East of Eden

An apple, a throne chair and a decision.  What will it be?  Filmed in Iraq. Could this be the tree from Eden?    Lets take a deeper look at Genesis 3 and look to God for answers, forgiveness and direction. 


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Day 251

Traditions of Pharisees attacked

Mark 7

Key Verses: 4, 8, 13, 15, 23, 25,

Germs! Of course you wash your hands before you eat when you come back from a public place. But that is not why these religious leaders were washing their hands. They did it because they thought they were better than everyone else, and the hand washing was a way to show it to everyone. Their motive for doing these religious things was to get credit for them before God. These were all manmade rules, not God’s commands.

We do this sometimes when we compare ourselves to someone else in order to justify our goodness. “I’m a good person. I don’t murder anyone. I buy Girl Scout cookies.” We all have our own internal set of do’s and don’t’s. We sometimes use them as a measure of our success. “I’m not one of those rich people who deserve to pay more taxes.” Are we responsible with our money? Are we helping, really helping, those less fortunate, or do we leave that to someone else?

Jesus in one sentence sets aside all the food rituals of the Old Testament. He fulfills them in His life and death. They were all meant to point people to their need for God’s grace, and then drive them into God’s presence. Now that Grace has arrived in the flesh, no need for those rituals anymore. We can eat lobster now!

Jesus preaches inside out living. That which is on the inside matters. It will show up on the outside. Just painting a barn does not change it into a mansion. Just going to church on Christmas and Easter does not make a person a Jesus-follower. And by the way, neither does going Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night! We experience God’s grace and then we live it out in our lives. We don’t try to live it out in our lives in order to experience God’s grace.

Mark then shows a living example of this inside-out principle. A woman, who by Jewish standards doesn’t have a chance before God, comes to Jesus. She has all the wrong credentials, but her heart is right. She knows she doesn’t deserve God’s grace, but she comes anyway. Grace can’t be deserved! Jesus makes a comment to her in order for her inner attitude to be made evident to the disciples. Grace is extended to her child. The inner demonstrates itself on the outside.

The deaf man is another outcast. Jesus pulls him aside quietly and heals him. I think He used a form of sign language with the man. Jesus puts His fingers in the man’s hears and then pulls them out, indicating Jesus is going to do something about his hearing. He spits and touches his tongue indicating He is going to do something about his speech. And then He prays and the man in healed. Jesus could have just prayed and healed the man. But Jesus wanted to make the connection between Himself and the healing. This was not removal of earwax and the power of suggestion. This was Jesus demonstrating that the fulfillment of the Old Testament was present in Him. God in flesh appearing!

Day 167

Savior’s resurrection and commission

Matthew 28

Key Verses: 4, 7, 15, 18-20

“Special Forces Soldiers Scared by an Angel” the headline might read today. Not the best publicity for the troops. The follow-on article might talk about the women who talked to the angel. The news they deliver is confirmation of what Jesus had said numerous times before, that He would rise again. And they get the first encounter with Jesus face to face.

Jesus raised the status of the women of His day. In fact, everywhere His message has spread, the status of women has risen. Even in this country, the great voices for women’s rights, for ending slavery, and for children’s rights have been Christians. In Christ people can realize their god-given potential.

These women are the first messengers of the full gospel. They carry the news of the resurrection. Someone dying for another is OK news, but someone coming back to life after he predicted he would: unprecedented. But that is exactly the news Jesus gave to these women to carry. And it is the news we carry today. In my lifetime there have been several people who claimed they would come back to life shortly after their death, but they all stayed dead (at least for the moment).

I find that the soldiers are in quite a difficult position. They have failed at their duty. Period. Death awaits them. They go to the priests who cook up a story. I can’t imagine the ribbing they took in the locker room after telling their fellow soldiers their story. The laughter had to have shaken the foundation of the building. There is no way a band of untrained disciples could have pulled off the covert operation. Did they put sleeping pills in their night time hot chocolate brought to them by a scantily clad servant girl? These other soldiers would have smelled this hoax in an instant. Their body language would have betrayed their words. It is almost impossible to tell a lie without giving yourself away.

But when you want to believe something, a lie is exactly what you will swallow. And the swallowing continues to the present day. People will believe almost anything except the resurrection of Jesus. They will believe aliens planted life on this planet, without ever answering where the aliens came from. They will believe there are hundreds of millions of gods, but not the One True God. They will believe that all roads lead to God, even though the roads go in completely different directions, and individually disavow any similarity of trajectory.

That is why the Great Commission is necessary for the Gospel. The Gospel is so unlikely, so impossible, so unbelievable, that if Jesus hadn’t commanded us to go, we would probably stay. That God would leave Heaven, take on all the limitations of creation, live a perfect life, die and rise again all for His sinful, rebellious, ungrateful creatures is just too hard to believe. But the Spirit awakens our faith and we are able to see God’s love in the most unlikely event.

29Jan2009 Genesis 3:23

23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Did you notice the subtle shift in this verse? Adam is sent out to take care of the garden, the dirt, from which he was made. His job had been to rule over the other creatures. Now he must work the ground, the very stuff he was made from. He just got his first demotion! We had been the CEO, now he is the guy who picks up the cigarette butts in the parking lot. He went from making six figures with hefty bonuses and stock options, to making minimum wage with no benefits. I was demoted one time in my life, at least, that is the one I remember. There might be other times, but I choose to block them out! I was a trumpet player in the Army Band when I was 20, a long time ago. I was the lead trumpet. I had the highest and hardest parts. We had a jazz ensemble that frequently played concerts as part of our normal public relations duties. We were having a rehearsal and the band director kept turning up the microphones on the saxophones, making them louder. Each time he did that he said we needed to play louder because he couldn’t hear the trumpet section. Of course we didn’t have microphones! After the third or fourth time, I had had enough. I put my trumpet down and refused to play. I told him that he either had to turn the microphones down or I was not going to play anymore, that balance was not achieved by continuing to get louder, but by working toward balance. Needless to say, I got fired from that position. I became the last chair trumpet player, playing third part, the lowest and easiest. There was no challenge at all to these parts. I now had fewer rehearsals to attend and fewer responsibilities. At the time I was mad, rip roaring mad. But I came to see it as a blessing. I got paid the same amount, but now I didn’t have to fight with the director. Of course I had lost my voice, my say in how things went, but I gained some freedom. Adam lost all the benefits of the Garden and gained only toil and sweat. When we choose sin we give up all the benefits and gain only the liabilities. But when we are making that choice, we almost never think about the negative consequences, and the negative always outweighs the positives.