no longer stand at the kitchen window when I drove in. Her laundry, washed with a detergent made of her favorite soap shavings, wouldn’t be hanging on the line.  One can never quite prepare for death’s finality.

I don’t know if Adam knew what death meant when God warned him and set the only parameter he would have to follow.  He could enjoy everything God made and partake of it but there was one tree that was forbidden.  Should he disobey, there would be instant spiritual death and a progressive physical death.         

Adam and Eve set a disastrous course in motion when they disobeyed.  Initially, the shift they felt was a spiritual one.  There was no more transparency without shame, no longer the anticipation of fellowship with God.  In a moment, the shadows of distrust, fear, embarrassment, and perhaps even anger, visited their souls.  Innocence was history.

Every person born encounters a moment when the spiritual death of Adam makes itself known in a way that is defining.  It is that moment when innocence dies.  You are probably sifting through your memories to remember the exact moment it happened to you, that instant when your view of life changed forever.  For any who grew up in the best of homes, the awareness of spiritual death was more subtle, but over time, just as devastating.  Bullying at school, competition between siblings, angry words spoken by a parent for which there was hopefully an apology; these series of events reveal an imperfect world and bring the gnawing feeling that no one is completely safe and perfectly loved.

The overarching plotline of the Bible is that mankind fell ~ then God sent a redeemer so that mankind could be saved from his sin.  With that rescue, the full restoration of Eden would begin to blossom in his spiritual life.  While we will all endure the gut-wrenching pangs of physical death, we know it’s temporary.  We will live in the Eden of a new Heaven and new Earth where corruption does not exist.  We will know what it is to be Adam and Eve in the land of perfection.  God is, at this moment, preparing it as He once did when His Spirit hovered over the face of a dead planet and kissed it to life. 

Oh, the things You are preparing for me, tailor-made, just right.  Amen

Expecting God To Do What He Told Me To DO

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  Genesis 2:15  ESV

My mother was a gentle soul, understated, but with a great colorful and eccentric side if she was comfortable around you.  She loved gardening and loved good dirt.  When she visited us at our home in the Adirondack Mountains, she’d dig up soil to take home for her garden.  While this may not seem that eccentric, when she and my Dad traveled, she did not buy souvenirs per se but brought home dirt.  If you opened her top dresser drawer, you could see little baggies of dirt and twigs from Germany, England, and Bermuda.

She also loved to collect kindling from the woods outside our home.  It was stacked meticulously like matchsticks in our basement.  On Saturday mornings, she would pop into the kitchen after breakfast, rub her hands together and exclaim, “What shall I get into today?”  That meant she was headed outside to explore but would, inevitably, end up in her gardens.  I can remember overhearing her say to a garden snake, “Well, hello there Mr. Snake.”  (Our daughter Jaime was only four at the time, but this is one of her favorite memories.)I saw early that when a man or woman finds a divine purpose for their life, it is a beautiful thing.

Adam was created to find fulfillment in the labor his Creator gave him.  And he did, for a while.  He was told to do two things; work the garden and keep the garden.  To keep means to guard and protect.  But protect it from what, or whom?  Satan of course.  There were no other predators.  Only him, lurking, waiting for an opportunity to corrupt everything just as he was corrupted.  

My garden, my personal sphere of influence, was given to me by God.  I labor with Him, but I also protect it with Him. To labor without protecting is foolish, allowing the enemy to plunder recklessly.  Guarding it is one aspect of ‘ruling and subduing the earth’. 

At whatever point I abdicate and assume that God will protect it without my direct involvement will end badly. I live in a dangerous world and ruling my part of it is cooperative, just as it was for Jesus. As He was directed by His Father, He confronted the kingdom of darkness.  He informed them of their limits and parameters.  He even revealed that this was part of His mission. “I came to destroy the works of the evil one.” 

I do not want to be lazy; I was given kingdom work to do.  I don’t want to be passive either; I was told to protect what is holy.  Doing both to the glory of God is part of my personal mission statement.

While I work today, I will also be the watchman on the wall as You give me discernment.  Amen

Supernatural Breath

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.  Genesis 2:7  ESV

God breathes and life is birthed.  Adam was made from the dust of the earth and while he had physical qualities, he was not a spiritual being until he came to life through a God-breath.  God breathes, even today, and we may not be aware of it.  Oh, but sometimes we are.

  • Job recognized it.  He said, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  Job 33:4
  • Ezekiel anticipated it. “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”  Ezekiel 37:9  In a vision, barely revived corpses came to life, stood on their feet, and became a great army.
  • The world at the end of the tribulation will know the power of God’s breath when the two witnesses, the prophets Satan kills, come back to life with a breath.  “But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.”  Revelation 11:11
  • The disciples were surprised by it.  Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, told them to be at peace, and then breathed on them.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:22   They left their places of hiding to burn brightly for the kingdom.
  • And we experienced it at the time of salvation.  God breathed over us and our spiritual blindness was cured.  We looked up and saw a Savior; we looked inward and saw our sin.  “Unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  John 3:5

Our spiritual fathers focused on the breath of God, too.  They made breathing prayer a way of life during times of meditation and prayer.  As they inhaled, they prayed ~ “O Lord Jesus,” and as they exhaled, “Have mercy on me.”  In 2008, I made this breathing prayer a part of my life and I was different.  It is still a part of my life.

I think of the phrase ‘the living dead.’  It refers to a person who is physically alive but soulfully dead.  That should never characterize any child of God.  The Spirit of God, the breath of God, is within each of us.  In Him, we are promised peace and the surpassing power of His greatness.  Many are waiting for heaven to experience abundant life but it’s a breath away.

 Have mercy and breathe over me, I pray.  Amen

I Haven’t Begun To Experience The Sabbath

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.  Genesis 2:3  ESV

What happens when God blesses something?  The Hebrew concept from the word ‘bless’ is this ~ God ‘praises and gives strength to something and removes it from common use.’    

Could all of this be true about the Sabbath?  I think I’ve always believed that the seventh day of the week (my church day) is a day just like the other six except I choose to do different things.  It’s quieter and more restful.  I’m realizing that true teaching on the power of the original Sabbath is absent.

Since God blessed the Sabbath, made it holy, and infused strength into it, that changes the picture entirely.  When the seventh day begins, I need to take my shoes off at the burning bush.  The ordinary and the mundane promise to melt away if I immerse myself in profound sacredness. 

In the welcomed silence, God will do something physical, emotional, and spiritual to me.  As I rest, He will bless me with measures of strength that are supernatural.  He will engage in a deep impartation of restoration.  To the extent that I engage with Him in return, He will illumine things I thought I previously understood.  

The last element of the Sabbath is resting.  As He rested after creation, there was another time in history where it happened.  It was the moment Jesus said, “It is finished.”  The noise of evil against the Son of God had been on a sharp upward curve, resulting in a horrific crucifixion.  While it might have appeared that God had been murdered, “It is finished!” pierced the silence, and evil trembled.  The worst had happened for the fallen angels.  The curse had been reversed.  Death had been defeated.  Sin had been paid for. 

So, on my next Sabbath, I’m going to look for ‘holy’, opening my heart wide to the pregnant, sacred moments God is waiting to give to those who come expectantly.  No one can stand on holy ground without leaving changed! I can emerge with new vigor, with new spiritual energy and wisdom.

Prepare me.  Amen

We Can’t Send God Off-Track

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  Genesis 2:2 ESV

God finished what he set out to do. Then He rested, not because He was weary, but because He loved what He had created. When God begins anything, He completes it. He does not abandon a project because things are complicated. He is never set back by limits or because of inadequacy. While I may try my hand at things only to discover that something is too hard or even impossible, God never experiences these realities. 

I can rest in these wonderful truths as God works His purposes in me. Paul said, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6. God will not fail. God will not retract one promise. God will not change His mind about me. I am His creation, and every single day, He is molding me with loving intentions.

Can I hasten or slow down His plans? This is where I must tread carefully. I can affect the speed of the outcome due to the free will God gave me. God’s original intention was for Adam and Eve to enjoy a life of perfection in the Garden of Eden, but they wrecked it with their choices. It appeared they ruined God’s plan, but God had foreseen this, provided a Lamb, and accomplished a way to restore Eden through the death of His Son. Jesus crushed the head of the serpent, the very devil who instigated the mutiny Adam and Eve committed in the Garden. Through His death, He made way for the redemption of them and the rest of their descendants.

I press in close to my Christ today and yield every part of my story. I give him the sins of my past and the times I worked against His purposes, knowingly and unknowingly. Though I feared I sabotaged my future blessing, I was wrong. With repentance and redemption, God continued to mold my life and keep me on the path to glory.

When I was created, God dreamed. When I was immature, God nurtured me. When beaten down by the enemy, God battled for me. And He is working today, completing every single thing pertaining to my life. In eternity, all of us will celebrate the victory of completion as we are unveiled bearing the perfect reflection of Jesus. 

I will not be anxious about my life.  You are the Potter.  In Jesus’ name, In Jesus’ name, Amen

What Does It Mean To Be A Helper?

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.  Genesis 2:18  ESV

Lest any woman should feel insignificant because of how the word ‘helper’ has been unwrapped in our past, let the Word speak for itself today.  The word for helper is ‘ezer’; one who provides aid or relief, one who imparts strength.  Adam was incomplete without a counterpart who completed him.  The word does not imply someone who is inferior.  A helper is not less valuable than the one who is helped.  How can we be sure of this?  Hold on.  Are you ready?

God describes Himself as a helper, an Ezer.  Here’s just one example.    “Hear O LORD, the voice of Judah and bring him in to his people.  With your hands contend for him, and be a help (Ezer) against his adversaries.”  Deut. 33:7  It is used another 21 times in the Old Testament.

Everything I have described thus far is a brief summation of the scholarship of a woman in ministry named, Carolyn Custis James.  She is an award-winning author who thinks deeply about what it means to be a woman who loves Jesus in a post-modern world. She champions men and women working together in a messy and complicated world. 

Carolyn so beautifully teaches that a woman is a helper to the man.  She is his partner spiritually, bringing him her strengths.  She completes him in what he lacks.  He completes her in what she lacks.  Man does not carve out his path void of her input.  He thrives on her feedback.  He knows that left alone, he will not walk the path God has laid out for him successfully unless he plugs in her gifts.  Where he is weak, she is strong, and vice versa.

Being an ‘Ezer’ is who I am as an image-bearer of God.  Just as God comes alongside to strengthen and nurture, I model after my Creator to bring my strengths to the table. God asks me to do it in a non-threatening way, never to intimidate but to support. 

In whatever ways Christian cultures have diminished a woman’s worth, heal our souls.  Lift our heads. In Jesus’ name, Amen